The New Deal - Veteran Funny Car driver Cory Lee parked his car after the finals last season and had no testing over the winter as a result. He managed to land a deal with Pantera International prior to Pomona.
Lee explained, " We haven't touched this car since the finals last November, but we have an extremely tight team unit which helps us gain valuable data to make the car run consistent. We feel we can run this car in the low 80's and not hurt anything, and this car is capable of low 70's. We are just happy to be here at Pomona, and hope we can extend our sponsor relationship beyond this race."
Lee qualified as high as second before the rains washed out qualifying last week, " We really tried to set it up to run between a 4.88 to a 4.92, so we were very pleased to see a 4.84 on the scoreboard. The crew was elated." I also want to thank David and Linda Adler whom I have been friends for many years for helping me put this deal together for this race. We hope to keep this going for the entire season."
The official website for Pantara International is located at www.pantera.net.
Captain Calamity - “We had a malfunction in the bell housing,” explained Wilkerson “so it didn’t put much load on the clutch and dropped a cylinder. Then the blower belt fell off. Belts don’t like that seven-cylinder stuff." - Tim Wilkerson
Fishy Smile - The 2004 NHRA POWERade Series is only one day old and Kenny Koretsky already believes this could be the start of something big.
Koretsky, a businessman/racer from Richboro, Pa., was in seventh position when a winter rain storm turned Southern California soggy last weekend, putting a damper on the opening weekend's K&N Filters Winternationals at Pomona Raceway after one qualifying session and forcing a one-week postponement.
Confident feelings haven't always been Koretsky's companions this early in many of his previous seasons. But there he is, 13 places ahead of two-time Pro Stock Jeg Coughlin Jr.; 21 in front of Kurt Johnson, the 2004 runner-up; and light years ahead of where he usually found himself when the Winternationals launched previous drag racing campaigns.
"We aren't surprised to be No. 7 after our first run," Koretsky said after the 6.799-second effort at 203.12 mph. It's part of the confidence he has driving his Nitro Fish Apparel Dodge Stratus RT Pro Stock entry with Larry Morgan supplying the engines.
Koretsky has done one thing in drag racing no one else has - he qualified his Top Fuel dragster and his Pro Stock racecar in the same race at Phoenix in 1990. He won the first round in both cars. NHRA later passed a rule that one driver could not qualify more than one car at an event.
The Full Montes - Tommy Johnson Jr., who clocked a run of 4.930 at 295.21 last Thursday, is the eighth quickest of the 23 Funny Cars attempting to qualify for Sunday’s 16-car field and the quicker of the two Monte Carlos. Johnson earned his last No. 1 qualifying spot at the 2001 Winternationals.
“The most encouraging thing is the speed,” Johnson said. “It ran 318-mph and I shut off early. Now we can get after it tomorrow. We’ve got our feet on the ground and we can go for it.”
The Brothers Pedregon - They may be two separate teams, but they appear to be on the same level. The two are seperated by a little over .01 of a second.
Added Cruz, “We’re trying hard to make
both my car and Tony’s car setup the same and run identical
times, we were four-hundredths from each other last week and that's
where we are after today’s session. I’d say we’re
doing a pretty good job at setting up the cars. It’s always
good when plans actually go the way you want them too.”
Anderson still tops - After two rounds of time trials for the 44th NHRA Winternationals, Pontiac's Greg Anderson sits atop the Pro Stock qualifying ladder at Pomona Raceway with a track-record elapsed time of 6.730 seconds at 204.57 mph.
The defending POWERade champion is looking to extend a streak of five consecutive races dating back to last September's Car Quest Nationals in Joliet, Ill., in which he's posted the top qualifying elapsed time. It was also at this event last year that the North Carolina resident posted his worst qualifying effort of the season when he started from the No. 9 position.
"After the rain and the delay we're extremely happy to come back and make a run like that," said Anderson. "With two additional runs on Saturday, the pack will tighten up and it will end up being very, very close at the top. It didn't feel like it was that good of a run though, but looking at our 60-foot times, our Pontiac Grand Am was quicker this week than it was last Thursday. I still feel there's room for improvement. At least we're sitting on top for the next 24 hours."
Anderson's teammate, Jason Line, has the KB Framers Pontiac Grand Am qualified in the No. 2 position with a run of 6.756 seconds at 204.60 mph.
