Tigges Talk - Epping Regional July 2015

Discussion in 'System One Pit Buzz' started by MaineAlkyFan, Jul 25, 2015.

  1. MaineAlkyFan

    MaineAlkyFan Member

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    Every team has a 'home track'. For Team Tigges, New England Dragway in Epping, New Hampshire is home. With the exception of Dave, NED is under a two hour drive from all of us.

    Home tracks generally have personal memories attached to them. As a wonder-eyed ten year old, I wandered the NED pits among the greats; Bill Jenkins, Don Schumacher, Mickey Thompson, Jungle Jim, Bruce Larson, T.V. Tommy Ivo, Art Arfons, The Ramchargers, Snake & Mongoose, Kosty Ivanoff, Wild Willie Borsch and so many more. I remember peering over the hood of a car and seeing my first 426 Hemi, with the cross ram intake, the biggest engine I had ever seen.

    My favorite car was a C/MP '55 Nomad wagon, campaigned by a young Bob Broadbent. It had a four speed behind a 265 small block that would wind so high at stage that standing at the fence it seemed to go silent. I learned the physics of drag racing when that car launched… the rear axle planting down, the car rocketing up and forward, carrying the front wheels through the second gear shift… I was in love.

    What really stuck the drag racing needle in my arm happened one hot summer afternoon in the pits. I saw a guy walking fast towards the tower carrying something. He was going fast but I ran up behind him and kept pace. I followed across the pits, even screwing up the courage to follow him through the fence into the motorcycle pits under the tower. I continued through the gate into the staging lanes, around the corner between funny cars with the bodies up, almost to the front of the line, where I stopped in my boyish lack of confidence.

    Two nitro funny cars were blasting down the track, I remember being amazed at how they didn't go straight when viewed from the rear. The guy I had been following had delivered his package to the next pair, who fired up right in front of me. The sound was overwhelming! I couldn't breathe or see because of the fog of nitro… I didn't want to move, but knew I didn't belong there, so I turned and hesitantly walked back to the pits. Who would know that decades later that young kid would return to the same patch of asphalt, confident to stand at the starting line sending my team's car down the strip?

    Fred & Mark were crewing on Dave's car at New England Dragway when Dave got his TAFC license in 1994, then again when Fred got his license there in 1996. In more recent history, Kevin spent his first days on the Tigges crew last year at NED. This year it was standard 'home track' fare. Lots of visitors came to the pit, including my entire family, including grandson Jon. Daughter Alisha & I did our best to pollute his young four year old mind, by showing him everything from Paul Stalba's Junior dragster to getting him in the cockpit of event winner Duane Shield's A/FD. Maybe Jon will look back on NED like I do many years from now.

    Our plan was to get in two test & tune runs on Thursday. We had brand new Hoosiers mounted to replace the junk ones that shot us in the foot in Norwalk. We warmed up and headed down to scrub tires. Test & tune staging was a mess. The track had no clear organization for lane assignments or who went when, lots of waiting without much action. Kevin did a routine tire pressure check only to find the right rear slick had 20 PSI instead of the correct 5 PSI it had had only moments before. We got the car turned around and towed back to the pit. The tube had split open inside the equalizer. It amazes me how prepared the Tigges are. Inside of twenty minutes the tube was replaced, and we were back in the lanes. In the same spot… where we sat another thirty minutes to finally make a 'new tire shake & shutoff' pass. After a quick turnaround we made an improved pedal job 5.98 / 254 to get a full scrub pass on the tires in the second test session. The car was going straight. We were optimistic going into Friday qualifying.

    Our pit layout was nice, open ended on both ends so you could just pull through, without having to push back the racecar out to go up to staging. The problem was it was a horrible echo chamber for the blasting, overly loud, fully annoying, ready to shoot it out with a gun loudspeaker aimed directly at us. We literally had to shout to maintain a conversation as the tower endlessly droned on about everything, all day, into the night. I walked up to the tower and complained to Jim Bowen, but there was no change. It was oppressive; Dave actually left his earplugs in all day while racing was going on.

    Qualifying was scheduled for 1PM & 6PM, and it went off more or less according to schedule. With just eight funny cars on the property, we were guaranteed a spot, but our 5.83 / 255 Q1 pass was a letdown. The car still just didn't feel right. After swapping out a coil, Q2 brought congratulations from our peers, but the 5.67 / 256 pass was a full tenth of a second less than we expected, and slower than we wanted as well. Considering we hold the track record of 5.55, which we set last year, we are still struggling with some unidentified bug in the car. Every step this year has been uncertain, with lots of little aggravating factors constantly making the path more difficult.

