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Drag Racing Story of the Day!

Back in the Fives in Las Vegas

By Lyle Greenberg

October 13-15, 2000 -- After struggling most of the year with dropped cylinders and valve train breakage, the Lyle Greenberg Motorsports Federal Mogul Funny Car team decided to compete in one last race in 2000 -- the NHRA Division 7 Federal Mogul Drag Racing Series event in Las Vegas, NV. 

In preparation for the event, a MSD 44-amp magneto was acquired to replace the somewhat outdated Mallory Mag IV that had been in use. This important change was made possible through the sponsorship help of Sundance Equipment Company. Also providing sponsorship support that allowed us to go to this race was "VLENDER.COM," a company that builds Internet web sites for mortgage companies.

Hoover Dam. Photo by Butch Blackberg
Hoover Dam. Photo by Butch Blackberg

First time crewmember Butch Blackberg and Lyle rolled out of Albuquerque early Thursday morning with an 11-hour drive ahead of them. The trip was uneventful and was highlighted by the slow trip over Hoover Dam -- truly a marvel of engineering! When Butch and Lyle arrived at the track to drop off the trailer, the huge oval track was completely lit up, an event was in progress at the motocross track, and the drag strip was full of over 600 trailers. To say that the Las Vegas facility is impressive is a huge understatement.

Funny Cars at the Las Vegas Oval Track. Photo by Butch Blackberg
The oval track sits next to the drag strip at this impressive facility. Photo by Butch Blackberg

On Friday morning, Blake and Andy Johnson flew in to complete our crew. In addition to Butch, Blake and Andy, the remainder of the crew consisted of the "Winslow Gang": Ron Miller, Derron Sheets, Derek Nelson, and Jeff McKinney. Although he couldn't make the trip, Rick McCann deserves credit for his hard work at the shop to help us get ready for the race. Since the first qualifying session wasn't scheduled until 7:00 p.m., the team set a leisurely pace preparing the car. Although we got conflicting opinions on how we should change the tune-up to compensate for the new magneto, we relied primarily on advice from our good friends Tate and Bobby Branch. 

Since we are always limited in our budget (and therefore our supply of spare parts), we knew we had to take a very conservative approach. When we got teched and drew our run card we found that we were going to be in the first pair of cars in the session, running next to fellow Albuquerquean Lawren Jones. On the burnout, the tach decided to stop working, so Lyle had to bring the car up to stage rpm by the seat of his pants. He did a pretty good job, launching the car about 100 rpm too high at 5,900 rpm. The car headed down track straight as a string. 

Although he wanted to let it rev up pretty high in 2nd gear, he noted later that it must have been too rich and stopped accelerating so he shifted into 3rd gear pretty early (the computer later showed that it was about 8,400 rpm). As the finish line approached, Lawren was about 2 or 3 car lengths ahead when suddenly his car veered to the right and ran over the finish line timing lights. Lyle said that all of the sudden there was debris flying everywhere and Lawren was straddling the centerline. Luckily, only one piece hit the front of the Greenberg car, putting a crack in the nose. 

Unfortunately for Lawren, the nose of his 2000 Corvette body was seriously wounded in the encounter. When the crew got to the car, they excitedly told Lyle that the time was a 6.06 at 228 mph. After a round of high-fives, Lyle took a look at the time slip and realized that the time was bogus. When Jones took out the lights, it stopped our timer before we actually got to the finish line. All of the incremental times up to 1,000 feet were accurate, so Lyle was able to extrapolate and make an educated guess that the run was about a 6.30. Everyone was very pleased with this first run on a brand new tune-up.

The crew preps the car for another qualifying shot. Photo by Butch Blackberg
The crew preps the car for another qualifying shot. Left to right: Ron Miller, Derron Sheets, Andy Johnson, Derek Nelson, Jeff McKinney, and Lyle Greenberg. Crew Chief Blake Johnson is hidden. Photo by Butch Blackberg

When the car was serviced, the spark plugs looked like they had hardly been fired and there wasn't a single bearing mashed. This indicated that the engine was very rich and had a lot more power left. The computer data showed that the clutch was a little on the light side and had slipped too much. Based on the 1.01-second 60-foot time, there was clearly the potential to run well under 1 second with a little better clutch tune-up. Going into the second qualifying session, Lyle decided to get a little more aggressive with the motor and add some clutch. 