"I'm really happier about that than I am about my own car," said Anderson. "I was watching Jason going down the track and it looked like a pretty run. There was no tire shake and the car went straight as an arrow. I know what kind of horsepower Jason's Pontiac has, and when it makes a clean run it's going to be fast, as fast as my car.
WJ tests and emerges pleased - There were two schools of thought among the professional racers in Pomona, CA following the postponement of last weekend's NHRA Winternationals. Some, feeling the inclement weather would stay on the West Coast and prevent any on-track testing in either Phoenix or Las Vegas, flew home to work at their respective shops. Others, believing the rain would continue eastward, headed to various drag strips and prepared to fine-tune their machines.
Warren Johnson and the GM Performance Parts Grand Am Racing team were among the latter group, heading to the Speedworld Motorplex in Phoenix, AZ. It proved to be the right choice, as Johnson and crew were able to get in a productive few days, culminating with a best elapsed time of 6.849 seconds and a top speed of 202.91 mph. This left "The Professor", who sat third after the lone qualifying session a week ago, feeling even better prepared heading into the resumption of the POWERade Drag Racing season opener.
After posting the third quickest time on his opening attempt last Thursday, Johnson looked to climb higher in the standings on Friday. Although his 6.817-second, 202.73 mph pass was among the quickest in the less-preferred right lane, WJ's run of record remained his 6.781-second, 204.23 mph effort from a week ago.
SATURDAY - Rain postpones NHRA Winternationals until next week
(2-21-2004) - Persistent rains and a large green mass moving across the radar screen was enough to convince NHRA officials to postpone the Winternationals for a week. Much of the day went by in anticipation of rain and a light "spitting of rain." At 2 PM, the skies officially opened up bringing about a cancellation of the event.
Action will resume next Friday with a single qualifying session, with two scheduled for Saturday. Eliminations will take place on Sunday.
The last time the event was cancelled due to rain was in 1990.
FRIDAY - RAIN POSTPONES RACING AT K&N FILTERS WINTERNATIONALS
(2-20-2004) – Consistent rain showers postponed racing Friday at the 44th annual K&N Filters Winternationals at Pomona Raceway.
The race is the first of 23 events in the $50 million NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series. Racing is scheduled to continue Saturday, with professional sessions at 11:30 a.m. and 2:30 p.m.
One professional session was held Thursday. Tony Schumacher, Eric Medlen and Greg Anderson qualified in the No. 1 positions of their respective categories after the first of four scheduled qualifying runs.
Schumacher drove his U.S. Army dragster to the provisional No. 1 spot in the Top Fuel category with a 4.514-second run at 326.32.
Medlen made his professional Funny Car debut and took his Ford Mustang to the top spot with a 4.840 at 319.07.
Anderson, the 2003 NHRA POWERade Pro Stock champion, paced the Pro Stock group with a 6.743 at 205.19 in a Pontiac Grand Am.
FRIDAY NOTES - Rain, Rain, Go Away...
(2-20-2004) - Rain Stinks, and so do oildowns - With the threat of rain looming, the NHRA began its alcohol classes at Noon. With the combination of rain and extensive oildowns, two hours later was a healthy contingent of Top AQlcohol Dragsters left. We are currently down in rain-delay mode.
Eckman staying busy – Former NHRA Pro Stock racer Jerry Eckman and Kenny Koretsky are working together this year. Eckman still has aspirations of one day driving a Pro Stocker. Until then, he’ll be content helping to tune the NitroFish-sponsored Mopar of Koretsky. Here’s an FYI – the car that Koretsky is driving is the same one that Bob Glidden piloted last year at the finals. It’s no big secret that Morgan would love Glidden to return to competition as a driver.
A shining slick example – On the very first run for Cory McClenathan at the NHRA Winternationals, a small oil leak provided the veteran driver with the honor of being the first driver to put oil on the track in the Top Fuel ranks. McClenathan, who is driving the Carrier Boyz dragster, added, “We were made an example of. We gave them a reason. We have very minimal leakage, but certainly nothing worthy of getting shut-off.”
