March 3-5, 2000
Since the Lyle Greenberg Motorsports team had never run at the Texas Motorplex, they passed up a shorter trip to Tucson to give the fabled 'Plex a try. Because it was the first race of the year, there were a considerable number of last minute odds and ends to finish before the team could compete. The biggest item was the replacement of the battered firewall in the body. In the previous year and a half, 2 blower explosions had beat the firewall up badly. In addition, NHRA had mandated the installation of a "stovepipe" into the firewall. This pipe vents the pressure wave of a blower explosion out the side window of the car. Lyle was extremely pleased to find that former Indy Car crew chief Gary Armentrout had opened Race Prep Motorsports in Albuquerque to provide race car fabrication services. Gary did an excellent job of fabricating the new firewall, finishing it up on Wednesday night (3/1/00). Lyle and Blake Johnson left Thursday morning in the team's new Kodiak truck and trailer. The remainder of the crew, Andy Johnson and James Hosier, left later in the day after getting off from their regular jobs.

Upon arrival at the track on Friday, the team discovered that there were 17 Federal Mogul Funny Cars on the grounds to compete for the 8 available qualifying spots. Entrants included no less than 6 of the top 20 cars in the nation from 1999, including Pat Austin, Tony Bartone, Tate Branch, Jackie Stidham, Todd Simpson and Randy Fleming. Qualifying at this event would not be an easy task! The weather on Friday was not picture perfect as there was a 25 MPH crosswind along with temperatures in the mid-40's. Because this was going to be the team's first event without the services of former crew chief Robert Howard, they were anxious to make sure that everything was ready to go. Another concern was that they had never run in atmospheric conditions that were this good. Just before the first scheduled qualifying session, the density altitude was at less than 400 feet. This compares to the 2,500+ feet of density altitude that prevailed in Phoenix last year when Lyle recorded his career best 5.84 second ET at 242 MPH. Unfortunately, about an hour prior to the qualifying session, the Division Director decided to cancel the session due to the high winds. Although this was a huge blow to the team's chances since they had never run on this track, the decision was in the best interest of everyone's safety.

The weather on Saturday was much nicer with temperatures in the 60's and a 5-10 MPH breeze. Lyle had decided to be conservative with the engine tuneup in order to try and not have any parts breakage. They were the fifth pair out in the qualifying session, paired with Missouri's Scott Palmer. The run itself was uneventful but not particularly fast. The car had a sluggish 60 foot time of 1.02 seconds and just didn't seem to be charging very hard until about half track. The 6.14 second ET was somewhat disappointing, though the 235 MPH speed was encouraging. Lyle commented that it was kind of exciting being slightly behind Palmer as they went across the finish line. Palmer had spit some connecting rods out of the block and Lyle said that there were parts and sparks flying out the back of Palmer's car. A review of the computer confirmed what the 60 and 330 foot times had already hinted at, the clutch setup was way off. Because of this, the car did not perform well in the first half of the track. Although it was only going 183 MPH at half track, it ran very well in the back half of the track as evidenced by the 52 MPH increase from half track on. On our best runs we usually only pick up about 48 MPH. A check of the leak down in all the cylinders and the inspection of all the rod bearings indicated that the tuneup for the motor was very safe and that the parts were all "happy". By the end of the first qualifying session, the team was in the #9 (1st alternate) position out of the 17 cars.

The decision was made to try and get a little more aggressive on the motor tuneup and get the clutch to work better for the second run. Unfortunately, there were several oil downs just prior to our run that delayed the program by quite a bit. This was happening late in the afternoon, so the sun was beginning to get low enough to cause longer shadows. As the time passed, Lyle became convinced that the temperature was beginning to fall, so he directed that a richer jet be installed in the motor. When they finally got their turn, the car launched much better with a 0.980 60 foot time. However, about 200 feet into the run the car began to move left out of the groove. Once the left rear tire got out of the groove, there was no way to salvage the run and Lyle was forced to shut the car off. With no improvement on this run and qualifying complete, the Greenberg team found themselves in the #11 spot. As it turned out, two of the qualifiers damaged their equipment severely enough to withdraw, allowing the #9 and #10 cars to take their place.

The trip back to Albuquerque was filled with "could of's and should of's", but the final analysis would show that they just needed to get that third run and they probably would have improved substantially. As it was, they ran respectable and (maybe most important of all) did not hurt a single part the entire weekend. The next event on the Lyle Greenberg Motorsports schedule is the Coors 32 Funny Car Extravaganza at Firebird Raceway in Phoenix on May 13th. Come see us if you can!

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