IHRA WORLD NATIONALS - NOTEBOOK
SUNDAY EVENT NOTEBOOK
Reaction streak goes on -- Torco Racing Fuels Dragster driver Rick Cooper lost his opening-round race with Hillary Will, but he kept his reaction-time streak alive. Will advanced, despite her .118-second light in the K.B. Racing/Kalitta Motorsports Dragster against Cooper's .063.
Clay Millican is the only driver to get the better of Cooper at the starting line all year, and he did it only once, at Milan, Michigan. That's why Cooper has the IHRA's best reaction-time average at .065 seconds.
"I cut lights. I tree people," he said, referring to the electronic "Christmas tree" starting device. "I nearly doubled it on Hillary. My whole psyche is that when I come up to the line, I don't care who you are -- I want to beat you on the tree.
"The blower belt came off," Cooper said with a "What can you do?" shrug. "I drove that car the best I could."
Cooper -- whose teammate, Doug Foley, faced Will in the final -- said the Norwalk newcomer has strong fundamentals. "It takes awhile. It takes lots of laps," he said. "I'm still always learning. If you don't keep learning, something's wrong."
He said he doesn't practice on a simulated Christmas tree, for several reasons. For starters, most of the available ones give the driver a button to press -- a procedure that doesn't duplicate how a driver launches. The setting and sense of urgency are missing, as well. Instead, Cooper -- a golf pro from Boise, Idaho -- said he relies on a visualization process to prepare himself for perhaps the most important contribution a driver can make to a run.
Still investigating -- Scott Griffin Motorsports/Serta Dragster crew chief Lance Larsen and engine builder Wade Martin sifted through broken, melted, twisted car parts and pieces, looking for the cause of Andrew Cowin's frightening first-round engine explosion.
"It's hard to tell," Larsen said, "because there's so little left."
Cowin's engine lost a cylinder right at the start of his next-to-last pairing with Doug Foley and trailed oil from the start of the run. Then he experienced tire shake followed by a violent explosion at about 100-150 feet down the left lane. His flaming dragster continued the length of the track and came to a halt in the right lane.
The time-consuming clean-up prompted numerous reminders to the rest of the racers to stop their cars early if they detect a problem -- and it extended a program delayed several times by rain.
Team owner Scott Griffin said he suspected "parts failure . . . very odd. This is the same car that ran last night's [qualifying] session, and it ran perfectly. There's no reason for it. We think it might have been a bolt in the rod cap. We're still trying to figure it out. We thought we were going to run a (4.)58."
As Larsen and assistant crew chief Keith Stewart directed the crew in repairing the car, Griffin said the dragster needed some new wiring and air lines but will be back in action at the Sept. 8-10 Amalie Oil North American Nationals at Epping, New Hampshire.
Suddenly silent -- J.R. Todd had made so much noise in his first return to Norwalk Raceway Park since 2000, the season in which he finished sixth in the standings with Bruce Litton's extra car. He was top qualifier with a 4.586-second elapsed time in the Dexter Tuttle-owned Torco/Skull Shine Dragster. But his engine went silent against Litton in their Round 1 match-up.
NITRO FUNNY CAR
'How's it so premier?' -- Top qualifier Bob Gilbertson, speculating about the expected announcement that Norwalk Raceway Park will become an NHRA-sanctioned track, said in his Prestone/Autolite/Trick Tank pit, "It's going to happen. Aw, I don't know. We'll see. But here's what I do know: this grass that we're standing on will be asphalt and we will have lights. If they don't . . . NHRA, I don't know how they can put up with it. We've got grass growing through the mats. And where it's not, it's because we've got plywood down [underneath]. I made 'em buy plywood. And this is their premier track I've been hearing about? How's it so premier when we're in the grass?"
Not this time - Bob Gilbertson failed to claim the Nitro Funny Car elapsed-time record Sunday. The No. 1 qualifier needed to clock at least a 4.848-second pass in his Autolite/Prestone Dodge Stratus to back up the 4.800 he posted in Saturday night's final session. He couldn't knock out points leader Dale Creasy Jr., either, losing by just six-hundredths of a second in their opening-round match.
