Tigges Talk - Epping Regional 2023

Discussion in 'Pit Buzz' started by MaineAlkyFan, Aug 30, 2023.


Where's The Beef? What is the future status of the funny car class?

  1. Healthy, will grow

    0 vote(s)
  2. Sickly, will fade away

    0 vote(s)
  3. Will gain competitors as A/F combination folds in

    0 vote(s)
  4. Will lose competitors to competing series (Chaos etc.)

    0 vote(s)
Multiple votes are allowed.
  1. MaineAlkyFan

    MaineAlkyFan Active Member

    Oct 8, 2006
    Likes Received:
    Where’s The Beef?

    Those of us in my generation will hear the echoing words of the now deceased Clara Peller when we hear that question. While hawking those odd square burgers decades back was the beginning of the expansion of Wendys, I pose my question on the state of our class in this modern age.

    New England Dragway is our home track. Team Tigges was the second of just four alcohol funny cars to show up for this race. We arrived Thursday under sunny skies and had the pit all set up without event by early afternoon. By early evening the entire crew was on site, coming from the north, west & south. Being just 20 miles or so from the Atlantic seaboard, nobody came from the east.

    That theme has become more & more familiar. Where’s the beef? We have been to three regionals so far this year. There were only three cars at Lebanon Valley, six at Atco/Reading and just four here at NED. In the 14 regionals nationwide so far this year, the average car count for our class is a dismal 6.4 with only three events having full fields. The national event participation has not been much better, with the average car count just 10 & none of the 7 contested events having a full field.

    Certainly, scheduling contributes to some of that, but the trend is disturbing. Running one of these cars is an expensive all-consuming endeavor both in time and money. Time and money change things. Tigges Racing has always been a family team, willing to invest in the effort required to excel in the sport we love. Over the years that effort has been rewarded: the first 5.70 second pass in IHRA competition, the longstanding ET & MPH track record here at NED (5.55 @ 262, held from 2014-2019) & several other personal & racing dreams fulfilled. We still hold the NED track record for a roots blown funny car at 5.702.

    There are many cars just sitting in garages across the nation, for whatever reasons. It could be passing generations, the rat race of advancing technologies or the inanity of imposed rules with ever increasing financial burdens. For most, racing has never been a money maker, but even for those with sponsors or deep pockets it’s a hard game to keep up with.

    Thursday brought several of the dragster guys & gals up to the starting line for three scheduled test sessions. We were convinced by the end of the second session spending the $275 for the result of smoking the tires at the hit of the throttle was not worth it. Car after car lost traction immediately at launch. Jackie Fricke’s dragster was the only one to make a full pull, netting a 5.24 @ 279 in the last session.

    Our racing was restricted to the bench. Mark grilled up the best pork chops in the history of the universe & the balance of the day was spent visiting & tellings stories new and old, while we waited for the rain to start, which it did right around 11PM. We all expected Friday to be an all-day rain-out. It wouldn’t disappoint.

    Friday opened with a continuation of rain, sometimes light & drizzly, sometimes just pouring. Several of the alcohol pits were in the path of the relentless pull of gravity for all the runoff water, and ours was not immune with a nice sluiceway running down the trailer side of the car and out of the back of the pit. Updates every few hours from the tower confirmed what the experience of racing was telling us, that the day would be a complete washout, even though efforts to dry the racing surface were in effect. NHRA officially pulled the plug at 4PM, although the flow of water through our pit lasted well into the evening. Other than a few cars firing up to check between race work, the pits were silent all day save the endless drone of generators. Racing was scheduled to be resumed Saturday morning at 9AM, with the alcohol classes having a single qualifying session at 11AM, followed by eliminations starting at 1PM. The weather for Saturday was projected to be good.

    Outgoing NHRA Division One Alcohol Race Director Jim Bowen was given a farewell party in the Fricke’s pit, with a cake and good-sized group of racers exchanging pleasantries of the heartfelt & sarcastic ilk & signing a large sharpie card. As usual, Jim was Jim, a great guy I have had the pleasure of getting to know, respect and enjoy being around as a competitor. You’re the best our division has had Jim, you will be missed.


    Overall, Friday was a lazy day at the track with the rain being made bearable with the bacon & peanut butter combination over grilled hash browns & scrambled eggs & the steaks supplied by Mike & served up with asparagus & grilled onions, garlic & peppers by Mark. Culinary delights aside, it was more of the racer’s hardest task, waiting. An entire day of it. We all turned in fairly early, looking forward to three successful passes on Saturday & the accompanying Wally.

    We awoke Saturday morning to an overcast sky & thick air. The clouds didn’t start to break up until late morning, and the planned 11AM single qualifying session was obviously not about to happen on schedule. More waiting. The dragstrip had 375 cars on the property, a heavily advertised ‘Night of Fire’ show to bring in the spectators & sportsman final eliminations from the rained out national event in June to complete. This all conspired to delay our trip up to qualify to 5PM. We had warmed up the car much earlier & went to the line with a cold engine. Our right lane 5.60 pass at 258 MPH qualified us second, our best effort of the year, although still way off the car’s potential. We were still pumped & excited & had lane choice for our first round, scheduled for 7PM.

    Back in the pit it was all hands on deck for the thrash to get ready for the first round. During our hot lash valve check I spotted a broken exhaust valvespring. This elevated the level of urgency to the point of barely controlled chaos. Mark pulled us together & got us on a sequential path that resulted in the valvespring being replaced & the car getting warmed up properly. We got it re-fueled, the body back on and were ready to go with 15 minutes to spare.

    Back to the waiting game. We didn’t tow up to the lanes until after 8PM. The focus before eliminations is intense. Still, racers are racers & we were all celebrating family friend James Libby’s win in Jr. Dragster, playing out just up the hill behind the tower. It was dark and all the funny cars had blankets over the windshields to keep them clear & free of dew. All but one of the dragsters ahead of us made full passes so the track was in good condition to take what we could throw at it.

    Night racing is a different animal. The blackness narrows your focus. I did my normal fist pump in anticipation of the tree going green then watched the rear tires smoothly drive through the treacherous shake zone. I was yelling ‘go, go’ as the car went down the track & was surprised when our 5.60 on the scoreboard didn’t have winner lights around it compared to eventual race winner Wayne Morris’ 5.76 in the other lane. I was brought back to reality by Mark’s commentary as he walked by me on the line ‘He threw it away with a redlight’.

    Saturday night was somewhat glum. I handle disappointment with work, just constantly keeping busy with the teardown of the car & pit, readying as much as possible to facilitate an early morning departure the next day. We got the car all prepped for transport & everything stowed in the trailer except the awning, generator & scooter. Dinner was simple but satisfying, salad, cheeseburgers & Mark’s infamous mac & cheese.

    Dave left for South Carolina at 5AM Sunday morning & we got the pit & car fully into the trailer by mid-morning for the short trip back to all our associated states. Where’s the beef? What is the state of our racing class? Car counts are obviously down, and it seems like NHRA’s plan for increasing involvement is somewhat short sighted. It took decades, hundreds of thousands of sparkplugs, and thousands of pistons for the dragster class to change from a predominantly blown alcohol class to a predominantly injected nitro class. What will become of all the alcohol funny cars now sitting dormant in shops?

    We cannot make the upcoming regional in Reading due to actual working life crew commitments, but our pending plan is to run a road trip to close out the season, dragging the Tigges show to the national event in Charlotte then hitting the last regional in Virginia on the way home. Congratulations to Wayne Morris for the win in Funny Car & Karen Stalba for her win in Dragster.

    Chris Saulnier - Team Tigges
    Mechanic Falls, Maine

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