16th Annual O’Reilly Auto Parts NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series Nationals
Route 66 Raceway, Joliet, Illinois
June 27-30, 2013
The stage was set for another showdown at the NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series event in Joliet on June 27- 30, just 3 weeks after driver Bill Litton and Crew Chief Anthony Dicero’s last run there. The driver and crew returned to the same track hoping to put the nitro dragster on the property for a win. The heat and humidity were pretty much what you’d expect from Joliet this time of year – 87 degrees with humidity at a sticky 56 percent and the track temperature hovering around 110 degrees.
This series of races marked the first time the new Dicero team was on full display. Driver Bill Litton was joined by fellow team driver Rishi Kanick in his own car as they both got behind the wheel for the weekend’s qualifying runs. Kanick is a native of the Caribbean island of Trinidad & Tobago, and his car used to be owned and tuned by NHRA legend Tom Conway. The best part about “teaming up” is that information from one car’s runs can be used to improve the chances of the other car. So if one car makes a run down the track and shakes or spins the tires, the information is relayed back to the team crew so they can adjust the other car immediately. It’s a promising set-up for both drivers.
But Litton’s first run kept those promises at bay. Dicero had installed a new intake manifold injector to make the engine stronger but said the car “just missed a little bit on the clutch and shook, and the driver’s orders were if it was shaking and not going forward fast, shut it off.” From driver Litton’s perspective, the launch was weak. But just a short way down the track, the car really accelerated. Litton said, “When it did, it felt like the tires were breaking loose, although they may have just been stretching out. He (Anthony) had told me to shut the car off if it starts to spin the tires … so I clicked it off.” Bill ended up with a 7.068 at 142 MPH.
Thoughts can shift and morph once a driver is off the track and out of the hot seat, and the “ought tos” and the “should haves” sneak in. Litton mused, “In retrospect, I wish I had driven it a little bit farther to make sure. But I thought first round – we’ve got two more rounds to go – so I’ll save the parts and try to do the right thing.“
Then Mother Nature stepped in with a rain delay, and pushed all further efforts out until the next day, Saturday. Two more qualifying runs to go, and things looked good for climbing up the ladder a few notches.
The second run for Litton had some timing problems. Bill moved too quickly during the staging process between the pre-stage bulb and final-stage bulb and driver error took away the possibility for a decent run time for that round. He got a 5.62 at 256 MPH which put him in slot #21. Now it was down to one last shot to get in the show.
Q-3 proved interesting, given the fact that teammates Bill and Rishi were in lanes side by side. But they were not racing against each other, just against the clock as they both tried to qualify. There were some tense moments from the start. One external battery went dead at the starting line, and teams scrambled to use the same battery to fire both cars. Litton staged the car as close to perfect as possible trying to make up for his error in the prior round, then got a nice reaction time but Kanick’s car pulled out in front just before the finish line.
Unfortunately, the Litton dragster didn’t have enough steam to get to the finish line fast enough. “We were in front until the end,” remarked Litton. “But before the finish line he started to pull ahead of me and our car nosed over.” With a 5.63 at 256 MPH, Litton landed in slot #21 and did not make it past qualifying.
Dicero was sorely disappointed: “Q-3 served up the tune-up that we thought it was going to take to get it in the show. But the thing blew through the clutch in one and a half to two seconds, and there was more race track there than we had anticipated. So unfortunately we found ourselves on the outside looking in.”
But Litton was among excellent company in the non-qualifying category. Five-time world champion Bill Reichert, 2011 world champion Duane Shields, Houston winner Randy Myer, All-Star representatives John Fink and Dan Mercier – all non-qualifiers for this event. Rishi Kanick went on to qualify, but lost against Chris Demke in the final round, as Demke picked up his 10th National Event Wally.
But in the end both team drivers, Kanick and Litton, were winners because each run – no matter which car — supplies valuable information for both tune-ups in future races. And Chief Anthony is ready to brush off the dust of this defeat and move on to the next opportunity. “We’re just going to pick up the pieces that are left and head to the next event. Hopefully we’ll have this thing sorted out better by then.”
Look for Litton and team to rev it up again in Bowling Green, Kentucky on August 23 – 25, unless potential sponsors bring them back to the track earlier.