2006 SHUCKS AUTO PARTS NATIONALS - SAME DAY COVERAGE
three-time champ has gone from eighth place to fourth in the last four races -- including three straight final round appearances -- and has closed to within 150 points of Doug Kalitta's series lead with his win at the $1.4 million Schuck's Auto Supply NHRA Nationals presented by Lucas Oil.
Whit Bazemore and Allen Johnson joined Schumacher in the winner's circle as each ended long winless streaks with victories here. Bazemore had gone 31 races without a win until beating points leader and teammate Ron Capps in the Seattle finale, while Johnson ended a 34-race dry spell by
downing surprise finalist Tom Martino, who was racing for just the second time this year.
Schumacher had little trouble beating Dave Grubnic in the Top Fuel final with a 4.690 at 321.96 mph in his U.S. Army dragster to Grubnic's 4.761 at 316.75 in his StriVectin-SD dragster. It was Schumacher's 32nd career victory and second at this track.
|RACE COVERAGE||PHOTO GALLERIES|
SUNDAY FINAL - SCHUMACHER, BAZEMORE AND
JOHNSON EARN VICTORIES AT SCHUCK'S AUTO SUPPLY
(7-23-2006) - Reigning NHRA
POWERade Top Fuel champion Tony Schumacher raced to his second victory in his
last three starts Sunday at Pacific Raceways to continue his rapid climb up the
points standings. The
three-time champ has gone from eighth place to fourth in the last four
races -- including three straight final round appearances -- and has
closed to within 150 points of Doug Kalitta's series lead with his win
at the $1.4 million Schuck's Auto Supply NHRA Nationals presented by
Whit Bazemore and Allen Johnson joined Schumacher in the winner's circle
as each ended long winless streaks with victories here. Bazemore had
gone 31 races without a win until beating points leader and teammate Ron
Capps in the Seattle finale, while Johnson ended a 34-race dry spell by
downing surprise finalist Tom Martino, who was racing for just the
second time this year.
Schumacher had little trouble beating Dave Grubnic in the Top Fuel final
with a 4.690 at 321.96 mph in his U.S. Army dragster to Grubnic's 4.761
at 316.75 in his StriVectin-SD dragster. It was Schumacher's 32nd career
victory and second at this track.
"We're only 150 points back with nine races to go," said Schumacher, who
defeated Bob Vandergriff, Alan Bradshaw, and J.R. Todd to advance to the
final round. "This is very doable. Now that we have a good handle on the
racecar I feel a lot of confidence. I'd rather be on my team in the
position we're in right now than anywhere else. I wouldn't change places
Bazemore drove his Matco Tools Dodge Charger to the Funny Car win over
teammate and series points leader Ron Capps. Bazemore posted a 5.036 at 309.42 to edge Capps' Brut Charger, which posted a 5.108 at 293.15. With his runner-up finish, Capps extended his series lead to 88 over John
Force, who lost in the first round.
"Just to get back in the winner's circle feels so good," said Bazemore
of his 20th career victory, "especially for the team. To suffer like we
have, to be less than perfect and have to rebuild ourselves over the
last three months, to finally get the result is very gratifying."
Bazemore outran Phil Burkart, Tony Bartone and Tony Pedregon to advance
to his fifth Pacific Raceways final.
"We have all the things you need to win -- a great sponsor in Matco, all
the resources of Don Schumacher Racing, the technology of Dodge --
sooner or later the pressure builds up, especially when you have a
streak like we've had. You have to find a way to persevere and focus.
You just need to suck it up and stay positive. Today, each member of my
team did that. They all executed their jobs perfectly, that's what it
takes to win."
Johnson finished in 6.767 at 204.63 in his J&J Racing/Team Mopar Dodge
Stratus to earn his fourth career Pro Stock victory, while Martino lost
traction near mid-track in his Skull Gear Pontiac GTO.
"We've had the best car for the last four races so this isn't a big
surprise to me," said Johnson, who defeated Mike Edwards, Greg Stanfield
and Warren Johnson in earlier rounds. "We've struggled a little with our
race day tune-up and we especially stubbed our toe in Denver in the
first round but that mistake really taught us what we needed to know to
get down these hot, gummy racetracks. If we hadn't done that there we
probably wouldn't have learned enough to do well here."
Top qualifier Jason Line increased his series points lead by three over
Greg Anderson, who now trails by 25.
The NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series continues with the 19th annual
FRAM-Autolite NHRA Nationals, July 28-30 at Infineon Raceway, Sonoma,
Sunday's final results from the 19th annual Schuck's Auto
Supply NHRA Nationals presented by Lucas Oil at Pacific Raceways. The
$1.4 million race is the 14th of 23 in the $50 million NHRA POWERade
Drag Racing Series:
Top Fuel -- Tony
Schumacher, 4.690 seconds, 321.96 mph def. David
Grubnic, 4.761 seconds, 316.75 mph.
Funny Car -- Whit
Bazemore, Dodge Charger, 5.036, 309.42 def. Ron
Capps, Charger, 5.108, 293.15.
Pro Stock --
Allen Johnson, Dodge Stratus, 6.767, 204.63 def. Tom
Martino, Pontiac GTO, 7.368, 146.45.
Top Alcohol Dragster --
Sean O'Bannon, 5.451, 263.15 def. Spencer
Massey, 5.513, 261.37.
Top Alcohol Funny Car
-- Brian Hough, Pontiac Firebird, 5.751, 250.92
def. Steve Gasparrelli, Chevy Monte Carlo, 6.240, 176.01.
Competition Eliminator --
Jirka Kaplan, '23-T Ford, 7.688, 117.36 def.
Doug Lambeck, Pontiac Sunfire, foul.
Super Stock --
John Hennessay, Chevy Camaro, 9.884, 134.27 def. Tony
DeFrank, Olds Calais, 9.751, 132.97.
Stock Eliminator --
Tommy Gaynor, Chevy Camaro, 11.647, 108.87 def.
Toby Lang, Chevy Chevelle, 11.833, 108.66.
Super Comp --
Ross Souza, Dragster, 8.895, 169.89 def. Jeffery Yoder,
Dragster, 8.875, 146.15.
Super Gas --
Kevin Kleineweber, Chevy Corvette, 9.902, 147.99 def.
Shawn Langdon, Corvette, foul.
Super Street --
John Dalrymple, Chevy Camaro, 11.637, 109.48 def. Dick
Williams, Chey Vega, 14.559, 68.34.
Final round-by-round results from the
19th annual Schuck's Auto Supply NHRA Nationals presented by Lucas Oil at
Pacific Raceways, the 14th of 23 events in the $50 million NHRA POWERade Drag
ROUND ONE -- Tony Schumacher, 4.599, 323.89 def. Bob Vandergriff, 4.714, 305.70; Doug Kalitta, 4.669, 310.20 def. Larry Dixon, 4.904, 312.86;
Hillary Will, 4.903, 279.67 def. Doug Herbert, 5.365, 212.13; Rod
Fuller, 4.655, 320.20 def. Mike Strasburg, 5.343, 190.00; Alan Bradshaw,
6.115, 218.02 def. Brandon Bernstein, 7.965, 94.25; J.R. Todd, 4.682,
311.05 def. Melanie Troxel, 4.675, 313.44; David Baca, 4.777, 301.13
def. Cory McClenathan, 5.223, 218.65; David Grubnic, 4.682, 321.42 def.
Morgan Lucas, 4.753, 303.03;
QUARTERFINALS -- Todd, 4.781, 295.66 def. Baca, 8.497, 102.40; Grubnic, 4.742, 307.23 def. Will, 4.920, 272.56; Fuller, 4.900, 229.90 def.
Kalitta, 5.068, 154.76; Schumacher, 4.657, 323.43 def. Bradshaw, broke;
SEMIFINALS -- Grubnic, 4.808, 305.63 def. Fuller, 5.151, 259.26;
Schumacher, 6.258, 279.09 def. Todd, 15.176, 41.50;
FINAL -- Schumacher, 4.690, 321.96 def. Grubnic, 4.761, 316.75.
