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2009 Nightfire Nationals

Engine Damage Takes Green Out Early


August 04-16-2009 - Boise, ID - The 38th edition of Firebird Raceway's signature event was a weekend of way below normal temperatures, huge crowds, record runs, major upsets and lots of drama. The Nightfire Nationals are Idaho's premiere motorsport's national championship, and the 2009 edition was even bigger and better than any year previous. Headlining the 4 day show was Top Fuel Dragsters and Nostalgia Nitro Funny Cars. In spite of a grim economy, there were 32 nitro cars on the grounds and both the Friday and Sunday crowds were bigger than years past. Most credit the absence of the normally hot weather for much of the increase.

For Troy Green and the HSMS team it was less than a good weekend. Historically the gang has not had much luck at Boise. Unlike Bowling Green and Bakersfield, Firebird Raceway has not been conducive with Brett Johansen's tune ups. This year was no different. After crossing the centerline in his first qualifying attempt, Green did manage to qualify 6th on his next. But a 6.11 was far off the pace needed to go rounds.

In years past, there were three pro qualifying sessions but in an attempt to give their largest crowd (Saturday) a better show and have first round of eliminations under the lights they dropped one session.. So, session two was the last chance to nail down a tune up and jockey for a position on the ladder. It also left the team with a tough decision that in hind site turned out to be the wrong one.

Said Green, "To say we're disappointed is an understatement. We were behind the 8 ball all weekend and things never came together. We'll go home, regroup, assess the damage and do better the next time out."

Team Manager Tom Shelar was more direct. "Boise was about the worst outing that I can remember. We need to get back to a baseline that we had last year where we could run a 5.80 on any track."

Virtually out of the points chase, the team will run the Pinks All Out show at Bakersfield September 12 and pass on the Hot Rod Heritage race at Sacramento on September 18th. Shelar stated, "We will not be going to Sacramento. It is better to spend the time and money on the car and another test session if needed before the CHRR."

Photos by: Arlene Eliason, Dan Kaplan, Don Ewald, Darrell Conrad, Pam Schavrien and Don Atkinson.

photos and race results below



With the car already prepped back at the shop, and fired the day before at the SilverThin Bearings Open House, Thursday afternoon was very laid back. With most of the team still not in town, no one was in a big rush to unload.



After solving an issue over enough pit space, the first order of business was to get the awning up.





A new rule went into effect at Boise that being that the Top Fuel cars must now have 2 10 lb fire bottles. Frankie Hedge was put in charge of hooking up the cables to the actuators,




Troy Green and Tom Shelar go over the car as Green fills out the tech card.






By noon on Friday the crew was all present and accounted for. The tech crew came by to cert the car to race.


Jeff Norton (center) was on hand to keep everybody honest - he is the Pro Tech Inspector.


Roger "The Iron Chef" McMartin set up the hospitality table.


Rian Kono adjusted the valves and got the engine ready to warm up.





This is how racing slicks are shipped. They look like something ready for the scrap yard.


Troy untaped them in preparation for mounting.





Todd Shappie installed some new clutch discs that came in that morning.



Walt Stevens and Tom Shelar check out the new driver cards.


Photog Dan Kaplan, Don Ewald, Sam Chastain and Walt Stevens in one of the many BS sessions over the weekend.



HSMS CEO Dale Singh and Ewald discuss cameras.


On Friday Pete and Cece Palumbo's son-in-law Charlie Lee and their Granddaughter Lauren came to their first drag race. They flew in from Colorado just to see what grandpa was always bragging about.. Lauren jumped right in the car and loved it.





At 5:30 Green got in the car for the warm-up for the first quaifying session scheduled for 7 PM.




Sean Bellemeur checked the timing.




Crew Chief Brett Johansen went over the numbers on the engine monitor.






With the engine warmed, Tom Shelar decided to put the new set of Hoosiers on the car for session one.





At 6:30 Palumbo and Kono started to move the car toward the staging lanes.







Top Fuel Qualifying - Session One


In the staging lane.


Kono went out to check the track temperature while the crew waited for a clean up to fire the car.






Some guys just don't fit the hero driver mold.



After a short wait the car was fired and Green moved into the water box.


Being the last car of the session, Green got the whole track to himself... and he needed it.



At the direction of Sean Bellemeur, Walt Stevens guided Green back to the line.





Crew chief Brett Johansen has one look at the engine as Bellemeur brings Green to the starting line.



The car was very sluggish at the hit... the clutch way to soft.









After a terrible 60' time the car started to drift toward the center line.




Out of the groove and got on the unusual asphalt strip between lanes Green tried to steer the car back.


In a heartbeat the clutch finally locked up and literally tossed the car into the left lane,





Fortunately there was no other car on the track or this could have been ugly. Said Green, "The car moved so hard, so fast I couldn't do a thing but reel it in when it stabilized."


With only two qualifying sessions it really hurt not getting a time on this one.





