This is only a Test…
By Ted Pelech
October 16, 2008
Mooresville, North Carolina -- When I stand back and look at the make up of a modern drag car, I'm amazed that these things run at all let alone run well. Engines and driveline components are assembled to the thousandth of an inch with miles of hose and endless webs of wiring extending to and from several little blinking boxes. Suspension installations are measured to such a fine line that the difference between a good or bad set up can be as little as 1/12th of a twist in rotation on just a single bar.
To the more casual observer, quickly running a straight line with one of these cars should be easy. Heck, looking at our car, flying it to the Moon should be easy! And even though none of this fancy stuff tells you how to make the car go fast, it's very good about telling you that you've messed up and in some cases it'll question if you even know what the heck you're doing all together. With so many options for parameters, diameters, lengths, widths, heights and angles, how in the world does anyone get these things to go anywhere? That's where Jeff Prock of Applied Nitrous Technology comes in. He knows.
We loaded up and boogied out of our Michigan shop some time in the middle of an October Monday night. Our destination; the Applied Nitrous Technology religious compound in Rogersville, Tennessee - 9 ½ hours to the south. The plan was to spend a day going over each aspect of our car, making sure it was ready for the next three days at the drag strip. With Jeff's guidance & expertise, the cross-check went very smoothly with no real surprises.
Our next stop; Mooresvile Dragway, a well prepped 1/8 mile track right in the epicenter of the Carolina Motorsports Mecca. Prock knows the place well and the staff there is very accommodating. As the track crew worked to remove the morning dew from the racing surface, we prepared for our first shot of the day. Right out of the gate, Prock's plan was to run on the first stage, no need for 'nitrous-free' fluff passes. Launch it, grab a gear, and shut it off. I punched the trans-brake, matted the gas pedal, and prepared for all hell to break loose. The starting lights flashed, I let'er go, and all we got was a dud sky rocket on the 4th of July. Nothing. The car went 'bla' and rolled about 50 feet before I brought it to a stop and threw it in 'reverse' in order to re-stage and try it again. A few checks & tests revealed that somewhere between Holbrook's dyno and the race track, the 1st stage nitrous relay died. In fact, the relays for all 3-stages had flat-lined. I got to spend the next couple hours temporarily replacing our fancy, big dollar, spaceship relays with dollar-a-piece second stringers.
The next attempt was far more spectacular. As soon as the trans-brake button was released we learned many things. One; the front end was set too loose. Two; the wheelie bars were set too high. Three: when the front is that high in the air, drag cars are capable of quickly turning any directions they please regardless of the direction the car & steering wheel were originally pointed. And four; it is possible to lose all your teeth and temporarily go blind from tire shake. Wow! What a monster! On to Plan B…
Significant front shock speed and travel adjustments were made along with more modest rear shock adjustments. But when Tim attempted to lower the wheelie bars to Prock's newly prescribed height, he found you can't get there from here with these bars. With that, Jeff simply told Tim to, "…do what you can." Tim locked the bars as low as they'd safely go and we hit the water box to give it another shot.
This time it was a much better launch even though the car still moved left just after leaving. We made a few more passes attempting to work around our problem wheelie bars yet still make progress. It was becoming increasingly apparent we were going to need longer top bars in order to stop the roll rotation that was driving our car left. Our track host, Raymond, was quick to point out a well stocked metal supply house on a hill within sight of the race track as well as provide directions to a race car fabricator less then a mile away. Who would've thought you'd be able to find a metal supply house and a racecar fabricator within the greater Mooresville area? It's crazy, I know. The next morning we had the wheelie bars down where we needed them.
Our first pass of the day would be our last pass of the day. The car still moved to the left on launch but it was much less then it had been. Somewhere before the 330' mark, I pulled 2nd gear, stepped out of the throttle, and dumped the parachute just to make sure I wasn't going to get in trouble in the somewhat short Mooresville Dragway shut down area. While gathering the parachute, I noticed the wheelie bars looked messed up. But that didn't make any sense. It didn't feel like the car had been on the bars that hard. I leaned over to look under the car to see if maybe the wheelie bar load cell had snapped off because I've heard that can be a somewhat common occurrence. I was shocked at what I saw. The wheelie bars were twisted like a soft pretzel from the mall. They were complete junk! Top and bottom! We all stood at the rear of the car with no idea what had happened. The Racepak graph for the run showed only 200psi at launch; practically nothing! But much later in the graph, 2.2 seconds after I stepped of the throttle to be exact, the wheelie bar graph shows a near vertical line that goes hard against the graph's 2500psi ceiling for just a fraction of a second. What the heck could've produced that much pressure at this point in the recording?! It didn't take long to figure it out. The parachute must've grabbed the bars. Sure enough; you could see where 'something' had scrubbed on the coating of the bars and more notably, scrubbed on the T-pin at the back of the bars. The parachute shroud lines showed similar evidence at the corresponding distance down the cords. Our final assessment was the shroud lines tangled in the T-pin and ripped the wheelie bars upward, destroying them the instant the parachute inflated.
There was no way we could go any further. This concluded testing for our Super Street Camaro.
We work & worked on that thing for three days and it fought us nearly every step of the way. Even though we struggled mightily with the car, we're encouraged by the numbers it produced for the early incrementals. Within the first few passes, the time slip showed 60' times in the upper 1.0-range and 330' times in the very low 3-range. Pretty darn good for a new car that hasn't yet given us the proper launches we expect from it.
Now that we've returned to the shop, there's quite a list of work to do. Among the normal maintenance and freshening, we have some repair & replacement work to do. We've got to get more weight out of this car, and we also need to execute changes that are a result of what we learned in testing. We're going to be busy!
While working on getting new and replacement parts here, we figured now is the best time to bring you an update. It's going to be pretty busy for the next few weeks. We'll bring you more news as soon as we return to the track. Stay tuned! We've got a fast car on our hands and it'll be interesting to see just how fast this thing will go.
Thanks for stopping in!
Ted & Tim Pelech
Pelech Bros. Racing