Text & Photos Via Steve McDermott Jr.
Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series, NHRA Division 4, Houston Raceway Park
The Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series had their Division 4 season opener this weekend at Houston Raceway Park. Parking began on Wednesday, March 20, and racing concluded on Sunday, March 24. The season was scheduled to start a few weeks ago in Belle Rose, Louisiana, however mother nature had other plans.
Live event coverage was provided by Warren Evans with DragRacer.tv (formerly D3TV), sponsored by Roaster's Coffee of Amarillo, Lucas Oil, FTI Performance, Service Department Solutions, Pro 1 Safety, SalterRacing.com, Lupe Tortilla, Advanced Clutches, Clegg Industries, Mike and Paula Cotten and J O Graphics. These sponsors are greatly appreciated.
Comp Eliminator has been sponsored by Roger Brogdon of Pro Stock fame, with his company, RBR Machine, putting up $10,000 to the winner of Comp Eliminator at each Division 4 LODRS event. Please support them so that they can continue this sponsorship.
Houston Raceway Park is a very nice facility, and the LODRS divisional did not disappoint with turn-out. Parking was not a problem, and thankfully mother nature did not create any mess with the unpaved parking.
For someone who is used to land-locked tracks (probably 90% of racers), this is a very foreign sight: seagulls at the track! So. Many. Seagulls! Don't leave a bit of food out, they are more than happy to come by and pick it up. But as a local racer put it, you have to be careful as sometimes they have group 'target practice’ at inopportune times.
After three qualifying sessions, the field was already tight. The top 16 were within .04 - surely that would be good enough. But not in Division 4. Not at Houston Raceway Park, all of 40 feet above sea level. Oh no.
Division 4 delivered on the unspoken promise that the top half would be tough. With conditions cooling down into the evening, several cars elected to skip Q4 because they felt they were in a good spot on the ladder. A few others had already broken. For the rest, it was time to make a statement: if you wanted lane choice, you had to earn it. The end result was 15 cars within .028 and 20 cars within .039.
There is one caveat, however. Look at the speeds, and you will see just how fast some of the cars are. Dee Kruse set fast time of the meet at 242 MPH (going well under the 6.10 cap). You have 230’s, 220’s, and even 210 MPH runs in the top half. This was going to set up a great show for the top-end spectators with the various spot-drop strategies being played out. Lifting at 1000 or 1200 feet and coasting through the finish line scrubs alot of speed but only a couple or three hundredths on ET.
Jim Thorpe was forced to skip Q1 and Q2 due to a mechanical failure incurred on a blistering run during Thursday night TNT. A trip to Scoggin-Dickey Performance Center and back allowed him to lay down a 6.06 lap in Q3 backed up by a 6.13 in Q4. For anybody keeping score, that is 565 miles and a 9 hour drive, each way, from HRP to SDPC. I think we can all agree that Jim's team gets the travel time award.
With the “Stupid Fast” top half of the field, the ladder ended up not being too awful. Unfortunately due to so much carnage, there were several bye runs first round.
Cory Arraund broke a crankshaft in his roots-blown Ford, Dee Kruse broke a lifter for the second race in a row on his screw-blown Hemi, Rusty Baxter ripped the procharger brackets out of the left side cylinder head on his Chevy-powered rail, Crystal Peterson had issues with her nitrous-assisted Chevy, and James Ogden unfortunately only made one attempt in Q1 before losing the transmission.
Jim Thorpe took the R1 upset win over the breaking-out Bob Button, Jon Bradford exercised a holeshot win over John Harry Bond, Jennifer White beat a slowing Robert Cool to the finish line (both over a tenth above the dial), Wynette Hudgins broke out giving JR Baxter a pass to the next round, while David Johns, Bill Swann, and Darian Boesch all won off red-lights. Michael Kile broke out, giving Ron Scott a ticket to round 2, while the Stanfield/Exner pair resulted in a narrow win for Stanfield as Exner took .042 stripe for the .006 breakout.
Derek Purvis defeated Holden Laris in first round with a 6.24 lap, receiving a bye in second round as John Robinson was unable to make the call in his Cummins Diesel powered rail. In a report from Will Hanna, they found a failing ignition coil and changed it out. They did not think it would pick the car up much, so no special instructions were given. Unfortunately, Mr. Purvis ran 5.99 on that bye run, forfeiting all show-up and round points and being formally disqualified from the event.
Ron Scott was the beneficiary of the third-round bye due to this, facing Aaron Stanfield in the semi-finals. Stanfield won this pair, putting him in his second final round of the day against J.R. Baxter. Unfortunately for Stanfield, a mechanical failure at the staging beams gave Baxter the event win. (Stanfield did win his other final in Super Stock)
From The Pits:
With the new 6.10 cap for this year, the real puzzle for many teams has been “How do I slow my car down?” Some of the cars in Top Dragster are capable of 5.90’s, while many are capable of 5.70-5.80’s. During the course of the weekend, throttle stops jokingly came up. For boosted applications, I think engine timing will be the way of the road for a good while. The nitrous-assisted cars already have their nitrous on a timer, so they have a little more granularity for adjusting the dial up or down like a throttle stop.
That's not to say that somebody won't try a throttle stop. The Laris group has proven that you can make a procharged entry run the 8.90 super comp index. I also heard a rumour about a certain newly-procharged pickup truck that might try the 8.90 game soon, after years of being nitrous-assisted in Top Sportsman.
Having ran 3.877 and 3.881 two weeks ago at the Mid-West Pro Mod Series event at the Texas Motorplex, we knew we had to kill at least 2 tenths to get in on the cap.
We unloaded on Thursday for the TNT with the plan to shut off at 1000ft to see where we landed on ET. Even killing as much through low gear as realistically possible, the fact that we were close to the index while coasting gave us a good ballpark. So we snuck up on the index slowly, inhibited by some issues that we worked through all weekend long.
TNT: 6.13 @ 1000 ft
Q1: 6.56 @ 660 ft
Q2: 6.35 @ 800 ft
Q3: 6.13 @ 1000 ft
Q4: 6.10 @ 1200 ft
In the attempt at a morning warm-up on Sunday morning prior to Round 1, it was found that the distributor had moved within its locking collar, and was both out of phase and out of the oil pump. We quickly re-set the distributor and made it to the lanes for our first round bye run. We ran a 6.08, however the car was coated in oil at the end of the track. We came back and found that in the process, we had torn the distributor gasket. So we lifted the blower off the engine, R&R'd the distributor with a new seal, and put the blower back on. We go to warm up, and the GRID was not receiving an input signal. A quick run around the pits yielded a new crank pickup, and we were able to do a quick start and shutoff before hanging the body and as they were giving us final call to the lanes. We don't like going to the lanes stone cold, but we always have the oil pan heater plugged in just in case.
The MKD (Mario, Karen, Darian) team were very patient, waiting on us to show up, suit up, and we even got a quick warm-up behind the tower. Darian broke out, giving us a chance at round 3 against Aaron Stanfield. Unfortunately, Stanfield got the better end of that timeslip, ending our weekend.
About the author:
Steve McDermott, Jr. is well known in the Division 4 area as a photographer and general event promoter serving as the principal of “North Texas Bracket Racing” when he is not working on the roots-blown Chevy powered dragster piloted by his father. Frequently informally coined “the hardest working crew of the sportsman pits”, McDermott and Son racing is never afraid to help others, often defining a “never say die” approach.
Any statements or opinions above belong to the author, and are not representative in any way of E3xtreme or its partners.