Las Vegas Testing
By Phil Elliott
What does one learn in pre-season testing?
In my case, it is that at least two of my lenses have
gone away, and one camera body is defunct. I learned that my overly tired
89 Mustang still does NOT have an operational heater.
In the case of Bob Gilbertson, he discovered what an
.800 lift camshaft does when coupled with a 1.7 ratio rocker and his
combination of springs and retainers. On his second run at Las Vegas
Saturday, the math proved all wrong and it split a brand new supercharger,
annihilated a cylinder head, heavily damaged a carbon fiber body, and made
so much scrap out of a whole bunch of shiny new pieces. Such is the
changeover for Burnin' Bob and his entirely new crew, led by Nick
The Las Vegas test also proved that Larry Carrier's
two sons could amass an entire Top Fuel operation in a little over thirty
days. Actually, Mark and Andy had aspired to do it a year or so earlier
but the project was shelved due to their father's declining health.
Opportunities knocked however and when Paul Romine joined forces with John
Mitchell, the Carriers purchased Romine's equipment. Originally, a get
their feet wet in IHRA year was planned, but when Darrell Gwynn and XXX
Cowin could not agree on a price the Yankee car seat went to Cory
McClenathan and Andrew went in search of a new situation.
How the three got together I do not know but sometime in
late December, all seemed involved in a giant exchange of gifts. Young Mr.
Cowin found himself in a garage in Bristol, Tennessee discussing potential
sponsors with a team quickly known as ‘Carrier Boyz' and race
strategies with Jim Walsh. In fact, Walsh put nearly the whole ex-Amato
crew he'd headed back together. That they were there at all proves that
out there in small pockets of the country still lives the desire and
wherewithal to start from scratch and field a professional nitromethane
entry. Sponsors will surely follow.
Teams learn that no matter how hard they try, they can
still blow the latest Goodyears into tumultuous smoke. Even in near
perfect weather and track conditions, a single horsepower too many and a
timer set one fraction of a second earlier will end in an aborted run.
However, with onboard data gathering equipment, even a
run that from the outside looks to be a failure can reap great rewards.
What not to do in a similar future scenario is every bit as worthwhile as
a seemingly perfect run.
Years ago when I asked Jerry Ruth why he couldn't just
plug in an old combination to get in a show, he said he wasn't out there
to go backwards. A light bulb went off.
It is still the case today. In testing, one must throw
caution to the wind and hope to find a combination slightly better than
the one you tried yesterday. In national event competition where weather
and track and all manner of evil can befall, teams must back things down
to make fields for the honor of sponsors and to gain almighty points. In
testing, none of that matters. To gain an upper hand, new pieces and
combinations must be thrown at a car in massive quantities.
And of course there is the indoctrination of new pipe to
the track. As you have probably heard, even the most exacting similarities
in a pair of chassis do not guaranty they will react to the same
combinations in the same way. And crew chiefs and chassis builders have a
way of making minor and major changes from car to car.
New things to try might include a different piston ring
design or a totally different body and manufacturer. The former came along
a few years back when the Dykes design proved a valuable asset, the latter
when the entire Schumacher operation switched from heavily massaged
Pontiacs to the totally different Dodge, and added an entire team.
Each situation can add or subtract. A crewmember. A
camshaft. An oil.
I heard rumors that a logo design change for Miller Lite
cost (someone) $150,000 to redo trucks, trailers, racecars and uniforms in
the Champion Don Prudhomme – Larry Dixon Jr. camp.
The costs can be high. Engine explosions caused by valve
spring coil bind like that discovered during post conflagration
inspections like that experienced by Bob Gilbertson's crew lead
eventually to huge performance increases. Such little things that seem in
retrospect to be common sense open windows and cause light bulbs to go off
for over taxed crew chiefs everywhere.
From the least of ingredients to the biggest most
meaningful, experimentation and evolution is performance.
Las Vegas Testing Photos
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