0'REILLY NHRA FALLNATIONALS - Pro Modified Notebook
FINAL - Shelly Payne joins hubby Jay as AMS Staff Leasing Pro Mod Challenge champ
Former Top Fuel world record holder Shelly Payne got her first AMS Staff Leasing Pro Mod Challenge win with a final-round victory over Troy Critchley at the O'Reilly NHRA Fall Nationals in Dallas. Husband Jay Payne may have been the pre-race favorite and track record holder, but Shelly beat him in a wild second round and went on to eliminated defending event champ Thomas Patterson in the semifinals and Critchley in the final for her first victory since she won Top Fuel at the 1996 Northwest Nationals in Seattle.
"We're incredibly happy," Payne said. "This means as much as any of my other wins, for me, for my dad, for all of us."
She got a slight jump on Critchley at the line in the final and pulled away to win with a 6.09, her best run all weekend. Critchley, driving the AMS flagship '70 Barracuda, slowed from a 6.09 in the semifinals to a 6.17 and absorbed his sixth loss in six career AMS Staff Leasing Pro Mod Challenge finals.
In round two, Shelly beat husband Jay in an all-Valvoline matchup with a slowing 7.91 at just 89 mph against his squirrelly 10.34. Both absolutely killed the tree, Shelly with a .013 reaction time and Jay with a .002 – by far the two best reaction times of the entire event.
The loss could have been a crushing blow to Jay's championship hopes, but the other AMS Staff Leasing Pro Mod Challenge title contenders, Joey Martin and U.S. Nationals champ Joshua Hernandez, also fell in that round. Hernandez, who was knocking on the door to the fives and 240 mph with a first-round 6.01 at 239, slowed to a 7.28 in round two and fell to Kirk Kuhns' 6.31, 221. Martin made the best run of the round by more than two-tenths of a second, 6.07, but voided it with a close -.003 red-light against Patterson.
Payne and Martin remain neck and neck for the series championship, but outside shot Hernandez now finds himself with just two races left to overtake them, the Virginia Nationals in Richmond Oct. 6-8 and the ACDelco Las Vegas Nationals Oct. 26-29.
SHELLY PAYNE IS FIRST FEMALE TO WIN
PRO MODIFIED NATIONAL EVENT
Shelly Payne has driven everything from a Top Alcohol Dragster to a Top Fueler but a Pro Modified doorslammer has proven to be a formidable challenge. This weekend she effectively broke down the barriers to become the first female champion in the five-year history of NHRA AMS Pro Modified.
Payne defeated a formidable list of challengers that included Mike Bell, her husband Jay Payne and Thomas Patterson before getting the best of Troy Critchley in the final round.
Alternate Charm – Kirk Kuhns had desired for a better weekend during his homecoming; however, he could not make the 16 car field. In a twist of fate, another competitor suffered engine damage and couldn’t make the turn around before round one of competition. Kuhns was ready and willing to race as the first alternate. Although Kuhns got the win light at the end of the race, it wasn’t the way the team likes to win. Unbeknown to Kuhns at the time, Chip King suffered an accident on the track just feet behind Kuhns.
“I didn’t know anything happened,” said Kuhns. “I had seen him right along beside me, and then I saw him fall back. Luckily, our car picked-up and went 6.29, 225 MPH, so it was the first good run on the car. We are finally starting to get power out of it. Tomorrow, I think we can make a few adjustments and be in the teens.”
Oh the suspense continues – Troy Critchley, driver of the AMS Staff Leasing Hemi Cuda is once again just happy to be in the show. After two failed attempts to make the cut, Critchley had only one shot to get in.
“We plan it that way, we like the suspense really,” joked Critchley. “No, we’re just beating on the car and still learning it. I think we might have figured something out. We lost a spark plug in that last run, so that is why we didn’t run any mile per hour. 3.4 seconds in the run, we lost the number one plug. So, we fixed it up and we’ll see how it runs tomorrow. But, yeah it went pretty heavy, so AMS Racing had a good day. Josh’s .01 – that’s awesome. Both cars are through to the next round, so we’ll see how it goes.”
Hey, hey I’m the monkey – Josh Hernandez caught the attention of fans and drivers alike during the first round of eliminations. Running a very quick 6.01, Hernandez feels he can’t take the credit.
“I’m just the monkey that pushes the buttons,” said Hernandez. “It felt great. To run a number a like that, I wasn’t even expecting it. We go first round just trying to get a win light, so to put a number like that on the board is rewarding. I’ve got to do my team proud because have worked very hard this weekend getting the car running. We always want to win in Houston and especially here for everybody at AMS Staff Leasing and GetWorkComp.com. We brought our A game and try to do the best we can.”
Oops, I did it again – Some might say Chip King should be nicknamed Crash King. After a nasty spill earlier in the year with his green Daytona, King did it again during this weekends NHRA O’Reilly Fall Nationals when he stuffed his Avenger during round one of eliminations.
King emerged with some bruises and an extremely stiff neck. He was not wearing a Han’s device at the time of the crash.
“It left the starting line really strong, I had a good light, and I was way out in front. When I went in second gear it started spinning the tires and shot left, glanced off the left wall. I don’t know if the throttle hung or if my foot bounced off it, but it made a hard right head on into the wall. The computer said a -5 G’s on impact into the wall.”
King reports just being sore, and is doubtful of his race return until at least after the next AMS / RPM Depot Pro Mod Challenge in Richmond, Virginia. He did add that Top Fuel team owner Scott Griffin is providing a Han’s device.
Kaboom – Despite a promising start, newcomer Matt Hagen has stumbled upon some mechanical issues his last few races. The struggles didn’t end here in Dallas, when Hagen blew-up his motor during the third and final qualifying session.
