Tigges Talk - Indy US Nationals - September 2015

Discussion in 'System One Pit Buzz' started by MaineAlkyFan, Sep 12, 2015.

  1. MaineAlkyFan

    MaineAlkyFan Active Member

    Oct 8, 2006
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    Indy. The US Nationals.

    This was my second time, and after my newbie experience last year I was really looking forward to it. Fred, Mark & Claire drove the rig & RV out from Massachusetts, leaving early Monday morning with the three dogs. They arrived at the track Wednesday and set up our pit in the grassy overflow area out behind the circle track. Dave drove his RV down from Detroit, and Kevin, Jill, Ann & I all flew in. By Thursday night we were all on site. I flew United this time and connected through Chicago which was pretty cool.

    We got all the ignition parts back from Wyman a few weeks before Indy. Of course nothing was allegedly wrong although the magneto had been re-phased. Would we still have problems? All year we have been chasing problems…five races, no runs in the fifties, no round wins. Funny how all the travel expenses, entry fees, food, fuel, tolls and vehicle maintenance stay the same.

    Mark & Fred had rewired all the primary ignition wiring and installed a new coil & points box along with the inspected parts from Wyman. During the day Thursday they ran the car in the pit several times, informing me the car was running crisper and all the spark plugs were firing properly. The oil looked a lot better; the car was doing a better job burning fuel.

    Indy is the biggest race of the year. There were over 800 racecars on the property, with sportsman racing starting on Wednesday and final eliminations finishing up on Monday. Unlike last year, things went right on schedule for the alcohol classes. We had two qualifying sessions on Friday, one at 1:30 and one at 5:00. Our first attempt was a shake & shutoff pass in the right lane. There had been no track preparation and lots of sportsman racing, so the rubber was thick & greasy on the starting line. Our 8.965 pass on the 122° track actually left us in the 14th position, so we were not the only car having problems. We did not have any computer data… off to a wonderful start.

    After a quick service we headed up Q2 and put down a 5.765 in the 91° heat to move up to the 11th position. Not the run we wanted. The plugs looked good, as did the oil. We dropped the pan to have a look at the rod bearings. At our last race, the regional at New England Dragway, the engine had been picking at the #1 rod bearing, something it never does. As the rod caps came off, the news got worse. All the bearings showed bad babbitt wear, and #1 & 2 had almost blackened the crank journal, showing copper. With some anomalies on the computer, we pondered if jumpy ignition timing events could be causing the problem. We checked the mains as well and replaced all the rod bearings and the #2 main bearing.

    Saturday we had just one qualifying session at 1:00 which netted us an almost identical 5.766 dropping us to the 13th position. After the long tow (about 1-1/2 miles) back to the pit, the computer showed crazy RPM activity with several drops during the pass. Looking at it, the drops correlated with readings from the accelerometer and driveshaft speed, so something real was actually happening. Houston, we still have an electrical problem. The rod bearings all had excessive wear as well. We had work to do. It was still ridiculously hot & humid, and the RV generator died. We do this for fun…

    We checked everything. The plugs looked good; the oil looked good, the bearings looked like crap. Mark took the scooter up to the main alcohol pits and got some opinions on the bearings. The peer consensus was an oiling issue. The oil pressure was good, and we had the oil pump out of the car (it looked perfect). The only thing left was an inline safety screen in the pick-up line that we had installed after the oil pump failure at Maple Grove last year. We removed the screen, replaced six of the eight sets of rod bearings & buttoned up the bottom end as well as removing the oil tank and completely cleaning all the bearing contaminated oil out. We also swapped the timing retard box & six shooter out for known good ones. One qualifying run to go, and with three cars not qualified including Ulf Leanders, our qualifying position was not safe.

    Around 8:30 Saturday night, the hero pro qualifying session was going on, so I figured there would be a short line at the two small showers over on the sportsman side. Kevin & Jill had taken the scooter up to watch the pros, so I hopped on the bicycle to ride over to the showers. Now the only way I know to get to the showers is to go up the return road… I felt like a naughty little kid riding a bicycle up the return road between 25,000 fans in the grandstands with Top Fuel qualifying going on beside me. The shower was worth it.