ROUND ONE -- Tony Pedregon, Chevy Monte Carlo, 5.029, 260.81 def. Tommy Johnson Jr., Monte Carlo, 5.651, 207.08; Tony Bartone, Monte Carlo,
4.996, 292.90 def. Mike Ashley, Dodge Stratus, 5.003, 310.41; Eric
Medlen, Ford Mustang, 4.998, 295.14 def. Scott Kalitta, Monte Carlo,
9.086, 91.26; Robert Hight, Mustang, 4.902, 314.68 def. Tim Wilkerson,
Monte Carlo, 7.896, 111.96; Ron Capps, Dodge Charger, 4.975, 307.86 def.
Del Worsham, Monte Carlo, 5.035, 306.19; Whit Bazemore, Charger, 4.994,
310.20 def. Phil Burkart, Monte Carlo, 5.020, 310.91; Gary Scelzi,
Charger, 4.972, 309.49 def. John Force, Mustang, 5.045, 293.35; Gary
Densham, Monte Carlo, 5.019, 307.16 def. Cruz Pedregon, Monte Carlo,
QUARTERFINALS -- Medlen, 4.997, 304.87 def. Densham, 5.031, 300.60;
Bazemore, 5.033, 306.60 def. Bartone, 5.908, 161.19; T. Pedregon, 5.318,
274.89 def. Hight, 6.117, 161.05; Capps, 5.066, 299.80 def. Scelzi,
SEMIFINALS -- Bazemore, 5.029, 307.30 def. T. Pedregon,
5.129, 286.13; Capps, 5.077, 303.43 def. Medlen, 5.160, 255.34;
FINAL -- Bazemore, 5.036, 309.42 def. Capps, 5.108, 293.15.
ROUND ONE -- Richie Stevens, Dodge Stratus, 6.789, 203.83 def. Jim
Yates, Pontiac GTO, 6.853, 203.55; Warren Johnson, GTO, 6.757, 204.76
def. Dave Connolly, Chevy Cobalt, 7.131, 159.01; Larry Morgan, Stratus,
6.783, 204.23 def. Kurt Johnson, Cobalt, 6.762, 204.73; Tom Martino,
GTO, 6.762, 204.51 def. Tom Lee, Cobalt, 6.760, 205.32; Ron Krisher,
Cobalt, 6.769, 204.35 def. Greg Anderson, GTO, 6.744, 205.98; Allen
Johnson, Stratus, 6.746, 204.32 def. Mike Edwards, GTO, 6.797, 203.98;
Max Naylor, Stratus, 16.115, 50.61 def. Jason Line, GTO, foul; Greg
Stanfield, GTO, 6.760, 205.04 def. V. Gaines, Stratus, foul;
QUARTERFINALS -- Stevens, 6.824, 203.06 def. Naylor, 6.845, 203.31;
Martino, 6.771, 204.85 def. Krisher, 6.834, 203.61; W. Johnson, 6.780,
204.82 def. Morgan, 7.753, 133.88; A. Johnson, 6.749, 204.48 def.
Stanfield, 6.784, 203.86;
SEMIFINALS -- Martino, 6.786, 204.82 def. Stevens, 6.787, 203.52; A.
Johnson, 6.765, 204.17 def. W. Johnson, 6.753, 205.10;
FINAL -- A. Johnson, 6.767, 204.63 def. Martino, 7.368, 146.45.
SUNDAY NOTEBOOK -
(7-24-2006) - Did You Know? – The traditional NHRA POWERade Western Swing encompasses a total of 2,119 miles. Seattle represents the second leg in the three-race tour. Denver was the first and the trip from there to Pacific Raceways was 1,344 miles. The trip to Sonoma will consume 775 miles.
As a matter of fact, I do love it – There are those that have asked Tony Schumacher if he considers quitting when the times get tough. They should know better.
“I just like the fact I love racing,” Schumacher said. “When we were struggling, there were people that would ask me if I was ready to give up and quit. Whether I win or not, it is fun.
“When I woke up this morning…my knees were shaking and that was my signal that we were going to win today. My guys asked me why and I told them I was nervous and focused.”
Three races ago, Schumacher was 300 points out of first.
“In the last three races, we have made up more points than we are behind now,” Schumacher said. “Of course, we were in three finals too.”
Schumacher admits this puts him in the best spot to battle for the championship.
“I would rather be in my shoes right now,” Schumacher said. “I know Kalitta is 150 points out there. I would rather be me. I would rather have my guys, my team and my sponsor shooting at the target right now.
“That’s not to take anything away from Doug right now,” Schumacher said. “I just enjoy doing what I do right now. I plan to wake up every morning smiling.”
Going Up, Coming Down – J.R. Todd’s stock continues to rise while former point leader Melanie Troxel can’t seem to catch a break. Todd, the recent winner in Denver, grabbed the holeshot victory over Troxel, who won the season-opening event in Pomona and led the first half of the season.
Todd beat Troxel on a holeshot by a 4.6822 to 4.675 margin.
For Todd his first career NHRA round victory came in Joliet when he defeated Hilary Will, one of the two female drivers in the class. Today marked the first time he’d ever beaten Troxel.
For Todd, who brought a four-round winning streak to the line against Troxel, admitted after the race, “We just have to keep winning these rounds while we can.”
For Troxel, she just needs a win to restore the same measure of confidence that made her an early championship leader.
"It's really frustrating,” Troxel said. “I felt like we had a pretty good
this track, so to come out and lose, is frustrating. Especially as a
driver, a holeshot loss hurts a little extra.
"All I can do is come back to the trailer and look at our video to see
the number of frames from when the light came on, to when I can see the
throttle moving. That was a good light for me (.092). It wasn't a
spectacular light for me, but the chances of us beating his .058 light
with the way we set our car up was pretty slim.
"We need to seriously turn this deal around. There's not any one thing
that you can point to and say that has changed. We just don't seem to
be having and luck, and I hate to say that, because it's certainly not
all luck out here. You just have to get a little momentum, or mojo, or
whatever, and we don't have that right now. We're hoping to find
something to get things turned around out here.
Big Buck Advice – It must have been a really hot day when Biblical figure David slew Goliath. That’s the same message that J.R. Todd sends when it comes to the lower budgeted teams racing the higher financed programs during events when the thermometer reads 90-degrees and above.
“It seems to be the great equalizer,” Todd said. “We have been getting down the track really well with the track temperatures at 140 and above. The high financed teams have had some problems doing that. I’m not saying we are a low-buck team but we haven’t forgotten where we came from. We just keep sliding it down there and hope it stays hot for the rest of the year.”
Seeing the lower bracket cars fare well while the upper echelon struggles to detune is something that Todd sees as a thorn in the side of the front-runners.
“When you see a lower budget team like us go out there and do well, it doesn’t make them look good,” Todd said. “We’re just doing the best we can. We’ll take any wins we can get at this point.”
From here until Memphis, Todd said his team will try to gather as many points as they can in the heat.
“Don’t get me wrong, we can run with the best of them when it gets cool,” Todd said. “We just want to ensure we make a make our way into the top ten at the end of the season.”
Olivarez Speaks – Morgan Lucas returned to the cockpit of the Lucas family’s A/Fuel Dragster this weekend. That was made possible when incumbent driver Aaron Olivarez vacated the seat temporarily.
Olivarez was in Seattle for the Schuck’s NHRA Nationals and spoke to Torco’s CompetitionPlus.com regarding the decisions that kept him from driving.
“There were a couple of reasons behind my decision to not drive this weekend,” Olivarez said. “First of all, we opted to make some crew chief changes. We wanted to give Tom Conway a chance to get a handle on the car because we are almost out of races.
“Secondly and probably more importantly, after Chicago we learned that Armored Coatings was going to leave. It’s a good news and bad news situation. NHRA Drag racing works as far as marketing. The only problem was that Armored Coatings was unable to produce as much product as was requested. Unfortunately they were forced to pull out.
“The budget we run on, I am not able to fund out of my pocket. I really needed to get on top of the sponsorship things and the six weeks off afforded me that opportunity.”
The seat was vacated only when the sponsorship ceased.
“Armored Coatings paid what they were supposed to. They just decided not to continue the rest of the year. “
Popular scuttlebutt around the pits suggests Olivarez is working on a deal to run Top Fuel.
“We’ve got a sponsor that looks like they want to come aboard,” Olivarez said. “They want to go Top Fuel racing. That’s what they are interested in. They are doing some mainstream things.”
That might not be a far-fetched scenario for Olivarez, who was one of the parties responsible for introducing Zantrex3 and StriVectin-SD to NHRA Championship Drag Racing and inevitably to Kalitta Motorsports.
