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Tue, 5 Sep 2000, 12:56 PM

Monday FastNews Pit Notes
By Keith Burgan

CLERMONT, Ind. -- Tommy Johnson Jr was eliminated in the second round of Super Comp action Sunday when he fouled on the line. Yesterday T.J. told FNN that he found "driving the top end" in the S/C easy, noting that after driving a 300 plus mph fuel burner everything happened in slow motion in the carburetted car. Tommy said that once he put a wheel on his first round opponent he felt as if he had all the time in the world to maintain his lead through the traps.

Terry Haddock has been driving assorted Funny Cars on both sides of the country this year, steering the Lindsay/Moore entry on the west coast and showing up in various cars in the east. He could not put a ride together for this event so he settled for a crew job with Helen Hoffman’s Pontiac.

On the subject of Hoffman, late on Monday afternoon and while the event's pro winners were being introduced to the fans, Helen was involved in a discussion (to use a diplomatic description) with NHRA President Tom Compton. The subject of said discussion was the situation regarding next weekend's running of the final eliminations of the rained out Matco Tools Spring Supernationals at Englishtown. Hoffman's car was qualified there by Cristen Powell who no longer drives for the team. Hoffman's current shoe Tommy Johnson Jr is not qualified for the show and while 13th qualified Powell has replaced 14th placed Todd Paton in the Nitro Fish /CP Transportation entry the rules are explicit in stating that alternates are not eligible to enter the race and that qualifiers must be in attendance to earn points and monetary awards. The rule book does not provide a solution for the current situation as it does not address the situation of a car owner who switches drivers for whatever reason.

In this case Hoffman obviously feels that she deserves at least the first round money because she provided the means for Powell to make the show while the NF/CP team also feels that they are in line for remuneration for putting Paton in the show. The simple solution would obviously be for the drivers to return to their original rides but with the current friction between Powell and Hoffman that obviously will not happen.

The situation regarding Hoffman and Powell worsened recently when a lawsuit was instituted by Casey Powell regarding Hoffman's sacking of Cristen following the Columbus event. At the last two events a crude cardboard sign has been taped to the rear door of Hoffman's trailer soliciting donations from fans to assist in fighting the suit. Although the sign notes that the suit was filed by a former driver and her father some fans obviously misread and and additional note was added stating "No, not Al" in reference to Helen’s husband who currently drives for Jim Dunn and could fairly be classsed as a former driver of Helen's car.

Local racer Randy Warford surprised some of the hitters in super comp with his new '54 Corvette. In round two Warford nailed Edmond Richardson and the following round saw him strap a perfect 8.900 on Sheldon Gecker. Running a roadster against the dragsters is tough enough but Randy also races without the benefit of a throttle stop. He and his father Mel change rpm limit chips to dial the car in to the index and once Randy leaves the start line the motor is up for the rest of the run. As the car staged for the fifth round against Tony Collier the chute popped out of the pack and Warford was done for the event. One consolation for the team came with the Best Appearing Car award that was presented on Monday morning.

Others that found different ways to lose today included Del Worsham and Tim Wilkerson. Worsham appeared to have John Force covered after taking a holeshot advantage off the line but the throttle pedal bent above the stop and the extra load on the linkage casused a pivot ball to break. After exiting the C/S/K Pontiac on the top end Worsham pleaded with Force to "take the hex" off in references to his recent losses to the 9 time champ when in a winning position.

Wilkerson was also in the box seat to take out Whit Bazemore in round two when an air line broke, venting the system and stopping the timer functions.

Force's loss to Jim Epler was the direct result of a motor that was idling too high following the burnout. The increased engine speed both overheated and wore the centrifugal clutch to the point where it could not contain the horsepower after the car launched. As the clutch slipped excessively from half track on the reduced load on the motor cause cylinders to "drop" and although Force recorded a creditable 5.048 his off pace .553 reaction time left him behind Epler for the entire run.

Bernie Fedderly told FNN that he and Austin Coil had not intended the launch to be as stout as it subsequently became due to the clutch SNAFU and that was borne out by the numbers as the Castrol Mustang had an .863 clocking to the 60’ timers, a number more appropriate for a top fuel dragster. By way of comparison Epler had a .929 "sixty" on his way to his winning 4.986.

Although Coil and Co. were trying not to rotate the earth Ed McCulloch did just that in the next pairing with the U.S. Tobacco Camaro of Ron Capps. Capps had a .867 short time and was a hair quicker than Force to the 330 clocks with a 2.297. The half track numbers were 3.323 at 247.16 mph and the final result was low elapsed time of the race at 4.903.

Tony Schumacher was fourth in the final qualifying order with a 4.662 but he bettered that effort in all but the opening round of eliminations. With totally different track conditions on race day compared with qualifying, crew chief Dan Olson was obviously a little conservative as eliminations began but thereafter Schumacher’s slowest lap was his final round 4.644. The Army car ran a best of the event 4.607 in round two while teammate Melanie Troxel had top speed of the meet at 320.13 to go with her 4.659 best elapsed time.

Prior to the final day of qualifying the plan had been for Olson to tune both cars but the logistics were too difficult, especially with a crew for the Exide car that had only been together for a week or so. The solution came with the addition of Tim and Kim Richards to the roster and after the event Don Schumacher told FNN that the duo would be a permanent part of the team from here on. When queried to the status of Jimmy Prock who had been announced as the tuner of Troxel’s car in 2001, the senior Schumacher noted that a Funny Car will be part of the operation next year. He was also candid in noting that he had not yet selected a driver while commenting that he had a lot of hopeful visitors during the event.

Teams have been employing various methods to aviod oiling the track and thus incurring fines and points penalties. Several of the Funny Cars and now some dragters are running a belly pan under the motor to collect any oil that makes its way out of the motor. One major source of oil leaks occurs when a piston is holed or badly backsided, allowing the blower boost to make its way into the lower extremeties of the motor. The smaller volume dry sump pans currently in vogue with some teams are especially vulnerable to splitting under the increased pressure and although reinforcing plates and gusssets are used by some crew chiefs Alan Johnson feels that he may have a better idea.

Johnson’s solution has been to have a pan fabricated out of titanium which although about one and a half pounds heavier than its aluminium counterpart is much stronger. Although the cost is high at approximately $3,000 Johnson noted that even in the event of a major engine explosion the rtepair cost does not exceed that of replacing the aluminium version which is usually not salvageable.

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