Suspension Struggles for Bell
at PDRA Rockingham Season Opener


A SPECIAL WORD FROM JIM BELL
: Although this JBR press release is interesting to read, in the grand scheme of things it is of little importance given the fact that Ronnie “The King” Davis, arguably the all time most well-known name in Top Sportsman racing, lost his life as a result of a horrific top-end crash during the PDRA race at Rockingham, NC. Bell, his team, and the drag racing community mourns Ronnie’s passing and extends kind wishes and condolences to Ronnie’s daughters, Michelle Seger and Bridgett Medina, and his long time partner in life, Micki Dearing. Additionally, Ian Tocher, senior editor of Drag Illustrated, sustained severe injuries when he was hit by debris from Davis’ car. Please get well as soon as you can, Ian. We are all pulling for your recovery!

 


JIM BELL RACING (JBR) driver Jim Bell tried his best to put in a good show at the PDRA Spring Nationals at Rockingham Dragway in Rockingham, North Carolina on April 7-9, 2016, but rear suspension problems made it a tough challenge.



Bell, along with crew chief Brad Personett and crew man/head mechanic Chad McGregor, had tested at Atlanta Dragway in Commerce, Georgia, the Monday and Tuesday prior to the PDRA race. Bell had a promising hit of 3.96 at 182 mph with an early shut off, but shortly after, the struggles began. Eleven hits later and there was little progress as the track prep simply would not hold the power the Pro Mods on site were making and tire shake was prevalent for all drivers who attended the test session. It was a disappointing outing, but the team used the situation as a learning opportunity.

After reviewing the RacePak data, Personett discovered that Bell’s twin turbo, Pro Line Racing Hemi-powered 1969 Chevy Camaro was only squatting .200-thousandths on the start, instead of its usual squat of .650-.700 which explained some of the problems they were having in testing. Upon arriving at Rockingham, Personett was fairly confident he had located the trouble and worked to resolve the issue. Bell made his first session qualifying hit but the car smoked the tires at the hit and Bell and aborted the pass. His 6.839 at 86.73 mph eighth-mile run was not what the team had hoped for, and it was back to the drawing board for more troubleshooting.

The crew made adjustments to try and fix where the car was binding up and not allowing the suspension to travel. They made a change to the four-link, and then Bell went back out for the second qualifier. The car launched, and after about twenty feet, it went into severe tire shake and headed towards the centerline. The scoreboards showed Bell’s performance of 7.376 at 83.50 mph had not improved as intended, and he dropped into nineteenth in the qualifying order.

Determined to remedy the issue, Bell asked Rick and Rickie Jones from RJ Race Cars if they had any ideas. The four-link bars had been taken off to ensure none of the heim joints were binding, and many other components were inspected as well. The Jones men agreed that all the bases had been covered, but the car still wouldn’t squat. Further scrutiny revealed a golf kart push bar mount was hitting the wheelie bar and had been causing the squat/suspension issue all along – it had been hiding in plain sight!

Confidence was high as Bell returned to the lanes for his third qualifying attempt. Bell left the line and soon realized that his Camaro had no power and knew the boost controller was turned on. He coasted through the traps and clocked a 5.387 at 133.03 mph pass, but it wasn’t enough to get in the show. At the top end, Bell discovered that a crew member had neglected to turn on the CO2 bottle after the burnout and the Camaro only had 3 pounds of boost when it should have been running 41.

“I’m disappointed that we did not do well, but we’re certain now that we have our suspension problems figured out. We just need to go out and prove it. And we will!” said Bell with his trademark enthusiasm. “We will test before the next NHRA event at Houston to make sure we are clear of these issues.”

Bell will run at each of the ten NHRA Pro Mod races for 2016 and will continue his season at the 29th annual O'Reilly Auto Parts NHRA SpringNationals event in Baytown, Texas on April 29-May 1 at Royal Purple Raceway.

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