    As soon as we got back from Q2 we did leakdown tests on each cylinder followed by a complete teardown. Everything came off, blower, heads, rods & pistons… The #6 intake valve was leaking, and was replaced with the valve seat being dress cut and lapped. The rotating assembly got all fresh rings and connecting rod bearings. It had been hot all day and we were pretty tired, but we got it all back together except for the supercharger & transmission, work we would have time to do on Saturday, as the first round of eliminations was not until 6PM.

    Having my family around was a blast. Before I even had a family, my wife & I spent our honeymoon day here at NED. To now see my grandson Jon so happy with his blue earmuffs, being wildly amazed when he first heard the car fire during warm-up was a treat. Only until Gran-ma-ma smiled with a 'who-hoo!' did he recover his bearings and stay focused. We had other visitors throughout the day; machinist & musician Jim Libby, who does an amazing Eddie Parker imitation, John Card & Stacy McGlory who Fred had sit in the car to see how the can mounted clutch pedal works well with shorter legs, and the requisite triage visit from Kristen Wetzel.

    Kristen works on Frank Schuster's TAD, and always manages to injure herself. This weekend the Tigges healthcare services of Claire & Ann were put to the test when Kristen opened up her finger almost to the bone while pulling a main cap on the dragster. After some bandages, superglue and pressure, the blood loss was stopped, and later that evening Kristen was back to check the bandages and tell stories, which she excels at. Her animated description of wielding a frying pan to stop a snoring crewmember in the trailer brought Pepsi through my nose.

    Saturday morning brought rain, lots of it. I was up early and walked up to the starting line to take some pictures. Meeting Dana Hopewell up there I congratulated him on tuning the Shield's dragster to the #1 spot. They were unqualified and put the car on top in their last qualifying pass. I liked his response, pointing to just how much a mystery these cars can be… "It made it look like we know what we're doing". The rain cleared out by mid-morning, followed by the resumption of racing and the loudmouth from the tower.

    We got the car back together, went through the 'hurry up and wait' routine, and headed up for our attempt at getting our first round win of the year. I have purchased a new camera, and have been taking starting line videos. I was the only one at the starting line that didn't see Fred's -.027 redlight. The fact that Pomponio's 5.64 would have beaten our 5.76 was no consolation, all of us were more disappointed in the lame 5.76 on the board. It is like the car is on a governor, it is responding to tuning inputs, but is just flat all over, slower than expected.

    Back at the pit the car went right back on the stands and was fired a few more times. A quick inspection of the brand new rod bearings showed some unexpected wear, and the decision was made to send all the ignition components off to Bob Wyman in California for testing. As of this writing, we have not heard the results yet, yet another little aggravating factor. We packed up everything but the awning and car and enjoyed each other's company and some free late night ice cream from the Frosty truck.

    Even with all the frustration this season has brought, I'm still having a great time working with the team. Though the car's performance is down, the team's performance is strong. Kevin is learning fast, we are all covering each other and preventing mistakes. I caught reversed 5 & 7 plug wires during my standard check of them before fire-up, Kevin stopped me from accidentally pouring oil in the fuel tank from a misplaced jug, and we are all unified in solving the performance issue. I love that this team doesn't point fingers. When the team owner apologizes to the crewguy for not having a winning car, you know there isn't a bunch of energy being wasted on ego.

    Congratulations to Dan Pomponio, Duane Shields, and most importantly to Karen Stalba's eight year old son Paul, who overcame his Friday attitude issues & piloted his Junior Dragster to his first time ever Wally victory over the #1 qualifier in the final round. It seems fitting his win came by pushing his opponent .027 under his index, almost a redemption of our -.027 redlight. Nice hat trick Paul!

    Our next scheduled race is Indy over the Labor Day weekend, but it is likely we will be doing some test runs somewhere when we get the ignition stuff back from Wyman.


    Pictures of our Epping Experience (including John Harper's beautiful '55 Chevy) here:

    Epping Regional Photos


    Starting line videos here: (I'll get better at shooting these… LOL)

    Starting Line Videos


    Chris Saulnier - Team Tigges
    Mechanic Falls, Maine
     
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    Last edited: Jul 26, 2015

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