Rodney reinstalled the 440 and performed some mop-up work before sending the car to Brad's Towing in Petersburg, Ohio, for the paint and body action. Here all filler was removed, panels straightened, and a fresh coat of PPG Plum Crazy applied. A couple extra days of buffing and the Duster emerged with what Rodney describes as "an awesome shine and mirror finish."

By now it was the end of June 2002. The Mopar Nationals were just over a month away, and Rodney had his eyes and heart set on the Young Guns competition. The dash to the finish line was on. In addition to new glass and weatherstripping, the car's wiring, brakes, interior, cooling system, exhaust, suspension, and other parts were tended to with feverish zeal.

At this point, a scant day before Rodney, his folks, and his sister were ready to leave for Columbus, the aggravations began. It's a long story spanning only a short period of time, but the abbreviated version goes something like this:Go to fix exhaust leak-header bolts stripped.

3 p.m., before Nats launch-heli-coils do the job; Head for Nats, 150 miles from home-alternator takes a dive; pull off at a Highway Patrol station in Ashland, Ohio, for repairs.

Mother and sister pick up father and son. Back to other side of Akron for two alternators. Grandparents get in on the action.

Back to Ashland-alternators don't work. Mom and sis to a Super 8; father and son 150 miles back home for Grandpa's '86 Ram alternator.

2:30 a.m.-wake up cousin to borrow jumper cables.

3:00 a.m. on the road, driving back to Duster in Ashland-alternator doesn't work.

Pick up voltage regulator from NAPA at 7:30 a.m.-doesn't work. Young Gun quite upset at this point.

Back to Akron-new alternator from Summit Racing. Alternator not helping-hope almost gone.

Buy new battery from AutoZone. Five hours in AutoZone parking lot. Employees discover problem: shorted wire preventing alternator from charging battery.Problem fixed-arrive in Columbus at 7:00 p.m.

"As Saturday dawned," says Rodney, "I didn't know what to expect, since I missed the first day and the judging, which I had worked hard to make. But all that was turned around. Even though I didn't get judged, I got an even higher honor by making it in the premier Mopar magazine."

Proof positive that sheer determination and the never-give-up spirit exemplified in so many Young Guns like Rodney will almost always win the day.