"Except for losing in the first round, this was a great weekend for us," Gilbertson said. "Setting the track record twice proved to us that we've got a fast car. We really wanted the IHRA record but we just missed backing it up. The good part is that we can go on to the next race, the NHRA U.S. Nationals at Indianapolis, with a lot of confidence and momentum.
Say what? -- During Sunday's eliminations, announcer Brian Lohnes used a freshly made-up verb: Chernobyled . . . as in "Paul Lee stepped on the gas and just Chernobyled it." That's how he described the fireball under Lee's Rislone Engine Treatment Chevy Monte Carlo at the first hit of the throttle in Saturday's final qualifying session. Against Jack Wyatt and his consistent Pontiac Firebird in the opening round, Lee again experienced an engine explosion, this time at half-track. But Lee came away with something positive. His '04 Chevy was chosen Best Appearing Pro Car -- when not on fire."
SATURDAY EVENT NOTEBOOK
Todd roars back -- J.R. Todd replaced Hillary Will as the low qualifier during Saturday's afternoon session. But he had to recapture the No. 1 spot from Doug Foley by the end of the day to claim the top qualifying position.
Todd and Torco/Skull Shine Dragster crew chief Jimmy Walsh pulled a 4.586-second elapsed time from up their sleeves to give the class its seventh different No. 1 qualifier in seven races.
“I wanted to give the fans something to talk about, Todd said. "A 4.58 is what we were shooting for, so it's a good run for us going into a big race next weekend. But right now it's about winning here tomorrow.” He was referring to the NHRA's U.S. Nationals Labor Day classic at Indianapolis.
In Saturday's first session, Todd ran a 4.633-second elapsed time at 312.93 mph, edging Will's 4.643-second E.T. in the KB Racing LLC-owned, Kalitta Motorsports-operated dragster. Her 322.11-mph speed remained the fastest, though.
In the final opportunity, Foley temporarily took the No. 1 spot with his 4.624-second E.T. at 312.64 mph as he ran alongside teammate Rick Cooper and his 4.693/316.08 effort. But Todd, paired with Will as the final two drivers, came back with the only 4.5-second pass of the weekend.
Student vs. teacher -- J.R. Todd will meet his former boss and mentor, Bruce Litton, in the opening round of eliminations Sunday. It will be a "battle of the oil companies," for Todd's sponsor is Torco Race Fuels, and Litton's is Lucas Oil.
Let there be light -- Drivers had a much better look at the racetrack Saturday night than they did Friday. After Hillary Will (Top Fuel) and Bob Gilbertson (Nitro Funny Car) led their respective fields in qualifying in the opening session and remarked that the facility seemed rather dark, IHRA officials discovered the reason.
The lights had been dimmed to 40 percent of their output for a midweek grudge-match event, and no one had restored the setting to full power.
A crew member of one of the pro teams asked an IHRA official, "Are you going to give us white canes so we can get down the track tonight?"
The situation was fixed.
After qualifying, track owner/operator Bill Bader Jr. treated the fans to plenty of light -- a traditional fireworks show that reportedly cost $100,000 and rivaled anything Disney could engineer.
Time for a two-timer? -- The Knoll Gas/Torco Top Fuel class has had six different winners in as many races this season. Andrew Cowin, Doug Foley, and Clay Millican have the chance to become the first two-time winner this year.
Bobby Lagana, who earned his first career victory at Grand Bend, Ontario, failed to qualify. Louis Allison, who said he had struggled all weekend long, found his rhythm when it counted and bumped Lagana from the eight-car lineup with a 4.779-second run at 305.29 mph. Lagana had to shut off his engine early, so his 4.809/313.29 performance in his last attempt wasn't enough.
