BROWNSBURG, IND. (Nov. 6, 2008) -- Lee Beard has established a reputation as one of the elite professional crew chiefs during the last three decades. The Colorado native tuned Gary Ormsby to the 1989 NHRA Top Fuel championship and has amassed 53...
BROWNSBURG, IND. (Nov. 6, 2008) -- Lee Beard has established a reputation as one of the elite professional crew chiefs during the last three decades. The Colorado native tuned Gary Ormsby to the 1989 NHRA Top Fuel championship and has amassed 53 wins and 60 poles. Perhaps even more impressive is that Beard has tuned 10 drivers to the winner's circle and eight racers to the No. 1 qualifying award in the Top Fuel and Funny Car ranks. This season, Beard has his latest shoe, first-year Top Fuel standout Antron Brown, in position to finish second in the NHRA POWERade Top Fuel standings. Last weekend during qualifying at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, the Matco Tools dragster uncharacteristically caused two long delays during qualifying. In this Q&A, the David Powers Motorsports team manager discusses last weekend's events and why it happened.
Q: What efforts have you made to attempt to equal the performance of the U.S. Army team, who just won a fifth consecutive Top Fuel championship?
Beard: I first want to apologize to all of the competitors in Top Fuel and Funny Car that were affected by the two lengthy oil downs at Las Vegas Motor Speedway on Friday and Saturday. I'd also like to apologize to the spectators for the amount of downtime as a result of our Matco Tools car putting oil on the track.
As you know, Alan Johnson and the U.S. Army team have raised the bar very, very, high performance-wise, with their E.T.s being in the high 3.70s and their speeds at 318 mph, along with winning many races. In our efforts to equal that performance, we've had to raise the power level on our engines. With our two cars, the Matco car does the engine development and the established data is transferred to Rod Fuller's Caterpillar car.
Q: How has the cease on nitro testing affected how you improve the performance of your race car?
BEARD: Normally when we change the engine combination to make more power, we would go test. During the test, we would run the car only to half track, then disassemble the engine and look at the equipment to survey damage and adjust the fuel system, compression ratio, blower speed and ignition timing to where the engine produces maximum power with little or no damage. Because testing has been put on hold, we're forced to do the engine development during national event qualifying. Because of the pressures of qualifying, we have no choice but to run the car to the finish line. In doing so at Las Vegas, we had some pistons that were damaged very early during the run, so by the time they got to half track and the 1,000-foot clock, they had some big holes in them. That caused the engine to push a lot of oil out, which overcame the capacity of the oil overflow tank or puke tank and put a tremendous amount of oil in the air and on the race track.
We certainly learned from those two runs and made the correct adjustments. On race day, both cars with Antron (Brown) and Hot Rod (Fuller) ran flawlessly without any damage to the engine and without putting any oil on the race track. Both cars ran in the low 3.80s with speeds in the 317 and 318 mph range. Fuller made the third fastest 1,000-foot run at 318.39 mph, so we're seeing progress with our performance.
Q: What do you expect to see from the Matco Tools and Caterpillar cars at Pomona?
BEARD: We feel that we'll be able to match them performance-wise real soon. They were No. 1 and we were two and three in qualifying at Las Vegas. We should be right there with them. We haven't found an advantage, but we can see, at least, equaling their performance. We're excited about trying to finish the Matco car second in the standings, which would be a great accomplishment in Antron's first season as a Top Fuel driver, and about the 2009 NHRA season. We feel that we have two cars that can compete for the championship and win races next season.