“It was more of an introduction thing,” Olivarez said. “We got it started and did the proposal. Once it made its way over to Kalitta’s, we bowed out of the deal. I had a friend that was helping me out at that point. More than anything that offered me the opportunity to get my face out there and show that I had some connections. I really want to do things the right way. I want to come out here with the money and not have to beg for a ride.”
Olivarez plans to return to driving and admits that could come in Brainerd.
“As soon as we can get a handle on things I will be back. I only have two races left to claim. After we get a better handle, I will be back.”
Olivarez pointed out that return will be based his ability to bring sponsorship to the table.
“The sponsorship is already done,” Olivarez said. “It will be based on how we can implement the sponsors into the sport and if we can get a handle on the car. I won’t lie the budget is large for what I have to bring to the table. It’s hard to put out a lot of money to not run well. We just want to get a handle on things and run well.”
The Curse Continues – The one-year anniversary of Eric Medlen’s victory from the pole position at Brainerd, Minnesota, is rapidly approaching. Since then no other driver in either the Top Fuel or Funny Car division has won after qualifying on the pole.
The streak remained intact as former Top Alcohol Dragster World Champion Alan Bradshaw drove Bill Miller’s entry to victory over top qualifier Brandon Bernstein.
“The car left and then it quivered and then it got to smoking the tires, and I tried to pedal it a couple of times and the last time I pedaled it, it blew the burst panels out,” Bernstein said. “We were just kind of sitting ducks. I knew Alan was probably having troubles because I heard him next to me pedaling it. He came around me at the end.”
The James Bond Factor – Sometimes pulling an impeccable performance out of the gate doesn’t always assure a victory. Bob Vandergriff Jr. found that out the hard way as his .007 reaction.
A .007 light wasn’t enough to ensure Bob Vandergriff of a victory but it was plenty to award him the unofficial reaction time of the weekend for the class.
It didn’t seem that long – Funny Car winner Whit Bazemore seemed surprised when publicist Judy Stropus pointed out his dry spell for national event wins spanned 32 races.
“I didn’t know it was that many,” Bazemore said. “It feels good just to be back here. I am happiest for my team. To suffer like we have and be less than perfect has been tough. We basically rebuilt the team and while we ran well, we just didn’t get the results we should have. To finally get the result is great and even greater for my team.”
Bazemore probably didn’t see the winner’s circle on Saturday when his team missed the third qualifying session because of an engine problem during warm-up.
“Those things happen and what made it worse is that turned out to be the best session of qualifying,” Bazemore said.
Bazemore did admit he didn’t throw anything in public.
A reporter asked if Bazemore ever doubted himself during the barren times.
“A guy like me doubt himself? Nah,” he said.
Other Lane, Yeah I know who’s there – Some drivers say they refuse to pay attention to who is in the opposite lane. That’s not Bazemore.
“I’m not that kind of person,” Bazemore said. “I make it a point to know the characteristics of who I am racing. Sometimes it is easier to get motivated to race some drivers. You are sometimes under more pressure to perform.”
About Last Night – Don Schumacher treated his teams, friends and associates to a large seafood dinner with food from legendary Pike’s Fish market. Some of the crab legs measured almost two feet long and three inches in circumference.
There were leftovers.
“We’ll have some in Sonoma,” Schumacher announced.
With the today’s success, Bazemore boldly proclaimed to the boss, “If we do this well, maybe we should do this every race.”
“Are you going to pay for it?” Schumacher responded.
“Don, I work for you so you know I can't afford it,” Bazemore said tongue-in-cheek.
Go Ahead Doubt Us – Have a few bad races and they are ready to throw you out of the lead. They’ll plot your downfall and all of those negative things. That’s what current leader Ron Capps discovered this season.
“The big picture is looking good and I’m sure there were those that started to wonder if we were going to be able to hold onto the points lead. Sometimes you just want to stand up and say…‘Tsk...Tsk.I don’t think so.”
“You just have to watch yourself and you don’t want bad karma. The good teams will get out and let the car talk. Ace [crew chief Ed McCulloch] did a good job and we were able to knock off some good teams without lane choice.”
Maintaining Balance – Ron Capps admits being part of a multi-car team can play both ends of the spectrum. One can create interference and the other can beat you in the finals.
“The cool part about this organization is that you never have to worry about running straight up,” Capps said. ‘Whit threw a jab on the television show and said if we win the championship we have to run for it. It may not have happened in the past, he said.
“It almost as if there’s two three-car teams doing battle. I wish Gary and Whit were higher in the points so we could have a big battle for it all. I’m surely not going to complain if we are leading and they have to go out and beat other guys to help us. When we raced people we felt beating them would help Scelzi in the points, you got up for it. You did everything you could. It was like you were fighting for your brother.”
Wake up with Reinhart –NHRA announcer Alan Reinhart might have a new venue if he decides to ever walk away from the microphone. He has a career as a wake-up call delivery service.
This morning’s wake-up call was delivered to Funny Car qualifier Robert Hight. Reinhart may have gained a bit of job security when Hight not only won his first round match over Tim Wilkerson, but also established low elapsed time of the round with a 4.902.
Hight doesn’t confirm nor deny that he’s superstitious. What he does confirm is that Reinhart will have a new gig if he wins the race, “He’ll be calling me every race. I promise you that.”
Hight won the first round in a class where the top qualifier has usually been first round fodder. It looks as if Reinhart will be back.
Still searching – Mike Ashley isn’t the least bit fazed he hasn’t won a round this year. Ashley pointed out that he’s not looking for a round win. He has his sights set on winning a national event.
“I’m not fighting, it will come when the time is right,” Ashley said. “Maybe it is foolish to say this, but I don’t keep score. It doesn’t matter if I am 20th in the points or first. I am just going to go out there and do the best I can every time. It’s the same thing if you’re playing baseball and you’re winning 10 – 0. Do you slack off just because you’re ahead or do you keep trying to win every inning?
“I can remember that Force went for eight races before he won a round and he’s a 13-time champion.”
Still, Ashley is determined that his team had better be considered contenders.
“People had better take this team seriously because we will be in the winner’s circle.”
Reaching the winner’s circle will be a major milestone for a driver that basically started over half-way in the season by leaving Worsham Racing and joining sponsor Evan Knoll and Don Schumacher.
“You stay committed to a program until you feel the program is not going to give you the results you want. Evan and I had to make a decision. We have already two races where we are now and we qualified in 9,000 feet and the second one we qualified #4. I wouldn’t say we are doing badly. It takes time. Keep this in mind, the guy I raced has had 60 starts and this is my 13th.”
Ashley’s sticking point has been finding the right balance on reaction times. In Denver he was too quick. Today he wasn’t lightning quick off of the line.
“I’m struggling on the starting line and I’ll admit it,” Ashley said. “Yesterday in qualifying we staged the car like it was an eliminations round and I went red with the same exact reaction time as in Denver. Today was slower and I really need to find that happy medium in staging and reacting. I probably could have pulled one for the team if I had gotten more aggressive on the starting line. I was more conservative but I learned quickly in Denver that a red-light is a definite loss.
“I think I need about three or four more runs to get my reactions dialed in as well as the car’s reaction. I think I am in the best shape of my life and this is a big fight. We are on the right course.”
Whole lot of Johnsons out there – A minimum of three Johnsons run in the Pro Stock division and at times it can create an identity crisis for Pro Stock winner Allen Johnson, who ironically shares his name with ALAN Johnson, Top Fuel tuner. We are certainly urged not to confuse him with Pro Stock Motorcycle rider STEVE Johnson. That’s not even mentioning Pro Stock comrades WARREN and KURT Johnson.
“People will come up to me and asked me how my dad (His engine builder is dad ROY) did or how my brother did,” Allen said. “I am close friends with Warren and Kurt Johnson and people think we're related.”
Allen is not related to Kurt but he should be. Kurt brings the beer and Allen drinks it and vice versa. It depends who is in the final round. One will wait for the other at the finish line with cold brew in hand.
Today Kurt called Allen while he was waiting in the lanes to run the final. He wanted to apologize that he wouldn’t be there with the beer. Allen took it in stride and went out and won anyway.
“He called me and said, ‘Dude I just can’t be there.” Allen said.
