Story continues below this advertisement
With that in mind, DRO reached out to KJ Crawford. Mr. Crawford was gracious and took a great deal of time to explain what happened in regards to the March Meet. He stated that he was given four fuel pumps from NHRA Tech Inspector Ken Gentry, on Wednesday after the event. Two of the pumps were sealed with the new seal requirement (safety wire and lead seal), and the other two had the older “torque” seal on them. The pumps were tested on Thursday morning.
When asked about his procedure, Mr. Crawford was very open about how he checks the pumps. The pumps are first flowed and if they fall within tolerances (20 gallons per minute for top fuel dragsters and 21 gallons per minute for funny cars), the pump is cleared and certified.
As for the actual testing procedure, the pump is hooked up to an electric motor which drives it. Water is drawn into the pump and sent down a line to a jet that has been opened up to .300 of an inch. Crawford states that his systems flows with water for safety and consistency concerns. The fluid is temperature controlled with a variance of plus or minus four degrees. Any water that doesn’t flow through the jet is sent back to the tank via a return line. The pump is first run up to 150 to 200 rpms to make sure there is no air in the system. Then it is taken up to the prescribed level of 4000 rpms (fifty percent of engine speed) and run at that speed for fifteen to twenty seconds. A flow meter, just like the one between the barrel valve and distribution block on a Big Show car, takes the reading in gallons per minute. If the pump flows within tolerances, it is acceptable. If a pump flows close to the legal limit, for example 19.96, it’s flowed again.
If the pump does not flow within tolerances, it is given a second test to ensure the first reading was accurate. If, after the second test, the pump is found to be large or flowing at too high a rate, it is failed. The sanctioning body is informed of the findings and the pump is boxed up and shipped back to the owner.
Once the word comes down, Glen Gray convenes a seven member committee consisting of himself, former NHRA Competition Director Steve Gibbs, Alcohol crew chief Bob Devour, NHRA Tech Inspector Ken Gentry, Division Seven Director Mike Rice, Director of Field Marketing & Contingency Program Eric Lotz, and AAA of Southern California Raceway at Fomosa proprietor Blake Bowser. The committee considers the information and then renders a verdict. That decision is passed along to the competitors in question. There are no allowances for appeal on these rulings, according to Mr. Gray. “Mr. Crawford is our baseline for these rules. His word is final."
This is exactly the procedure that took place, though there seems to be some sort of discrepancy on how both teams were notified. If, in fact, the teams found out first through the NHRA Heritage Series website and not a phone call from either Mr. Gray or Mr. Gentry, then it is easy to see why the level of frustration is so high with both teams.
In the end, the job of a sanctioning body is to enforce a set of rules to ensure that competition is both safe and fair. The racers’ job is to work within the rules and, wherever possible, to push those rules to their limits without crossing them. When those competitors who choose to tempt fate and knowingly cross the line are caught, they have to suffer the consequences. This is what makes competition fair and equitable.
It is the duty of the sanctioning body not to attempt to judge intent. Rather, it must look at the black and white and, if something is afoul of the rules, deal with it. This is what NHRA did. They believe they’d found an infraction, tested the parts in question, and, based on the counsel of their competition committee, issued punishments to those who broke the rules. They did their job.
Mr. Gray was clear, “The NHRA will continue to take pumps randomly without notice and may even take pumps right after record runs, or runs we feel are faster than conditions would normally allow.”
However, it seems that many racers and flow bench operators feel there can be differences in flow rates from bench to bench. The differences between water and solvent, time of day, air, and fluid temperature. To this reporter, it seems as though this flow rate is a rather ambiguous number, a moving target if you will. As I understand it you could flow a pump five days in a row, and get five different numbers.
Many of the racers have we talked to suggested that checking the shaft and gear size on the pumps is the only real way of having a constant reading. This would seem to be a more efficient way of policing this situation, as each pump could be checked prior to an event, by the NHRA tech officials, and then sealed for said event. After the race, the seal could then verified to ensure against tampering. If there were and concerns, the pump could be opened up by an NHRA tech official and given a post race check. Then, if any issues arose, they could be dealt with right then and there, not ten days after an event.
If there is an issue with a rules infraction, those involved should be the first ones notified. If something does happen, whether by intent or accident, to cause someone to break the rules, having a conversation with those parties involved in private first, would go a long way towards making a bad situation better.