The BME Bulletin

Bill Miller Engineering's Top Fuel Blog
by Rick Vogelin


The Bill Miller Engineering Top Fuel team wrapped up the 2004 season at historic Pomona Raceway, site of the 40th annual Automobile Club of Southern California NHRA Finals. The feisty BME team ended the season on a high note with four perfect qualifying runs and the quickest elapsed time ever by driver Brady Kalivoda. Although a rare driver error ended their race early in eliminations, the BME brigade is ready to rejoin the battle in 2005.

The yellow-and-black BME dragster was quick out of the box in Pomona, running a 4.594-second elapsed time at 316.30 mph on its first qualifying pass. Subsequent runs produced 4.614, 4.635 and 4.640-second e.t.s, with a fastest speed of 322.19 mph. That performance placed the Okuma-sponsored machine 10th in the 16-car field as seven of the 23 entries missed the show.

Kalivoda was primed for his first-round match with David Grubnic, but the racing gods had other ideas. After deep-staging the car, Brady double-stepped the throttle pedal and the car slowed to a 5.109-second elapsed time.

"The driver made a mistake," Kalivoda admitted. "I deviated from what I've been doing all season. I was first off the line 13 times in 13 races, but I changed my procedure and it cost us. I hate that it happened, but I know what I did - and I know what I need to do to make sure it doesn't happen again.

"The car is incredibly fun to drive when it's running like it did in Pomona," Kalivoda continued. "Bill and the guys did an awesome job. It isn't easy to tune one of these beasts, so for the team to make the right adjustments to go down the track four out of four times is a real accomplishment. We ended up qualified 10th in a very tough field of 23 cars, so it was just an outstanding way to end the season."

After a series of tire-smoking runs at the preceding event in Las Vegas, team owner Bill Miller took a hard look at the engine setup going into the NHRA Finals.

"We went to Pomona with the same supercharger overdrive and a little less compression than we ran in Las Vegas," Miller reported. "We solved a problem with the fuel pickup sucking air in the tank, but the engine just didn't respond to some significant changes in ignition timing. It acted like an old car that doesn't have any compression, so by Sunday we had figured out that we needed to increase the ratio and bump up the supercharger overdrive.

"We had a fire drill on Sunday morning when a carbon rear brake rotor failed while we were warming up the car one hour before the start of eliminations. Replacing the broken rotor required tearing apart the entire rearend. Once again the BME team did a fantastic job and we made it to the staging lanes on time, but I wouldn't want to do that again."

The underdog BME team proved that it could race with the big dogs in 2004. Running a limited schedule of 14 races, the BME dragster made the show at every event in which it was entered.

"We started the year with a brand-new car from Don Long, and we really didn't know how it would respond," Miller noted. "During the season we switched to a setback supercharger, changed to 85 percent nitromethane as required by the rules, and ran four different rear tires. We had some obstacles to overcome, but all things considered the season went extremely well.

"What makes it work is a great crew. Everyone on the team is totally dedicated to making the car the best that it can be. My hat's off to the BME team - Ron Hixson, Larry Wolyniec, David Wolyniec, Ed Litke, Jacob Crounse, and Scott Bowen. And, of course, my wife, Virgie, who keeps us all in line.

"They did a remarkable job when you consider that this volunteer team qualified at every race we went to, usually just behind the full-time touring professionals. We were never penalized for oiling the track, never blew up an engine, and never put parts on the ground. That's a fine season for an independent Top Fuel team."

"I can't believe it's been a year since Bill called and asked if I would drive his Top Fuel car," said Kalivoda. "It's been a dream year for me. This is what I've always wanted to do, and Bill Miller gave me the chance to do it. I'm having the time of my life every time I go to the races, and it's just an amazing feeling when the guys strap me in the car. I don't want it to end.

"We lowered my career-best marks for e.t. and speed several times as the season progressed. The car is running quicker and faster now on 85 percent nitro than it did on 90 percent. We've shown that we can hold our own against the big dogs. Now we have a year under our belts as a team, and the guys have adjusted to both a new chassis and a new driver.

We'll hit the ground running next year. "I plan to do a little snowboarding during the off-season, but I can't get too extreme," he laughed. "I'm not going to show up in Phoenix for pre-season testing with a broken ankle, so I'm going to behave on the slopes."

The 2005 season will kick off at Pomona Raceway with the CARQUEST Auto Parts Winternationals on February 10-13.


Automobile Club of Southern California NHRA Finals, Pomona, Calif., Nov.

11-14, 2004

Qualified: No. 10 at 4.594/322.19 mph

First Round: David Grubnic (4.543/329.42) defeated Brady Kalivoda


The BME Bulletin  Archive

Number 1
BME Team Beats the Odds in Las Vegas
Number 2
Heads Held High in Houston
Number 3
The Bristol Bash:
Number 4
Midwest Swing no Spring Fling
.Number 5
The Left Coast Swing
Number 6
The Point of no Return
Number 7
High Drama at Indy
Number 8
Hot Times in Chilly Chicago
Number 9
Snake Eyes
in Las Vegas
  Number 10
BME Team Concludes 2004 Tour with Season-Best Performance


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