Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series
Bowling Green, Kentucky
August 24-26, 2012
As Team Litton emerged from the cornfields of Kentucky and approached the motorsports complex in Bowling Green they were greeted by a full-on amusement park complete with a ferris wheel, cotton candy and a large rickety wooden roller coaster. Little did they know that roller coaster would foreshadow the emotions Team Litton would experience throughout the weekend at the Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series Event at Beech Bend Raceway Park.
The race at Beech Bend was the final stop in the new “Regional Format” in the NHRA’s North Central Division. And was the first visit by the Litton Team to NHRA Division 3 to compete in a tough field in Top Alcohol Dragster. Couple that with the hot and humid weather conditions and it’s easy to see why everyone went through a “roller coaster of emotions.”
Upon their arrival the team had high hopes to not only qualify but to hopefully go a few rounds in what would be a very tough field of 11 competitors trying for only eight qualifying positions. The field featured at least five drivers that had won either Lucas Oil Divisional or NHRA National events in the past! So just to qualify would be quite an accomplishment.
Driver Bill Litton was hopeful that the team would use the first round of qualifying as a baseline toward further improvement in the second and final qualifying round. Crew Chief Anthony Dicero and the crew pointed out the new items and improvements to the nitro dragster including a smaller steering wheel for more room in the cockpit, a new engine, a new ignition, and a modification to the nitro valve handle – all efforts to make Bill more comfortable in the driver’s seat.
Unfortunately the Litton Team car ran into problems on their first qualifying attempt as fuel was dripping heavily out of the headers due to a sticky nitro valve. Anthony manually trimmed the nitro at the engine. The Track Offical signaled to shut the car off, but his signal came too late. The Starter gave Litton the light and he was all over it with a reaction time of .062. Unfortunately, the sticky valve had caused the car not to go completely to the “high side” (full nitro pressure) for the run. This caused the engine to rev too high right at the hit of the throttle sending the tires into billowing clouds of smoke.
During the “burn out” of the second and final qualifying run, “a fuel injector nozzle began to leak and rain nitro out the exhaust”; however, the raining nitro was no cause for alarm. Litton backed the car to the starting line and was ready to go. Unfortunately, once again they smoked the tires causing precious time to tick off of the clock, but Bill was not ready to give up. Crew Chief Anthony Dicero had given Bill the go ahead to “pedal” the car, if the tires smoked again.
Bill “pedaled the car” lifting off the throttle to try and regain traction then got back on the throttle only to have the car wheelstand, lifting the front of the car to a near 45 degree angle at its peak, causing what might have been the highlight of the weekend for the crowd! After all that, Bill knew it was not to be and made the wise move to abort the second and final qualifying run. Following the run, the car needed to be stripped down to the frame. The crew’s close inspection revealed a small crack in one of the uprights of the chassis.
Anthony’s frustration at finding the illusive sweet spot in the tune up was apparent. Bill’s response was more stoic. It stung … but there was no time to wallow. Time to move on to the next race at Indy. One positive takeaway however, the rookie had pedaled the car. Pedaling 5,000 horsepower is a real challenge for a rookie and Bill handled it well. Anthony was pleased with his driver.
So this “roller coaster of a weekend” did not have the outcome that the team had hoped for; but was a good learning experience for all.
Next event for Team Litton Financial will be the prestigious 58th annual Mac Tools U.S. Nationals presented by Auto-Plus at Lucas Oil Raceway in Indianapolis, IN on Labor Day Weekend.