“Unfortunately, we did have to sit out that last round,” said Hagen. “We were on a good run that last pass that last qualifying session, the car felt good, and it looks like we dropped a valve. It looks like we’ve got some issues with some valves here lately. We had some issues with it earlier in the year, but we’ll get it straightened out. Unfortunately, we had to sit it out. We’re sorry to see that Chip [King] had some problems hitting the well, but I guess we would have been right there beside him if we had made the round. Who knows what could have happened. I guess they say everything happens for a reason, and we’ll just take it with that and move on.”
It was earlier reported by Torco’s CompeitionPlus.com, that Hagen had abruptly made some crew changes at the last IHRA race in Epping, NH.
According to Hagen, “We’re definitely down on help. I think if he had two more guys we could have made first round, but that’s part of it. We’re just not going to continue to do things the way they were getting done, and do stuff like that. Basically, we’re just changing things up and it’s for the better. Obviously, this weekend didn’t show it, but we’re still ironing out all the problems. We’re getting there – just keep working at it, keep letting the clutch out and see what happens.”
I’ve got more than Chuck Ford – Regardless of how well Joey Martin runs his typical answer to everyone is “Hey, we’ve got Chuck Ford,” but this weekend Martin decided to give the fans a better explanation on his outstanding runs this weekend.
According to the soft-spoken Martin, “We love the hot weather. I guess that is why we were No. 1 all three rounds. [The points race] is motivator for the entire team. That is what we are out for is another championship. We have to carry on the legacy and make it three years in a row.”
I’m baaaack – After sitting out a majority of the race season, successful veteran Kirk Kuhns has returned to NHRA Pro Mod competition.
“We’ve been putting a new car together and trying to get the bugs worked out of it,” said Kuhns. “We’re trying a new PSI blower and we’ve been having a few problems here and there. We just figured we weren’t going to come out and run until we had it running right. We’re still struggling a little bit; we don’t have the power right now.”
Although Kuhns has not raced much lately, he did make a trip to an IHRA race just a month ago. After a weekend of mechanical problems, Kuhns had to sit out Indy and re-group for this weekend’s race.
Kuhns went on to comment, “We blew a couple of head gaskets out of two motors and we went back to the shop and checked out stuff. The compression was higher then what we figured. We came back and lowered the compression and came here to Dallas to have a good track and figure things out. The car is running real well; we’re just having power issues.”
Keeping the momentum alive – NHRA Pro Mod rookie Travis Swearingen is competing this weekend for only the second time. After struggling with his “Junk Yard Willys” the first part of the season, the new team feels they have things lined-out and is giving it another try. Just coming off a big weekend at the ADRL race in Rockingham where Swearingen raced his career best on the 1/8 mile, he is hoping to keep the ball rolling. “I’ve been running the outlaw stuff and we were invited to this, so we put some weight in the car and we’re trying something different,” said Swearingen. “We ran a .41; not real good, but it got down [the track], and we’ve got something to work with tomorrow. [The weather tomorrow] will help us out a lot. The air wasn’t too good today, so it should help us out.”
Oh what a ride – Chip King has quickly become a fan favorite in the world of Pro Mod racing. With his signature green cars and tendency to put on a good show, the fans we not disappointed today. Running very well in the first round of qualifying, King was one of the quickest of the session. Running a .20, King wanted to step things up for the second round despite the tricky weather conditions. In typical Pro Mod fashion, King got way out of shape during his run, but remained in it and recovered. In a squirrelly pass all the way down the ¼ mile, King was determined to get from point A to B.
“Well actually the first round it moved around a little bit too,” said King. “The lateral D meter showed a -6 and +4 left to right the whole run, so it was really skating the first run. We stepped it up for the second run and it wheelstood a little too much and moved around a little too much. We just wanted to put it down the track. [The fans] want to see both sides of the car from the starting line to the finish line.”
Sponsor spotlight – Dallas is home to Dave Wood and his business, AMS Staff Leasing, who has been the long-time financial backer to the AMS Pro Mod Challenge. Racing his two car team of Josh Hernandez and the Dr. Moon’s Rage Camaro, and Troy Critchley in his Hemi Cuda, Wood wants to show the local crowd what his teams and series is all about. “The Camaro, the Rage car, is doing very well this weekend,” said Wood. “We are still having problems with the Cuda, but one more, as the saying goes, we have one more shot at it. The Cuda has been doing pretty good on the final bonsai run. I think we’ll get there. We’re just trying to figure out what we need to do at the top of first gear. We’re just a little disappointed there, but we have the Camaro, so it’s good.”
Wood went on to comment, “It’s a great crowd. Just a little warm, but it’s going to cool off a little bit hopefully and we’ll get into a little cooler weather tomorrow. I think the track conditions look really good, and there are lots of fans. It’s a good field. A lot of really good cars are here, so it’s not going to be easy to get in. Whoever wins this one is really going to earn it.”
After releasing a public statement just a few weeks ago on the state of the series, many have wondered if there is even going to be a NHRA Pro Mod series in 2007. Wood wanted to let everyone know his optimism for next year and beyond.
“I’ve been doing this for a number of years,” stated Wood. “There are some other people that need to get involved, I don’t know who they are, but they are out there. This is a great class. I just want to see some new blood out there and get things going so it goes another five or six years. I think it’s going to happen, but I want to make sure everybody understands [the situation] and I want to tell everybody before hand. This is a passion for me and I love drag racing. There just needs to be more people involved. I don’t want to drag this out to the very end. It’s just a public notice. Matthew [Brammer] is working on some great prospects, we just have to get their name on the dotted line.”