ASHER'S POMONA NOTEBOOK
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UNDER THE WEATHER -
Jim Frizzell, a 40-year fixture at many NHRA national events with the
Safety Safari, has suffered a minor strokewhile at home in Montgomery,
AL. Frizzell (and his brother Don) both retired following last year’s
U.S. Nationals. You might not know Frizzell, but you’ll undoubtedly
recognize his description if you’ve ever attended Indy, Atlanta or the
Gatornationals. Wearing his racing pin-festooned cowboy hat,
Frizzell’s position near the starting line gave him an unprecedented
view of the track where his eagle eyes enabled him to spot and remove
the smallest broken bolt or errant part that might have impacted the
run of the next competitor. Frizzell will undergo exploratory surgery
later this month, so we’ll keep you posted on his condition.
WORDS WITH WORSHAM - Del Worsham had a forgettable 2006 season, and then had his reputation besmirched by an errant report on another website that “accused” him of summarily dumping team driver Phil Burkhart at the last second without sufficient notice. On the contrary, Burkhart’s responsibilities to the team included the acquisition of additional sponsorship, which he was apparently unable to secure. When he asked Del and his father, Chuck, near the end of the season – well in advance of the Auto Club Finals – if he was all set for ’07 he was told that he wasn’t, that without the additional funding he was charged with delivering they would seek a driver capable of delivering what they needed. Jeff Arend got the nod when he was able to secure the funding the Worsham’s needed to be competitive.
Worsham begins the year with a brand new, state of the art UltraComp trailer and a new in-house-built front half of his existing chassis, although a complete new car is already underway at the Worsham shop.
“Our performances should get better,” Worsham said, adding “And
hopefully, we’ll also have some better luck.” There’s also been an
almost total crew changeover, with only one man remaining from
lastyear’s team, Terry Snyder. The other four mechanics are all new to
the Worsham camp. “It was just time for a re-tooling,” Worsham said.
“I’m not blaming anyone for our lousy performances last year, but we
did need a change.”
Worsham also said that “in the past few years the costs of racing have gone up about 40 percent, but sponsorships haven’t kept pace with that. That makes it tougher and tougher to be competitive out here.”
NASTY NITRO - A number of fuel teams have been working hard to deal with the residue that’s resulted from the apparent disintegration ofthe liners in the VP Racing Fuels-supplied drums of nitromethane.They’ve been reduced to pouring every gallon of nitro through coffee filters or whatever else they can find to trap the tiny particles before they reach the fuel system. Driver Clay Millican and tuner Mike Kloeber report that Thursday’s qualifying run resulted in a
dropped cylinder when “foreign” particles impacted the fuel nozzles supplying that cylinder. This has apparently not been a problem with other nitro suppliers, but VP’s exclusive agreement with NHRA forces the teams to use only the “approved” fuel. Also worth noting is that other suppliers sell drums containing 100 percent nitro, while VP’sdrums are only 85 percent, meaning the teams are essentially paying for nitro but are getting 15 percent of methanol in its place.
NICKENS NOTES - Tuner/engine builder David Nickens was spotted lurking in Erica Enders’ pit area (as ultra-large Race Girl decals were being applied to her Dodge). Although Nickens is committed to assisting“newcomer” Roger Brogdon, he’s going to help Enders for “a race or two,” in his words. We’ll see how that one goes.
MORGAN’S ELECTRICAL GREMLINS - Dodge
driver Larry Morgan and his team are fighting major electrical
problems, which have significantly slowed the car from its previous
pace. Now decked out in the red, white and blue colors of Lucas Oil,
Morgan says they’ve been unableto locate and solve the problem. “What
haven’t we changed?” he asked rhetorically on Friday. “The car acts
like it’s got the parachute out. It’s so bad that I even called (Bob)
Glidden for some advice!
”We’re not sure, but maybe it’s those glasses, Larry…
HAAS HAPPENIN’S - Chassis builder Jerry Haas has been the subject of some rumors since he appeared to team up with Erica Enders. On the contrary, Haas’s only role in the operation is that of truck driver.“I loaned them my rig,” he said. “That’s the only deal we have. I am definitely not involved with their race team in any other way. I’m just temporarily helping them out.”
HE’S A CHANGED MAN - Kenny Koretsky’s life has changed dramatically since he sold all of his various race teams to others. Now “just a driver,” in his words, Koretsky is happy handling a GTO for owner Greg Hill. “This has taken a huge load off my mind,” said the man known far and wide as Caption Chaos.
