Tigges Talk - Norwalk National - July 2015

Discussion in 'System One Pit Buzz' started by MaineAlkyFan, Jul 8, 2015.

  1. MaineAlkyFan

    MaineAlkyFan Active Member

    Oct 8, 2006
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    The Summit Racing Nationals at Norwalk, Ohio was our first national event of the year, and another 'first' track visit for Kevin & me, who flew into this race. At noon on Wednesday we were preparing for the weekend, doing things like packing, car rental, TSA travel rule reviews, and of course, checking the Ohio weather report. Fred, Mark, Claire & the dogs were just entering Ohio on I90 with the RV & rig, and Dave was eating lunch at work.

    Come 7:30 Thursday morning, I was in the shower dreaming up a theme for this report, Kevin was in the air on his Jet Blue direct flight from Boston to Cleveland, the Tigges family was at the track cooking breakfast & filling out the NHRA Tech Sheet, and Dave was driving his RV to the track.

    The cat didn't want me to go, but after a rare weekday breakfast with the wife I boarded my flight from Portland, Maine to a connecting flight at LaGuardia Airport in NYC. My departure was delayed 45 minutes, but with a two hour layover at LGA I was not concerned. Of course, LGA was a 4th of July disaster, with my outbound flight to Cleveland delayed an additional two hours. After wandering around the terminal for a cell signal, I coordinated a delayed pick-up in Cleveland with Kevin who was driving the 50 miles from the track to the airport to pick me up. At least the food was good and not too expensive. With my gate to gate time at ten hours, I was thinking I should have just driven… but then I would not have heard the "In the unlikely event of a water landing…" announcement, which always cracks me up.

    After dodging all the roadkill on US20 (three large birds all in a clump???) we arrived at the track around 10PM, visited for a while then headed off to bed in Dave's motorhome. The bed was very comfy, but the track left the pit lights on until 3:30AM, and they kept waking me up. Friday and Saturday night I switched over to the black hole of the race trailer to catch my zzzzz's.

    Norwalk is a big track with a short shutdown. The pits run the full length of the track; paved on the right side, grass on the left side. It is also a 'family' track with grassy areas (guess whose pit this is), playgrounds for the kids, a Memorial Garden, and a handicap shuttle cart with plenty of stops all over the facility. It is a nice place. We were pitted about a 1/4 mile beyond the finish line, right along the return road fence. Our pitmates were Phil Lankford to the left, with his Goldrush Trailer sponsored FS/C COPO Camaro, which was cool to see up close, and Mike Burns driving the Chicken Chokers dragster to our right. As it turned out, Phil was the only one of us to run in eliminations, making it into R3 of his 72 car field. We just stunk the place up this weekend.

    NHRA did no favors to the alcohol class racers, sending us out to a thick rubber gooey track after running stockers all of Friday morning. With no scraping, dragging, or spraying of the track surface, we shook our way to the 16th qualifying position with a shut-off 9.27 pass, just ahead of Jay Payne's tire smoking 9.60. We swapped tires & did a normal service in the pits, but fared no better in the late afternoon Q2 session, with the car pulling left to the centerline, Fred clicking it off to an improved 6.83 which kept us on the bump in 16th. We were still ahead of Payne, who again smoked the tires trying to sort out a brand new car.

    Back in the pits, Mark checked the circumference of the new Hoosier 34.5 slicks, finding the left one undersized. We set the valves, did normal service, checked the rod bearings and rear main bearing then inflated the left slick to a higher pressure for the overnight.

    Between tire woes, shake, and a car that does not go string straight like it used to, it has been a humbling season. We are not completely lost, but are feeling pretty stupid. Eight consecutive passes now without a good solid A-B pass. Everything looks like it should on the computer, but the car just isn't there. There is no smoking gun, but the bullets still hurt.

    Norwalk is known for its "pound of ice cream for a dollar deal", which I happily sampled upon arrival Thursday night. At every race however, there is always plenty of food. At the Tigges camp we added Mark's famous special mac & cheese, beans, as well as pasta with meatballs & sauce to the normal burgers and dogs. I did some wandering around the various team pits taking food pictures… there was lots of yummy stuff from the Whiteley's kitchen including steak & fixings, or walk over to Shield's pit for her "I made that" potato salad. The Stricker's had all kinds of meat sizzling on the grill, the Thackers were talking up the wonders of what mushrooms can add to anything while the Noakes' grill was searing up some great looking chicken strips. Alcohol racers know how to eat!