Keep on Snapping On - Snap-on Tools today announced
an expansion of
The Light Is On, But is it home? – One of the interesting new associate sponsorships in the pits is on Peter Lehman’s 104+ Octane Boost dragster driven by Clay Millican. Motel 6 was seen prominently on the side of the dragster. Considering that Motel 6 is a sponsor of the NHRA, could this be a move aimed at getting Millican at more NHRA events?
New POWERade Promotion – POWERade is featuring a new program in 2004 that showcases the NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series and gives NHRA fans a chance to get into the action. The POWERade promotion, titled “Ride in a Dragster,” allows consumers to win a variety of prizes, including a trip in a two-seat dragster at the NHRA Finals at Pomona Raceway in November. Each bottle cap on the special 32-ounce NHRA flavor of POWERade contains a message, “You Win” or “Refuel – Play NHRA Game Again.”
The game begins Feb. 19 during the season-opening NHRA Winternationals at Pomona and closes April 30.
The four grand prize winners receive an all-expense paid trip to
the NHRA Finals in November. The winners will be recognized as VIP
guests of POWERade.
THURSDAY - SCHUMACHER, MEDLEN AND ANDERSON LEAD AFTER FIRST DAY OF K&N FILTERS WINTERNATIONALS
(2-19-2004) - Tony Schumacher drove the U.S. Army dragster to the top of the qualifying order Thursday at the season-opening K&N Filters Winternationals at Pomona Raceway.
Eric Medlen and Greg Anderson also were the leaders of their respective categories at the $2 million race, the first of 23 events in the $50 million NHRA POWERade NHRA Drag Racing Series.
Schumacher, the 1999 Top Fuel champion and a leading contender for the 2004 POWERade crown, covered the quarter-mile drag strip in 4.514 seconds at 326.32 mph to lead the Top Fuel category after the first day of qualifying.
"People keep telling me that we're the front-runners to win the title," Schumacher said. "I tell them, 'Yes, we're good, but so are the Kalittas (Doug and Scott). Darrell Russell is going to be excellent, (Brandon) Bernstein, (Larry) Dixon, he is the two-time champ, the list just goes on. We're in for a heck of a fight all year."
Rookie driver Medlen led the Funny Car order with a 4.840 at 319.07 in the Castrol Syntec Ford Mustang, while his team owner John Force failed to make the starting line-up after the initial qualifying pass. Defending series champ Tony Pedregon qualified eighth behind the wheel of the Quaker State Chevy Camaro in his debut as a team owner, posting a 5.097 at 246.80.
"I don't know what to think," Medlen said. "Force took a chance on a young hick like me and I'm glad I was able to show him I could drive today. He told me, "Good job junior, you saved my life,' and I said, 'That's OK because you made mine.' It's the car, believe me. And the crew chief, my dad (John Medlen) and the guys. It takes all the pressure off me because I know I have a bad ride.
"I've got a lot of learning to do. I'll make plenty of mistakes. I might make one tomorrow. I hope not, but I might. It just helps so much to know I can screw up but still look good because of the team behind me."
Anderson, the defending NHRA POWERade Pro Stock champion, continued his dominant performance of last season when he sped down the track in his Vegas General Construction Pontiac Grand Am in 6.743 at 205.19 to pace the Pro Stock field.
"You never know where you stand until you actually get here to Pomona and run your car down the track. It was a longer offseason than we've had recently, which I was in favor of, so everyone had more time to work on stuff. You do think about the other teams and you wonder what they're up to. Now we all get to see."
Three qualifying sessions remain, including one Friday (2:30 p.m.) and two Saturday (11:30 a.m. and 3 p.m.) and eliminations are set for Sunday at 11 a.m.
Results Thursday after qualifying for the 44th annual K&N Filters Winternationals at Pomona Raceway, first of 23 events in the $50 million NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series. Qualifying will continue Friday for Sunday's final eliminations.
TOP FUEL -- 1. Tony Schumacher, 4.514 seconds, 326.32 mph; 2. Darrell Russell, 4.520, 321.73; 3. Doug Kalitta, 4.530, 323.35; 4. David Grubnic, 4.572, 296.31; 5. Doug Herbert, 4.620, 291.13; 6. Clay Millican, 4.636, 308.07; 7. Larry Dixon, 4.662, 316.82; 8. Brandon Bernstein, 4.696, 311.56; 9. Rhonda Hartman-Smith, 4.703, 288.70; 10. David Baca, 4.723, 307.58; 11. Scott Kalitta, 4.771, 292.96; 12. Scott Weis, 4.806, 291.32; 13. Mike Strasburg, 5.157, 198.90; 14. Bob Hallock, 10.334, 84.03; 15. Steven Chrisman, 11.335, 77.52; 16. Brady Kalivoda, 12.691, 62.66.
