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Revving Up in Vegas: Test and Tune

February 8-10, 2013

Winter winds and blustery conditions whipped up the track in Las Vegas as Bill Litton and team arrived for The Las Vegas Pro Test and Tune.  On Friday, a day reserved for working in the pits, winds reared up to 35 miles per hour.  But Crew Chief Anthony Dicero, driver Bill Litton, and two new team members, Warren Weber and Jay Ryskey, were focused on their task – measuring the moxie of the Litton race car before its first trial run of the season.

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Final prep for a cold and windy test run

As expected, there were a few bugs from the start, including a rubbing push rod and some crossed ignition wires.  Also, a key piece of equipment malfunctioned – the graphic editor, which is a computer display screen that stores tune-up information.  The graphic editor was cutting-edge quality, so advanced that replacements aren’t even available yet.  Fortunately though, Crew Chief Anthony Dicero was able to borrow another from fellow racer Tim Wilkerson, which kept the team in business for the weekend. Saturday’s first test run had its challenges.  Putting a nitro car back on the track after months of disassembling and reassembling during the off season leaves a few question marks hanging in the air.  Would it perform up to snuff?  The plan was to collect data by doing a burn out, launching the car for 250 feet, and then shutting it off.  But the track temperature was a cold 60 degrees with the air temperature hovering at 46, which wasn’t exactly a welcome mat for high performance.

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Headed for hands full?

A starting line driver error with the nitro valve made for a slow start.  On try #2 as driver Bill Litton sat strapped into the car, Anthony warned, “you may have your hands full” after just witnessing Chris Demke launch and almost cross the centerline after his front end came up.  As it turns out, the burn out went well.  As the Christmas tree gave the go signal, Bill slapped the throttle to the firewall and the car hunkered down and launched like a rocket!  It accelerated to a .958 60-foot time.  Dicero and crew were elated, since the fuel flow from the new fuel pump was spot on for the target at 5k RPM.  Further study of the onboard computer indicated the car probably would have made a very nice run to the finish line, so high fives were flying. But then, Crew Chief Anthony made a disturbing discovery. The bolts for the harmonic balancer weren’t looking so harmonic – they were sheared off in the last run.  The crew was willing to work through the night to fix the problem or to swap out balancers.  But a swap could pose a problem with the tune-up, since even identical engines have set-up differences. What tipped the scales was the worsening of the weather – it was getting colder and nastier with a report of a brief track shutdown due to sprinkles at the starting line and snowflakes at the finish line!  Wild weather like that would make it almost impossible to get a full pull for the data if they attempted another run.

Sheared harmonic balancer in parts.

So Anthony made the hard call:  Use what data they had to focus on the big run ahead – the season opener Winter Nationals in Pomona just four days away.  Hearts will be racing on Valentine’s Day, February 14, as Pomona qualifying rounds start up.