Mac Tools U.S. Nationals, Second Weekend
Presented by Auto-Plus at Lucas Oil Raceway at Indianapolis
September 8-9, 2012
A dramatic stage was set for the US Nationals’ second weekend in Indianapolis. When Bill Litton picked up his rental car at the airport on Friday evening, the parking lot attendant informed him that a tornado warning had just gone into effect. Within minutes, he was inundated with rain so heavy the windshield wipers couldn’t clear it fast enough to get a view of the road. Lightning flashes lit up the sky like a giant strobe light flickering on and off. The last of Bill’s qualifying runs started early Saturday morning, and the uncertainty of whether the track would be ready hung densely in the air, heavy as the humidity.
Saturday morning brought clear skies but lots of flooding on the track, which took clean-up crews several hours to dry out. Litton was looking for a 5.64 or lower to qualify. Due to rain delays beginning the prior weekend, qualifying runs were reduced from 4 runs to 3 runs. Since 2 runs had been made last weekend before the rain out, only one pass would be available to improve his 5.73. But he’d have to wait it out again due to the soggy track.
Litton and crew finally made it to the staging area late morning. The burn out went excellently. But when Bill took off, the car smoked the tires almost instantly and overpowered the track. Within two seconds, Bill’s chances for a win at Indy had evaporated – no more qualifying runs, no do-overs.
So what happened? Discussions with Crew Chief Anthony turned to possible slips from nitro drops on the track to problems with fuel pressure. Elevated nitro levels pointed to a nitro pressure problem in the engine. Anthony thought the engine was over center. Perhaps it was the condition of the track – 6 out of 18 cars smoked the tires that morning during the final qualifying run. Anthony continued to ponder, saying “I know what it did, but I don’t understand why. We weren’t able to back it down enough. The new parts we added to the engine made more power than we made before. We need to find out how to back it up.”
As Anthony and crew continued to investigate, the answer was found in simple human error. Anthony had inadvertently adjusted the car’s computer to the wrong setting, and that’s what caused the car to smoke the tires. It was a tough realization for Dicero: “How can you go through it and miss that? I guess you can.” As the crew packed up the pit, Bill commented, “It was a long trip for five seconds on the track, but that’s the way it goes.” Looking ahead, Dallas and Reading remain possibilities for Litton and team, while Las Vegas and season-ender at Pomona are definitely on the schedule.