Keith Shimada / Special to the Home News
Thursday, Jan. 29, 2009 | midnight
Professional drag racer and Boulder City resident Duane Shields is used to the constant rule changes administered by the National Hot Rod Association.
Shields, a 12-year veteran of drag racing, has seen the fuel requirements for his top alcohol dragster division change five times in his career.
The association lowered the maximum amount of nitromethane allowed in fuel to 96 percent for the 2009 season. The two-percent change effectively slows down the alcohol-fueled dragster and keeps the ever-improving automotive technology at bay.
"It does make a huge difference." Shields said. "It takes us a while to overcome these rule changes. We have to change the machinery, parts and other things to stay on top."
The change also was made to increase the parity with the blown-alcohol dragster, the other type of vehicle that competes in the top alcohol dragster division but saw no rule change.
Shields said the new fuel has added about one tenth of a second to his time.
He spent Jan. 17 and 18 at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway's Blast Off Open Test Session with his crew trying to figure out ways to get back that time before the race of the season, the Winternationals in Pomona, Calif., Feb. 5 to 8.
"We try to test a lot and try new parts to see what works best," said Dana Hopewell, Shields Racing crew chief. "You win and lose by thousandths of a second, so a tenth of a second is huge."
After finishing last season a respectable fifth place in the NHRA national top alcohol dragster division, Shields was expecting to compete for a national championship this year.
He recorded the fastest run of his career, 5.17 second run at a national event in July, but doubts he will be able to reach that time.
"We have to figure out if the things we have changed are creating good things or bad things," he said.
While the rule-change took Shields by surprise, he hasn't thrown in his hat for the season.
He has won the Winternationals twice in the last three years and uses the race to gauge where he stands with the rest of the pack.
"We were very competitive on the national level because the tracks are usually better," Shields said. "Our car is usually one of the top running cars out there. Controlling that power is key to it."
Sean Ammerman can be reached at 990-2661 or firstname.lastname@example.org.