Saturday, June 22, 2013

Firebird International Raceway Finale

Thirty years of racing in the Phoenix desert Firebird International Raceway put on their final event.  March 30th brought it all to an exciting finale with everything that the fans have loved over the years.

Robosaurus, Monster Trucks, Trophy Trucks, and of course the Jets vs Funny Car match ups.

30 years ago, on the opening night of Firebird, the Invader was there.  She was a Westinghouse J-34 powered jet dragster piloted by Al Eierdam, built by Bill Mattio and Lee Austin, and was one of the quickest cars at the time.

Flash forward to 2013, and at the final event, the Invader is here still.  Now a Pratt & Whitney J-60 powered jet dragster piloted by Curt Eierdam, built by the Jet Shop at the hands of Tommy O’Brien, and is one of the quickest cars now.

But also joining the Invader is another team car; the Avenger piloted by Craig Eierdam, built by LMS racing and brings the show full circle.

JET FX team was also joined by the Lucas Oil sponsored jet dragsters of Tony Franco, the Terminal Velocity and the MAV TV Missile in battling with the Nostalgia Fuel Funny Cars for the final bragging rights.

Invader faced up against John Hale in the Powers Steel funny car in the first round.  With the win light coming on in the Invader’s lane it was 1 to 0 in favor of the jets. Craig in the Avenger was paired up with Tim Boydchuck in the Troy Lee Designed entry.  As with the Invader, the Avenger scored another win for the jets. 

The MAV Missile driven by Tony Franco Jr gave a great effort but new safety system shut the car down late in the run giving the funny cars a win.  But Tom Bogner in the Terminal Velocity shut down the Mr. Explosive entry.

So with the first of two rounds over, jets were a head 3 to 1.

Second round was unfortunate as whatever funny cars were able to make it back were quickly dispatched, and the Terminal Velocity and the Invader both made single passes as their opponents were unable to return to make the second round.

With the Monster Trucks and Robosaurus closing out the show and bringing down the house, it left the jets the reigning champions and in particular the Invader as undefeated against funny cars in its career at Firebird International Raceway


2013 Season Kick Off IHRA Nitro Jam

Although the 2013 racing season kicked off at the IHRA Nitro Jam on March 23rd, the real season started way back in October, 

NHRA exhibition rules committee came out with a new set of rules for the jet vehicle class.  After a bit of back and forth changes, the rules were set and it was now on every team to figure out a way to make them work.

The jet vehicle categories are one of the most diverse classes out there.  With 30 plus cars out there, there is 30 plus ways of making things work.  Just for example there are four different approved engines in jet dragsters, Westinghouse J-34’s, General Electric J-85’s (CJ-610), Pratt & Whitney J-60’s (JT-12),and Rolls Royce Viper Mark 22.  Each one is different in how to control and shut down.  Along with that, there are different afterburner systems, manually operated or electric, which adds more variables to work with.

The major new rule change was the addition of a auto shut down safety system.  Now we could argue back and forth for pages upon pages for the need, implementation, hindrance, whatever, but at the end of the day the playground which we play has spoken and if we want to play there we must follow the rules.

So with that being said, we spent months, and I do mean months talking with electronic specialist, avionics technicians, turbine power plant mechanics, and plain old testing to develop a system to safely and transparent to operate in our cars.

After all this, it was time to install and like they say put our money where our mouth was.  Testing of the system worked exactly as we planned and we were ready for actual track testing or racing as we ran out of time.

Bringing us back to the beginning, Nitro Jam!  The first Nitro Jam of 2013 was at Southwestern International Raceway in Tucson Arizona.  Along with Nostalgia Funny Cars, Les Shockley with the twin engine J-34 powered Super Shockwave was running.

But the main event was the match up of Bruce Litton and his Top Fuel dragster against The Invader with Curt driving.  We had not only worked on the new auto shut off system, but installed a brand new designed afterburner from LMS racing and removable starter system to lighten the Invader up to hopefully increase the top end.

Talking with Bruce to get a game plan of how they operate and stage to what we do, the plan was to run with a lighter fuel load as to not leave Bruce on the clutch too long, which meant an abbreviated line show for the Invader. 

So with a normally smaller fuel load, Curt performed a shorter show and staged very quickly to not hang Bruce out.  Light flicker and both cars shot off the line, at around 900 feet the Invader died…  No fuel! The team gambled and lost out as they put too little fuel in!  Litton to an easy win on the first round!

But on a side note, the timer system worked perfectly as the Invader coasted through the lights, the auto shut off deployed the parachutes!  Right on time!

So with the second round fast approaching, afterburner adjustments made, fuel load recalculated, twice, parachutes packed and final checks made and the Invader was ready to give it a second shot at beating Bruce in the top fuel.

With the desert air cooling off quickly, we were definitely hoping for some traction issues for other lane!

Second and final round for the match up was on, and although the Invader was on a solid 280+ pass but was no match for Bruce’s acceleration.

Overall, JET FX and the Invader had a great opening weekend, car ran great no bugs other than a miscalculation on fuel.