News & Analysis

(Ron Lewis photo)

An explanation by NHRA officials would have made all the difference for James Day’s team

Failure to communicate?

Communication is a very important aspect in daily life. It is also extremely important in the world of motorsports. So lack of communication can cause confusion and people to get the wrong idea of how a situation is being handled. Then again, implied communication can also get a point across as well -- telling somebody what you want without actually saying it.

At the running of the Mopar Mile-High Nationals, these two scenarios affected the plucky team of nitro funny car owners John and Barbara Lindsey.  

Going into the final qualifying session their driver, James Day, was in the 16th qualifying position. The team was anticipating making the show and getting at least first round money, which they intended to use to make the final event on the swing in Seattle. On the outside looking in was two-time champ Tony Pedregon, who was the 17th and final car in the class.

As the cars were pulled up for the final qualifying session, many people thought Pedregon would be the first car out and the Lindsey team would have the opportunity to see if Tony would get in or not and then decide whether to run or not. 

However, the NHRA has a specific run policy that makes for the pairing of cars for the benefit of the spectators, in addition to making sure each car alternates lanes for each qualifying attempt. So, as the qualifying session went on, per the NHRA procedures, James Day and 15th qualifier Jeff Diehl were on the same run schedule and both had to run the right lane. With an uneven number of cars in the lanes, Day, who was already in the show, would make a single. 

The NHRA did not relay this bit of information to the team, who were under the impression that Pedregon would be first out, running a single. [Note: The Lindseys were mistaken, as Graham Light explained to me later. – BL]

The Lindsey team also questioned why they were urged to not make a run by NHRA Nitro Czar Dan Olson after he saw they had one cylinder that wasn’t firing and they were spewing raw nitro while Tony Pedregon, who eventually bumped them out, was allowed to run with a fuel leak.

According to car owner John Lindsey, after the car did the burnout and started to back up, the number three cylinder was spraying out raw fuel. (More than likely due to a down nozzle that was stuck open.) Dan Olson, Director of Top Fuel & Funny Car Racing, pointed to the misting pipe. Lindsey said that he acknowledged to Olson that he saw the unlit cylinder.