Tigges Talk - Charlotte National 2018

Discussion in 'Pit Buzz' started by MaineAlkyFan, Oct 14, 2018.

  1. MaineAlkyFan

    MaineAlkyFan Active Member

    Oct 8, 2006
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    Team Tigges closed out our short season this weekend at Z Max Dragstrip in Charlotte, NC. I was pretty excited having never been to the Charlotte facility... a new experience for me. The team had some fresh looks also. Rick, who had helped us out at the New England Regional managed to get some time off from work & flew down on Thursday. Northeast legend Eddie Parker took the shotgun seat for a change and drove down with Mark, Fred & Claire, leaving Tuesday morning for the two day trip south in the RV & race rig. Dave was the local guy for this race, as he lives under an hour from the track.

    We skipped the national event at Reading, Pennsylvania because of concerns that hurricane Leslie would wash the event out (which of course did not happen) and those same concerns were high in our thoughts as we headed south while hurricane Michael was pushing north through Georgia & South Carolina. I had left Maine on a 6AM flight with a connecting flight in NYC, where I was happy to see my Charlotte flight had not been cancelled. Once on the plane however, we were stuck on the taxi-ways for over 45 minutes while the tower waited for flight updates, almost needing to return to refuel before finally taking off. It was a nice plane, a Boeing 717, with great staff, especially flight attendant Dahlia, who pointed at the pig image on my 'Animals Taste Great' T-Shirt and said 'Especially that one! Fried' with a smile. I was also pleasantly surprised to be assigned window exit seats at boarding for both flights which have much more legroom.

    Mark, Fred & Eddie picked me up at the airport in dreary, rainy weather with less than expected wind. We took a quick drive-around tour of the NASCAR facility then went to our pit spot which fortunately the guys had secured Wednesday night. NHRA was not parking anyone Thursday, even late into the afternoon. As it was, we sat in the truck talking most of the afternoon until the weather finally broke enough to start set-up. During set-up Dave started to not feel well and he decided to head back home, but he ended up in the hospital for the weekend fighting off a bout of painful pancreatitus. Dave is doing well now, and fortunately he left the positively delicious rack of ribs at the pit, which tasted fantastic Friday night hot off the grill.

    By 7:30 Thursday evening the pits felt like a different world. It was warm & dry, racers were being parked, the car had been teched in and we all had waivers signed. None of us would have belived this possible at 2:30 sitting in a rain whipped truck watching porta-potties being blown around on the parking lot by the back fence. NHRA had cut the alcohol class from three qualifiers to two qualifiers, both scheduled for Friday. We had everything ready to go, so after enjoying Fred's patented grilled sausage with onions & pepper dinner, I headed out to photo document my first time at Charlotte.

    Z-Max is a pretty amazing facility. From the little details like the perfectly graded paved pit area (no lakes & streams after the rain), to the banks of shower facilities to the sheer size of everything, it is quite a place to visit. I got some great nightime pictures, including some from the top of the colossal timing tower (yes daughter Alisha, you do get it from me... there was no lock on the steps). To give you an idea of the size, they have two of those big jumbo-tron TV screens you see at NHRA national events, and both of them look small against the backdrop of the grandstands and four racing lanes. The 'staging' lanes are a little amusing compared to the rest of the facility, but overall Z-Max is very impressive.

    Friday qualifying brought highs & lows. Our pedestrian 6.02 shut-off first lap actually held us in the 13th qualifier slot due to a highlight reel and heart stopping lane swap we suffered in the second qualifier. Fred hit the high gear button at just under 200 mph and the car took an immediate right heading directly towards DJ Cox's car in the next lane. Fred's immediate step off the throttle and full lock left steering input, combined with the hand of God between the cars kept them off one another. Here is what it looked like from the starting line. At 200 miles an hour, the car is travelling 90-120 feet in the time it takes for you to blink your eyes. Each lane on the racetrack is only 30 feet wide. That will give you some perspective of Fred's driving experience and the dangers of racing. Our human & family sides are all thankful that there was no crash, but our racer sides were all disappointed that the combination of no track preparation and a left lane bump took away what was likely a career best pass looking at the low numbers on the computer. Such is racing.

    Others in our class were having the same highs & lows, Billy Naves had the thrill of running his first five second run. Nick Januik had a chute malfunction and dipped the front of the car into the sandtrap right at the end of the track. Canadian runner Tyler Scott was having a great day, his performance earning a visit from the Fox TV crew for an interview. But he still holds the loss of 16 players & coaches of the Humboldt Broncos junior hockey team in a bus accident last year close to his heart as evidenced by memorial stickers on his car. Thanks for remembering them Tyler, like drag racing, hockey is a tight community. Your honoring them was good to see.

    As usual, the social aspects of being at the track were fun. I got some precious pictures of dragster driver Tommy Fox herding a group of young spectators into assisting him in packing the chutes, and had a great conversation with Super Stock racer Jamie Southards about planting mums in slicks. Her pit was behind us, decorated for fall with pumpkins & mums. I spoke for ten minutes with a first time race attendee, who had some questions about the differences between the alcohol funny cars and the nitro funny cars, after which he gave me a hearthy handshake even though my hands were filthy with greasy rubber from cleaning the wheelie bar. I really do love doing this stuff!!

    It will be no surprise to regular readers of this blog that we have been chasing the car's performance for some time now. What we really need is more laps down the track to close the deal on the tuning direction we are trying to hunt down. The problem is laps are mighty expensive to get. Once it is all added up, just going to this one event cost thousands of dollars and that only got us three passes.

    With a racecar at this performance level, you learn nothing without running on a track prepared for racing. The relationship between the tires and the track is a huge part of the equation. You can't just take it to a local dragstrip and make test passes. That would be like trying to practice ice hockey on slush instead of ice. That missing third qualifying round might have changed the outcome Saturday when we went up for the first round of eliminations. We were looking for a run in the mid 5.50 range but the 5.614 that came up on the big Z-Max scoreboard, although being the best we have managed with this new car, was no match for the 5.43 Chris Marshall ran in the other lane, so again we were out in the first round.

    I took some time to be a spectator, but here it is at the end of our season, and it is mighty difficult to watch others move on when you are on the wrong side of the fence. Rather than enjoying the final day of eliminations with some winning laps behind me, I'm sitting in a hotel room writing a blog before tomorrow's flight home. That said, congratulations to Sean Bellemeur, Steve Boggs & Tony Bartone for wrapping up the 2018 TAFC Championship with a pair of strong 5.38 passes in round 1 & 2 (not to mention winning the event too) and for Megan Meyer picking up her 5th National event win.

    Until next time, keep the pipes lit!

    Watch TV coverage of this event October 25 between 8-9 EST on Fox Sports 2.

    Event Pictures Here

    Chris Saulnier - Team Tigges
    Mechanic Falls, Maine
    Last edited: Oct 15, 2018
    Will Hanna likes this.

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