Kardiac Kids Racing Team Update: Inaugural Race of the 2012 Season

Apr 18, 2012 11:00AM

Inaugural Race of the 2012 Season

NHRA Gator Nationals - March 9 - 11, 2012

Gainsville, Florida 

   Overall the first race of our NHRA Drag Racing season started off on a positive note considering our race team underwent major off season changes to ourrace chassis as well as the major change of drivers for our NHRA campaign. Imputing Highland North Carolina's  Mark Rodgers into the drivers seat as the primary pilot of the Kardiac Kids' 3000Hp Funny Car. After racing several seasons throughout the south in various series Mark showed great interest last season in joining our team to compete withing the Nations top drag racing series. 

We pulled into the racetrack around 1:00p.m on the Thursday to meet with our new driver and two new crew members he brought along to aide with the endless list car duties. With the first of 3 qualifying session first thing Friday morning we spent the majority of the day getting the car Tech'ed and certified for the event and mainly getting the new driver acclimated to the racecar. We started the car up Thursday night be assured that everything would be ready for Friday's 2 qualifying passes. 

The weather early in the morning had already reached around 80 degrees which often will hurt racing conditions on the track making the surface slick and hard to manage getting the racecar to achieve proper traction. This was not the case during our first run when the car gained traction to quickly  resulting in a phenomenon know as "tire shake" which violently shakes the racecar and the run must be aborted. As tire shake occurs the driver is unable to see as it is said to be like putting your head in a paint shaker when the clutch begins to lock with the engine a rapid rate. So we ended up coasting down the track to a time of 26 seconds at only 35 mph. Any time we make a run we are aiming to run the 1/4 mile (1320ft.) racetrack in the 5.60 second range at anywhere around the 250mph mark.

We then came back to the pits and checked over the engine as well as the clutch and transmission to make sure there was no damage before heading back out in the afternoon for our second of three qualifying runs. The top 16 fastest cars will race on race day, and your fastest of the three runs counts towards qualifying. So after the first run we were not "in the field" making it more crucial that we get a good solid run down the race track  to know we that we are safely going to be in the top 16. But on our second run ended much the same but this time "tire shake" occurred further into the run. There is such a fine line between having the clutch work just right to achieve the fastest possible run or shaking or spinning the tires. In an effort to keep the run going Mark let off the throttle a few times to try and get the car to settle itself back on the track but each time this happens it cost valuable time and speed,  meaning we crossed the finish line with a time of 6.58 seconds at 186 mph (which sounds fast but is about 70 mph off what the car is capable of running in the 1/4 mile track distance) and worst of all kept us out side of the 6.15 second "bump spot" (the 16th place qualifiers time; if we would run quicker than that time we would inherently bump that car to the 17th qualifying position placing us into the field). 

This left us one final run on Saturday to better our time enough to be able to make the race. We looked the motor over and realized it was damaged. So we made the decision to change motors Friday night (something that is quite common, and a feat we can accomplish in less that 60 minutes, but we took our time and worked late into the evening to be sure that everything was right. We also spend a long time looking at the computer (each run is recording onto a data logging computer that keeps track of engine rpm, exhaust temperatures for each cylinder, fuel pressure etc.) which we can then use to compare and make tuning decisions as to where to apply more power and take power away to get the car to make a smooth run down the track. We changed some things to actually give the car more power to get momentum on the really sticky well prepared racetrack which did help a lot and once again with traction issues were able to run 5.86 seconds, at 193 mph. This placed us in the 15th position before getting bumped one spot to finish 16th. This meant we just qualified for raceway. The only problem with qualifying in the final spot means you run the #1 qualifier who makes the quickest run during qualifying, which in this case turned out to be the world champion Frank Manzo. By the end of the third run Mark was getting more comfortable in our car which is a much tighter fit than the previous funny cars he was used to driving. One other issue he was nervous about was the fact that he could barely see over the top over the engine as he sits centered directly behind it, directly over the drive-shaft. He is only able to see the whole track as he leaves the starting line and the large 36" tires begin to grow and the car actually raises a few inches in the back making it easier for him to see going down the racetrack. So by the time we were ready for 1st round of eliminations he was confident and excited to get out there to take on the world champion.

Last season we were 1 of only 3 teams who beat him all season, but we were the first ones to actually beat him in the 1st round of eliminations in over 8 years(

his throttle cable broke) but all that matters is that we got the win. He is just so consistent and miles ahead of all the other teams, so all you can do is go out there and be sure not to shoot yourself in the foot by redlighting (leaving the starting line too early and disqualifying your run) or trying to be a hero and be too aggressive. So we did all we could that round and we went our fastest run of the weekend and also the fastest of Mark's career running 5.71 at 253 mph. We still had traction issues early in the run and he was able to drive through the minor tireshake without having to let off the throttle. The only unfortunate thing is that Frank ran a 5.47 seconds at over 260 which turned out to be the fastest Alcohol Funny Car run of the entire weekend. The car showed great potential as we know if we can get a clean pass down the track the car will easily run 5.50's which there would have qualified us within the top 4 cars and means that you have a legitimate chance to win every round if the consistency is there. 

We did all of the maintenance on the race car Saturday night as Mark and his crew were going to make the 8 hour drive back to Highland North Carolina early in the morning, and my father Larry was going to be staying in Florida vacationing until the Charlotte National event April 13th-15thin (must be nice to be retired from General Motors) with the trailer and motorhome. Normally we head straight home after the race and will do all the work at our race shop in Welland, Ontario. So we decided we need the car ready for when we show up in Charlotte and we had the hands to get everything done. I hung around Sunday and help out the Canadian Pro Mod team of Kenny Lang as I had a ride home Sunday night to drive all night to get home Monday to return to work for Tuesday. I am so used to driving everywhere that the 19 hour drive by car actually went really smooth. I definitely do not take traveling in the motorhome for granted. Soon enough it will be time to drive back down south in a few weeks to meet up with the guys and try it all over again, but this time hopefully we are able to avoid the World Champion unless of course it is in the final round...?

By Kevin Dobbs (Member of the Kardiac Kids Racing Team)