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If anyone stumbles across this... the problem was due to Cruise signal. The ECM thought the car was in "cruise" mode, and was using the cruise shift tables. SOLUTION: change the cruise shift tables to match normal mode, or find the super top-secret place the ECM gets its "cruise" signal from. I have been unable to locate documentation on how the cruise signal is passed to the ECM.
 

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As someone who used tuning to resolve issues with a 3.73 axle and lack of tuning by the previous owner I could not find much information on the cruise tables.

When I treated cruise as a "state" not connected to the cruise control but a "steady state" of car speed and drivetrain load things worked better.

The cruise table seems to be activated by lower steady TPS and after "flooring it" the TPS would have to come down and be steady.

With the 3.73 axle I can drive around town at 37mph in overdrive by programming the different tables. There is no way I would try this with the stock axle.
 
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