Allen had a surprise waiting at the finish line. Kurt had his crewchief deliver several cold ones to the shut-down area.
What brand did Kurt buy to celebrate?
“It didn’t matter,” Allen said. “It was cold and that’s all that mattered on a hot day like this.”
Extra Incentive – Johnson was so dismayed at not winning Denver for sponsor Mopar that he told Motorsports Director Kevin Miller that he was sorry for not winning the event. He promised Miller if he flew to Seattle he’d make it worth his while.
Miller enjoyed two professional victories with Johnson and Bazemore. If you count Schumacher, it was a clean sweep.
Glidden, Lucky? - Bob Glidden admitted on Friday that he just wanted to make straight runs. Sunday he contended that he and the Richard Maskin team with Tom Martino driving could have won it all.
“We got very lucky,” Glidden said.
Martino drove his way to victories over Tommy Lee, Ron Krisher and Richie Stevens before drifting out of the groove against Allen Johnson in the final round.
“I’m having fun,” Glidden assured. “I just told Richard that we put the finishing touches on a storybook ending. It feels good to be here.”
What should have made the ten-time champion feel even better was in beating his former team during the semis when Martino beat Stevens on both ends of the track. Glidden quickly pointed out that he couldn’t wish ill will on his former teammates.
“I can’t wish bad on those guys because they were like my kids for a long time,” Glidden said. “I was happy to win the round. Don’t take me wrong. I was just happy to get any round win today.”
He may not have wished ill will, but did he feel vindicated with the victory?
“No…no,” Glidden said. “I was just happy to get away from that chaos. I am very happy where I am right now.”
Maskin agreed the initial goal was just to make straight runs but that changed as the weekend moved forward.
“We made one run in testing and felt we had enough power on the dyno to come out here and compete,” Maskin said. “And, we did just that.”
SATURDAY QUALIFYING - BERNSTEIN, HIGHT AND LINE EARN NO. 1 QUALIFYING POSITIONS AT SCHUCK'S AUTO SUPPLY NHRA NATIONALS
(7-22-2006) -- Defending event Top Fuel champion Brandon Bernstein raced to the No. 1 qualifying position Saturday at the Schuck's Auto Supply
NHRA Nationals presented by Lucas Oil at Pacific Raceways.
Robert Hight and Jason Line also will lead their categories into
Sunday's 11 a.m. eliminations in their respective categories at the 14th
of 23 events in the $50 million NHRA POWERade Series.
Top Fuel's Bernstein powered to a 4.555 second run at 327.11 in his
Budweiser/Lucas Oil dragster to claim his third top qualifying effort of
the season and 11th of his career.
It was another extremely hot day at Pacific Raceways and crew chiefs
struggled to find relevant data in their tuning log books. Saturday's
first qualifying session started with some cloud cover but that quickly
gave way to more sunshine.
"It's probably gonna be hot again tomorrow so we'll have to see how it
works out for us," Bernstein said. "Seattle's always been good to the
Budweiser team. I think [crew chief] Tim Richards really like running
here and it seems he's got a lot of good data for this track.
"We've had some success this year but the competition in this class is
so fierce that you have to be totally on your game every week. We say
you can go from hero-to-zero real quick out here and it's so true. It's
very humbling but that's just part of the game we play."
Friday's Top Fuel leader, Rod Fuller, ended up second with a best of
4.578 at 322.19 mph in his Valvoline/David Powers Homes dragster.
Melanie Troxel, who held the Top Fuel points lead until last weekend,
moved to fourth with a 4.610 at 322.50 mph in her Skull Shine dragster.
New POWERade Series leader Doug Kalitta dropped back to seventh with a
4.656 at 324.20 mph in his Mac Tools dragster.
Hight earned his fifth No. 1 position of the season in Funny Car with a
4.840 at 318.17 mph in his Auto Club Ford Mustang. The runner-up at this
race last year, Hight was 16th after Friday's two qualifying sessions
and was happy the team made the correct adjustments to give him his 11th
career top qualifying effort.
"I couldn't sleep at all last night," Hight said. "We were 16th and I
knew for sure the time wouldn't last through today. It was crunch time
and I went up there so nervous for that first round. The thing is Jimmy
[Prock, crew chief] is so confident and it helps me to see him like
that. Fortunately, the cloud cover held for our pass and it was a good
Points leader Ron Capps is third with a best of 4.864 at 313.00 mph in
his Brut Dodge Charger. Challenger John Force ended up sixth with a
4.903 at 316.52 mph in his Castrol GTX Mustang. Interestingly, 13-time
POWERade Series champ Force will face Capps' teammate Gary Scelzi, the defending category champ, in the first round Sunday. Scelzi finished the
day 11th with a 4.945 at 309.20 mph in his Mopar/Oakley Charger.
In Pro Stock, new series leader Line clocked a 6.690 at 206.80 in his
Summit Racing Pontiac GTO to take his fourth No. 1 qualifying position
of the season and 10th of his career.
"I probably have the best racecar here," Line said. "I mean, it's better
to be in my position than anyone else's at this point. Usually, we like
coming here because it's nice and cool and the scenery is nice, but when
it's 94 degrees out there it knocks some of the fun out of it. Tuning
the engine isn't as hard, but setting the chassis up is a tougher deal."
Defending race winner Kurt Johnson was second in his ACDelco Chevy
Cobalt, while Line's teammate, three-time defending world champ Greg
Anderson, was fourth overall in his Summit Racing GTO.
First-round pairings for professional eliminations Sunday for the 19th annual Schuck's Auto Supply NHRA Nationals presented by Lucas Oil at Pacific Raceways, the 14th of 23 events in the $50 million NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series. Pairings based on results in qualifying, which ended Saturday. Sunday's eliminations start at 11 a.m. PT.
Top Fuel -- 1. Brandon Bernstein, 4.555 seconds, 327.11 mph vs. 16.
Alan Bradshaw, 4.827, 311.49; 2. Rod Fuller, 4.578, 325.30 vs. 15. Mike
Strasburg, 4.791, 299.20; 3. David Grubnic, 4.595, 323.89 vs. 14.
Morgan Lucas, 4.738, 310.13; 4. Melanie Troxel, 4.610, 322.50 vs. 13.
J.R. Todd, 4.733, 302.69; 5. David Baca, 4.642, 319.90 vs. 12. Cory
McClenathan, 4.714, 314.75; 6. Hillary Will, 4.642, 315.19 vs. 11. Doug
Herbert, 4.703, 308.64; 7. Doug Kalitta, 4.656, 324.20 vs. 10. Larry
Dixon, 4.663, 321.04; 8. Bob Vandergriff, 4.660, 316.38 vs. 9. Tony
Schumacher, 4.662, 321.73.
Funny Car -- 1. Robert Hight, Ford Mustang, 4.840, 318.17 vs. 16. Tim
Wilkerson, Chevy Monte Carlo, 5.058, 301.00; 2. Eric Medlen, Mustang,
4.854, 312.64 vs. 15. Scott Kalitta, Monte Carlo, 4.988, 306.05; 3. Ron
Capps, Dodge Charger, 4.864, 313.00 vs. 14. Del Worsham, Monte Carlo,
4.975, 314.39; 4. Mike Ashley, Dodge Stratus, 4.872, 313.58 vs. 13.
Tony Bartone, Monte Carlo, 4.970, 306.74; 5. Phil Burkart, Monte Carlo,
4.898, 316.75 vs. 12. Whit Bazemore, Charger, 4.953, 309.13; 6. John
Force, Mustang, 4.903, 316.52 vs. 11. Gary Scelzi, Charger, 4.945,
311.41; 7. Cruz Pedregon, Monte Carlo, 4.925, 313.95 vs. 10. Gary
Densham, Monte Carlo, 4.934, 310.77; 8. Tony Pedregon, Monte Carlo,
4.929, 310.27 vs. 9. Tommy Johnson Jr., Monte Carlo, 4.931, 311.63.
Pro Stock -- 1. Jason Line, Pontiac GTO, 6.690, 206.80 vs. 16. Max
Naylor, Dodge Stratus, 6.740, 204.98; 2. Kurt Johnson, Chevy Cobalt,
6.696, 206.07 vs. 15. Larry Morgan, Stratus, 6.737, 205.07; 3. Allen
Johnson, Stratus, 6.700, 205.88 vs. 14. Mike Edwards, GTO, 6.733,
205.10; 4. Greg Anderson, GTO, 6.707, 206.86 vs. 13. Ron Krisher,
Cobalt, 6.730, 205.54; 5. Tom Martino, GTO, 6.719, 206.26 vs. 12. Tom
Lee, Cobalt, 6.728, 205.66; 6. Greg Stanfield, GTO, 6.720, 205.29 vs.
