Drag Illustrated Issue 171, September / October 2021 - Page 84
“ For me , I feel like there ’ s less room for error because I ’ m only focused on tuning . I don ’ t have to worry about him because he knows what he ’ s doing , but I ’ ve got more time to focus on [ the car ], which I love .”
It ’ s a unique situation for Palmer , who is helping Alex Laughlin learn the ropes in Top Fuel for the first time . While this is all brand new for Laughlin , who has enjoyed a strong start to his nitro career , it ’ s also a first-time experience for Palmer . The longtime driver and tuner has spent plenty of time doing both in Top Fuel , but never before has he brought a newcomer into the class . It ’ s been an enjoyable experience for Palmer , as well as an eye-opening one .
This is the first time I ’ ve ever done anything like this . Me and Lee Calloway have done this for years , but we ’ ve been friends a long time and it wasn ’ t like he was a new driver . Alex went from Pro Stock to Top Fuel , so that was pretty exciting . The biggest problem I ’ ve had is I ’ ve done it so long by myself without anybody telling me what to do as far as driving , and I just assume everyone knows what to do and what the procedure is . He had been in a good A / Fuel car and ran similar situations , but I just took for granted using the clutch and small things you don ’ t think about .
I ’ ve been learning as I ’ ve gone , too . It ’ s been a lot of fun . He ’ s down to earth and it ’ s been a nice experience because he appreciates it so much . It took me 15 years to run 3.70s and we threw him in with the sharks . It was his fourth or fifth run and he ran in the 3.70s , but to know he respects the car , it makes it fun .
He ’ s driven enough stuff that he has a feel for it . When he let off in Topeka , he said he felt a little behind the car and I told him after a few more runs he ’ ll have a feel for it . Our whole team has been on this journey together .
For me , I feel like there ’ s less room for error because I ’ m only focused on tuning . I don ’ t have to worry about him because he knows what he ’ s doing , but I ’ ve got more time to focus on [ the car ], which I love . Don ’ t get me wrong , I still love to drive , but this is better for the team . It takes a couple people tuning these cars , and I was driving and tuning . I did talk to [ the Capco team ] about them because they give me a million dollars ’ worth of knowledge .
It ’ s been a little bit of a relief , too , because I ’ m not driving as well as tuning . It ’ s really been a fun learning process for both of us , but we ’ ve just tried to reassure him that he ’ s been doing a great job and not worry about a lot of things .
He was a little concerned about reaction times and things like that , but we ’ re not worried about that right now . Think about it : he went 3.90s almost right off the bat , which is a huge deal , and then he goes 3.80s and that ’ s a big jump in a fuel car . Within five runs , he was going in the 3.70s and that ’ s another huge leap , so he ’ s going from 3.90s to 3.70s in a handful of runs . That ’ s a really big deal , so it ’ s just about getting comfortable and getting ahead of the car before you ’ re worrying about other things . DI
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