    Saturday morning brought us more tire woes. We fired the car early to make sure everything was OK & found the brand new left Hoosier slick had gone from undersized to being completely shot. It was humping and wobbling on a dead straight rim, badly enough that Fred didn't bring up the wheelspeed for fear of the car hopping off the stands. We swapped the other tires back onto the car, leaving us with only one set of usable mounted tires. $800 worth of junk rubber hung in the trailer.

    Alan Reinhart began the July 4 track announcement with the declaration "Happy birthday America! We are going to celebrated by blowing things up!" Q3 blew up our hopes of making the field. We were 4th pair, and watched as John Headley bumped us out with a 6.03, then Jay Payne recovered from yet another tire smoker at the hit and bumped us back another spot with his 6.67. We had a solid plan, launch the car, immediately short shift second gear, and pooch into the field. It all went as planned, with a 5.85 pass that would have placed us in the #14 position except for the finish line cone that interrupted our effort with a disqualified run. Fred claims he was aiming for it, and although I can see the challenge of hitting a 12" square styrofoam block at 254 MPH I really don't believe him.

    The end result was we were sitting in the second alternate position, a scant 2/10ths of a second behind Payne's Q3 smoker pass. When Wayne Butler couldn't make the call for the first round of eliminations Saturday afternoon, Payne was in as an alternate, and we were out. A lose, lose, lose proposition… 2,020 miles of highway driving, two plane flights, and a rental car later, we didn't even have qualifying money. Like I said, drag racing has a way of keeping you humble.

    We spent Saturday afternoon getting the car ready for the next event, doing a full teardown with a compression change, the engine disassembled down to the shortblock swapping head gaskets. The only preparation left is the body repair as the cone punched a pretty good sized hole through the carbon fiber body. As a crewguy, after a DNQ, what do you say? I just do the work and don't say much. I don't have enough expertise to offer solutions. Fred & Mark are more vocal…

    As Dave would say, "The only thing worse than being eliminated in round one is watching it!" We were happy to see DJ Cox & Mia Tedesco advance to R2, but we all had the "We should be out there" thoughts heavy on the mind. Payne shook the tires to a loss against Veney's 5.75 just to rub it in.

    With all the service done, I took the opportunity to catch up with some people you only get to see at Nationals; seven time IHRA champ Mark Thomas, Annie Whiteley, Frank Manzo, LRS blog writer & PR guy Bob Wilbur, and all the Peen-Rite guys, who, like Kara Stricker's daughter Kolette, were dressed in patriotic themes. I would have liked to say hello to Dan Fletcher, but he was pitted on the other side of the track, and I never had time to make it over there. A beautiful Midwest sunset came before the fireworks show, then the rest of the night was spent people watching as the masses exited by our pit, followed by late night visits from other racers. It is comforting to be part of a family.

    Sunday morning we test fired the car with Mark behind the engine. As bad as the weekend was, the grin on Mark's face was infectious as he went through the warm-up routine, then extended it with some additional throttle raps. It was good to see Mark happy. Once the methanol fumes settled, we packed it all up for the trip home.

    Our early exit from competition generated some logistics changes, with the hauler & rig leaving for Massachusetts around noontime. We hung around the track for eliminations then Dave headed back to Detroit and I dropped Kevin off at the airport for his rescheduled flight home. Motel 6 left the light on for me, and I welcomed a nice hot 45 minute shower before turning in for the night. My flight could not be rescheduled, so Monday brought another seven hours in and out of airports. I used the time to pen-up (literally - LOL) this report. The cat is happy to have me home.

    Our next race is the Division 1 Regional at New England Dragway, July 16-18.

    For Norwalk food/racing/travel pictures go here:

    Norwalk National Pictures

    Chris Saulnier – Team Tigges
    Mechanic Falls, Maine
  2. Jimbo17

    Jimbo17 Member

    Feb 23, 2009
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    Great Photo's


    I really appreciate your updates on each track you attend.

    It's an interesting look at how hard you work just to make each event.

    Thanks Jimbo

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