Tigges Talk - Reading National - October 2015

Discussion in 'System One Pit Buzz' started by MaineAlkyFan, Oct 10, 2015.

  1. MaineAlkyFan

    MaineAlkyFan Active Member

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    Over the Labor Day weekend we baked in the sun at Indy. It was hot, hot, hot! No so much the first weekend of October at Maple Grove Raceway for the NHRA National, our last race of the season. We decided to pull the trigger and head off to the track even though the weather showed it being right in the path of hurricane Joaquin. The rig & RV arrived at the track in the rain Wednesday late afternoon, getting a great spot on the edge of the pro pits. With the forecast calling for steady rain, the plan was to leave everything in the trailer and wait things out.

    Thursday morning there was a break in the rain, so Fred & Mark decided to set up the trailer awning. The strut joists all live in a rack on the trailer wall, so the car was pulled out to get access to them. The Reading racecar detection rain system immediately activated completely soaking the car. To add injury to insult, Mark slipped on the wet trailer ramp pushing the car back in wrenching his shoulder. A wrenched shoulder in the 90 degree heat of Indy would have been a painful annoyance… in the relentless, wet 50 degree air of Maple Grove it was like a full body toothache.

    My wife Yolana & I drove down Thursday. Aside from some threshold braking in southern Connecticut, our trip was uneventful. As was the case so many times before, like clockwork, the first raindrops hit the windshield literally crossing the state line into Pennsylvania. We showed up at the track just after 5PM bearing a large pot of my Boston Sweet Chili which served to warm us up a bit. Kevin & Jill showed up shortly after us, and we squished around in the wet grass under the awning complaining for a few hours before bedding down for the night.

    The crew guys & gals were all in hotels, so at least we had hot showers and were not cooped up in a damp RV. Dave had the best deal, as his work had him at a convention in sunny California. We missed his work on the car and smiling face in the pit, but really, California? Being the optimist, I showed up Friday in my normal shorts & team T-shirt. It was completely irrational, and chilling, even for a Mainah.

    Ashley Sanford's dragster team was our pitmate to the right. They had towed out from California (there is that warm place again) and they were optimistic also, talking between shivers about the radar and how it looked like it would clear up in the afternoon. I told them about the local weather patterns around the track with a chuckle. No racecars went down the track Friday, but the wind did pick up causing most teams to lash down their awnings. We set up a windbreak and took turns warming up in the RV. We joked about the Finke team, who must have fired their dragster six times during the day. We figured they were just trying to keep warm.

    Amazingly, spectators showed up. Highpoints of the day were two colorful girls that the dreary rain could not make sad and a group of young guys that offered to buy the shaggin' wagon, my 1984 Olds Cutlass daily driver. Lowpoints were the now saturated grass slowly turning to mud and having nothing to do. We attempted to get waivers (restricted area passes issued by the NHRA that allow access to the starting line) but could not find the NHRA trailer that issues them. It is usually down by the scales, but that one was unoccupied. We all drove across to the spectator side to the credentials trailer outside of the racer area only to be told that alcohol waivers were only being issued on the pit side. Then we had to fight with gate officials to gain re-entry to the pits. Later we found out the pit side trailer officials were told to go home at noontime. It would have been nice of them to tell us that before we drove all over for nothing. NHRA efficiency in action.

    Sleep at the hotel was much better than sleep at the track. Friday night it rained hard. Four adults in an RV with three dogs is hard enough, but a still aching shoulder and constantly being wakened by worry over the high wind tearing off the awning does not make for a good night's sleep. By mid-morning the rain was an occasional drizzle and we were told we would run in the afternoon after the pro session. We got the pit set-up and the car out and on the stands then fired it up to make sure everything was in working order.

    I headed out for a walk to determine if the waiver trailer was open. I checked the top of the staging lanes, no trailer. I walked the full length of the pits down to the fuel check trailer, knocked on the window and asked about waivers. The worker told me to go to the Tech Services tractor trailer and ask for Danny Gracia. I'm just a crew guy, and have no idea who Danny Gracia is. Walking over there I meet Dan Pomponio who has been told that they are not issuing waivers at this location, but was not told where to go. Wonderful.

    Approaching the trailer was a little intimidating. A huge 53 foot all black trailer with no windows and a single black door. I opened the narrow door and stepped into a full length office area room, with two guys seated at desks. 'I'm looking for Danny G.' One of the guys said nothing, just jerked his finger to the right. Turning to my right, I saw another challenge, three carpeted steps leading up to a black smoked glass door. I walked up the steps, through the door, into a palatial office with marble & leather accents. I was presented with two more officials…

    'I'm looking for Danny G.' Danny looks up to me from behind his desk, slightly annoyed. 'I need to know where to get waivers.' Danny explained, in a condescending tone, that they were being issued at the credentials trailer over on the other side of the track. 'We went there yesterday and were told they were not issuing Alcohol Class waivers.' 'Well they are today' was the curt answer. I thanked the NHRA's National Technical Director and walked out feeling like the peon that gives him his job. Back at the pit, seven of us crammed into the dually and headed back over to the spectator side to successfully get waivers. It really should not be this difficult.

