The letter also said at this time the sanctioning body does not intend to implement a performance-based mechanical change in Top Fuel and Funny Car to start the 2019 season.
“I think it is good, I think everybody panicked when they first came out with a change in track prep,” said Ron Capps, the 2016 nitro Funny Car world champion. “Really the main concern was the communication with the crew chiefs. They (NHRA) tried changing track prep several times but wouldn’t communicate to the crew chiefs what they were trying to do. I think we saw certain shows, specifically in Bristol (Tenn.) where it was not a good show for the fans. I think they were experimenting with the track prep and not letting the crew chiefs know what they were trying to do. The biggest thing for the racing, and we saw it once we had several races under our belts, was communicating with the crew chiefs.”
Capps, who drives for Don Schumacher Racing, finished fourth in the 2018 points standings.
Like Capps, fellow nitro Funny Car driver Bob Tasca III is happy to see the track prep continue.
“The track prep was a little tough at first but was a great step in the right direction and I think it definitely brought some parity,” said. “We have had to pull the cars back, which has definitely knocked speed off the Funny Cars and I think that was a really good step. I have no issue with track prep, I think it was very consistent towards the end of the season and I think we have seen some great side-by-side racing and definitely tire life has extended. I know that for a fact.”
“Since track prep has come into play, our tire expenses have gone down,” McMillen said. “We can run our tires four or five runs now instead of throwing them away after one run.”
Capps explained further how important communication from NHRA to crew chiefs is.
“For instance, for (Rahn) Tobler (Capps’ crew chief) at a certain time period before we make our run he gives our crew guys the gasket call for compression ratio,” Capps said. “It is all done off the weather and he’s assuming the track will be what he expects it to be. That’s the biggest change, compression ratio. Once that is done, then we get the car ready to fire, the crew chief, when they leave the trailer and have the pagers on their belts with weather updates, the car in their mind is set up to conditions weather-wise and what conditions the track will be, what it has been in the past.
Once they started letting the crew chiefs know what the spray was going to be and Ned Walliser, coming onboard (with NHRA) was a huge deal because it started the communication with the crew chiefs and what the track prep was going to be. He let them know what the percentage of spray was going to be. When they know that in the trailer they can set the clutch up, they can set the car up for that. If they know it is not going to be much spray and we know it is going to be a certain percentage, they can set the car up. Then, we started seeing great side-by-side racing. The speeds were down and the E.T.’s were slower, and it became really good, close side-by-side racing. I don’t think it is bad thing that they are going to continue with the (track) prep.”
Capps also discussed the fact NHRA addressed in the letter decisions about whether mechanical changes are needed, when changes will be implemented, and the factors utilized to determine a change will be made in the sole and absolute discretion of NHRA.
1. Mandate a Spec inlet for all Superchargers
A. 10” X 4.6” inlet size
B. 45-degree angle from rear of inlet opening to top of bores for rotors
C. No divider plate will be allowed to protrude beyond the bottom of the injector hat (injector hat dividers are also being evaluated).
2. Reduce maximum rate of supercharger overdrive
3. Implement a maximum cylinder compression ratio
“For the fans, you have to remember, it is not that we don’t want to go out there and go fast, we have historic race tracks that we race that don’t have sufficient shutdown areas for us to run 338 to 340 mph,” Capps said. “You go down the list, Pomona (Calif.) is the biggest one and we start the year and end the year there and there are several tracks on the tour that we just don’t have a shutdown area. We’ve seen on the Competitionplus.com website and we’ve seen in the past with (the late) Dale Armstrong and these crew chiefs who weigh in on their opinions on what should be done mechanically, and I think the biggest thing is keeping the cost down. If you can reduce the inlet for the superchargers with basically a restrictor to the supercharger and that can be done and that makes everybody happy then so be it. That’s not a very expensive change to make. You slip a little restrictor plate, whatever you want to call it. That’s OK, if that has to be done. I’m sure the crew chiefs would run it, and the owners would definitely be for it, rather than changing a bunch of things.”
Tasca, had this to say about NHRA’s stance on mechanical changes in 2019.
“I would say NHRA not implementing any mechanical changes at next year’s start is a good decision,” Tasca said. “Let us have more time with this track prep, which clearly has slowed the cars down and as far as what other steps need to be taken, I wouldn’t cross that bridge until we get to it.”