“My business has grown so big that I just didn’t have the time to
devote to running a race team properly, so this was the right move for
me.” Koretsky’s son, Kyle, dubbed “Kid Chaos” by the old man and his
friends, recently got his Super Comp license at the Jimmy Harrington
Drag Racing School, and will make a limited number of national events
in Pro Stock in 2008,
with an eye towards a full season in ’09.
“For me racing’s not about money,” the senior Koretsky says. “It’s
about the people. I love the people we race with, and that’s what it’s
“We’re going to try and get Dave Northrop back out here in a third car at some point this season,” he added, “with our second car, to bedriven by Bill Windham, probably hitting the track by Phoenix orGainesville.” Windham’s car will be sponsored by Big O Tires in what’s reported to be a very significant deal.
FORCE “FACTS” - Budding journalists, here’s how to “properly” interview 14-time champ John Force: Shove the recorder in his face,say, “Hey, how ya doin’?,” stand back, and let him ramble. Here arejust a few of the things he blasted out during a three minute talk: “Me ‘n KB (Kenny Bernstein) are in the cellar. Our kids are doing better than we are. I’ve just got too much stress. I need signs around here telling me where everyone is so I can find ‘em. I’m not sure where Eric (Medlen) is or Robert (Hight). The next generation’s ready, so I’m heading to the Bahamas! Things are so tight I even quit drinking. Now that’s pathetic!” As we head into what’s supposed to be a rainy Saturday, Force has yet to make the field.
BICKEL’S BUSINESS - Chassis builder Jerry Bickel acknowledges
that the stranglehold he once had on NHRA Pro Stock has diminished of
late. He also acknowledged that chassis builders appear to dominate in
cycles. Today’s hot combination will be tomorrow’s Super Gas entry,
essentially. Team owner Richard Maskin has a new GTO coming, while
Dwayne Rice is already behind the wheel of a new Poncho. Arizonan
Gordie Rivera also has a new Bickel-built Pontiac, which was supposed
to debut at Pomona, but Bickel opines that “he must have had some
engine problems.” Also coming down the pipeline are a new Pro Mod
‘Vette for Rickie Smith and a new GTO for match racer Pat Musi,
whosecar will ultimately end up in Baharain, of all places.
WALSH WISDOM -
Tuner Jimmy Walsh, who guided young J.R. Todd to last year’s Road to
the Future Award (when will they just call it the Rookie of the Year
Award?), is ready for the full tour in ’07. “We don’t have a new plan,
we’re just going to pick up where we left off last year,” he told
“We’re gonna run ‘emall, and if you can’t run better than a fifty-flat (4.50) you’re notgoing to win this season. It’s going to be brutal out here.”
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THE WILD ONE RETURNS! - On Saturday afternoon Jerry Tolliver will announce his full time return to NHRA Funny Car competition. The man’s non-stop self-promotion and willingness to, well, say just about anything that pops into his head, will add another fan- and media-magnet to the NHRA POWERade circus.
While we’ve been sworn to secrecy, we can tell you this: At least
one racer in the class will find that his sponsor – who might’ve
thought they’d have a kind of “exclusive” presence in the field -- now
has competition for that all-important media exposure. Want another
hint? With Tolliver’s announcement there might’ve been three very
similar sponsors in NHRA drag racing. And we ain’t sayin’ another word!
DOING DOUBLE DUTY - Longtime fans of the sport are quite familiar with Chris McNicol, an accomplished mechanic who’s worked on a number of the top performing fuel cars on the circuit. This year, as he did last year, McNicol will provide part-time help to J.R. Todd’s Top Fuel operation – but not during this year’s Winternationals.
For a guy who began working on Gary Beck’s Top Fuel car when he was only 12-years-old (yeah, that’s right, we said 12-years old!), and with 30 years of mechanical experience under his belt.
McNicol represents the kind of experienced help team owners pray for.
Far from being sent to the sidelines, McNicol is competing with his own
flawless dragster in Super Comp at Pomona, one of the toughest classes
in drag racing. You might think that the pro classes are the pinnacle
of drag racing competition, and in many respects they are. But when it
comes to absolute, pure driving skills, nothing tops the Super
categories, where everyone can cut zero-zero lights. We’ll let you
know how the erstwhile Top Fuel mechanic fares.
WHERE THERE’S A WILL, THERE’S A WAY - Torco’s Competitionplus.com has reported extensively on Hillary Will’s testing accident at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway a few days ago, so there’s no reason to describe the accident again. We spoke to Will prior to the first session at Pomona, and she was upbeat, positive in every respect and ready to kick some serious butt on the track.