    The first top fuel cars went down the track just before 3PM on a 60 degree track in 56 degree air. Fuel qualifying was horrific. 31 cars went down the track, only four made full passes. There was a lot of shaking and shutting off. We warmed the car again, but it was hopeless, three pair into Top Alcohol dragster qualifying the rain came back, shutting down racing for the day. The California boys next door were starting to figure out Reading weather. Four full days in the rain had Fred ready to pack it up and go home, but the weather did look slightly better for Sunday.

    The schedule called for us to get a qualifying run at 9:30AM on Sunday, then go to first round right after the pro session. I showed up at 7:30, and we towed up to staging on time. We were the first pair out, the groove was razor narrow, the track was ice cold, and the electrical drop out we were hoping we had licked was still there. Just like Indy, the car shut off then turned back on, driving into tire shake. Fred clicked it off, idling down to a pedestrian 7.935 pass that actually qualified us tenth.

    Back at the pit, I had one of the most enjoyable services of the season. With the mud acting like a waterbed under the pit tarp, Kevin and I worked smoothly on the engine and clutch while Fred and Mark looked at the computer then pulled the recently 'fixed' magneto, swapping it out for another. Dave usually does the left side of the engine, and Mark usually works the clutch with Kevin, so for Kevin and me, it was really satisfying to pick up the slack and let Mark & Fred focus on the mag. The experience of working together is starting to show. We worked fast, got all the details right, didn't have to ask a lot of questions and had the car re-timed and warmed up before the Pro-Stock cars were done running.

    We were the sixth pair in the first round. The good news was swapping the magneto seemed to eliminate the electrical drop out problem. The bad news was the red light Fred saw in his lane as he blasted by the tree with a great .942 sixty foot time eliminated us from competition.

    I can't speak for what it is like behind the wheel of a Top Alcohol Funny Car, but I can imagine what could contribute to a redlight. In the pair in front of us, Mickey Ferro got bitten by a set of tires with only one run on them, a dead cold track and a very narrow groove. He got the car out of shape, slapped the left wall hard then crossed over the centerline in front of John Headley. They rolled the sweepers once up and down the track then gave us the signal to fire them up. I always look downtrack before a run. As I was taking the starter from Mark, I saw both sweepers still in our lane blocking Fred from making the burnout. Fortunately there was just enough space to get them off track in front of our tow vehicle as I backed it away. That was two major non-normal things for Fred to think about before he even got to the staging beam.

    Kevin drove the car back to the pits while Fred and I sat on the tailgate. Several NHRA workers greeted Fred warmly, as this is our last time seeing them this year, prompting him to comment 'At least we are well liked'. Towing back past fellow first round loser Chuck Anderika's pit, his crewguy Billy gave a jubilant fist pump to the sky, yelling out 'We suck!' to which Fred shouted back 'Especially the driver!'

    After looking at the computer data, we were fully loaded up and ready to roll out by 3PM. I said to Mark there were three positives; it looked like we have the drop-out solved, the awning was dry, and it was the end of the event at Reading with all the rods still in the engine. We seemed to have escaped the engine carnage that has haunted us at this national. Later that evening, in the hotel room, I got a text from Mark on the road in Hartford, Connecticut, telling me he was nursing a blown head gasket in the hauler, stopping frequently to add water. It never ends, actually putting the racecar down the track is the easy part. He made it home safely around 2AM.

    Why do we do it? I'll let Fred answer that. 'You haven't lived until the motor's running, they put the body down, and you're all by yourself.' Right now, I'm thankful and happy being part of the team that sends the car down the track. Maybe someday I'll get to know that feeling of being alone with the machine.


    Pictures of the sogfest here

    Starting line videos here

    TV coverage of this event at 6PM EST Sunday, October 11 on ESPN2.


    Chris Saulnier
    Team Tigges
    Mechanic Falls. Maine
     
    #1
    Last edited: Oct 16, 2015
  2. M Tigges

    M Tigges TAFC

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    Okay buddy ill say it! Not even a round win all season.
     
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  3. MaineAlkyFan

    MaineAlkyFan Active Member

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    Depressing, ain't it? I was saving the sickening details of the season from hell for my year end wrap up in a few weeks...

    If you left tomorrow morning you could make Dallas...

    Chris Saulnier
    Team Tigges
    Mechanic Falls, Maine
     
    #3
  4. MaineAlkyFan

    MaineAlkyFan Active Member

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    Schumacher Rocks

    This is just pretty cool of Don Schumacher. Doesn't do squat for us racers, but cool still.

    Ticket Rollover For The Fans

    He also opened up the pro hospitality area & food to all the fans who were there on Friday, and shared food with some of the alky guys Saturday night too.
     
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