11. V. Gaines, Stratus, 6.726, 205.72; 7. Dave Connolly, Cobalt, 6.721,
206.07 vs. 10. Warren Johnson, GTO, 6.724, 205.98; 8. Richie Stevens,
Stratus, 6.722, 205.41 vs. 9. Jim Yates, GTO, 6.723, 205.29.
SATURDAY NOTEBOOK -
(7-22-2006) - Nothing like being in the dirt - The Pacific International Raceway pits were abuzz with activity on Thursday but it wasn’t from the teams preparing for qualifying. The action was directly related to dirt and the reluctance of teams to pit or tow through it.
At least one stretch of gravel road in the professional pits drew enough scrutiny that teams threatened to leave. The end result is the track management and the NHRA brought in an asphalt company at the last minute and paved the stretch of asphalt. The respective pit areas remained dirt and gravel.
One team traveled to a local carpet company and carpeted their area. Most stuck to the traditional rubber mats.
One team was delayed in their departure from the track because they were “paved-in” on Thursday afternoon while others were shocked the asphalt was laid on the existing gravel with little or no prep work.
An unidentified crewmember on one of the teams admitted, “It ought to be interesting to see it once we pull out with the rigs. I’m sure it won’t be pretty. Why couldn’t they have done this a month ago when it could have been done right?”
Then there was another Top Fuel driver, not parked in that particular area, who admitted every time he rapped the throttle his jack-stands would move roughly two inches because his pit area is extremely unlevel.
Currently a plan is in the works to redo the Seattle facility completely, but
that is still awaiting approval from local government officials. The latest
pitch is an estimated $135 million project that calls for major changes at the
320-acre racing complex.
The proposal includes the relocation of the facility's quarter-mile asphalt drag strip, construction of a paved short-track oval and motorsports business complex, and improvements along the backside of a narrow road course.
If all goes as planned, groundbreaking could begin as early as March. Construction possibly would begin next year with the intention of having the relocated drag strip ready for racing in either 2008 or 2009.
Father and Son – There is a special connection between Pacific Raceways and the Bernstein family. Not only has Brandon won the event and qualified on the pole in consecutive seasons, his dad Kenny has three career pole positions here and one win in four final rounds.
An Army of 6-Pack – Tony Schumacher and Larry Dixon leave very little room for slackness whether it is on the track or off. Case in point, when the two squared off in Saturday’s first session, Schumacher edged Dixon by a slight 4.662 to 4.677 margin. Dixon hoped to make up the difference in the post-run interview conducted by Alan Reinhart.
Schumacher was interviewed first and immediately recognized the brave soldiers of the U.S. Army.
“There are all kinds of soldiers out here from Fort Lewis supporting us this weekend,” Schumacher said. “There are a lot of soldiers out here returning from Afghanistan and some getting ready to go.”
Dixon, on the other hand, recognized the Miller faithful.
“We have lots of beer drinkers that have come out here to support us,” Dixon said. “We’ll try and do our part for our soldiers as well.”
Holding Court – The most popular topics on the drag racing message boards this week have centered on comments Hot Rod Fuller made comparing the alcohol class drivers to those who run in the indexed-pro tree divisions. Those discussions made their way to the pits of Pacific Raceways.
Gary Scelzi is one of the drivers that graduated from the alcohol ranks into the nitro division. He had a few comments on the merits of alcohol racing this weekend.
‘I got news for you, an Alcohol Funny Car is a son of a bitch to drive and an Alcohol Dragster is as well,” Scelzi said. “The shift points are so critical. You have to shift them and you have to be on the money. If you you’re 300 off it will slow things down about .02 to .03 hundredths.”
Scelzi will admit that he’s not educated on the inner workings of the Super class cars but has seen enough to know that it isn’t his cup of tea.
“I was born and raised that when you stage your car, you hit the car and the first one to the finish line wins. There’s no shutting off stuff. No nothing. That’s just the way I was raised. I’ve never been one for bracket racing. I’m not saying that it’s bad. It’s just never done much for me.”
Scelzi feels that when it comes to the Top Alcohol ranks, the best grooming for the nitro ranks comes when a driver pilots a supercharged alcohol car. He’s not sold on the A/Fuel combination either.
“I think the A/Fuel Dragster grooms you for Top Fuel and to me, it doesn’t take as much talent to drive an A/Fuel car as it does a Blown Alcohol Dragster,” Scelzi said. “The BAD cars are so critical on shift points and they dart around more than a nitro car. When you hit the throttle in a Top Fueler, it crushes your body. I just don’t see that in an injected car. It’s more of a learning experience to drive a dragster with a blower on it because the shift point.”
Scelzi’s opinion is that a no matter the years involved in driving an alcohol car can adequately prepare a driver for the first time they get behind the wheel of a supercharged nitro car, particularly a Funny Car.
“I know Dennis Taylor [an Alcohol Funny car racer] thinks a Top Alcohol Funny Car is harder to drive than a nitro Funny Car. Dennis ought to sit behind the wheel of one. There ain’t nothing harder than a nitro Funny Car and I’ve driven them all. I’m gonna tell you a nitro Funny Car is the hardest thing to drive. You never know what they are going to do. They drop a whole and they take off. They are wicked. I may be the world’s worst driver but I’m saying it was the hardest for me. “
“To me if I was a car owner, the Top Alcohol class is the first place I would look if I’m evaluating talent. The may run 260 miles per hour, but you have to listen to the engine and shift them. You have to feel them and be able to pedal them through the shake. They have enough power to get you in trouble. An alcohol car is going to do that early and if you can get it together after 300 feet on the ride is over.
“A nitro car pulls all the way to the finish line and if it puts a hole out, you could be in the fence before you know it. I don’t care if you’re Jesus and you have the steering wheel turned all the way in…if it wants to go there…it will go there.”
Not Ready for the Pasture - When Torco’s CompetitionPlus.com asked Scelzi whether he was contemplating retirement at the end of the season, he responded that we were the first he’s heard of that and felt such rumors should have been put to bed a long time ago. In fact, Scelzi admitted, he’s supposed to have a three-year contract presented this weekend.
“I’m not retiring,” Scelzi said. “Somewhere in the future I am. When or where, I am not going to put a time frame on it.”
Hogwash – Alan Johnson says rumors of his leaving the U.S. Army team to field a nitro Funny Car team is nothing more than “Internet hogwash.”
“I tell people to believe half of what they hear and none of what they read on the Internet,” Johnson said. “Most of the stuff about me is made up. You wouldn’t believe how much time I spend fielding phone calls during the day explaining this stuff is not true.”
Johnson says the idea of having a Funny Car has yet to reach his radar screen.
“I haven’t even thought about it,” Johnson said. “The right opportunity comes around…maybe. But, I haven’t thought about it.”
Out of time – During today’s third qualifying session Whit Bazemore was a no-show. The team made an engine switch prior to qualifying and on the subsequent warm up discovered an oil pressure problem. Then they ran out of time.
“We changed motors and everything seemed okay…we still had enough time to make the third session barely,” Bazemore said. “There was a different problem with the new motor. It’s unfortunate because that turned out to be the best session. You never like to miss any session, but when you miss the best one it is frustrating. We have everything back together now. The guys on this team are outstanding. Honestly, the potential and talent for the team is way beyond what our results indicate.”
Bazemore didn’t lose his cool, or at least in public he didn’t.
“I’ve never ever thrown a helmet in public,” Bazemore admitted.
New Yawk, New Yawk – Mike Ashley qualified a career best 4th in just his second race under the Don Schumacher management umbrella. For his efforts, Ashley will race fellow Long Islander Tony Bartone in Sunday’s first round of eliminations.
“That’s funny. Of all the people you can meet in the first round, you end up racing someone that lives close to home,” Ashley said. “Tony is tough. Every driver in this class is tough. This is the best this class has been in years. Any driver is capable of winning on race day. That’s the great thing about this class.
“I will be up to the challenge tomorrow. Racing on Sunday is always exciting. But what makes it even more exciting is the fact we have a car and team capable of going the distance.”
