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Second Roll of the Dice Brings Little Payoff in Vegas

Las Vegas Regionals

Nov 2 -4, 2012

Second Roll of the Dice Brings Little Payoff in Vegas

For the second time in two weeks, driver Bill Litton and crew arrived fresh and ready to suit up at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.  Last weekend, it was the Nationals. This weekend, it was the Regionals.  Was Lady Luck going to come along for the ride?  Only time would tell. 

The pressure was on from the start with 15 cars and only 8 spots to qualify.  This would be only the second try for Team Litton’s brand-new Don Shumacher Racing (DSR) chassis, as it was “broken in” just the weekend before. 

This weekend’s competition started with a pledge from Chief Anthony:  He was willing to hurt the motor if necessary to win.  There were only three things to watch out for. He told Bill, “When you take off from the start, if it doesn’t rip your teeth off, let off to save parts.  And if the tires start to shake, don’t let off until your vision is distorted.  And if the windshield shakes, that means there’s a hole so let off.”  He vowed to “stand on it” – putting everything on it he could short of spinning or shaking the tires.  Increased nitro pressure was a must.

There were a few setbacks in the pit early – the race pack (the on-board computer) was not working and a replacement was needed to get any data from runs.  Although one was ordered overnight, there was no guarantee it would arrive on time.  In the meantime, the legendary driver, now car owner, Gene Snow offered up a loaner in the spirit of camaraderie that is so strong out there in the pits. 

The first run on Friday happened about 1 pm.  Tom Conway showed up on the track to boost the fuel at the last second.  But – as happens to the best of drivers sometimes when they’re too amped up — Bill redlighted.  He left the line before the Christmas tree was activated.  That meant no times recorded for that run.

Saturday brought renewed optimism among driver and crew.  Crew Chief Anthony said he was “at one” with the engine (nicknamed “Sammy Squared” by the way).  He remarked, “It’s like giving a pretty girl a new lipstick and a pair of shoes.  Treat her nice and she’ll treat you nice.” 

The first run times were awesome at 5.465 ET at 251.53 mph.  Crew and driver were stoked!  But still, some problems persisted.  The car nosed over 200 feet from the finish line, and no one could figure out why.

The final qualifying run hit at 5 pm.  The numbers were still strong – 5.582 ET at 243.33 mph.  But even though Anthony took some fuel away from the nitro beast this run to try to keep all the holes lit, it didn’t work.  The car nosed over again 200 feet before the finish line.  All in all, it wasn’t enough to make the cut and qualify for Sunday. 

But there were a lot of plusses to tally up.  The car ran consistently and actually finished within 4/100ths of a second of qualifying in a world-class field of cars — pretty amazing when you consider the new chassis had only five full pulls and the driver less than ten.  And… that the car that won the event made it through all three elimination rounds with times slower than the Litton Financial car’s qualifying time of 5.465.  The season-ender at Pomona is next!

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