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News and Analysis
When the NHRA announced they had disqualified both Rick White in Top Fuel and Tim Boychuk in Funny Car for rules violations at the March Meet involving fuel pumps flowing too much, it sent ripples through the Nostalgia community.
To those who know these people, it was almost like saying that Aunt Bonnie, who is eighty-six and in bad health, was arrested for manufacturing and distributing meth! Not saying it could not happen, but something just didn’t sit right with the story. So DRO looked into this whole series of events. We’d had an entire team that attended the event, and no one had heard any kinds of undertones, rumblings, rumors, or scuttlebutt about either of these cars being in the gray area of the rules, that someone might be cheating, or anything like that.
When, a couple of weeks after the event concluded, there was chatter that there might have been some issues with the fuel pumps of the winner and runner-up in the two fuel classes, we were shocked. The first word that reached the Boise office of DRO was that pumps had been taken from the three-nitro class finalists: Top Fuel, Funny Car, and A/Fuel. Once we contacted Glen Gray at the NHRA, we got the word it was just Top Fuel and Funny Car, and that there were issues with two of the pumps. Then word came down: it was Funny Car champion Tim Boychuk and Top Fuel runner up Rick White; there were issues of being “too big.”
The Nostalgia team here at DRO decided to jump in with both feet and try to figure out what happened. We started by contacting the disqualified teams to get their side of the story.
We first talked Rick White, the driver of the Neil and White Top Fuel dragster.
He told us emphatically that they had their fuel pump manufacturer flow the pump in October, that the pump had been flowed by an independent entity just a few weeks prior to the March Meet, and that the pump was showing to flow less than 20 gallons per minute, as per NHRA mandate.
In talking to Mr. White for this article, it was clear as the nose on one’s face that he and his partner Chuck Neal weren’t just disappointed with this decision; both of these men are embarrassed and even more, they are extremely angry. Not upset, but a full on rolling boil angry. Neil so much so he was giving thought to pulling the plug on the whole operation.
It seemed that the way the NHRA contacted them about the situation was a bit of a bitter pill.
“We run our car within the rules and safe, we race to put on a good show for the fans, and have a good safe time. We are not about crossing the line of rules or running in the gray areas of the rule book,” Rick White said from his home in California. “So for NHRA to call us cheaters is a huge slap in the face. I found out when a friend called me on the way to work and said that the NHRA Heritage Web site had something about being DQed. It wasn’t ‘til two days later that we got a FedEx letter stating what had happened and what the penalty would be.”
White felt that wasn’t a very professional way to handle the situation by the NHRA. He felt the team should been notified in person, not have to find out about it from the media.
Next, we turn our attention to Funny Car winner Tim Boychuk, who we reached at his home in Arizona. He was very emphatic that their equipment was legal. “If we were cheating then why did we qualify thirteenth? The car ran 5.80s and not 5.60s at over 260. Did they look at that pump?”
Although Boychuk also runs the IHRA Nitro Jam Series, he flatly rejected the idea that they may have been running a larger IHRA-legal pump by mistake. “We have three pumps; they are all the same (21 GPM) just so we don’t have issues like that.”
He was concerned about the way his pump was handled. “I was told that my pump went to Crawford, then to Waterman, and then to us. I don’t even know if I got my pump or not. None of these pumps have serial numbers on them, nobody signed a document saying they had my pump, and there is no way of tracking where these pumps go once they leave my possession.”
NHRA’s Vice President of Technical Operations, Glen Gray, addressed those concerns. He said that, although there is no automated tracking system such as UPS or FedEx uses, each part, when it’s surrendered for inspection, is tagged by the tech inspector and, in this case, was taken personally by the inspector to Mr. Crawford’s facility. Pumps are flown independently of one another, making it easier to keep straight whose pump is whose. According to Gray, the racers have to trust Mr. Crawford will make sure the parts get back to the correct people.
A common thread with the racers DRO spoke with was that many of them were not completely confident of KJ Crawford’s procedure for flowing the pumps. Many of the racers felt there were too many variables to consider, and that the differences between flow benches, temperature of the fluid, and barometric pressure can affect the flow of fuel pumps.