Most recent winner T.J. Zizzo, victorious at Martin, Michigan, had committed earlier in the season to racing this weekend at the World Series of Drag Racing at Cordova (Ill.) Dragway Park.
Rockingham winner Cory McClenathan, whose track speed record fell Friday night to Hillary Will, isn't here to see if he can improve his runner-up finish here last year. He and his Carrier Boyz/FRAM Boost team are staying in Indianapolis after this past week's test session to concentrate on being ready for the NHRA's U.S. Nationals.
Not in show -- Missing the cut besides Bobby Lagana were Chris Karamesines and Bob Leverich.
Time and cash to spare? -- This weekend, No. 1 qualifier J.R. Todd is racing for money, but this coming Wednesday he'll be bowling for dollars. He has enlisted some of his fellow NHRA drivers and has invited fans to participate in his bowling tournament to benefit RFC/Racers For Christ.
The event will be at Sunset Bowl, 10809 E. U.S. Highway 136 (Crawfordsville Road), in Clermont, Indiana. A silent auction – featuring a special Chip Foose Mac Tools tool box, drag-racing items and sporting-event tickets – also will take place. There is a minimum $5 donation to attend. Doors will open at 6:45 p.m.
Todd said his interest in bowling began when he was 14 and “looking for something to do." Although he said he “wasn’t really serious about it -- I just wanted something to do when I wasn't drag racing," he has a 180-190 average.
“I’ll occasionally get some of the guys from other teams together and we’ll go bowling,” Todd said. Helping him raise money Wednesday for Racers for Christ will be Top Fuel driver Morgan Lucas, Funny Car drivers Del Worsham and Phil Burkhart , and several of their crew members.
Racers For Christ is the NHRA counterpart of Godspeed Ministry.
NITRO FUNNY CAR
Swinging for the fences -- No. 1 qualifier Bob Gilbertson must record an elapsed time of 4.848 seconds or better by the end of Sunday if his 4.800 is to count as a national record.
Gilbertson, who also was top qualifier at Rockingham in the second race of the season, set the track E.T. mark in the final run of the night Saturday.
“I told the team we just need to run 4.82, but this thing is a fast hot rod, thanks to Autolite, Prestone and everybody," Gilbertson said.
"I feel good, but I’m a little bummed out," he said. "We had a plan, but it just fell apart because we ran too quick. I know it sounds kind of crazy, but since we missed a race, we figured we could use the extra points for a national record, but the way we calculated it, we went too quick to back it up.”
Gilbertson also set the top speed of the event so far at 318.39 mph.
Oh, what a feeling . . . Toyota -- Fans who watched NHRA testing at Indianapolis and qualifying this weekend at Norwalk Raceway Park got a peek at the Toyota Solara body on Scott Kalitta's car. But it will be awhile before they see it again.
During qualifying for Sunday's competitive debut of the Solara, the previously unqualified Kalitta made the field in Saturday's first session, improving to the No. 4 position with a 4.965-second elapsed time at 314.24 mph. His speed was second-best. He had ended the first day ranked ninth on the list for the eight-car field after losing traction early.
The ugly news, though, was that his car sailed off the top end of the track when the parachutes fell out but failed to deploy. The Toyota body suffered considerable damage, and the Kalitta Air crew was forced to revert to the Chevy Monte Carlo body in the final qualifying session.
Kalitta was safely in the field with his 4.965-second E.T. from the middle session, but he couldn't improve Saturday night.
Co-crew chief Mike Criss said late Saturday that the accident "cracked it above the wheel well on the left-hand side and it got into where the body latch goes through and pushed it over and then got down by where the headlight would be." He said he couldn't predict if the body will be repaired before this next weekend's NHRA marquee race, the Mac Tools U.S. Nationals at Indianapolis.
"We're going to take it back [to the team headquarters in Ypsilanti, Michigan] because Roush is 45 minutes from where we are," Criss said. "We're going to take it back and strip all the tin out of it and give it back to them. I don't know when we'll get it back."