FUNNY CAR -- 1. Eric Medlen, Ford Mustang, 4.840, 319.07; 2. Cory Lee, Pontiac Firebird, 4.844, 318.02; 3. Gary Densham, Mustang, 4.847, 321.42; 4. Phil Burkart, Firebird, 4.854, 314.09; 5. Tim Wilkerson, Firebird, 4.907, 305.49; 6. Tommy Johnson Jr., Chevy Monte Carlo, 4.930, 295.21; 7. Cruz Pedregon, Firebird, 5.058, 309.34; 8. Tony Pedregon, Chevy Camaro, 5.097, 246.80; 9. Terry Haddock, Camaro, 5.101, 286.19; 10. Ron Capps, Monte Carlo, 5.136, 228.04; 11. Del Worsham, Firebird, 5.436, 203.86; 12. Whit Bazemore, Dodge Stratus, 5.448, 229.43; 13. Jerry Toliver, Toyota Celica, 5.788, 208.52; 14. Jack Wyatt, Camaro, 6.479, 129.19; 15. Bob Gilbertson, Firebird, 6.979, 124.48; 16. Gary Scelzi, Stratus, 7.624, 107.39.
PRO STOCK -- 1. Greg Anderson, Pontiac Grand Am, 6.743, 205.19; 2. Larry Morgan, Dodge Stratus, 6.765, 204.05; 3. Warren Johnson, Grand Am, 6.781, 204.23; 4. Rickie Smith, Chevy Cavalier, 6.792, 203.68; 5. Jason Line, Grand Am, 6.796, 204.60; 6. Dave Connolly, Cavalier, 6.798, 203.58; 7. Kenny Koretsky, Stratus, 6.799, 203.12; 8. Mark Pawuk, Grand Am, 6.802, 202.67; 9. Mike Edwards, Grand Am, 6.810, 202.61; 10. Bruce Allen, Grand Am, 6.824, 201.88; 11. Mark Whisnant, Cavalier, 6.828, 202.94; 12. Steve Johns, Cavalier, 6.836, 204.14; 13. Allen Johnson, Stratus, 6.836, 201.04; 14. Ron Krisher, Cavalier, 6.841, 202.36; 15. Troy Coughlin, Cavalier, 6.841, 201.94; 16. Jim Yates, Grand Am, 6.843, 202.12.
THURSDAY NOTES - New Oildown penalties, Alderman sidelined and some more notes...
(2-19-2004) - Rookie? I think we've been duped - In his very first day on the job, rookie Funny Car driver Eric Medlin made his boss plenty happy. Medlin went from rookie to polesitter in provisional qualifying with a 4.840, 319.07. The bet floating around the pits is that Medlin won't change his firesuit tonight.
Quote of the Day - I think (Jerry) Toliver hit it once for each blade. - Bob Frey, after Toliver's pedaling qualifying effort in debuting his new Schick Quatro sponsorship.
He's still not changing his stance - Pro Stock World Champion Greg Anderson had many choice words over the offseason about the beadlock wheels. Despite taking the provisional pole on Thursday he uttered, "I still hate those things.
Late start - The first day of qualifying was delayed by almost two hours as track officials tried to dry the top end of the track. Apparently the neighboring airport had drained water from a Wednesday rain and guess where it ran to?
Weather concerns - Thursday began with everyone concerned about the weather, and if it would rain during the weekend. One of the big question marks as far as racing is the new beadlock 16 inch tires made mandatory in Pro Stock. Most of the teams have made the effort to test during the off season to get used to the new combination. Most of the teams crew chiefs, and drivers have commented that getting the right combination has been very tricky. The main probelm they are having seems to be centered around the drive train. The addition of the larger diameter tires, and the added weight have proven to reak havoc on driveline components. The added weight has seen them twisting driveshafts into pretzels, also chewing up rearend gears. Another problem these crew chiefs are facing is getting the right gear ratio in the reared. Testing has helped with getting the equipment problem addressed. The top manufacters of driveline components are currently working on creating stronger more reliable components to help eliminate the problem. The only thing left now is reliability during race conditions.
