1999 Castrol Nationals Dallas, Texas - April 22-25, 1999 MOPAR TOP FUEL REPORT Team Mopar was handed a rare first-round Top Fuel loss at the O'Reilly Nationals in Houston last weekend. In fact, it was the first time in seven NHRA...
1999 Castrol Nationals Dallas, Texas - April 22-25, 1999
MOPAR TOP FUEL REPORT
Team Mopar was handed a rare first-round Top Fuel loss at the O'Reilly Nationals in Houston last weekend. In fact, it was the first time in seven NHRA events that driver Mike Dunn did not advance past the first round.
Forty-two-year-old Dunn, the points leader since the season started and winner of two of four Top Fuel events this season, was rendered helpless as his 5,000-horsepower dragster dropped cylinders as soon as he stepped on the throttle in Houston.
"Long story short, we missed our Sunday set-up," Dunn said. "The fuel volume we run through our engine is tremendous, and if the compression ratio isn't set perfectly to match weather and track conditions, the car will either smoke the tires or drop cylinders. The result was dropped cylinders."
Dunn and the Ken Veney-tuned team tested the Monday following the Houston event. "We found what we were looking for after a handful of 1,000-foot test runs," Dunn said. "Testing confirmed what we suspected with our race-day combination - for some unexplained reason, the #7 cylinder runs lean, and if we're not careful, we can burn a hole in the piston on each run. And when this happens, the engine begins to lose power and self-destruct. That's why we backed-down the compression ratio in Houston. The down side to doing this is when the air is hot and humid, we run the risk of putting too much fuel to the motor and that's when it starts to drop cylinders.
"Our team has traditionally done well at the Texas Motorplex in Dallas," said Dunn, winner of the 1993 Top Fuel and the 1990 Funny Car fall events. "Our focus next weekend won't be to run 4.40s - that's already been done - but to run consistently unexciting low 4.50s. That's what'll put our Team Mopar Top Fuel Dragster back into the winner's circle."
MOPAR PRO STOCK REPORT Just like the Top Fuel team, the Team Mopar Pro Stock teams continue to test before Dallas.
David Nickens, team owner and tuner of the Pro Stock Dodge Avenger team cars driven by three-time Pro Stock World Champion Darrell Alderman and Scott Geoffrion, has been working overtime in his Houston shop to try to make more horsepower. "The Monday test session after Houston proved to be extremely valuable," Nickens said, "because we found out what combinations work on certain track conditions.
"For example," Nickens continued, "we tried different transmission ratios and clutch set-ups to find the right combination when we're faced with a slick track. And we tested a new intake manifold on Darrell's car that showed an increase in power. The plan is to duplicate the manifold and try it on Scott's car for Dallas. We won't stop our around-the-clock research and development until Scott and Darrell qualify number one and two at an NHRA event."
Larry Morgan has been busy putting all the pieces back together on his Raybestos/Dodge Avenger. "We had problems in Houston because the valve seats in our heads started to move around, causing a severe cylinder leakage problem," Morgan said. "We found the problem after the second qualifying session, and couldn't repair the damaged heads during the event."
For Morgan, it's been a steady diet of 14-hour days at the shop testing new engine combinations. He had this prediction for Dallas: "I know we'll be in the thick of things in Dallas, because there's plenty of power left in our engine. I've always loved racing at the Motorplex - it's a first-rate facility."
WILL THERE BE A "STAR" SIGHTING IN DALLAS? You'll never know who might be hanging out in the Team Mopar pit. Dallas Stars goalie Ed Belfour is a sportsman drag racer, an avid drag racing fan, a huge Mopar enthusiast and good friends with Scott Geoffrion and Darrell Alderman.
"Ed is a great guy," Geoffrion said. "He tries to get over to the Motorplex as much as possible to watch us run. We have a mutual respect for each other's professions. Every once in a while during the hockey season he'll call me at home and ask if I want tickets when he's coming to southern California. Depending on the playoff schedule, we're hoping Eddie can swing by the pits in Dallas and bring us some luck."
Belfour's interest in Mopar goes back to his ownership of a 1971 Plymouth Hemi(r) GTX. He has numerous classic muscle cars and a Dodge Viper.
Alderman remembers the first time he met Belfour. "It was at an NHRA event in 1989, when Ed stopped by our pit and started talking to (former Wayne County Speed Shop co-owner) David Hutchens, Mike Sullivan and me about our Pro Stock car. We were running the Daytona at the time and he had a million questions. He also knew what he talking about. I could tell he was a genuine Mopar fan, and ever since then we've stayed in touch and have followed each other's careers."