Kalitta is qualified fourth. His first-round opponent is No. 8 Andy Kelley.
Blessing in disguise -- Losing his RaceGirl sponsorship in May turned out to be a blessing in disguise for veteran driver Jack Wyatt.
He didn't slink away and let his racing dreams die. Fortunately, the newly formed Torco Racing Fuels Pro Nitro Funny Car class in IHRA competition came along at the perfect time. It suited Wyatt's budget and offered him a place to race.
"I really appreciate that Evan Knoll of Torco Racing Fuels put up the money for the creation of the Pro Nitro Funny Car class. He made it possible for us to race again," Wyatt said.
The Corydon, Iowa, native did more than just show up. He won at Rockingham, North Carolina, and Martin, Michigan, and was runner-up at Edmonton. And he's second in the standings, just 16 points behind Dale Creasy Jr.
Wyatt opened qualifying for these Skull Shine World Nationals by taking the provisional No. 2 spot and held onto it through two qualifying sessions Saturday. He'll start his march toward a third victory against No. 6 Paul Lee.
"I'm really glad that when the chips were down, I was able to make something out of it," Wyatt said. "I'm tickled to be doing so well in IHRA. We're not hurting parts, and we're getting a little luck. It doesn't get any better than this.
"If I hadn't lost RaceGirl, I wouldn't have moved to IHRA," he said, "and I would have missed so much. It's given me a second chance. I feel like I started my career all over again. The IHRA is a great organization. Everyone has a positive attitude and open mind and are great people to be around. I'm having fun again."
Out looking in -- DNQs went to Terry Haddock (who missed the field by one-hundredth of a second), Todd Simpson, and Gary Cooper.
Boom! -- Paul Lee's Rislone Engine Treatment crew will have to work hard overnight on his Chevy Monte Carlo. The engine exploded as Lee stepped on the throttle to make his final qualifying attempt. The blast lifted the body off the chassis and caused a fireball underneath.
Rough Road to Glory – Tony Pontieri deserved his career first IHRA Pro Modified pole position. The veteran doorslammer driver from Toronto, Ontario, Canada, has overcome fires, crashes and lack of sponsorship throughout the course of his career. Tonight he put on a clinic on how to overcome adversity.
Under the stars at Norwalk Raceway Park Pontieri established a career-best markof 6.122-seconds at 234.41mph.
Pontieri’s determination has led him through a serious fire (driving Dave
Persico’s Camaro) during his early years. It inspired him after crashing a Pro
Modified car in 2005 and tonight when he entered the final session as the 21st
Strange Bedfellows – When you have 40 cars attempting to make a 16-car field, you’re bound to have some "hitters" on the outside looking in.
Points leader Glen Kerunsky could only manage the 25th quickest run of the weekend. Two of this year’s shootout competitors, Scott Cannon and Steve Bareman, couldn’t crack the 6.223 bubble.
Only four of the top ten points earners for the 2007 Torco’s
CompetitionPlus.com Pro Modified Shootout (points started in Martin) made the
final eliminations field.
Better than a Quick Eight – During the final qualifying
session, Alan Pittman (who qualified fifth) and Jim Halsey (fourth) accounted
for one of the finest eighth-mile matches of the weekend thus far. Pittman
reaching the mark first by a 4.010 to 4.013 margin.
Yep. He’s Back – Rob Mansfield made a profound statement during the final session of qualifying as he snatched the top spot away from Robert Patrick. Mansfield drove his Wilson Manifolds entry to a 6.434 at an impressive 217.00 miles per hour.
Mansfield drove the Chevrolet Cobalt - powered by NASCAR engine builder Ron
Hutter - to the top spot for the first time since taking a break from the tour
early in the 2005 season.
One race to go – Torco’s CompetitionPlus.com Pro Stock Showdown points earners will have only one more race to accrue positions for the $20,000-to-win event in Budds Creek, Md. The last chance will come in Epping, NH., in two weeks time.