Funny Business - The 2004 season brings forth the return of former WWF funny car driver Jerry Toliver, who unveiled his new Schick Quattro Toyota flopper. Toliver is teamed with former Top Fuel driver Jim Head, who has returned to funny car after a long stint in Top Fuel. Probably the most exciting event debut at the Winternationals was GM racings official debut of the new Monte Carlo funny car body being run by Don Prudhomme racing by both Ron Capps, and Tommy Johnson Jr. Fred Simmonds brought out all the engineers from Detroit who were involved in the project GM really spent a serious amount of time testing the new Monte Carlo body style. The car spent several sessions in the wind tunnel perfecting the balance on this new creation. The engineers felt with the fact that the Camaro is no longer being built, they had to decide on which new car would fit the mold for funny car racing. The Monte Carlo was the obvious choice. Look for this car to be fast right out of the box.
Assessment of the day - If you can do a good impersination of Bill "Grumpy" Jenkins, then you can do a Connie Kalitta - NHRA announcer Alan Reinhart during Pro Stock qualifying.
King Demon Shootout Moving? - Carburetor wiz Barry Grant confirmed that the King Demon Shootout scheduled for Englishtown will be moving to Chicago. Expect an announcement soon.
Baze staying put - Whit Bazemore has signed a multi-year agreement with Don Schumacher Racing to drive the Matco Tools Iron Eagle Dodge Stratus Funny Car in 2004 and beyond. Bazemore joined Don Schumacher Racing in 2001, and since then has amassed eight wins in 18 final rounds of his career total of 15 in 36 final rounds. Bazemore's crowning achievement with the Schumacher Racing team came just last year, where he led the Funny Car point standings for the first time in his career, took the battle for the title to the penultimate race, and finished ahead of 12-time Funny Car champion John Force in the standings.
"This is my fourth year with Schumacher Racing and actually
the first time I have a contract with Don," said Bazemore,
40, of Indianapolis. "The team has come a long way and has
been competitive from the very first year. Part of being a good
race car driver is putting yourself with the team that enables you
to best accomplish your goals. I think that's what I've done here
with Schumacher Racing and with Matco Tools.
New Oil Down Penalties - Citing their success on reducing oildowns and a trend of returning to an increased amount of downtime, the NHRA announced revisions to their program. For instance, the second violation will be subject to a $500 fine regardless of whether the incident happened during qualifying or eliminations. If the oildown occurs during eliminations, it will also cost a racer 10 points. Lastly it was also announced that the fine would increase by $500 with each infraction.
Multiple infractions at the same event will result in double the posted fine plus 15 points. Three or more at the same event will result in double the fine and a loss of 20 points.
After the sixth the NHRA will review the team's performance and make a determination from that point on.
Alderman on injured reserve, Carlson called up - Sport Compact racer Shaun Carlson got an invitation to the show when Darrell Alderman required additional rest due to an off-season, work-related injury.
"It's an honor to fill in for DA, who's been known for many
years as a great Mopar driver," Carlson said. "My sponsor
Mopar needed help in this situation,
This week, Carlson has been testing with J&J in Las Vegas under
"To be taught by Allen Johnson has been an honor, too,"
Carlson said. "He's
After Pomona, Carlson plans to get right back to working on his
Head's in the Lion's Den - Jim Head will be carrying the sponsorship of Lions Gate Entertainment, a premier independent film entertainment studio. It is the second consecutive year that the company has been a major sponsor on the NHRA racing circuit following a very successful debut as part of the Worsham Racing Team in 2003.
Under terms of the agreement, the Lions Gate Entertainment Toyota Celica Funny Car will display catchy advertisements for various theatrical and DVD titles, beginning at the NHRA K&N Filters Winternationals in Pomona, Calif., Feb. 19-22. It will feature the familiar Terminator 2: Extreme DVD logo. Other films from the company's extensive library of more than 8,000 titles as well as current theatrical releases will be advertised extensively on the car as the racing season rolls on.