MOPAR ASSOCIATE NOTES Dean Skuza was still chasing an elusive fuel delivery problem on his Dodge Avenger Funny Car in Houston. The fuel glitch reappeared during the second round of eliminations against arch-rival and eight-time Funny Car champion John Force.
"The problem seems to come and go, which makes it harder to detect. We're just glad that we detected the fuel system problem, because we can't afford to race like this," said Skuza. "After the run in Houston against John, we finally found the problem. Our on-board computer confirmed what we had suspected - the fuel system on our car wasn't adequate and the pumps were just not flowing the volume. The test session we had Monday further backed-up what the computer graph showed."
"The season is already four races old, and we have to make a move before Force runs away with another championship," Skuza said. "That's why we stay over and test after every NHRA event. We recently tested the new Mopar Hemi Heads and a newly-designed pressure plate. We have a lot of research and development going on, and we're pretty excited to get everything sorted out."
MOPAR SPORTSMAN NOTES Former Stock Eliminator World Champion Al Corda will be ready in Dallas with his 1970 Dodge Hemi Challenger R/T, looking forward to "heads-up" class eliminations. Says Corda, known in the pits as Mr. Stock Eliminator, "we stayed home during the Houston race to prepare our Hemi Challenger for Dallas. Gainesville was a tough race and the engine needed some freshening."
Last year's Super Comp event winner, Sheldon Gecker, will have his Hemi-powered dragster geared to repeat. Gecker advanced to round three in Houston before experiencing a mechanical failure in his dragster. "We did really well with our Super Gas Daytona at Houston - we made it to the quarter-finals. We're looking forward to racing Dallas - we've always done well at the Motorplex."
MARK YOUR CALENDAR Team Mopar drivers Mike Dunn and Al Corda will sign autographs at the 1999 Dallas Motorsport Expo from 11 a.m. to noon on Wednesday, April 21 in the Historic West End of downtown Dallas. For more information on the Motorsports Expo, call the Texas Motorplex at (972) 878-2641.
MOPAR FAST FACTS * The same Hemi heads and blocks that are used on Mike Dunn's Team Mopar Top Fuel Dragster and Dean Skuza's Dodge Avenger Funny Car are sold through Mopar Performance. Just walk into any Chrysler-Plymouth/Dodge/Jeep dealer and ask for a P4876355 Hemi head and a P5249560 Hemi block.
* All NHRA Top Fuel Dragsters and Funny Car Teams use the Chrysler Hemi engine. Even though the Hemi engine has evolved over the past 30 years, it retains the basic design features incorporated on the original 426 cubic-inch version introduced 35 years ago.
* Speaking of parts, Mopar Performance has one of the most comprehensive contingency programs in drag racing today. Competitors from Pro Stock to Stock are eligible for cash payouts when racers run one or more of the eligible Mopar Performance Parts on their race vehicle.
MOPAR REWIND ... to the 1998 Castrol Lone Star Nationals, Ennis, Texas, April 30-May 3 QUALIFYING * In Top Fuel, Mike Dunn qualified his Team Mopar Top Fuel Dragster fifth with a qualifying effort of 4.664/312.93. * Dean Skuza drove his Dodge Avenger Funny Car to the 11th qualifying position with a 5.086-second run at 308.74 mph. * Pro Stock Avenger drivers Scott Geoffrion and Darrell Alderman had their best showing of the 1998 season, Geoffrion qualifying third with a 7.018 at 197.41 and Alderman seventh with a 7.035 at 196.97. Larry Morgan qualified 13th with a 7.057 at 194.88; Larry Nance did not qualify.
ELIMINATIONS * Mike Dunn used a .039-second hole-shot to beat Larry Dixon in the first round of eliminations (4.707/303.95 vs. 4.669/313.37). In the second round, he beat Dave Grubnic (4.779/277.43 vs. 4.905/295.17) before falling to Joe Amato in the semi-finals (4.720/315.12 vs. 4.749/303.84). Dunn was third in points after the event. *Dean Skuza lost in the first round of Funny Car competition to Tony Pedregon (5.176/278.03 vs. 6.363/131.54). Skuza finished the weekend 9th in points. * Geoffrion's .047-second starting line advantage vaulted him past George Marnell in the first Pro Stock round (7.022/196.93 vs. 7.021/195.69) before he fell to Jim Yates in the second round. Alderman bettered his qualifying time in the first round with a win over Tom Martino (7.015/196.24 vs. 8.138/124.91) before losing to Mike Edwards in the second round.