May 13, 2000

The Lyle Greenberg Motorsports Federal Mogul Funny Car was one of the featured attractions at Firebird Raceway’s “Coors 32 Funny Car Night of Fire”. This event is one of the largest independent promotions in the Western United States, featuring 8 Nitro Funny Cars, 8 Top Alcohol Funny Cars and 16 of the California Independent Funny Car Association cars that run on a 7.50 index. Our invitation to this event was a big boost to our morale, as we were included with such stars as Mert Littlefield, Pete Swayne and Jason Rupert.

One of the challenges of running a maintenance intensive Federal Mogul Funny Car is making sure that you have a full crew. Because of high school graduation ceremonies and parties, we found ourselves a little short in this area. Luckily, our friends on the Internet came through and we were able to recruit Chris Stinson, Ron Miller and Laurie Watts. All three are Arizona residents that are well known on some of the drag racing mail lists – particularly the nostalgia oriented ones. In addition, Frank Turrentine came over from Las Cruces to visit his pals Les and Keith Jackson. Seeing that we needed help, Frank pitched in and did a great job.

Frank Turrentine installs the pushrods, while (left to right) Laurie Watts visits with Ron
Miller and Keith Clark (Van Gundy & Clark FM/FC) visits with Blake Johnson. Photo by Chris Stinson.

As we expected, the weather was hot. When we unloaded the car it was about 100 degrees. The pace was very relaxed, as the car had been ready and in the trailer for a week and a half prior to the event. We set about our normal routine of installing pushrods, the driveshaft and putting fluids in the car. Frank, Chris, Ron and Laurie were all quick studies at the care and preparation of the car. The event coordinator, Tom Lemon, came by for us to draw our pairing. We drew local racer Pete Rivera and we would have the left lane in the third pair. One of the great things about a match race is the attention that is paid to putting on a show. At 7:00 pm, they pulled all of us out to parade down the track. This gives the spectators a chance to see the cars as they go considerably slower than usual, while it also gives the crews the chance for some well deserved recognition. The track then had us pull directly back to the staging lanes to run the first round.

If there is one thing that Lyle loves to do, its make big, long, smoky burnouts. Once he gets the car smoking, he says its always tempting to go forever. In this case, he got to about half-track and the cockpit became completely filled with tire smoke. At that point he grabbed a big handful of brake and tried to stop as quickly as possible. As he later said, it would be really embarrassing to admit that you ran into something because you carried the burnout too far. Lyle opened the roof hatch and sat there hoping the smoke would quickly clear. After about 5 seconds he decided that he had to start backing up – even though he still couldn’t see a thing. Finally after another few seconds, the smoke began to clear enough to see (as it turned out, at least one other driver got "smoked in" and actually ended up scraping up against the guard wall). Once back to the starting line, the two cars staged and Lyle left with a somewhat lazy .577 reaction time. However, Rivera was having even more problems in the other lane with a very late 1.103 reaction time. Unfortunately, the Greenberg car immediately made a move to the right. When Lyle “pedaled” out of that, the car then started shaking the tires. Later, Lyle was quoted as saying “no one pays to see us coasting, they want to see us racing down the track”. With that mind set, Lyle used up every bit of his lane as he pedaled the car several times in a vain attempt to regain traction. Because of Rivera’s late start, the race took on a “tortoise and hare” quality, as he was chasing Lyle down from the large starting line deficit. Finally, at about 900 feet, Lyle decided that it was time to shut it down rather than hit something. Just about 100 feet before the finish line, Rivera blasted by with a winning 6.61 at 213 mph to Lyle’s slowing 7.43 at 155 mph. The excitement didn’t end there, as Rivera was very late with the parachutes and went sailing off into the Arizona desert.

When the Greenberg team returned to the trailer, they put the “match race maintenance” plan into effect. At divisional and national events they always put in a fresh clutch pack and pull the oil pan to check bearings. At the match race events, there is often not enough time to perform that level of maintenance. So the plan at these races is to simply cool the clutch, change the oil, check the cylinder leakage, check the valve springs and reset the valve lash. Hopefully, if anything is damaged internally, the leak down or the computer data will give an indication that something is amiss. The only concern we had was that the #8 cylinder had puffed some smoke on the warm-up prior to the run. The leak down test showed leakage in excess of 50%, confirming that there was a problem. The problem is most likely a pinched ring land or a broken ring. There would never be enough time to pull the cylinder and change the piston, so it was decided to ignore the problem and run it as is.

In talking to the other competitors, it was obvious that the track was quite loose for almost everyone. None of the cars were able to get down the left lane and only 2 cars made it down the right lane in the first round. In fact, 2 out of the 8 alky funnies made light contact with the wall. Even though our 7.43 was not very fast, it did gain us lane choice for the 2nd round match with Bob Gallio. Based on what we heard, the right lane was chosen and we all
Lyle Greenberg (far lane)and Bob Gallio get ready to launch down the track in a 2nd round matchup.
Photo by Chris Stinson.

crossed our fingers that we would get down the track in that lane. Lyle shortened up his burnout some to try and avoid getting smoked in. The cars staged and Lyle cut an exceptional .433 reaction time. The car made a pretty decent launch to a 1.00 sixty-foot time. The shift to 2
nd gear came a little early at about 60 feet. Once the car was in 2nd gear, Lyle said he thought they were going to get a full run in. Unfortunately, there were monster trucks at the race that had been out doing “brodies” at about the 250-foot mark. Several people later commented that you could actually see the ruts in the rubber groove of the track. Right about that point in the track, the computer showed that the tires broke loose, the driveshaft speed went up and the car went into violent tire shake. Lyle pedaled the car through it, but it continued to spin the tires and skate around on the track. Finally, at about 800 feet he shut the car down and coasted through with a 7.15 at 148 mph. This was still good enough to take the round win as Gallio was having even more trouble in the left lane and coasted to a 9+ second elapsed time.

We had a great time at this event and are looking forward to going back to Firebird Raceway on June 17, 2000 to run a match race against jet cars. It will be a “hot” race in Phoenix, but the fans will surely get their money’s worth. Lyle, Blake and Andy are already hard at work on a new tuning combination that they hope will yield better performance on a marginal track surface.

Click here to see crew member Chris Stinson's comments about this race - a different perspective

Click here to see more photos of this event

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