Tigges Talk - Atco Regional - August 2017

Discussion in 'Pit Buzz' started by MaineAlkyFan, Aug 8, 2017.

  1. MaineAlkyFan

    MaineAlkyFan Active Member

    Oct 8, 2006
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    Nine days. From driveway to driveway that is the amount of time between the New England Dragway regional & the Atco regional. Fit into that time is work, house building, service & body mount fabrication on the racecar, attending the opera, hospital stays, tire replacement on the RV, writing blogs, home welding projects, corporate business trips, restocking supplies for the racetrack... plus normal life. It's been hot in New England also, especially when you are welding beam moments in the sun. Mark compares it to hugging a pizza oven for the afternoon. We are all tired, but this disease called racing has us dragging our stuff south to burn more methanol.

    Atco's first qualifying session is at 4PM on Friday, so the decision is made to leave for the track Thursday morning instead of Wednesday. I've never been to Atco, so I'm looking forward to seeing a new venue, and because of its location in New Jersey I also have the opportunity to ride to the track with the team, another first for me. I get up at 3AM on Thursday & arrive at the shop in Holbrook just before 6AM. We pack up some last-minute items & tow out before 7.

    I bought a new Dell combo laptop/tablet, primarily to have in the trailer to review starting line video on a decent sized screen. Smartphones are cool, but there is still value in having a good old camera, tripod & viewscreen. At New England Dragway I started experimenting with using the tripod on the starting line to record video of the run. It seemed to work pretty well, giving me a nice stable video image, while allowing me to enjoy the actual pass without being stuck behind a camera. The idea is to have instant video review of the pass available in the pit while analyzing the run's computer data. Especially for Fred... after all, he never gets to see the pass from behind the car! As a bonus, I discover a benefit of travelling with the team... the ability work on the blog during transit. As I type we are heading down I95 in Rhode Island, this is pretty cool!

    Skipping ahead through a ridiculously hot & humid Friday, Jim Bowen comes by the pit around 5PM to call us to the lanes for our first qualifying session. At this point, the car is all ready to go, Fred is in his firesuit, and all the required tools are in the back of the truck. Fred gets in the car, one of us goes behind the car to clear traffic, then the car gets pushed back into the pit road, followed by the truck. The tow strap is hooked onto the weight bar, then we tow up to staging, where we pair up in the order we will run. Fred gets out of the car & we wait for the class before us to finish. If there is direct sun on the rear tires or fire bottles they are covered, and the starter is put on the supercharger. Tire pressure is checked often. At most races, an NHRA chaplain prays with Claire & Fred for safety.

    After a few minutes, we are given the call to race. Fred gets the helmet, gloves & Hans Device on, and Mark & Claire strap Fred into the car. The sheet metal over the clutch can is put on the car, the CO² bottle is turned on for the timers & transmission shift pods & the safety pin is removed from the fire bottles. Fred cycles all the controls to make sure everything is in order. We tow up to the waterbox just ahead of the starting line, Fred steers the car into the lane beside the tow vehicle, and the tow strap, body pole strap & any sun protection devices are removed. The starter cable gets plugged into the starter. Mark has the squeeze bottle of gasoline alcohol mix and stands beside the car ready to turn it over, with Claire to his left, ready to pull the shorting wire off of the coil. I stand opposite Mark, waiting to take the starter from him. About this time, the pair of cars ahead of us is making their pass.

    When we get the fire up signal, Mark cranks the starter while squirting fuel into the injector hat, then Claire pulls the shorting wire, and the engine comes to life. Mark removes the starter & hands it to me, Keith removes the starter cable & the cable & starter are put into the truck. Meanwhile, Mark lifts the body, Claire removes the body pole & Mark lowers & latches the body. Dave moves the truck off to the return road side while Fred pulls forward through the waterbox & does the burnout. Claire has moved uptrack to guide Fred back from the burnout while Mark guides Claire from behind the car with hand signals. I set the camera up on tripod, focus mid-track and start the video rolling, then move up behind the car & measure the wheelie bar height while Clair turns the computer datarecorder on with a switch on the wheelie bar. We all step back. As Fred is in the staging process, I check my camera framing to make sure I have the proper aim to see the entire run, and we watch the car blast to the number 2 qualifying spot with our best run in the new car, a 5.61 at 260 MPH.

