Much like getting swimming lessons in shark-infested waters, the two-car ADRL Pro Nitrous team of Keith Haney and Monroe Guest decided to jump right into the deep end of one of the most competitive and fickle classes in drag racing.
But, after continuous improvements at last weekend’s Dragstock IX at zMAX Dragway, Haney and Guest have seemingly managed to avoid the sharp teeth.
After a variety of issues kept them from attending the first five ADRL races in 2012, the two-car duo took encouraging steps in Charlotte, led by Haney knocking out No. 2 qualifier Randy Weatherford in the first round of eliminations, for the team’s first round win in the ADRL.
"We had a good outing for our second race," said Haney, who drives one of the team’s 2012 Camaros. "Both cars are doing well. These Stroupe cars are good pieces, and (Reher-Morrison) has given us some good motors.
“We've still got to find the chassis. We've got plenty of power, and we're having no mechanical problems on either one, but we haven't figured out the chassis setup yet.”
The team suffered through a litany of engine troubles during pre-season testing. Then, over the course of the next several months, spent a significant amount of money attempting to solve their issues.
With acceptable results still nowhere to be found, Haney, the team owner, switched to a pair of Reher-Morrison engines, a choice which has been a popular one for many of the top drivers in the class. At the same time, Haney added Jeff Pierce as the crew chief.
Both Haney and Guest debuted in Martin and it went like you might expect when jumping in with the Pro Nitrous heavyweights midway through the season.
Guest slipped into the field at No. 16, running a 4.204 to finish a hair ahead of Haney’s 4.206. He then lost in the first round to Doug Riesterer, but remained encouraged about the outing. And, increased his encouraging feelings with further testing, along with the improvements the entire team made in Charlotte.
"This was the first time we ran our three-speed transmissions," Guest said. "The car felt good and we're kind of finding where our marginal line is to get down the track.
“I think we made progress. We need to analyze what we've done, look at the runs where we didn't get down the track and see if there's any more adjustments we can do. We have the power; we have plenty of nitrous. Now, maybe we need to take a real hard look at the chassis setup and see if there's any tweaking we can do there to get the car through the shake zone better."
Guest just missed qualifying in Charlotte, as his 4.08 was bumped out when Rickie Jones slipped into the field on the next to last qualifying pass in the class.
Haney and his 4.049 put him at No. 15, and then he won against Weatherford in what was a wild and upset-filled first round in the class.
Both cars shook violently and fishtailed, but Haney and his 4.78 at 120.51 mph had just enough to beat Weatherford, recording a historic first for the team.
"That first one was something else," Haney said. "The car got out there, the power came in, and I guess we were a little behind on the setup. It washed the rear end out, and I got sideways.
"I saw the blue (of Weatherford's car) out to my right, and then I saw it gone. I knew I had a chance to win, so I got excited. The adrenaline was going up inside me, and I hit the gas again. I should've eased into it, but, no, I went ahead and got into it again. It went back right again, and it got close to the center. So I reeled her back in and went down on the gas again, easily, and got lucky with a round win."
Luck or not, it’s a major sign of progress for the team, which is admittedly behind the eight-ball heading into the final stretch of the ADRL season.
Even though Haney lost a round later to Riesterer, despite his event-best pass of 3.836 at 195 mph, there were plenty of encouraging signs for the two-car team.
Guest went as fast as 186 mph, and Haney figures more testing should lead to even more progress at the Memphis Drags next month.
“I can't give enough props to the team," Haney said. “Our first race, we had those new team blues. The right hand didn't know what the left hand was doing. This race, everybody did their job. We've all worked together as a team, and that's pretty special.
"We have changed literally everything since Day 1. It will take us time to get ours there, but we'll get there. We're only going to get faster as a team. As we work as a team, we get better. We've got the right parts, the right pieces and the right people. That's what it takes to make a good race team. We’re excited and we feel like we can come and compete."
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