Robert Patrick will most likely conclude as the top seed barring a misfortune at Epping. He is trailed by Frank Gugliotta, who has sewn up a second-best effort at worst. John Nobile shaved eight points off of third place runner Steve Spiess following tonight’s final qualifying.
The real battle will be at eighth position. By virtue of his top spot, low
qualifier Mansfield unofficially passed Jerry Haas with ten points to spare.
Welcome Back - Rickie Smith missed the qualified
field by only .006 in his first IHRA Pro Stock event since the early 1990s.
FRIDAY EVENT NOTEOOK
Light in the darkness -- Hillary Will shone brightest on a track that was the darkest she has encountered this year.
"The track's in great condition," the provisional No. 1 qualifier said after leading the field in the first day of qualifying with a 4.643-second performance that included the track speed record of 322.11 mph. But Will, who drives the KB Racing LLC-owned, Kalitta Motorsports dragster, added, "It's a little dark. I couldn't find the finish line, but that's all right. The car stayed straight. It was a good race against J.R. [Todd]."
She and the driver of the Dexter Tuttle-owned Torco/Skull Shine Dragster were paired, and Todd was just two-thousandths of a second slower, at 4.645 seconds. He has the provisional No. 2 spot. They were the only drivers in the 4.6-second range; No. 3 Clay Millican posted a 4.653, four-hundredths of a second quicker than fourth-place Doug Foley.
"After that race," Will said, "I went up to him and I was like, 'Did you not see the finish line?' He was out on me, and his header flames were lighting my way down the track. I saw his go out, and I said, 'I guess I'm across the finish line now.' And so I lifted. I didn't know where it was -- it was so dark. It's all right. It worked out.
"We're having fun here. It has been a lot of work for my guys, because we've been running a week straight," Will said, referring to her runner-up effort in Memphis in NHRA action and the testing at Indianapolis for the U.S. Nationals this week. "The only day that we didn’t run was Thursday, and we traveled here. We were at the track 12-14 hours at Indy both days. They've got to be exhausted, but they're not showing it."
Jim Oberhofer, her crew chief, helped her erase Cory McClenathan's year-old speed mark of 320.66 mph.
Together again -- Where there's a Will, there's a . . . Todd.
Hillary Will and J.R. Todd are competing for Rookie of the Year honors in NHRA competition, and they treated the IHRA fans Friday night to a terrific side-by-side display to take the top two positions with two more sessions remaining.
But the way Will looks at it, "We're both very fortunate that we both got such good rides. I have an awesome team, and it looks like he has an awesome team, too. We're both very fortunate, because last year at this time, neither one of us were driving Top Fuel dragsters. He's cool. We talk and joke around on the side."
He agreed: “I got a lucky break this year. I still work on the car fulltime
back at the shop and help out around the track. But it definitely beats having
to work on it between rounds when you get to drive it.”
Todd, 24, was 18 years old when he drove Bruce Litton’s second dragster in six IHRA races. “I got my Top Fuel license at Norwalk and ran 4.84 (seconds) there," he said. "That was my quickest time until this year." He was second-quickest with a 4.645-second elapsed time at 308.64 mph.
They're baaack -- Scott Griffin, owner of the Serta Dragster that Andrew Cowin drives, said he is happy to be back at the race track -- to build on the momentum from being runner-up at Race No. 2 at Rockingham, North Carolina, and winning at Milan, Michigan.
Griffin said he has put together a board of advisors for his racing organization. Among the members are former Top Fuel standout Darrell Gwynn, from whom he purchased much of his equipment, and Steve Earwood, longtime drag-racing media/marketing/promotion expert and general manager at Rockingham Dragway.
He recently was a guest of Cory McClenathan, the driver who beat Cowin at "The Rock."
Slow but still a 'go' -- Kenny Koretsky/Nitro Fish/Werner Enterprises crew chief Mike Kloeber said he still is optimistic that he and driver Clay Millican will be able later this year to test the modern version of the monostrut wing they have been working on for more than two years. However, he indicated that the window of opportunity is becoming smaller with each week that passes without significant progress on the engineering side.