    With Dave & Keith on site we dole out the sleeping arrangements with the Tigges clan in the RV, Keith & his wife Lynn in their RV & Dave & me in the race trailer. Sleep at the track is like living in a parallel universe. The racer's mind never shuts off, and the adrenaline masks the body's need for sleep. You know you are tired, but you don't want to go to bed because you know you'll just lay there awake trying to figure out what the next steps are to make the car perform the way you want it to. So, you stay up, often until midnight or later, talking shop, past, present, or future. Conversation might drift away to food or other interests, but it always returns to timer settings, fuel lean-out settings, and endless streams of numbers.

    Numbers & radar. With all the stuff in the pit, potential rain management is always on the mind. With the radar showing overnight thunderstorms, we prepare the pit accordingly, with the car pulled forward & the truck back so everything is under the awning. The work mat edge is rolled over to help water run under it, the work tables are pulled in tight, and everything comes up off the ground, either into the trailer or onto the work tables. Dave calls it a night around midnight, but it's quiet & refreshingly cooler, so I decide to spend some time behind the keyboard. All of a sudden it is 1:15AM. I turn in, but am awakened by light rain turned heavy on the roof of the trailer around 4:30AM. The awning will pool water & potentially tear if it rains hard & fast. Dave & I get up and access the situation. Water management commences, walking up and down under the awning edge pushing the pooled water over the drip edge with a broom. I'm feeling like a hillbilly kid walking back & forth barefoot in shorts through two inches of running water flowing across the pit. The rain tails off just before 5AM and it's back to bed for some more shuteye.

    Morning comes early. New day, same storyboard. Saturday has a lot of hurry up and wait in the schedule. I spend most of the day pacing around trying to burn off energy I shouldn't have. Mark buys a drum of methanol that I transfer to fuel jugs, which leads to the early demise of an unfortunate wasp. Dave teaches me how to pack the chutes, and I pack my first pair of chutes, a rite of passage. Cora goes on an ice cream run. We are wildly entertained by our Top Sportsman pitmates Vinnie Gallucci & Glen Puluse, who are full of tales... 'It was on a nice straight run, then the track moved!'... advise, encouragement and absolutely killer fried mozzarella tomatoes & fresh fruit. Thanks Vinnie! Thanks also to the Pomponios for the dinner spread for the alcohol guys, not having to cook after a day of racing is a nice treat and having time to hang out with peers is always fun.

    After no improvement in qualifying we head up to round one of eliminations late in the afternoon. Dan Pomponio gets out of shape in front of us, taking out the 330-foot cone, leading to a delay in the normal rhythm of the run as the track crew replaces the timing cone. It gets in my head, I forget the tape measure and marker which I usually put in my pocket, then I mess up recording the video, staging the camera properly, but not pressing the record button. Of course, not having the tape measure means I can't measure the wheelie bar. Fred stages the car deeper than he wants to, and our competitor Aryan Rochon comes up on the RPM later than he wants to. As the tree lights flash, I'm focused on the back of our car, and feel a thrill of victory as I see red on the tree in my peripheral vision. Mark's body language, however, tells me the red is in our lane, and although our 5.76 pass crosses the finish line a full second ahead of Aaron's pass, we are headed for the trailer.

    We all prepare the car & pit for the tow out on Sunday morning, then Mark & Ann cook up a fantastic dinner involving tomato sauce, sausage, rigatoni & salad. After dinner, we go up to the stands to watch the alcohol finals. Congratulations to Josh Hart for his third win in a row & Phil Burkart Jr. for his East Regional Championship clinching win, great job guys!

    By 10AM on Sunday morning we are towing out for the haul home. Everyone is back in their homes in four different states by 9PM Sunday night. Rinse & repeat. The regional at another track I have never been to, Cecil County, Maryland, is 9 days away. As of this writing, we might not be there, but then again, this is a disease...

    Pictures of the Atco Dragway experience here:

    Atco, New Jersey Regional Pictures

    Chris Saulnier - Team Tigges
    Mechanic Falls, Maine
    Last edited: Aug 9, 2017
    wkdivr and madcow like this.
  2. blown1969camaro

    Apr 18, 2010
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    hello it is aryan from the rocycle team. just wanted to say I really like reading your tigges talkes. I hope in Cecil we end up on the other side of the ladder and can fight it out in the finals.

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