Tigges Talk - Lebanon Valley Regional - June 2019

Discussion in 'Pit Buzz' started by MaineAlkyFan, Jul 4, 2019.

  1. MaineAlkyFan

    MaineAlkyFan Active Member

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    Lebanon Valley Dragstrip is located just south of Albany, New York, 261 miles from my driveway in Maine. It is an old school facility, with a bumpy track, bumpier return road, and short shutdown area. We dubuted the new car here in 2017 with a win. Things have been dry since, we were looking for some success.

    This time out we had a full crew. I drove down directly from Maine. Dave flew into Manchester, New Hampshire, then drove down with Keith & chef Aaron in Keith's RV. Mark, Fred, Claire & Rick all piled into the rig & RV and drove west through traffic & construction. We all got to the track around 1PM, and had the pit all setup and ready to go by 4. It was easy, casual, well coordinated work with the full crew.

    We did not intend on running the car on Thursday, so we spent time with weekend tuning plans, picking up a new set of slicks and catching up with our extended racing family. Super Comp racer Steve Logan (who lives just a few towns over from our homebase in Holbrook, Massachusetts) had his dragster pitted to our left, and Top Sportsman John Ammirati's beautiful blown '63 'vette was to our right. By the end of the day, we were looking at a short field of funny cars, with only five cars in our class on the property, one of which was doing liscensing runs and would not be in competition over the weekend. It was a good first day, hot & sunny in the eighties with fairly dry air and a breeze. Cool for Dave, who is now used to daily 90's in South Carolina, hot for me, used to 70's in Maine. Friday's forecast looked to bring more humidity, potential showers, and hopefully three rounds of qualifying. With the short field, qualifying well would be important.

    Friday morning brought sun, heat, humidity & not a drop of rain. We got all three rounds of qualifying in, ending up third with a series of pedestrian runs on the hot bumpy track. The day was not without success, changes in the clutch can looked good, the new slicks scrubbed well during Q2 & Q3 with the car running nice and straight without the dreaded 'I just spent $1,000 on two tires and they are junk' shake. We got partial data on all the runs as none of them were full track passes, but the half track computer numbers told us we were on the right path. Other than a pushed intake manifold gasket, a cracked oil pan, a broken blower belt, and driving 250 MPH directly into the setting sun, the passes were without event. Even without extensive sevicing and with the full crew, the day was exhausting, the heat and humidity taking its toll.

    It was going to be an early night. With the first round of eliminations scheduled for 11:30 Saturday morning, we pushed through normal after round servicing on the car. The only tasks left to do Saturday morning would be checking the rod bearings & the standard warm-up. Even with an average elapsed time of 5.858 over the three qualifying runs, we were still ahead of our 6.080 average from 2017, which netted us the win even with the same type of partial pass performance. There was hope!

    Rick brought potato salad & chili, which provided good side dishes to Fred's homemade hamburgers for the Friday night meal. The weather looked like it could be nasty overnight (wind, rain, & potential hail) so we set up the pit in 'weather safe' mode with no stuff on the ground that could be damaged by standing water, and all the other stuff either in the trailer or well under the awning.

    Saturday morning brought full overcast weather with slightly cooler still humid temperatures. There had been no rain, tornado touchdowns, or flooding overnight, unlike the 2017 version of this race. With the weather threatening rain we made short work of the rod bearings, fired it up, and were ready to tow up to face New Jersey runner Dan Pomponio with an hour to spare. We towed up to staging then roasted in the sun for 40 minutes or so while the track safety crew cleaned up an oildown past the finish line in our lane.

    Finally, it was time to go! With the cars both fired, I enjoyed the short walk from the waterbox up to the spot where Fred would stop after backing up from the burnout. My head was looking down as I walked, protecting my face from the bits of tire rubber flying back at me from the spinning tires. This part of of being a crewguy on a funny car has become normalized in my brain, it is routine function. Maybe because of that, it was very special this weekend, realizing I've been doing this dream of mine going on six years now, walking behind a screaming car in a restricted area of a racetrack, in the moment, on the other side of the fence. It truly is a blessing to be able to fulfill this drag racing dream of mine.