He said "nothing surprises me" about the seeming snail's pace of the project, given the various elements, contributors, and stages to the process. However, he said he finds himself repeating his mother's advice: "You can do it right or do it twice."
He'll take it -- Some might consider Clay Millican's season a disappointment. But the five-time champion and his Kenny Koretsky/Nitro Fish/Werner Enterprises team has a 37-point advantage over his closest competitor, Doug Foley.
Tough time -- Grand Bend, Ontario, winner Bobby Lagana Jr. is the odd-man-out overnight, ninth and last in the order, unqualified for the eight car field.
NITRO FUNNY CAR
Bagging a bear -- Bob Gilbertson said he and his Prestone/Autolite Dodge Stratus team were "going into Norwalk loaded for bear." And Friday night he not only swiped the provisional No. 1 qualifier position, but he also established the track elapsed-time record at 4.864 seconds. His 318.39-mph clocking also was top speed so far.
"We decided we have a lot of information now with the tire that we've been running -- the legal tire in NHRA," he said. The team, including crew chiefs Nicky Boninfante and Tommy Delago, met with Gilbertson at Memphis a week ago and decided to put the "old tire -- the [Goodyear model] 1430 -- and load some stuff in and go run, because we're done playing around here."
Gilbertson was No. 3 in the NHRA points after the first two races of the season but failed to qualify at the next race and has dropped from the top 10 -- all because that sanctioning body mandated use of the new tire model. So he and his crew used races in both sanctioning bodies to figure out the tire.
"Now it’s time to go back to this [original] tire and go take their money," he said. "These guys work hard, and I want to give them the money. I really do.
"We're thinking we're invincible at this point with this tire," Gilbertson said. "Maybe we are. That's what Tommy's telling me. He has me brainwashed. I'll listen."
'Kind of dark out there' -- Bob Gilbertson said of the lighting at Norwalk Raceway Park, "It's the darkest track I've been on since Pocatello, Idaho, in 1977. And they didn't have any lights."
"I drove this thing 338 miles an hour when I shut it off in 5.2 seconds. I didn't know where I was. The guy in the cornfield down there, he had his flashlight [waving to indicate the turnout]. Then he ran. I'm like, 'Oooh. That guy's scared.' He actually ran.
"I was on the full 'chutes out, on the brakes, as hard as I could pull it," he said, "and I survived. Everything was cool. I got out and said, 'Man, it was kind of dark out there.' They have no finish line -- at all. There's nothing there. Let's put us a cattle crossing or a white stripe or something. I couldn't see the cones. Nothing. I would have run them over, just to know I hit 'em, just to know that's the finish line."
Strong top 5 -- Gilbertson entered Saturday's final two sessions of qualifying as the No. 1 driver. Although he has led the standings, he hasn't won a race. However, the tentative Nos. 2, 3, and 4 in the lineup -- Jack Wyatt, Gary Densham, and Dale Creasy Jr. -- all are two-time winners this season.
Ouch -- Vinnie Arcadi entered the event in fourth place in the standings. But his engine explosion, which caused a lengthy clean-up, cost him 15 points. A repeat would dock him 20 more points and $300, according to IHRA rules.
Making a Statement – It may not have been a record field of Pro Modified entries but 40 is a stout number by any standards. Including this weekend, the last two evens have attracted a minimum of 40 cars.
With a Heavy Heart – Harold Martin is racing inspired this weekend. His father and best friend, Huston Martin, didn’t make the journey to Norwalk Raceway Park following a recent mild heart attack.
Martin has experienced a strong outpouring of support from the racing community.
“My father had some health issues that required surgery last week that will
prevent him from joining us this weekend. He had a short stay in the hospital,
but fortunately, he is now back home recuperating and doing extremely well.