Additionally, Lions Gates Entertainment will be a major associate sponsor for racing great Jerry Toliver's Schick Quattro Toyota Celica Funny Car. Lions Gate titles will also be featured on Toliver's car as well. Toliver and Head have joined together under the Toliver Racing umbrella to form which is expected to be one of the premiere NHRA teams on the circuit in 2004.
Getting ready for the 2004 season and a few notes to spare
(2-19-2004) - Preseason isn't everything - At least that's how Gary Densham sees it. Although he produced some impressive numbers (4.787 at 325.30 miles per hour at LVMS; 4.842 at Firebird; and 4.806 at SIR), his pre-season effort isnly likely to make them that much better this week.
"I think, for the most part, these test sessions create more confusion than anything else," Prock said. "We tried a lot of different stuff, way more than we normally would, but we wound up with more questions than answers."
As a result, the team will start the new season with basically the same combination with which they ended the old one.
Not that that's all bad. After all, Densham was one of only six Funny Car drivers to earn multiple victories last season (winning at Gainesville, Fla., and Brainerd, Minn.) and, for the second straight year, briefly led the POWERade point standings.
But in a sport in which thousandths of a second can mean the difference between victory and defeat, Prock and Densham know that constant improvement is tantamount to competitive survival.
This year's pre-season angst was compounded by the fact that two
Working at Firebird with components designed to "smooth the torque application," the Auto Club Ford didn't make it past 60 feet on nine straight runs "but we had some good (60-foot times)," Prock smiled.
Just to think, the thing that scares him the most about this weekend is the weather.
Home Sweet Home or Not? - Densham has never won a race in Pomona, which is his hometrack. In fact, in 37 trips to Pomona, Gary has won just 14 rounds of racing. He was beaten in the first round of last year's race by Bob Gilbertson. Take heart Densham fans, he has one runner-up in Pomona to his credit.
Rookies can win - Eric Medlen may have driven this race a million times in his head, but he can smile because there's a precedent for a rookie Funny Car driver at the NHRA Winternationals. A little over a decade ago, K.C. Spurlock won the division in his first time out.
In the same Castrol SYNTEC® Ford Mustang that won the 2003
Rarely has a rookie driver been thrown into a bigger fish bowl.
Precedent - The last time John Force lost a championship, he returned the following year to win the Winternationals.
Prudhomme headed for 100 – About to begin his 10th season as a team owner, Don “the Snake” Prudhomme is nearing another milestone in his illustrious racing career. Prudhomme, who was inducted into the International Motorsports Hall of Fame in 2000, enters the 2004 NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series season four wins shy of the century mark. The Southern California native amassed 49 victories as a driver (35 Funny Car/14 Top Fuel) and has since gathered another 47 wins as a team owner (33 Larry Dixon, 13 Ron Capps and one Tommy Johnson Jr.).
Prudhomme just wants to get past the latest accolade. Prudhomme added, "Let’s get it over. I’d like to see it happen. I really don’t think in those terms. It’s more of a personal goal. I don’t have a personal goal as far as what number I’d like to end up with because when the 100th comes, I’d like to see 120, 130, 140 and 150. I never thought I’d win 10 races or 20 races or 50 races, so it will be cool. It’s a pretty good milestone."
“We have a very solid group and they all work great together,” explained Troy. “Having the right chemistry is the most important ingredient for any team.
Pomona Raceway is a track that has smiled on the Coughlin brothers. Jeg and Troy faced off in the final round in 1998 to start the season with a bang. The final round showdown was the first all-Jeg's, all-Coughlin professional final for the first family of NHRA POWERade Drag Racing.
No Sophomore Jinx - Coming off a strong showing during his rookie year on the NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series last season, David Baca, driver of the American Racing/3-A-Day of Dairy/Dairy Farmers of Oregon Top Fuel Dragster, is not even open to the thought of a sophomore slump.
"The term sophomore slump is not even part of my vocabulary," said Baca emphatically, as he looked towards the season-opening NHRA K&N Filters Winternationals this weekend. "We're coming out fighting stronger than ever this season. Some people might think we had a good rookie season and I guess, all-in-all, it was. But it took me a long time to get here and being the oldest rookie last year only gave me the taste of all I want to accomplish before it's too late for me to do this any more. A sophomore slump isn't part of this team's play book for 2004.
