On Newsstands Now-July '13
JUST SOME OF THE STORIES IN THE CURRENT ISSUE OF DRAG RACING ACTION:
FLETCH (REALLY) LIVES
The Life And Times Of Dan Fletcher
In the 1989 movie Fletch Lives, Chevy Chase plays Irwin M. “Fletch” Fletcher, a reporter who inherits a Louisiana plantation and dons a series of disguises to catch a killer.
While the real life Dan “Fletch” Fletcher didn’t inherited anything; having worked for all the successes he’s earned; he has donned his own series of disguises over the years. Disguises which include helmets and firesuits embroidered with enough sponsor logos to keep him on the road as a professional sportsman racer; which might be an oxymoron, but a correct one none the less.
With 80 NHRA national event wins to his credit and counting, along with three championships and countless divisional event wins, the fairy tale life some might believe he lives is far from the truth. In fact, it just might be closer to the “clock striking 12” with the fairy godmothers ready to snatch it all away at any time.
“With the level of competition today,” he says, “it gets harder and harder to win. It might not look that way but it is. And for someone like myself who doesn’t get a paycheck unless I win, the struggles to just survive are always that, a struggle.”
Billet Versus Forged Pistons
It’s a question which is being asked more and more every day. Which is better: Billet or forged pistons?
Pistons manufactured from an aluminum billet have become increasingly popular in recent years due to the computerized machining centers in use today. Billets have been around for a long time. Top level racing like Formula 1, NASCAR, etc. have been using them for decades. They are far more common today than ever before. But are they better?
Peter Calvert of CP Carrillo says, “I don’t believe that a billet piston is any stronger than a forged one. However, for each piston design, we need to have a separate forging die. This amounts to quite a bit of expense along with the time to build the die and the lead time required. And of course you don’t just forge one set of pistons. So we end up having numerous forgings on our shelf in order to complete a set of pistons when required by the customer.”
Nickolaus DiBlasi of JE Pistons said, “Billets allow people to make design changes on every iteration made. This process enables the engine builder to finely tune engine development. With a forging you have constraints that you have to work with. There are strut angles, deck thicknesses, and bore sizes that hold you to a specific design. Also with billets you can change valve pocket angles, twist, depths, and diameters as many times as you would like. Forgings are designed for a given range and once you exceed that range you start compromising thicknesses.”
A WONDER FOR THE AGES
Old Dominion Was One Of The Oldest Tracks In The Country
The year 1953 dawned with then President Harry Truman announcing that the United States had developed a hydrogen bomb. Thirteen days after that cold day in January, Dwight Eisenhower was sworn in as the 34th president, inheriting a country still reeling from World War II. And over one-third of Americans were tuning their black & white television sets to “I Love Lucy.”
Meanwhile, Al Gore (the race track promoter, not the eventual 45th Vice President) was running a circle track in Manassas, Virginia. Gore, a World War II combat veteran, had purchased the circle track in 1951, adding 14 acres in ’53.
Bill Jeunette, an Arlington County Police community relations officer and member of the Road Knights car club convinced Gore to construct a dragstrip adjacent to the oval track. Gore originally told Jeunette there wasn’t enough room. Jeunette said, “Build it and we’ll make it work.”
And they did. As such, it makes Old Dominion one of the oldest purpose-built dragstrips in the east. Noted historian Brett Kepner of Terra Track Global Authority said, “There were other earlier tracks converted from old air strips and such, but Old Dominion, while not being one of the first, certainly is in the top ten of purpose-built facilities in the east.”
Camshaft Timing Changes Helps Short And Long Ports
The most optimal method of building horsepower is to have each of the cylinders in an engine working equally together. Unfortunately, that’s a tough thing to accomplish.
Between unequal cylinder head ports, carburetor tuning and other variables, attempting to have each cylinder produce an equal amount of horsepower is a very tough task. It’s all about heat. Maintaining a consistent amount of heat between cylinders will amount to horsepower. The concept was actually tested years ago by drilling an extra hole in the combustion chamber and installing a heat sensor. Short of drilling that extra hole, Autolite spark plug engineers fashioned a plug with a sensor built in to the plug. While the exercise is a costly one for most all engine builders, it proved a point.
Now of course, this has nothing to do with the popularly used exhaust temperature sensors. Those are mounted in the header and only take readings of the temperature of the gases as they leave the cylinder. The temperatures we’re talking about here are those measured directly in the combustion chamber.
Back then, Autolite’s Motorsports Engineer Don Ward noted, “When the temperatures are within 100 degrees, then you’ve got a fairly good balanced engine, one that has good fuel flow through the manifold and cylinder heads. But we’ve seen, what might be considered real good engines, have temperatures that vary over 300 degrees. Once that engine builder got the numbers closer, they usually found more power.”
A LOT LIKE THE BOSS
Robert Hight’s Role In John Force Racing Is Ever Expanding
Words Elon Werner
Robert Hight might not yet have the 15 Funny Car championships his father-in-law John Force has, but he’s a lot like Force in many ways.
Besides not really able to enjoy vacations, Hight loves his race car and family. And with the fact that his daughter, eight-year old Autumn just got her first Jr. Dragster, Hight could be building his own drag racing empire with his daughter behind the wheel.
“We have the Jr. Dragster,” Hight says, “but right now we haven’t made any firm plans to start going to the race track. Autumn is excited and we have a fire suit for her and it’ll be a lot of fun once we get a plan together.”
Right now Hight’s immediate focus is on getting the 2013 Mello Yello NHRA season started on the right foot. He has some history on his side when you look back to his championship season which also happened to be the first season for new sponsor Full Throttle.
“I am super-excited about this season,” Hight said. “The last time NHRA had a new sponsor in 2009, which was Full Throttle, I won the championship. I would love to come out and be the first Mello Yello champ. That's my goal.
"Tricky Rickie" Smith
Larry Morgan-Speaking The Truth
Mike Nordahl's Ten-Second Street Car
Dominator Carb History
Forrest Lucas Inteview
...and much more!