She told us that on the run when she crashed “The car didn’t feel smooth all the way down the track. It was moving around and I was trying to steer it back into the groove, but it just went to the right and I couldn’t stop it. We have lots
of spare stuff, and the guys worked non-stop to get us ready for Pomona. We’ll be just as good as we were before the crash. In a funny way I feel like I’ve got more confidence now than I did before the crash.” Although there’s been no official word from Goodyear, the team has indicated, and the photos seemed to confirm, that the tire delaminated at about half track. Will also said that owner Ken Black was more than a little upset by the incident. “I think he quit, like four times in about 15 minutes afterwards,” she said. Obviously, after he was assured Will was all right his enthusiasm for being a Top Fuel owner quickly returned.
BACK IN ACTION - During Kenny Bernstein’s championship years Mike Guger was one of his trusted mechanics. Working under the direction of All-Star Drag Racing Team Ollie Award winner Dale Armstrong, Guger grew from being a gangly kid into an incredibly talented adult. But, for the past nine seasons Guger’s charges have been going around in circles or turning into tight street course corners as he spent his time on both the Champ Car and IRL circuits, working for the likes of Patrick Racing and Fernandez Racing.
He’s returned to the quarter-mile wars as the assistant crew chief for the Hot Rod Fuller-driven David Powers Motorsports entry tuned by Rob Flynn. As we’ve herd from other mechanics who have tried “both sides of the street,” Guge reports that “there’s a lot less camaraderie over there than there is in drag racing. Everybody’s incredibly secretive about what they’re doing, and there’s not much visiting between the teams.
It’s a lot more fun in drag racing.” Guger also said that the reason Fuller’s car isn’t running the monostrut rear wing assembly at Pomona is that there’s no SFI spec for it yet. “Besides,” he added, “we need more testing time before we’re ready to just come out here with it.”
WEISS IN, COWIN OUT - Tuner Lance Larsen reports that Scott Weis will replace Australian Andrew Cowin in the Scott Griffin-owned Top Fuel car that made limited outings in 2006. Their schedule calls for appearances in a dozen NHRA POWERade Series races ad two additional outings in IHRA, including both of the Rockingham Dragway events. Barrett Union Carpenters, Weis’s primary backer, will provide support for the operation, although Larsen reports that additional sponsorship announcements are already in the pipeline.
SWITCHING SIDES - Eleventy-five
time IHRA Top Fuel World Champion Clay Millican (okay, we exaggerated
about how many times he’s won that title) and tuner Mike Kloeber have
had to completely change their approach to the NHRA POWERade Series now
that they’re going to run the full tour. In past years they came to
the NHRA races hoping to run well and, if the luck was running their
way, perhaps pull out an occasional victory. This time around
everything’s different. As Millican put it, “We used to come to these
races kind of testing for the IHRA events. Now we’re flip-flopping and
going all out to win. But when we run the IHRA races this year we’ll
actually be testing for these events.” When asked how many IHRA races
the plan on entering this year Millican would go no further than to say
PRO STOCK NOTES - Mike Edwards has a brand new paint scheme, a brand new Jerry Haas-penned Pontiac GTO and a stunning new Volvo tractor trailer rig. The only problem, he says, is “It’s the same old me, the same old loser.” Self-deprecating to a fault, Edwards is a winner in anyone’s eyes. Warren Johnson is running the same GTO he debuted at last year’s U.S. Nationals and says he has no plans for a new car until late in the year, when he’ll debut the first of the Pontiac G-6s, which will be the replacement for the GTO. Chassis builder Rick Jones has got a ton of cars competing at Pomona, with more on the way.
Allen Johnson’s Dodge is fresh off the jig, with a car for Richie Stevens coming shortly. Other Jones customers include Tommy Hammonds, who decided to skip Pomona after failing to perform up to expectations during the Pontiac Super Bowl of Pro Stock at Las Vegas last week (“There were absolutely no fans,” reports Edwards. “It was very cold and windy out there.”), Kenny Koretsky, Justin Humphreys, Jason Line and Greg Anderson. When asked what was new, Allen Johnson replied, “I’m a year older and I’ve got more gray hair!” There was a fairly contentious PRO meeting on Friday afternoon featuring all of the organization’s Pro Stock members. An effort was made to get the membership to support a movement to get NHRA to close up all the loopholes in the Pro Stock rules in an effort to hold down costs. Our multiple sources report that two team owners with deep pockets and a willingness to dig into them, vigorously opposed the concept. We’re loathe to name names, so we’ll just leave like this: Both men own multi-car operations – and their cars flat fly!
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