With the second session scheduled for 1 PM things got rolling a little earlier on Saturday. But since the car had been serviced Friday night there was little to do.








Brett Johansen and Steve Gibbs


Kono ran the valves.


Green and Shappie packed the chutes.




Noon - time to warm her up.




Top Fuel to the lanes.



Saturday - Qualifying Session Two


Boise has a unique staging lane in that it is right in front of the pits side stands and elevated above the race track. This allows the fans to see the cars and drivers up close and personal and lets the teams see how track conditions are playing out.



Track temp up from Friday's session.



Johansen and Rick Shelar fire up "Great White".


Green would once again make a single run.











Johansen and understudy Sean Bellemeur make final tweaks to the engine.



Once again the car was very soft at the hit of the throttle.








Another lackluster 60' time but the car was going straight.





In spite of drifting to the right this time the car did not make any violent moves to the other lane.




Staying in his own lane Green clocked a mediocre 6.11 at 235.54 to land in the #6 qualifying spot.



At least they were in the show and had a chance to figure out why the car wasn't running as tuned.




Above lies the center of a decision that was like the old Paul Newman quip of "Why did a guy take off his clothes and jump into a blackberry bush"? The answer of course was, "Well, it was a good idea at the time". This would qualify for the same answer.


After coming back from the run the team started throwing around the idea of doing an engine swap. The engine in the car had not performed in testing. The spare engine had won Bowling Green. The decision was made to change them out. Good idea at the time.


Tom Shelar did his normal cylinder head services while the engine in the car was being readied for a take out.



Todd Shappie first took off the clutch and back engine mounting bolts.



Stevens checked out the burst panel for safey reasons.



After the heads were off the engine was lifted out and the other put in.




Parts were everywhere.










While the drama was played out in the pits, Green was at the obligatory drivers autograph session in the upper pit section. Most of the drivers had hand outs and the fans ate them up.




As it is every year, the fan response was incredible.




Saturday - Eliminations - Round One


Round 1 was scheduled for 7:00 but actually got underway about 7:45. Green was paired with Mike McClennan in Mike Fuller's "Forever Young" car. McClennan had lane choice.









The car was more aggressive on the bottom end and promised to give the blue car a good race.










At this point Green was hanging in with McClennan but once again slowly sliding out of the groove.



At this point Green was dangerously close to the wall but it didn't matter - the engine was a dead player.


Then the engine burned the # 7 piston and debris from the piston got stuck under the # 7 intake valve. When it blew up, the # 7 intake valve was not sealed to the seat letting the ignition spark the fuel into the manifold. When # 7 is on it's power stroke # 4 is on overlap. The explosion in the intake manifold blew the # 4 intake valve into the # 4 exhaust valve and that is why the # 4 valves were broken and the chamber and piston in the # 4 hole were beaten up. Got that so far?

The good news is the Manifold designed by Tom Shelar performed exactly as it was designed to do in this situation. The explosion in the manifold was so big the burst panel area was insufficient . The manifold is designed to split if the explosive energy is so big that the burst panel area and the blower shear studs are not enough to allow the energy to escape fast enough. ( Scott Kalitta's 's manifold exploded opening up the engine valley, Mendy Fry in Frank Hedge's car at Sonoma had the same issue both resulted in a big fire.) The only fire Green experienced after the initial explosion was a small amount of oil from the oil pressure gage being damaged. And they did not put any oil on the track just a small amount of nitro from the fuel system. Boise Boom


We apologize for the quality of a couple of these photos but they were obviously shot in low light and pulled from a video camera.




Oiled in, Green did a masterful job of keeping the car off the wall and in his lane.



As Great White limped along McClennan's ride had problems of its own. The ensuing oil down led to a 52 minute clean up and delay running funny cars. There are many good things to say about Firebird Raceway but their speed in doing track clean ups isn't one of them.


After Green radioed back that he was fine, the crew went to pick up the carnage. Even in defeat the HSMS team gets a lot of fan appreciation and they always acknowledge it.



Back in the pits the engine was cleaned up and put into the trailer. If you look close you can see a cracked in half blower manifold. What you can't see is all the internal damage both in the engine and blower. The repair/replace bill on this deal won't be pretty.






To say Sunday was low key would be a definite understatement.



The Iron Chef packed up.


Jim Murphy stopped by to check out the seat and view in the HSMS fueler. He is having trouble seeing in his car and is thinking about getting a Miller-Gibson fuel injector like the one in Great White. He could see fine so don't be surprised if you see a different injector on his WW2 Racing entry.




The highlight was the team getting together for an impromptu Happy Birthday for Walt Stevens who turned the big 70. All he got for his endurance was a bunch of silly birthday cards and several laughs.





Happy 70th Walter!


2009 Boise Nightfire Nationals Video Clips



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Untitled Document


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 Photos - Race Results


 The Team

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 Dragster Stats



 HSMS Cover



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