“I really appreciate the outpouring of support from our fans and fellow competitors, who have quite literally flooded us with e-mails and phone calls to express their concern and well wishes. I know I speak on behalf of myself and many fans in saying that he will be sadly missed this weekend, but the good news is that the doctor has given him a clean bill of health, and he will be back out there with us soon. In the meantime, there would be nothing more special than for me to be able to win this race for ACDelco as well as my dad, who was so instrumental in making this dream possible.”
Martin has traditionally enjoyed a strong qualifying record at Norwalk Raceway Park. In his last three races at the Ohio quarter-mile, Martin scored two starts in the top half of the field highlighted by his second starting position in 2004, and two quarterfinal finishes.
Martin is currently #16 with a 6.274, 227.23.
What comes around – Mike Bell found out today just how quick fortunes can change in this class. In Milan, Michigan, he missed qualifying. One race later in Martin, he qualified on the pole position and snagged the early lead in the Torco’s CompetitionPlus Pro Modified Shootout points standing.
Tonight, however, Bell was only able to muster first alternate status with a 6.321.
Happy Birthday – Karen Rector, wife of Danny Rowe tuner Jimmy Rector, is celebrating her birthday.
Qualifying Master - Robert Patrick only knows one speed in his new Purvis Ford-sponsored 2007 Shelby Mustang GT – fast. The veteran Torco’s CompetitionPlus.com Pro Stock driver continued the same torrid pace during Friday’s qualifying that has him atop the leader-board of point earners for the Pro Stock Showdown.
Patrick pushed his sleek machine to a 6.467, 213.03 to put him nearly .02 ahead of second-place qualifier Frank Gugliotta. With only two races remaining to gather points for the $20,000-to-win Torco’s CompetitionPlus.com Pro Stock Showdown, Patrick likes his chances.
“It shows that we have really have been on our game in qualifying,” Patrick said. “Now, if we could only pull that kind of success into eliminations day.
“We feel good about where we are at today. I think if we go into Maryland leading the points, it will go a long way for us. We’ll get lane choice and that will be very important for us. I’d like to win the race because it would clearly make up for any shortcomings.”
Tricky for Rickie – Once upon a time “Tricky” Rickie Smith ran a Ford in IHRA Pro Stock and won a lot of races. He was joined at the hip with engine builder Sonny Leonard in an effort that netted six Pro Stock world championships.
Long live the Boss 429…the venerable shotgun Ford.
“It’s been a while,” Smith admitted, following his first qualifying attempt after a decade absence from the class he once dominated unmercifully. “We’re glad to be back. The air was tough to deal with tonight. I think we missed the tune-up. The clutch was right on. The car just wouldn’t run on the other end.
“I told Sonny that we could run .04 to .06 better. If we could have run a .52…we would be set right now.”
Smith waxed a bit nostalgic after the run.
“Sonny and I last worked together in 1987,” Smith said. “This is the first time I have pulled the plugs on a Hemi since 1988.”
Smith would love to have a time machine to return to the glory days, but for now he’s content to pay his dues again.
“I told all of our guys this is going to be tough,” Smith said. “I knew it wouldn’t be easy. We’ll keep getting after it and we should be fine.”
Smith might use that time machine to snatch his old nemesis Warren Johnson for a reunion of their classic battles.
“<whistles>… that would be the old days,” Smith said.
Smith is currently 18 th with a 6.578 best.
Loving My New Car – Pete Berner felt a slight bit of remorse abandoning his longtime Ford combination headed into this season and going with General Motors. Three races later, he was wondering why he waited so long.
Berner has already reached as many final rounds this season as he did in the last two. He’s also equaled his win total.
“This car has been a beast,” Berner said, of his car which ironically carries an engine nicknamed Kong. “It just runs and feels good and we have certainly made great gains with this car. I’m certain there’s more left in it at well.”
Berner is currently in the top eight point earners for the $20,000-to-win Torco’s CompetitionPlus.com Pro Stock Showdown. Tonight, he was fourth with a 6.492, 213.64.