Temperatures drop = Quick Runs – Want quicker Pro Stock runs? Turn down the atmospheric thermometer.
What a difference 24 hours and a favorable nod from Mother Nature can make. Friday’s qualifying opened with temperatures exceeding 100-degrees. Today the thermometer barely hit 80-degrees despite forecasts that called for a repeat of Friday.
Pro Stock benefited greatly from the early cloud cover. The first day bump was a 6.776. The drop in temperature resulted in a bump spot that lowered for the third session to a 6.740.
Pleasant Surprise - Jason Line entered Saturday’s qualifying fully expecting the 6.690 from Friday to fall by the wayside. Only Kurt Johnson’s 6.696 came within striking distance. His teammate Greg Anderson could only muster a fourth best 6.707.
“I really thought that one of us, Greg or me, would run better than the 69 I
ran last night, but nobody did. What can I say,” reflected Line on his
prediction. “I thought either Greg or I would do better and Kurt Johnson came
close with his pass this morning. I was wrong on the prediction. I stand
“We hurt the engine in this morning’s session, otherwise I though we would have gone faster. We damaged something internally, but we haven’t taken it apart yet. So we changed engines and the new one seems to be as good as the one we hurt. I still believe we have one of the best, if not the best, cars out here. I’d rather be in our position than everybody else’s’.”
Gimmie Five – That’s what the trio of Dick Maskin, Bob Glidden and Tom Martino were saying continuously on Saturday. In today’s first session, Martino drove to the fifth quickest run with a 6.719. He returned for the second session with a 6.753. The end result was a fifth qualifying position.
Martino is the only national event winner this season to not currently in the top ten points.
Better Hurry Up – Greg Anderson knows his role as champion, but it’s not the role he wants. He wants to get on a roll and he feels it needs to happen now.
“I’ve said it for a long time we can wait any longer. It’s time to get it
going. Somebody is going to take off and get on a roll and it need needs to be
one or both of these Summit Pontiacs. We’ve showed the way in the last couple
of years and the teams have copied and done their homework. Now we got parity.
It’s up to us to reassume the lead and make another breakthrough and get back
ahead of the pack.”
In the opening round tomorrow, Anderson will look over and find Ron Krisher in the other lane. Krisher qualified No. 13 with a best run of 6.730 seconds at 205.54 mph.
FRIDAY QUALIFYING - BURKART, FULLER AND LINE TAKE
QUALIFYING LEAD AT SCHUCK'S AUTO SUPPLY
(7-21-2006) -- Phil Burkart Jr. raced to the qualifying lead
a 4.898 second pass at 316.75 mph, which earned him the provisional
Funny Car lead at the 19th annual Schuck's Auto Supply NHRA Nationals
presented by Lucas Oil at Pacific Raceways.
Burkart was joined by Top Fuel driver Rod Fuller and Pro Stock points
leader Jason Line as qualifying leaders at the $1.4 million race, the
14th of 23 on the POWERade Drag Racing Series. Two qualifying sessions
remain Saturday for Sunday's 11 a.m. eliminations.
Thirteen-time Funny Car champion John Force continues to track down
points leader Ron Capps with a No. 2 qualifying effort. His 4.903 at
316.52 mph in his Castrol GTX Ford Mustang placed him just behind
Burkart's event sponsor favorite Checker Schuck's Kragen Chevy Monte
Carlo and seven spots ahead of Capps' 4.968 in his Brut Dodge Charger.
If Burkart can hang on to the position, it would be his first career No.
1 qualifying position.
"This is awesome," Burkart said. "My PR guy, Bob Wilber, just came over
and said, 'Come on, we gotta go.' I was like, 'OK, where are we going?'
I've never been No. 1 before, even on Friday night. I didn't know I had
to [talk to the media.] This is cool.
"I feel like this has been coming for a long time with this team. Maybe
this will kick it off for us and we'll be the breakthrough team of the
second half of the season."
When Fuller made his 4.578-second, 322.19-mph run in his Valvoline/David
Powers Homes Top Fuel dragster it was considerably quicker than anyone
else in the class had posted to that point, bringing big smiles from
crew chief Lee Beard and team owner David Powers. Brandon Bernstein
later drew close with a 4.599 at 319.75 mph in his Budweiser/Lucas Oil
dragster, but Fuller's E.T. kept him on top.
"The sun went down for us and Lee dove into the [timing] box a few times
before we ran," Fuller said. "He had that look in his eye like he was
going for it. What a place for this to happen for me because the last
year I ran as a Sportsman, I ran Division 6, so this was my area and so
many of my buddies have stopped by today to say hi."
New Top Fuel points leader Doug Kalitta drove to third place overall
with a 4.656 at 324.28 mph in his Mac Tools dragster. Former points
leader Melanie Troxel is 12th with a 4.748 in her Skull Shine/Torco Race
Line's Summit Racing Pontiac GTO remains the quickest car in Pro Stock
as he posted a 6.690 at 206.80 mph to earn provisional low qualifier
honors by .036 seconds through two rounds of time trials. Line, who
moved into the series lead last weekend at Denver, already has a
career-high three No. 1 qualifiers this year.
"That felt really good in the car and I guess the scoreboard agreed,"
Line said. "It was pretty stout. I'm usually over optimistic before each
run as far as what the number's gonna be but to go 6.690, almost a
6.68-something, is pretty good. I'd say we got all of it out of that
Results Friday after qualifying for the 19th annual Schuck's Auto Supply NHRA Nationals presented by Lucas Oil at Pacific Raceways, 14th of 23 events in the $50 million NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series. Qualifying continues Saturday for Sunday's final eliminations.
Top Fuel -- 1. Rod Fuller, 4.578 seconds, 322.19 mph; 2. Brandon
Bernstein, 4.599, 319.75; 3. Doug Kalitta, 4.656, 324.20; 4. Bob
Vandergriff, 4.660, 316.38; 5. David Baca, 4.670, 300.26; 6. Tony
Schumacher, 4.694, 310.48; 7. Cory McClenathan, 4.714, 310.63; 8. Larry
Dixon, 4.720, 318.02; 9. Hillary Will, 4.722, 315.19; 10. J.R. Todd,
4.733, 302.69; 11. Morgan Lucas, 4.738, 310.13; 12. Melanie Troxel,
4.748, 319.67; 13. Mike Strasburg, 4.791, 299.20; 14. David Grubnic,
4.815, 305.70; 15. Alan Bradshaw, 4.827, 311.49; 16. Doug Herbert,
Funny Car -- 1. Phil Burkart, Chevy Monte Carlo, 4.898, 316.75; 2. John
Force, Ford Mustang, 4.903, 316.52; 3. Eric Medlen, Mustang, 4.903,
310.84; 4. Tony Pedregon, Monte Carlo, 4.929, 310.27; 5. Gary Densham,
Monte Carlo, 4.934, 310.77; 6. Gary Scelzi, Dodge Charger, 4.945,
309.20; 7. Tommy Johnson Jr., Monte Carlo, 4.947, 311.63; 8. Whit
Bazemore, Charger, 4.953, 309.13; 9. Ron Capps, Charger, 4.968, 310.48;
10. Scott Kalitta, Monte Carlo, 4.988, 304.39; 11. Del Worsham, Monte
Carlo, 5.003, 308.85; 12. Mike Ashley, Dodge Stratus, 5.030, 309.42; 13.
Bob Gilbertson, Stratus, 5.128, 290.32; 14. Tim Wilkerson, Monte Carlo,
5.303, 231.87; 15. Cruz Pedregon, Monte Carlo, 5.347, 206.07; 16. Robert
Hight, Mustang, 5.763, 176.24.
Pro Stock -- 1. Jason Line, Pontiac GTO, 6.690, 206.80; 2. V. Gaines,
Dodge Stratus, 6.726, 205.32; 3. Dave Connolly, Chevy Cobalt, 6.728,
206.07; 4. Warren Johnson, GTO, 6.732, 205.98; 5. Greg Anderson, GTO,
6.735, 206.51; 6. Greg Stanfield, GTO, 6.741, 204.91; 7. Kurt Johnson,
Cobalt, 6.744, 205.13; 8. Allen Johnson, Stratus, 6.751, 204.60; 9. Jim
Yates, GTO, 6.760, 205.22; 10. Larry Morgan, Stratus, 6.760, 204.63; 11.
