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Drag Racing Story of the Day!

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 Boninfante Jr.


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.

The Boyz.
The Boyz.

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.

More Las Vegas Testing Photos

Thanks for checking out the PhilZone portion of Draglist.com. If you have accolades, complaints, comments, questions, or if you want to share a story, please feel free to post it on the PhilZone Message Board. Phil

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