Tigges Talk - Lebanon Valley Regional June 2015

Discussion in 'System One Pit Buzz' started by MaineAlkyFan, Jun 30, 2015.

  1. MaineAlkyFan

    MaineAlkyFan Active Member

    Oct 8, 2006
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    Lebanon Valley is like a favorite shirt from your past. It holds some good memories, it still looks pretty good on the hanger, but there are some threadbare spots & some holes. The years and washings have faded the colors, and it just doesn’t fit like it used to.

    I like the vibe at Lebanon Valley, it has an old school feel, from the vintage funny car on the pole to the make to order food at the concession stand. The people are great, the prices are great, and the food is excellent (you have to try the handcut triple-bypass starter kit fries to know what I mean). Like the old shirt, it looks like it should feel comfortable. The only problem, if you are running an alky funny car, is that it’s old, threadbare, and full of holes.

    Last year, at this regional, there were fourteen dragsters and ten funny cars competing. This year, fourteen dragsters were on the property but only six funny cars. The only other race on the NHRA schedule was a divisional in Acton, Montana. That starts to tell the story of Lebanon Valley.

    Last year there was grumbling about lack of traction and bumps. Before the event this year the track was ground & polished. The starting line was pretty good, but even with traction compound sprayed the full length of the racing surface, the back half of the track was treacherous. Between the grooving left in the surface from the grinding and the dips around the bumps, getting a funny car down the track was next to impossible. Even though the dragster guys could compensate with added wing (more downforce) they were a few tenths off their normal performance times for the weather conditions.

    By 2PM Thursday, all hands were in our pit. We watched the shakers & sliders in the 3PM test & tune session, then warmed up the car and went out for the first of two test sessions at 4PM and 5PM. With the weather being good for us (meaning it was not raining) for the first time this year, it felt good to put down a nice straight, lazy tire scrubbing run on the first day at the track. Back at the pit we swapped over to a brand new set of Hoosiers and headed back up to scrub tires again.

    At the hit of the throttle, the car launched hard and then just climbed the ringgear and went into a pretty impressive 3-1/2 foot high wheelie. It was high enough that you could see the injector hat from behind the car! Fred did a tremendous job of feathering the throttle to bring it down without causing any chassis damage and we all jumped in the truck wondering what happened. Obviously there was some type of failure or mistake made with the wheelie bar…

    The wheelie bar has two pins that get removed when you jack the car up in the pits for service. After service, those pins are replaced. I had seen Kevin put the pins in, and I check them when I chalk the wheel on the bar before every run. Kevin wasn’t so sure heading down the return road to pick up the car. Talking with Kevin later that evening I said ‘You know that adrenalin surge in your heart that quickly turns into a nauseous feeling in your stomach when you think you made a mistake on the car… that’s normal!’ Kevin confirmed the feeling.

    Part of the thrill of crewing on a car is the pressure of making sure everything is done right so that when the driver hits the throttle the pass is made in the safest way possible. Many teams have a father or son or daughter in the seat, and being a crewguy outside of the blood family carries a healthy respect for the amount of damage a mistake can cause. It’s good to have that sick feeling when something isn’t right, it keeps you aware of your responsibility and makes you watch your other crew guys' backs during servicing. We have all been through it.

    The evidence was there at the top end, a broken adjuster rod. We had the same failure last year, and Mark had some improved design links he had fabricated in the shop on the trailer, so we got it repaired back in the pit and completed an extended service in preparation for Friday qualifying.

    Another great treat on Thursday was being able to witness Pat Batt’s first licensing pass in a top alcohol funny car. After a year of preparation, instruction and sitting in the car during warm-ups, Mickey Ferro gave the butterflys over to Pat for his first 60 foot squirt at the track. He did a great job, nice and smooth. It was very cool to be part of a dozen or so racers at the fence clapping for the team & budding driver. I talked with him later, asking what it felt like. After a brief silence, he said ‘You know in Star Wars, when it goes into hyperdrive, and all the stars blur into lines and then slow down again…’ Even the day after the pass, the grin was still there. It will be fun to see him progress through the licensing process.

    With bad weather coming, the track pushed the schedule up so that more racing could be completed on Friday. For us alcohol guys, that meant a two qualifying sessions plus first round of eliminations. The dragster guys were putting on a show right in front of us, with Duane Shields running a 5.44 to Rich McPhillip’s 5.45 in Q1, only to have race winner McPhillips return the favor in Q2 running a 5.44 to Shield’s 5.45 taking the #1 spot by a thin thousandth of a second.

    On the other hand, with the track conditions as they were on the top end, the fans were getting the show, as the funny car guys were all over the place in the back half. There just wasn’t enough traction out there. Our first pass alongside Eric Lourie netted us a 5.90 at an early shutoff 213 mph that ended up being our 5th place qualifying spot… a far cry from last year’s #1 position, but in the show. We unsuccessfully tried some stuff in Q2 which set us up against Todd Veney for first round.

    We found the source of a power robber during qualifying, and it was apparent during warm-up for E1 that the engine was happier. Of course that is another variable in the endless list of variables that make up alky drag racing. The weather was much cooler at 7:15 than at mid-day and the end result of all the variables was dreaded tire shake. All the plans of a nice smooth 5.68 along with Fred’s .011 light went out the window of dreams into the dustbin of reality. With the sun coming directly into Fred’s eyes and Veney showing both sides of his car on the top end drifting to tire spinning 5.90, Fred left it clicked off and Todd took his first of three round wins on his way to winning the event.

    Back at the pit, we packed everything but the car & canopy and had a great meal of Jill’s awesome Catalina Taco Salad & pulled pork sandwiches, followed by birthday cake & ice cream (complete with those evil won’t blow out candles) for birthday girl Julia. It’s no fun to lose, but having friends and family around helps dull the frustration a little. We had a ton of extras to enjoy the sights and sounds of the strip, Julia, Sophie, Antoinette, Ann & Cora all had a great time. Sophie is a ball of energy, it is tough to be unhappy around her. I loved the candy & vegetable song Sophie!

    We headed out Saturday morning, and got back to the plant in Holbrook before the rain came to Lebanon Valley. With our early exit I had a chance to help with load-out and teardown in preparation for our first National event of the year in Norwalk, Ohio this July 4 weekend. We did a ¾ pulldown, blower off, tranny & clutch out, headers and heads off and all the pistons and rods out. We will go to Norwalk with fresh rods. It was fun working in the shop, a lot quieter than the track, and more opportunity to learn new stuff. Cap it off with Chinese dinner (along with all the inappropriate accents & associated hilarity) and you have a wrap.

    The car went straight as a string, we eliminated some gremlins, and the parts breakage happened in testing not in eliminations. Bring on Norwalk, where the track will be like a nice new team shirt. Great at the starting line and better all the way downtrack. There are eighteen alky cars pre-entered, we want to be the last one standing.

    Pictures from Lebanon Valley, along with a bunch of nice shots of east coast stockers for you west coast stock fans (hi Wayne) readers here:

    Lebanon Valley Pix

    Chris Saulnier – Team Tigges
    Mechanic Falls, Maine
    Last edited: Jul 1, 2015

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