For past Top Alcohol Dragster champion Chris Demke, the second half of the 2016 season will not go into the scrapbook of happy memories.

After solid performances in their first six national events, the Maddern Racing team had a setback after a round one crash at the divisional race in Seattle last August. Except for a final round appearance in Reading, the team failed the reach the semi-finals at five of the last six national events in which they competed.

“We were happy with the early performance,” said crew chief, Kevin Watson.

Demke and Watson did not pinpoint their struggles to one particular issue, “It was an equal mix of driver failure, tune-up failure, and parts failure,” Demke added.

Watson confirmed the combination of a worn-out car and lackluster parts contributed to the struggles.

Their second-half slump was also credited with the inability to study the mid-season crash.

“We were in a hurry,” Demke said. “Going from event to event, trying to figure out where we were lacking, without having a good chance to analyze what was happening. We did what we could to finish off the season, and we’re now prepared to regroup for 2017.” The time during the off-season allowed the team to do so.

New changes have put the team in a positive mindset going into the upcoming season. According to Watson, the changes to the chassis is most likely to affect their performance.

“I think the most significant [change] is the fact that we put a new front half and a new body on the car,” Watson said, “I’m hoping that parlays into something, as far as performance-wise, should give us a little bit of an advantage.” Watson included assessing their inventory and getting their parts and pieces together was important to try to regain the consistent performance of their old car.

In explaining the team’s main objective for 2017, Watson explained their goal remains the same; to take the season one race at a time.

“Try to win the first one, and see how that works,” Watson said. With this focus, Watson confirmed their primary goal is to have a good time.

“We like having fun,” Demke agreed. “Winning is fun, so we try to win as much as we can.”

Demke has not won a national event since Chicago in 2015.

After finishing fifth in the national points in 2016, Demke and the team hope to end their national event winless streak with a victory at the Winternationals. Demke has reached the final round of the season-opening event five times, winning four times. It was also home to Demke’s first national event win in 2010.