Tigges Talk - Lebanon Valley Regional - July 2020

Discussion in 'Pit Buzz' started by MaineAlkyFan, Jul 5, 2020.

  1. MaineAlkyFan

    MaineAlkyFan Active Member

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    Shake, Rattle & Roll

    Only at Lebanon Valley Dragway, just south of Albany, New York, can you qualify third with a pedestrian 6.24, get a single in round one, then lose in round two to a tire shaking 5.88 in the other lane.

    Lebanon is an old school throwback facility, with a great fan base that truly loves the alcohol classes. Even with all the Covid 19 changing protocols & chance of thunderstorms there were fans in the pits & stands both days. The racing surface itself is challenging. The left lane has two bumps that do a great job of upsetting the car if you hit them wrong & the right lane has a downtrack bump that if you are out of the groove can send you offtrack (quite literally, as happened to DJ Cox a few years back). Combine that surface with humid mid-80's temperatures & varying cloud cover & you have a tricky track.

    We all showed up at the facility within 25 minutes of each other Thursday mid-morning. We had the same crew as two weekends ago at New England Dragway, with the exception of Eddie Parker who was under the weather. After the valvetrain damage from the last event, we needed to set the ignition timing & do a full operational go-over to make sure everything was right, which we did after setting up the pit. Just to make things more challenging, we installed a new center bearing support Crower pressure plate before the event. Another variable to add to the Lebanon Valley uncertainty map.

    It has been a while since I talked to non-racing readers, so let me take a little time to explain how a pass in a funny car works. The analogy is not perfect but it explains the game of balance that goes on. Very simplified, with a funny car you want the engine to be going fast, the clutch to be slipping, and the rear tires also to be slipping on the track just a little.

    If you picture tying a rubber band to a brick, then pulling the brick across the table with your hand, you might see the picture. Your hand is the engine, the rubber band is the clutch & tire slippage & the car is the brick. If everything is smoothly working the tension on the rubber band is steady & the brick moves across the table. If you pull the rubber band too quickly it breaks, if the rubber band is too thin, the brick might only move very slowly, at risk of breaking the band. Depending on how rough the table is the brick might not even move.

    This perfect balance of keeping the engine power out ahead of the accelerating car down the racetrack is what makes these cars tick. The rubber band always needs to have smooth tension on it. Any of several decisions regarding engine tuning, clutch tuning, gear ratios, tire pressure, chassis set-up, track conditions & driver performance affect that tension. If any of that is off just a little, you will lose traction & lose the race, unless of course the team in the other lane does a worse job than you did.

    Friday was scheduled to have three qualifying sessions, but rain shortened the program to allow us only two. Our first pass in the left land had the car bouncing through the bumps partially due to having no experience with the tuning needs of the new pressure plate. Our second qualifier in the right lane was slower than expected but still landed us in the third spot out of a short field of five cars. Back in the pits, the computer showed low boost & low fuel delivery, which translated to a slipped foot on the gas pedal, which was remedied with application of some friction tape.

    Saturday's Independence Day Shake Rattle & Roll Extravaganza came courtesy of a few players. Because we had a single pass in the first round, we decided to make a gear ratio change, add power & see what would happen. It would either go like crazy of shake like crazy. We got the shake, right at the hit of the throttle, but being unopposed, won the round & moved on.

    The rattle part was all my fault. Sitting in the staging lanes for round 2 of eliminations, the cars ahead of us had moved up towards the starting line. I knew Mark had walked up to the line, so I got in the truck to pull the racecar up. My error became apparent to me when I felt resistance in the tow strap & stopped. To my horror, Mark had walked past me & was in front of the rear tire of the car when I started to pull forward. Fortunately, Fred's safety protocol of always being on the brake when someone is in a position to be hurt saved the day. Mark was just bumped by the tire but then strained his ankle jumping out of the way. The three of us were rattled. At a time like that, any apologies feel empty, but like Fred said, he is sure it will never happen again.

    Our rubber band lost tension more than Matt Gill's did in the second round & we were sent packing. During our work to break down the pit we heard the 'Roll' part of the weekend occur on track during Top Sportsman eliminations when Alex Thomson's rubber band broke sending his Corvette into a barrel roll, coming to a scary stop back onto the wheels. This is tough sport to master. Thomson was out of the ruined racecar safely, and we were packed up heading home a day early. It will be a long summer off, waiting & planning how to make it all work in the fall at the next race, maybe Indy, maybe Maple Grove.

    Congratulations to Matt Gill & the guys for their win in TAFC (in the most competitive race of the weekend), to Jackie Fricke for her second in a row A-Fuel Dragster win & to newly liscensed dragster driver Mike Hepp winning his first competitive round of alcohol dragster racing for Tommy Pickett's team.

    Chris Saulnier - Team Tigges
    Mechanic Falls, Maine
     
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