    Our pit space was roomy and nice for the dogs, but I did miss the camaraderie of being around the other alcohol racers and being so far removed from the main pit area. I had hoped to catch up with a few people, but missed them or just managed to get in quick waves towing back & forth. Even in the staging lanes, you can only wander so much. I'll catch up in Reading.

    We needed to be in the lanes at 8:45AM Sunday morning for Q4. It was fun to fire up a blown alcohol funny car alarm clock at 7AM with Competition Eliminator cars on either side of us. I wasn't nervous about the run or the qualifying session, but had lost sleep the night before thinking about the bearing issue. All I wanted to do was get back to the pit and check the rod bearings. This session was our hero session, with 74° air and an 84° track temperature. The track was tight and we improved with our best pass of the weekend, a 5.623 at 257.87 MPH that landed us in the 12th position for eliminations.

    As soon as we drained the oil it was apparent that the safety screen had been causing an issue. The pan drained about two quarts less that it had drained with the screen in there, meaning the evacuation side of the pump was doing a much better job scavenging the pan. Better than that, the bearings looked great and the computer data looked clean. Mark & Fred put a tune up in it for round one of eliminations later in the afternoon and we spent the afternoon trying to not melt in the humid low 90's heat. Things were looking up.

    Kevin drove the car up to staging so Fred could stay in the AC cooled truck, and we faced event winner Andy Bohl for round 1 of eliminations right at 6PM. The short version was Fred had to pedal (step off then back on the gas) the car on the run, with the resulting 5.757 no match for Andy's 5.639. The longer version was apparent on the computer. At 1.4 seconds into the run, the car shut off for 2/10ths of a second, and then re-fired, upsetting the tires, which made Fred have to pedal (which he did expertly). The entire event from drop-out to back on the gas was only about 9/10ths of a second, but it cost us the race. The painful part is our 5.75 would have beaten the passes Tony Bogolo, John Lombardo, Jay Payne, Chris Foster, Dan Pomponio & Mickey Ferro laid down in the same round. We have had zero racing luck this year.

    Nothing is as frustrating as being six races into the season and having no round wins, but still having an intermittent electrical problem is pretty close. As of this writing the brand new coil & points box are at Leahy's being tested and we plan on point to point checking all the wiring before Reading. The only satisfaction we have is Andy went on to win the race. Somehow if the guy that beats you goes on to win, it makes you feel better. Andy sure deserved it too; he improved every round of qualifying, and then laid down four low 5.60 passes all within 18 thousands of each other in eliminations. That is very impressive.

    Was it hot at Indy? We packed up all the small stuff Sunday night, then had the pit all broken down by 10AM Monday. As the Tigges, Ann & the doggies towed away, Dave, Kevin, Jill and I looked at each other. Pro eliminations at the US Nationals were thirty minutes away and none of us were interested in staying around to watch in the heat. Ya, it was hot. Dave headed home in the RV, and the rest of us took a mini-tour of the pro facilities in Brownsburg then headed to the hotel for the night before catching flights home Tuesday morning.

    Thanks to all who helped us out, especially Paul Noakes for the battery loaner and Chris, Les & Adam for the advice on the bearings and evil electrons. There is an outside chance you can see our first round loss on ESPN2 Sunday night (9/13) at 11PM during the Lucas Sportsman coverage show.

    Our season closer race is the first weekend of October at Maple Grove in Reading, PA. Hopefully we can put a few round wins together…

    Travel & race pictures here including 25 different manufactures on the car (read the captions!):

    US Nationals Photos

    Starting line videos here:

    Starting Line Videos

    Chris Saulnier - Team Tigges
    Mechanic Falls, Maine
    DaKine likes this.
  2. Jimbo17

    Jimbo17 Member

    Feb 23, 2009
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    Thanks Chris

    Chris I always enjoy reading your stories from the races and it's interesting to read the story from an insiders perspective.

    Instead of always reading about the winner's I think your stories show just how hard it is to win and how much will power it takes just to keep going sometimes.

    Keep the stories coming and thanks for taking the time to do it.


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