"We're expecting good things out of our group this year. We're not slumping. If anything, we're picking up the pace. The crew is gelling. We've got our team picture in line from crew chief to all the members of our crew. My biggest concern right now is parlaying what we're working on into a major sponsorship. The only thing that can hold us back this year is the almighty dollar. It takes a lot of dollars to compete at the top level of NHRA POWERade Top Fuel drag racing."
Baca, who finished No. 7 in 2003 NHRA POWERade point standing and was runner-up for the NHRA Automobile Club of Southern California Road to the Future Award (Rookie of the Year), wants to get off to good start at the Winternationals.
Three-peat? - When Larry Dixon left Pomona Raceway last November, he was on top of the drag racing world, having won his second consecutive NHRA POWERade Top Fuel championship. As the Southern California native returns to begin his 10th season as a driver, he knows the past two seasons mean nothing and his only goal is to qualify for Sunday’s eliminations.
Dixon, a three-time winner of the season-opening event, made NHRA history last February, becoming the first Top Fuel driver in the 43-year history of the celebrated event to win the race in consecutive years. After winning the Top Fuel Shootout on Saturday, the Miller Lite team collected nearly $200,000 during one of the most lucrative weekends in NHRA history.
Newlywed and winless - After the conclusion of the 2003 NHRA campaign, Tommy Johnson Jr. went into the 2003-04 off season knowing things would be frenzied. The Iowa native and driver of Skoal Racing blue Chevy Funny Car and fiancé, fellow nitro-category driver Melanie Troxel, were scheduled to be married on New Years Eve.
“There was sure a lot of stuff to do,” Johnson said. “The wedding made the off season go by very quickly. With all the planning, the wedding and the honeymoon, I kept busy. Then it was time to go racing already.”
Johnson, one of 13 drivers to have earned victories in both the Top Fuel and Funny Car categories, tied the knot at a small ceremony in Indianapolis on December 31. Following their honeymoon in Hawaii, Johnson headed back to the mainland with one goal in mind, another top 10 finish in his Don Prudhomme-owned flopper and a shot at his first NHRA POWERade Funny Car championship.
Johnson returns his entire blue Skoal Racing team, including crew chief Mike Green, for his fourth season under the Snake Racing umbrella. The Indianapolis resident eyes a fast start when the 2004 NHRA season kicks-off with the 44th annual K&N Filters Winternationals, Feb. 19-22, at historic Pomona Raceway.
“I knew the stability would be big and after testing it was apparent that it made a big difference,” Johnson said. “We didn’t have to learn a new crew chief and team. We’re already into full race mode. We have to make sure we don’t fall back into old habits that were no good. The key is to change the things that didn’t work.”
Nothing like reuniting with the fish – This weekend Mark Whisnant returns to the Pomona, Calif. for the running of the 44th annual K & N WinterNationals. Whisnant comes to California in the company of old friends. This weekend Whisnant and the RW Performance team will reunite with the sponsor that served him so well in the Pro Stock Truck division: PiranaZ.
Whisnant and PiranaZ have formed an alliance that will make PiranaZ the primary sponsor on Whisnant’s Pro Stock entry for 2004 and beyond. Throughout the season Whisnant and Team RW will showcase PiranaZ race wear and apparel with Whisnant making daily appearances at the PiranaZ T-shirt trailer. Whisnant and the RW Performance will continue their association with Snap-On Tools, Chevrolet, G-Force Transmissions, Fram, and Royal Purple
"In 2001 PiranaZ was the sponsor of our Pro Stock Truck. It was a good relationship. That was PiranaZ’ first endeavor in the drag racing market. By the end of the year, Jeff (PiranaZ owner Jeff Sommers) realized that to make sponsorship of a racecar work for his company he needed to learn more about drag racing as a business. My team needed to move ahead with our plans to go Pro Stock racing. So, at the end of 2001 we mutually agreed to go our separate ways.
"At the end of last season Jeff and I started talking about putting something together. The result is PiranaZ returning as our primary sponsor of the RW Performance Cavalier.
"In 2004 our association with PiranaZ is completely different, just like their new line of apparel and race wear.
"PiranaZ has a new image. They wanted to get away from the run of the mill T-shirts and apparel you see at the racetrack. Their new look is raw, and edgy. It is hard-core race wear for the hard-core drag race fan. The new look speaks for its self, and is more my style. It is a product I can feel good about endorsing.