Testing - PRE- U.S. NATIONALS
Indianapolis, Ind. By Keith "Roo Man" Burgan; Photos by Roger Richards, Brian Wood
WEDNESDAY NOTEBOOK -
Beating the Heat - Both the temperature and humidity levels increased somewhat for the second day of pre US Nationals testing at O’Reilly Raceway Park at Indianapolis but once again the early evening produced great weather conditions and some quick laps ensued. Although the track had cooled down considerably towards the close of Tuesday’s runs several teams were deliberately late in getting in line for the final round today, tagging on to the end of the line just prior to the lanes being closed at 8 pm and hoping to run in optimum conditions due to the higher day time temperatures.
Sarge flies - Tony Schumacher took advantage of those conditions, making a run before 7 pm and having the crew hot lap the car and get it back in line for another shot. Obviously Alan Johnson used the data from the early run to put the car on the edge as the “Sarge” stopped the clocks at 4.468 and 327.66 mph despite putting the rods out in the lights. The earlier run was no slouch either as the 4.535 elapsed time was accompanied by at 330.07 speed, the first 330mph shot at ORP.
There are do - overs - That scenario worked against Mike Ashley however as he suffered a repeat of his Tuesday night problems. When the Knoll Gas - Torco team made their attempt earlier on Tuesday the car appeared to be idling a little high with the clutch dragging somewhat and Ashley was forced to drive off down track when he was unable to select reverse following his burnout. In that case his crew was able to turn the car around quickly and get back in line for another attempt which resulted in the second quickest funny car run of the day. This time around Mike was the last car in line and when the car again was tugging on the clutch it was too late to fix the problem.
Busy Lucas - Morgan Lucas has been busy over the last two days with both his T/F and TAD entries on the grounds. He made some initial laps in the injected car here on Tuesday but today he handed the reins of that car over to Shawn Langdon. Langdon is best know for his S/C and S/G efforts, winning the Jegs All Star crown in S/C in 2005 and 2006. His final run here came early in the evening when he carded a 5.556/254.66, not as quick as Lucas who stopped the clocks at 5.367/257.78 yesterday but not bad for only his third lap in the car.
On the subject of the Lucas Oil T/F car it appears the team has finally isolated the problem that was causing the car to burn up in the traps on just about every run. Now the problem is taming the new found power as evidenced by Morgan’s 5.03/ 210 mph best here.
Shaking Down - As well as some small carbon repairs as noted here early Wednesday the new Toyota Solara body being shaken down by Scott Kalitta also sported a pair of aluminum spill lips on the front wheel openings as the package is refined in real world conditions. By way of explanation re the spill lips, the Monte Carlo comes with them molded into the body but several teams have cut those appendages away and fabricated removable aluminum components that can be used to tune front downforce depending on track and atmospheric conditions.
Hillary's New Life - Hillary Will’s Ken Black owned dragster still carries her #763 number from her sportsman racing days but will most likely have a single digit on the wing next year as she currently lies 9th in the NHRA Powerade point standings. When Torco’s Competition Plus.com spoke with Will she noted that her life has changed immensely since she made her first competitive trip to Indy just
12 months ago.
Going Corporate - The large sign that bridges the staging lanes immediately behind the start line is undergoing a change to reflect the O’Reilly Auto Parts sponsorship of what was formerly Indianapolis Raceway Park. It appears the the new configuration will have the new O’Reilly Raceway Park on the arched portion of the sign as the “at Indianapolis” portion of the new moniker is already installed under the arch. Evidently some of the O’Reilly money has been spent already as quite a large portion of the Pro pit area has been paved where previously there were driveways between gravel based pit areas for teams that were down in the pecking order.
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TUESDAY NOTEBOOK -
New Kid on the Block - The big news at the first day of the pre US Nationals test at O'Reilly Raceway Park was the debut of the new Toyota Solara body on Scott Kalitta's funny car. The shell was so new that Murf McKinney was still finalizing some of the body mounting at the track early in the afternoon. As was the previous Toyota effort, the Celica initially campaigned by Alan Johnson, the new body is radically different to those run by the opposition. This time around the body has a much sharper transition from the horizontal to vertical surfaces although it retains the laid forward rear face of the body under the rear spoiler. The front end is extremely swoopy compared with the current domestic offerings from the "big three". When Scott Kalitta went to the line for the car's first run during the final round of runs Johnson was very much in evidence ont he line with the Kalitta team as once again he is the prime mover behind the project. Scott smoked the tires early but look for more from this car in the near future.
Gray Matter - Also on the funny car front, Paul Smith was on hand with his Monte Carlo that was driven earlier this year by Jeff Arend. It seems that the Erie Educational Services backing that Arend brought to the party is currently in a state of flux and Smith has recruited Johnny Gray to shoe the car the the "Big Go". Johnny last drove a fuel car here at Indy when he drove the CSK entry and in fact was using the helmet that he wore then along with a plain black firesuit.
In other Gray news he is headed to Don Ness' Minnesota chassis shop following the test to check on the progress of a couple of Novas that Ness is building for him.
Schmidt Happens - Steve Schmidt was back in action in a new car of his own after shaking down Tommy Brown's GTO earlier this season. Schmidt's new Don Ness constructed Cobalt wears his trademark red and white color scheme with a subtle checker graphic and after an aborted early run he carded a 6.835 during the final session of laps.
Hopping Howard - Dave Howard was at the top of the list elapsed time wise for the Pro Stockers with a stout 6.719 at 204.60 mph as 6 cars ran in the 6.7 zone. Howard also had the best speed at 204.60 while Greg Anderson was close behind at 204.57 despite not making a lap later in the evening when the conditions appeared to be at their best.
Once is Enough - Tony Pedregon only made a single hit but it was a good one as the Memphis runner up topped the flopper charts with a 4.747 at 324.75 mph. Mike Ashley had to abort his first evening attempt when he could not get the car into reverse following the burnout but the team serviced the car quickly and got him back into line to make a solid 4.792 to close out the Funny Car activity for the day.
Confident Schumacher - When Torco's Competition Plus spoke to Tony Schumacher early in the afternoon he was confident in the final season outcome despite losing ground in the points to Doug Kalitta at Memphis a day earlier. He backed up his words with a stout 4.504 at 328.06 on the best of his laps to lead the long car contingent although he did smoke the tires early in his final attempt. Brandon Bernstein was next at 4.533 at 329.34 mph while Hot Rod Fuller has the best speed of the day with a 329.75 that was tied to a 4.536 elapsed time.