Richie Stevens, Stratus, 6.761, 204.60; 12. Tom Martino, GTO, 6.768,
204.98; 13. Mike Edwards, GTO, 6.769, 204.88; 14. Max Naylor, Stratus,
6.769, 204.17; 15. Mark Pawuk, GTO, 6.776, 203.98; 16. Erica Enders,
Stratus, 6.776, 203.37.
Hottest Rodder – "Hot Rod" Fuller recorded a
stout 4.578-second, 322.19-mph pass in his Valvoline/David Powers Homes dragster
Friday evening to easily pace the field.
With the exception of No. 2 qualifier Brandon Bernstein, who posted a 4.599-second run, Fuller's pass was nearly a tenth of a second quicker than most of his rivals, a virtual drubbing in the world of drag racing. The 35-year-old, Las Vegas-based racer, who drives for Houston homebuilder David Powers, is racing in just his 38th event as a professional.
"The sun went down for us and Lee (Beard, crew chief) dove into the (timing) box a few times before we made our run because the conditions kept getting better and better by the minute and he wanted to take advantage of it," Fuller said. "He had that look in his eye like he was going for it an he came through. I'm not surprised because he got his start up in this part of the world.
"What a place for this to happen for me because the last year I ran as a Sportsman racer, I ran Division 6, so this was my area. It's been a fun weekend because so many of my buddies have stopped by today to say hi."
Fuller is without the services of car chief John Boyce this weekend. Boyce broke his femur Thursday afternoon when the team got together for a wake boarding outing. Boyce underwent surgery Friday and will be sidelined for several weeks.
"We all went to Lake Tapps and John just had a freak deal and broke his femur," Fuller said. "He's a very important part of this team and I think it says a great deal about the other guys that they were able to come together and pick up the slack today. John's a strong guy and I got sick to my stomach seeing him in so much pain, but his biggest concern was about the car, even when they were hauling him off in the ambulance."
“Bodie” is in the house – John Smith has joined Doug Herbert this weekend as assistant crewchief to newly appointed tuner Jim Brissette.
“John just called me out of the blue when he heard we needed some help,” Herbert said. “It has worked out really well for us and I am glad to have him aboard.”
Smith brings to the table a wealth of knowledge in not only driving for Virgil Hartman but also tuning his wife Rhonda Hartman-Smith’s dragster over the years.
Eat a little Crow – Herbert knew that longtime friend Jim Brissette was the logical choice to serve as his new crewchief following Wayne Dupuy’s sudden departure. In the manner the two parted ways earlier this season, however, Herbert was prepared to eat some crow. Brissette was dismissed from the team when it was determined that he and Dupuy could no longer work together.
“I had to eat a little crow but Brissette knew the reason I had to let him go and he didn’t have hard feelings towards me, so that was good,” Herbert said.
Herbert admitted that he still doesn’t understand what prompted Dupuy to leave suddenly but draws the conclusion that he merely needed some time off.
Chaser vs. Chasee – Doug Kalitta overtook Melanie Troxel in Denver for the point championship lead. For Troxel crewchief Richard Hogan, he has mixed emotions about the SKULL Gear-sponsored team not being in the lead for the first time this season. Hogan is aware that plenty of racing exists for the 2006 crown and with that said, he’s not devastated they are in second at this point in the game. He does feel a pressing need to jump back to the top as soon as possible.
“It’s always best to be in the lead, but things change when you’re not,” Hogan said. “We never really expected to lead the points with a new team starting the season. We just need to catch Doug.
“It’s easier to chase someone than to be the one getting chased. When you do fall behind, it gets your attention.”
If Hogan has his way, Troxel will be able to regain the top spot after this weekend. Maintaining status quo could have some potentially championship dangerous ramifications.
“Our goal is to not waste any time trailing,” Hogan said. “We want to catch them as soon as possible. Then you have to be really careful that someone else doesn’t catch you both.”
Hogan’s dream championship battle is where one driver fights neck and neck with the other throughout the season and the score is settled at the last possible race.
“I like the pressure of being on top,” Hogan said. “If it was up to me, it would stay this way all the way to the finish. The best final I ever saw in Pomona was [Joe] Amato and [Gary] Ormsby for the championship on the last run.
“Having someone like Alan Johnson about 300 points ahead at this point isn’t that fun.”
Playing it Safe – Wes Cerny played it safe in Friday qualifying and no one was more appreciative than his driver Cory McClenathan.
McClenathan’s 4.741, 310.63 effort was enough to put him in the seventh
position. The unusually hot temperatures that exceeded 100 degrees during the
course of the day forced crew chiefs to detune the cars.
"Wes told me before the run that his plan was to get the car down the track so he could get data on our new chassis," McClenathan said. "I was real happy with the results. Wes is getting a feel for the chassis and how it works in the heat."
It even surprised them - Phil Burkart, driving
his special edition Chevron Techron Monte Carlo, leapt from the 16th spot all
the way to the top of the list in the final session. Burkart admits there’s a
first time for everything and he hopes Saturday’s qualifying concludes with him
leading the field which will be a first in his career.
"Being that early in the session, I'm sure just about every guy on our team thought it was a great run but someone would run quicker," Burkart said. "The crew went back to the pit to work on the car, but I went and hung out at the starting line to watch the rest of the class run. When I got back to the pit, some of the guys asked me 'Where'd we end up?' They actually didn't know, but assumed someone had bounced us back a few rungs. They were pretty pumped up to hear we were No. 1.
"We also had top speed, with a 316.75, so that's cool too. Both Checker, Schuck's, Kragen cars have been running big speed all year, and we really have run pretty well for two teams that aren't any higher than we are in the points. Maybe we can hold on to this top spot and win some big rounds tomorrow. That would be cool, to run this Techron car all day on Sunday. I know the Chevron people would love that, and so would I."
As for the boss – Burkart’s boss Del Worsham
played too conservatively on Friday and it bit him. He managed a 5.003, which
was good enough for the No. 11 spot.
"We were just soft, not enough pop in it out there," Worsham said. "We weren't trying to be that conservative, I promise you. We just didn't have enough power in it to really get going. It's a good thing we made it the full lap, because you'll need to do that on Sunday, when it could be really hot, but we wanted to go quicker than that. We had some parts breakage on that run, and that slowed us down quite a bit.
"We saw what our blue team did early in the session (Phil Burkart ran 4.898, which held on for the No. 1 spot) and that showed us there was plenty of track out there. We tried to get after it, but we missed on what we were trying to do, and then we trashed some parts trying to make the car do what it didn't want to do. The forecast for tomorrow is pretty brutal, but who knows. Maybe it won't be as hot as they're saying and we can pick up a few hundredths. We're sure going to try."
A Schumacher 4th? – Competition eliminator standout Rodger Brogdon traveled all the way to Seattle in order to go shopping. The Texas-based driver was mulling over prospective hosts for his forthcoming Pro Stock team and from what Torco’s CompetitionPlus.com has learned, the leader in the charge is Don Schumacher Racing.
Brogdon, a longtime GM racer, is likewise being lobbied by the manufacturer to stay put. Just this weekend, he has fielded nearly a half-dozen proposals and offers already.
Change of Direction – Kenny Koretsky crew chief Eddie Guarnaccia confirmed the Kenny Koretsky Motorsports team and driver Mike Thomas are running an engine from fellow Mopar runner Allen Johnson. The team has used hosrsepower from Larry Morgan for the past few seasons.
“It gives us the opportunity to figure out whether it’s the race car or the motor,” Guarnaccia said. “We need to know. You can’t go as far as we have this season…struggle the whole season…hit and miss…and do well with the race car only to fall short in the power department.”
Guarnaccia said it was a toss-up this weekend which car would be run – the traditional blue or the red car which ran well here last year. Red got the nod this weekend.
“We went to Sonoma and qualified second,” Guarnaccia said. “It was on the pole here and was #2 in Sonoma,” Guarnaccia said. “We gathered a lot of time and data with the car and that enables us to make the best assessment. We are just trying to understand what is wrong.”
Guarnaccia wouldn’t say whether this was a one-race deal with Johnson or if a Morgan engine would return for Sonoma.
“We have an agreement with Larry for the rest of the year,” Guarnaccia said. “I think it is going to answer some questions on both sides. I’m sure Larry wants to know if it’s us or what he’s doing there.
