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Turning Up the Heat in Bowling Green

NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series North Central Regionals

Bowling Green, KY

August 24 – 25, 2013

Ready, Set...Burn the Heads Off!
Ready, Set…Burn the Heads Off!

Even the cotton candy was melting at Beech Bend Park and Raceway in Bowling Green, Kentucky, as Team Litton suited up for the Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series North Central Regionals. The temperature was hovering in the mid-90’s and the humidity was as high as the cornstalks in the field. The track temperature was a toasty 135 degrees.

Crew Chief Anthony Dicero tuned the car pretty lean for the first qualifying run on Saturday. They were one of the first cars to go down the track, and it was pretty greasy early on. The goal was to run 5.40 but the crew just couldn’t get it there. The groove at Bowling Green is unusually narrow and at about 3.30 seconds, the dragster got out of the groove a bit. The car spun the tires, picked up 500 extra engine RPMs and then put a cylinder out.

Putting Finishing Touches on the Rebuild.
Putting Finishing Touches on the Rebuild.

The engine was torn up pretty bad. Anthony said, “It burned up both cylinder heads to the point that we couldn’t get the spark plugs out of them. After a little bit or reworking, we put a new set of heads on it. We think we’ve got the fuel system closer now.” As qualifying round two approached, the team came up with a strategy. The plan was to run it just faster than the car in the other lane to qualify for elimination rounds. On the prior run, major engine damage occurred around 1,000 feet. This time, Chief Anthony wanted Litton to run it out to 1,000 feet and shut it off if the car in the other lane was behind him, hoping to save some parts. Litton had a great run right off the starting line, then coasted through the finish line with an improved qualifying time of 5.66 at 217 MPH.

Chief Anthony was pleased that Round 2 went much better than Round 1. But he wanted to study the data to make sure they had resolved any nagging problems to avoid the expense of ruining more parts. He said, “We feel we’ve fixed a lot of our problems in our fuel system and got a car that’s a lot more responsive now and makes more power.” Although the Litton dragster did qualify for eliminations in Round 2, it was at the bottom of the heap. But Dicero was undeterred: “We’re going to start from the bottom this morning but hey, it’s Sunday, and anybody can win on Sunday. All you got to do is be in the show.”

Chutes Feel Nice Even on a Soft Run.
Chutes Feel Nice Even on a Soft Run.

And so they were. As Litton and team stepped up on Sunday for first round of eliminations, the hopes were high. Dicero had added some timing to the engine, and a little bit of fuel to the finish line to keep from blowing it up. The car got a good launch but it smoked the tires within two seconds of leaving the starting line. Again, the narrow track made it hard for Litton to keep the car in the groove. According to Dicero, “It just drove up on the tire, got itself out of the groove and starting smoking the tires. Bill did an excellent job of stepping off before it got out of control.”

I Have a Dream...
I Have a Dream…

Bill thought he had a good start, but “just when it started to spin the tires and got a little bit sideways I got out of it. We smoked the tires and I shut it off since I could see the other car was on a good run and there was no way I could catch him.” He was up against Brandon Booher who was on a 10-round winning streak and the momentum just couldn’t be broken.

This coming weekend, the team is headed to Indianapolis at Lucas Oil Raceway Park for the NHRA Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals for another try.

(LEFT) Bill autographs a hero card for 7-year-old Bowling Green native Keaton Vester. Keaton drives a junior dragster and his father and grandfather are also racers. Keaton wants to be a professional driver when he grows up! Litton’s dream started at about the same age.