By Jim Underdahl
Weather and engine problems force quarterfinal exit for Underdahl in Norwalk
Suzuki Extended Protection Pro Stock Motorcycle rider Jim Underdahl held onto his top-ten position with a quarterfinal finish Sunday in the Summit Racing Equipment NHRA Nationals at Summit Racing Equipment Motorsports Park in Norwalk, Ohio. Maintaining his position, however, came at a price: the bike sustained engine damage in both rounds of eliminations and the team is now limping as it heads to Chicago for the next event in two weeks.
"We started out behind the eight ball because we lost two rounds of qualifying because of the weather," Underdahl said. "We decided to go with fuel injection instead of the carburetor system we had been using until this point, and we needed to get some laps in to work out the bugs.
"Really, for us, the rain on Friday was the worst. We were lucky to even qualify. The first qualifier on Saturday, we didn't even make it down the track. We had a loose ground on the fuel pump, but we weren't eve sure if that was what was causing the problem. The second qualifier we went out there, took a shot in the dark and we were lucky enough to run a 7.03 and get in the show," Underdahl said.
When the field was set, Underdahl landed in the No. 13 and was paired with Karen Stoffer for the first round of eliminations Sunday. Underdahl dodged a bullet when Stoffer completed her burnout and then her engine went silent and she forfeited the round.
"We lucked out on that first run - we had a problem with the transmission and sixth gear. It wasn't shifting. It started because I couldn't get it to shift into fifth, I had to double button it, and it wouldn't even go into sixth gear. We got the win, but the tranny was shot in that motor.
"In between rounds, we had to hurry up and switch the motors out for the second round, and we got everything in. We couldn't fire it at the trailer, because they were already calling us up to the lanes. When we got up to the line, we had a little time because there was an oil-down, and so we tried to start it, and it wouldn't start.
"So we tore the body off and checked and made sure everything was plugged in. We found out later that the problem turned out to be the cam sensor. It got screwed in too far and when the cam came around, it just knocked it off, so it wouldn't fire at all. We couldn't even get it to fire, so we couldn't make the call," Underdahl said.
"But that's racing," he said.
"Everyone is running so good, the competition is really tight, and you need every round to get down the track. It's so competitive out there.
"We have a good idea what we need already and we'll be able to get things put back together and regroup before Chicago. The fuel injection is going to help us in the long run. It gives a more consistent fuel curve throughout the run and it will help us with the clutch setup, too.
"Overall, we maintained our No. 9 position and learned a lot about a new setup. We're limping a little, but we have a really positive outlook. What we really need though is a great weekend. That's what we're hoping for when we get to Chicago. It's a great track, and we can really run some good numbers.