The change to the clutch was going to be tricky. All other things being equal, it needed more clutch. But with the addition of some power to the motor, it was going to need even more clutch than the computer might indicate. However, too much clutch and the car would shake the tires. As it turned out, we didn't get enough clutch in the car. It was very sluggish on the launch and slowed down to a 1.05 60-foot time. Once the car got out past the 330-foot mark, it really started to charge. Lyle ran it out to 9,000 rpm in second gear and it was accelerating much harder than on the first run. It ran well all the way to the finish line and recorded a 6.17-second ET at 239 mph.

After reviewing the computer readout, it was obvious that the clutch was still very light. The clutch graph was actually worse than the first run, but the 239 mph clocking indicated that the motor was making much more power on this run. Again, the spark plugs looked like they had barely been used and nothing else on the motor was hurt. With one more qualifying session left, the 6.17 was still well short of the 5.96 bump. The team kept with the initial game plan. They stepped up the power to the motor again and added more clutch. 

There was the same dilemma on the clutch. If the motor was left alone, more clutch was needed. But with the motor being hopped up, additional clutch would have to be added, but not so much that the tire shake demon might strike. This time the car really responded with a very hard launch, carrying the front tires about eight inches off the ground for the first 200 feet of the run. The car drifted slightly to the right, but Lyle was able to quickly correct when the front tires set back down on the ground. The 60-foot time was dramatically better at 0.981 seconds. With the car accelerating very hard, Lyle took it to 9,300 rpm in second gear, then shifted to third and held on for the charge to the finish line. 

Although Lyle was unaware of it, a 3-foot by 18-inch piece of the body flew off right at the finish line to add a little drama to the run. A very respectable 5.99 at 242 mph flashed up on the scoreboard. It is not clear whether we ran over some debris that may have hit the inside of the body and knocked the piece out or whether the fiberglass delaminated and simply came apart under the pressure of a 242 mph top end charge. Certainly, it gave the crowd something to look at when the team towed back in front of the grandstands. Lyle jokingly noted that it was the first time that he could actually see the crowd out the side of the car with the body in its flipped up position.

The body has a hole in it! Photo by Butch Blackberg
The aftermath of the final qualifying run where a large chunk of the body blew off. It is not clear why this happened, but it sure was ugly! Photos by Butch Blackberg

Here is the piece of the body that ripped off during a qualifying run. Photo by Butch Blackberg
Here is the piece of the body that ripped off during a qualifying run. Photo by Butch Blackberg

Unfortunately for us, this turned out to be one of the toughest fields at a divisional race all year. There were 15 cars in attendance and the number one qualifier ran 5.75. Veteran funny car racer Mert Littlefield held onto bump position at number 8 with a 5.92. We missed the bump by 0.07 seconds. There were an additional four cars between 5.94 and 5.99 and then an additional three cars between 6.06 and 6.08. When the slowest car at the event runs 6.08, you know you are in deep water. For the complete qualifying list, go to NHRA Online's coverage of the event.

Looking at the computer data, it was obvious that the clutch was still too light. In fact, it slipped more on the last run then either of the previous runs. The crew is convinced that we would have gone in the 5.80s on the next run with no change at all to the motor, just the addition of some clutch counterweight. There is also little doubt that the motor was making more power at this race than at Phoenix last year when we went 5.84 at 242. On that run we had a 0.955 60 foot time, went 193 mph to half track, and then picked up 49 mph on the back half to run 242. This weekend at Las Vegas, the light clutch caused the car to not get as good a run on the front half of the track. It was only going 189 mph at half-track and picked up a whopping 53 mph on the back half.

Although we didn't qualify, the whole crew agreed that this was the most fun we've had at a race in a long time. In addition to having a great time at the track, we all enjoyed our stay at the Texas Station Casino/Hotel. I don't think anyone lost too much money gambling (in fact, a couple of the guys claimed to have made a buck or two). If at all possible, we are going to try to make it back to Las Vegas next year for the national event.

Catch up on sponsor announcements and shop updates by going to our home page at http://www.lylegreenberg.com. Scroll down to the "What's New" section and click on the story of your choice.

Lyle Greenberg
443 Federal Mogul Funny Car


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