TRENTON. NJ – The conclusions drawn from independent laboratory testing of the fuel sample taken from Tyler Dippel’s DIRTcar 358 Modified after qualifications Thursday, Oct. 8 have lent a to a seemingly ambiguous result.
“It was found that there were no addititives in the fuel,” said Fred Turza, VP Racing Fuels research and development director, who was at Syracuse and who had drawn the fuel sample from Dippel’s car and from VP’s own Syracuse supply as its baseline standard.
“That doesn’t mean the fuel was okay,” Turza continued, “It only means that they did not tamper with the fuel. That doesn’t mean that the fuel wasn’t degraded over time.”
Turza elaborated intent of the testing process. “It (the Dippel sample) did not meet the requirements for the standard and, with that being said, it’s not my duty to do anything further than that,” said Turza of the testing at the track.
“If it doesn’t meet the requirements your run is disallowed. It’s that simple.”
Turza said the nature of the fuel testing is not unique to DIRTcar. Rather, the same testing methodology has been used for years with National Hot Rod Associatoin (NHRA) in field testing.
Turza speculated on the possible cause of the fuel irregularity.
“The problem probably was that the fuel aged,” said Turza. “There is basic maintance in taking care of the fuel. If they left the lid off the can for two hours or left the bung (fuel drum sealing latch) on the drum loose for two months that’s going to change the readings. That’s the responsibility of the team to know.”
Many factors come into play when it comes to shelf life: temperature, sunlight and humidity among them.
“Their fuel was still not legal. It was not tampered with but it was still not OK. It could have degraded over time.”
Each drum has a date code on it. This is a way to track the batch number and when it was produced, Turza described.
As for the testing protocol, Turza said that the color of the fuel is the key baseline marker. VP dyes its fuel with a distinct, consistent color lot as does VP’s competitor Sunoco. A visual test can spot a variation.
“The color was off and that’s the first thing we go by,” said Turza. “It didn’t meet the color requirements for Super DIRT Week and that’s the baseline test.”
Turza believes team’s assertion that the drum of D109 fuel it had purchased, used a small amount of fuel from, then used again, seven months later at Syracuse.
“It’s a good possiblity that is what happened,” said Turza, “but we can only go by what they say. The fuel can in fact change its composition after a peroid of time. It doesn’t have as long as a shelf life as say D-12. The D-109 is a highly oxygenated unlead. This is the fuel of choice for the 358s.
“Let’s suppose the fuel was tampered with and DIRT allowed him to run,” said Turza. “In this case I think DIRT made the right call. It’s unfortunate, but it’s the crew chief’s job to know what he is doing to that car.”
Turza went further in his defense of VP field testing.
“Look at it from our stand point,” said Turza. “We had over 50 different competitors. Whether we checked their fuel or not, didn’t seem to have any problems.”
Matt Hearn, crew chief for the Dippel team at Syracuse, differs with Turza’s conclusions.
“There was nothing wrong with our fuel. It was a different shade of the same color. Their test doesn’t prove anything.
“We said all along that the fuel we used was from a D-109 barrel that was bought at Lebanon Valley Speedway in April. Ten gallons were taken from the barrel for the first Small Block race a Lebanon Valley. The barrel was then sealed,” Hearn said.
He then questioned VP’s assertion that product users are responsible for monitoring shelf life.
“VP has no shelf life information. This is the first I ever knew that this fuel could degrade by exposure to air over time within a sealed container.
“This was an unusual situation with fuel that would have been used quickly but because Tyler was hurt, then didn’t race another Small Block race until Super DIRT Week, the air in the barrel changed the fuel.”
Hearn expanded his view. “VP never said we added anything to the fuel. They just say the fuel we had wasn’t the same as what they had at the track.
“If fuel has to be used within a certain time of its making or if all of the fuel has to be used from a barrel within a certain time after it is first opened, that is something we never knew. How could we know that? It’s their product that we are required to purchase to run.
“They are saying it was our responsibility. Responsibility to test their fuel?”
One final point said to have been at at issue in the Syracuse sample om question, and verified by Turza. was its unusually high temperature, reportedly as high as 93 degrees. Some have speculated the fuel may have been cooled before it was put in the car, a process that has reportedly been used in the past.
“Usually that does change it,” said Turza. “But temperature is something we can compensate for in testing.”
Team spokesperson Jill Dippel, said that the family would decline to comment on the situation.