    After Fred finished the burnout & was guided back by Mark & Claire, I waited for him to engage in first gear and move forward, then followed the car close behind with the newly fabricated wheelie bar adjuster in hand until Mark stopped him just before pre-stage. Turning the bar down slightly for the correct height, I took four steps back away from the car. While Claire turned on the computer switch, I changed my focus to the Christmas Tree. Pre-stage, stage, guess the track's auto-start system, and hit it dead on 1.6 seconds later with a fist pump as Fred nailed the throttle for a stellar .039 reaction time, getting the jump on Dan's slower reaction. Then the verbal hoping began, 'stay out on him, stay out on him, stay out on him' until a adrenaline filled 'YEAH' as the win light came on in our lane for the first time in over 22 months, our 5.821 elapsed time beating Dan's 5.709 to the finish line.

    Up at the top end of the racetrack, we saw we had some work ahead of us, as the front intake gasket had blown out again, leaving an oily mess. With just a few short hours to the final round against East Region points leader Matt Gill, we got back to the pit and focused our efforts on removing the supercharger to replace the intake gasket and servicing the clutch. This is hard, hot, heavy work, with the bulky assembly weighing over 150 pounds & needing to be carefully lifted up and over the magneto. With the gasket repaired, valve lash checked, clutch serviced, oil cleaned up, body re-mounted & parachutes packed we were done with about 20 minutes to spare before being called up through spotty rain to the staging lanes.

    Again, Fred had a better reaction time than the competition, with his .057 beating Gill's .091. We stayed ahead of Matt until just before half track, where he got past us running 206 MPH to our 200 MPH. Although we managed our best ET of the weekend, our 5.761 elapsed time could not get us the win light over Matt's 5.632. As a smart man once said 'missed it by that much'. Disappointing, yes, but at least we made five nice straight passes, got our first round win in a long time & found the new tires to perform well.

    When the racing is over, everything goes into automatic mode. Clean up, break it all down, decide how much is getting done tonight or in the morning... With the threat of weather still there, we elected to do a full pack-in, getting the entire show packed up except the generator. This juggled some sleeping arrangements, but I happily confirmed that my 'new' 2006 Scion xB could indeed be transformed into 'The Scion Suite' a comfortable platform for all my stuff and an air mattress, giving me a great night's sleep after a very necessary shower.

    Sometimes, there is a dark cloud hidden in the silver lining. Such was the case back at the shop during engine teardown. The oil pan produced the remains of two connecting rods & damaged bearings. The domino effect of the rod failures broke several expensive valvetrain parts & left several others suspect. What was expected to be fresh rods, a hone job and a re-ring has now turned into much more work and expense. Atco Dragway in New Jersey is our next planned event, hopefully we can get all the repairs done and drag this torture machine back out for some more fun over the first weekend of August.

    Congratulations to Matt Gill for the TAFC win and Jackie Fricke for her dragster win. Although our pit-mate John Ammirati is still in the mix, advancing to the semi-finals in his Top Sportsman 'vette, he will have to wait until September to finish the race at the Regional in Epping, New Hamshire, as Sunday brought a full rain out of the event. I'm glad we got it all packed in before the rains came...

    Thanks for reading!

    Chris Saulnier - Team Tigges
    Mechanic Falls, Maine
     
    #1
  2. MaineAlkyFan

    MaineAlkyFan Active Member

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    Photographer & chef Aaron has posted some pictures & videos of this event. It is pretty cool to see myself, as I'm usually the one behind the lens! Thanks Aaron!

    Tigges Lebanon Valley Pictures

    Chris Saulnier - Team Tigges
    Mechanic Falls, Maine
     
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