“We’re just looking for answers.”
Glidden is here – For the record, Bob Glidden officially exhaled on Friday afternoon. The 10-time world champion took over the wrenching duties for Richard Maskin’s SKULL Gear Pro Stocker just two weeks ago. In that time, Glidden organized the team in building new motors and bringing the horsepower arsenal into tip-top shape.
Glidden hadn’t worked at the drag races since he was fired from Don Schumacher Racing in April. That provided plenty of time to prepare a mental game plan if a job presented itself.
Glidden will admit that it was a thrash to make it to Seattle after sitting out Denver.
“All of the guys in the shop have worked hard to put together some engines so we could be there,” Glidden said. “Our goal coming out here was just to get it down the track and qualify.”
Glidden said the team made a few test laps in Martin, Michigan prior to Seattle but wasn’t sure if the team learned anything of value. But that didn’t make a difference to him. He was having fun playing the game.
“I love being here,” Glidden said.
Glidden spent much of his time off playing golf and added, “I love playing golf just as much.”
Wearing out crewmen used to be another past-time for Glidden but not this time. “Mad Dog” hasn’t bit anyone yet.
Case in point, Tom Martino and a crewman were standing around prior to their second qualifying session on Friday when they were asked, “Just how tough was Bob Glidden to work for in the weeks leading up to this race?”
Martino responded, “I messed up once and he didn’t even yell at me.”
Could it be the kindler and gentler Glidden in charge?
“I wouldn’t go that far,” Martino said.
Martino concluded the day as the 12th quickest with a 6.768, 204.98.
Experimenting – Let the record reflect that when the
atmospheric conditions get brutal crewchief Tommy Utt and driver Dave Connolly
go into experimental mode. The end result was the third position after two
"We went into this weekend doing a little experimenting with the tune-up," said Connolly after driving the Skull Gear Chevy Cobalt to a best of 6.728 seconds at 206.07 mph in the evening run. "We left a little bit at the starting line but we're still third and will be in the show Sunday. And we get two more runs Saturday."
Connolly is coming off a win in Denver Sunday. Temperatures in the mile-high city reached 100, 103 and 103 degrees last week.
Like Father, Like Son - Sixteen-year-old Kyle Cultrera, son
of Cagnazzi Pro Stock crewman Steve Cultrera, recently completed licensing at
Doug Foley's Drag Racing School and is now certified for Competition Eliminator
or Super Comp driving duties. Cultrera is actively searching for a driving
position in one of those categories, bringing financial backing with him as
"My goal is to eventually be a Pro Stock driver," Cultrera said. "I've been
lucky to have grown up around some of the best in the business, including
former Pro Stock Champ Darrell Alderman, Tommy Lee [who was recently chosen to drive the Slammers Ultimate Milk Pro Stock Cobalt], and of course my dad who currently works on the clutch in Tommy Lee's car."
Cultrera has been attending races since he was one month old, and began
driving go-karts at age 7. During his go-kart career, Cultrera earned seven
victories in 20 races.
More recently, Cultrera joined the crew of the Star Sales/ Sweeney Drywall
IHRA Pro Stock GTO driven by Dan Sweeney, and feels his recent experience behind the wheel will help him with his duties for that team.
"Now I have a better appreciation for what Dan goes through on a regular
basis," Cultrera said. "Now I can connect myself to what he is doing in the
car with my experience at the Doug Foley Drag Racing School. I was extremely satisfied with my school experience and I learned a lot from the people that know how to run these cars the best. I want to thank Doug Foley and John DiBartolomeo for the one-on-one instruction they gave me at the school."
Cultrera's performance at the school was exceptional, earning his license in
only six passes, with a best run of 8.464 at 160.27 mph. Cultrera also
proved he has the reactions needed to drive, when he cut a .001 light on
only his sixth-ever pass in the racecar.
In addition to his driving talents, Cultrera also brings a thorough
understanding of RacePak data acquisition, Applied Physics clutch
management, and Computech weather station programs.
When not racing, Cultrera is an Honor Student and Varsity Soccer player at
Marshwood High School in Eliot, Maine.
THURSDAY NOTEBOOK -
He Said - Doug Kalitta and his team lead the championship points by only 22 points over second place holder Melanie Troxel, who had held the lead for the entire 2006 season until Kalitta took over the top spot at the previous event in Denver.
“Denver was a great race for us,” Kalitta said. “We made the semifinals and that was enough to get around Melanie. Although it’s good to be in the lead, we’re looking at the big picture. Having the lead now is great for our Mac Tools team, but we want it after the last race.
“I’ve never won in Seattle. This year would be the perfect time to break that streak.”
Kalitta leads Top Fuel, the NHRA’s quickest and fastest racing class, with four wins in 2006 and has climbed from 9th to 1st place in POWERade championship points since April. He made an incredible 232-point climb in points in the last eight events to take the lead. It marks only the third time that Doug has led the points in his career. He last led the points last season after the St. Louis event.
Kalitta has won four of the previous eight NHRA national events (Bristol, Tenn., Atlanta, Topeka, Kans., and Chicago).
She Said - "There's a lot of racing left," Melanie Troxel, the former point leader said.
Troxel relinquished her lead at last weekend's Mopar Mile-High Nationals in Denver and is now 22 points behind Doug Kalitta, who has come on strong in the last several races. The heat of the summer months has also taken its toll on the Skull Shine/Knoll Gas-Torco Race Fuels Top Fuel operation, but the team that just celebrated its one-year anniversary is working hard to get back up front.
Troxel actually sees a plus to her position: "I think it might take a little extra pressure off of us," she says. "In the past several races we watched our points lead diminish, but there is still a lot of racing left. I think that this maybe gets a little of the spotlight off us and lets us just focus on racing and doing what we need to do."
As for the recent hot and often humid conditions at some of the events, "It's really hard to say if that has had any effect on our performance," Troxel says. "I don't think there's been any one obvious thing that you can point to and say over the past four races that this is where we have had a problem. Obviously, last weekend we never had the handle on the altitude setup up in Denver. I think just getting off of the mountain is going to help us.
"Richard (Hogan, crew chief) feels very confident that he has a good tune-up that he's working on for the heat. I don't know if we've mastered it yet, but we think it has a lot of potential."
Troxel is very familiar with Pacific Raceways, where the weather is predicted to be in the 90s this weekend. "I had my first national-event win in Seattle in an Alcohol Dragster in 1999," she recalls. "I've run a lot at this race track and have a lot of fond memories of it. I always look forward to racing here."
Welcome to the Big Leagues Kid - Rookie Top Fuel driver, J.R. Todd has barely slowed from his whirlwind victory last weekend in Denver. In only the ninth start of his rookie season, Todd won his first NHRA National Event driving Dexter Tuttle's Skull Shine sponsored entry. He also made some history, becoming the first African-American to win in Top Fuel competition.
"I never imagined in a million years that we'd be able to get a victory this soon," Todd said. "This is very gratifying for me, Dexter, crew chief Jimmy Walsh and the entire crew. And we’ve got to thank Evan (Knoll) for coming onboard, because the Torco/Skull Shine sponsorship has definitely helped make us more competitive. To be able to beat the World Champion (Tony Schumacher) in the final round was the most exciting thing that's ever happened to me. This gives both me and the team a lot of confidence and momentum going into this weekend's Schucks Auto Parts Nationals in Seattle."
The media attention afforded him has been quite an experience.
"I really wasn't ready for all the attention this win has generated," Todd added. "Man, I've had to do literally dozens of interviews with local and national media and I've been wide-open since Sunday night. It was pretty cool to have one of my friends call to tell me he just saw me on CNN talking about being the first African-American to win a major motorsports event. I don't think of myself as a minority, I'm just a driver. I know that Melanie (Troxel) and Hillary (Will) have received a lot of attention being females in a male-dominated sport and the diversity aspect seems to come into play, but again, I'm just a 24 year-old kid who is living the dream."
Todd is looking forward to getting back to busineattle.ss at Se
"Racing is what I do. The media is something I'll just have to learn to handle. But my real focus is on racing. My full concentration this weekend will be trying to conquer the tricky Seattle track and the high temperatures and hopefully we'll be able to do just that. If I have any hope of being named “Rookie of the Year”, I know that I’m going to have to win quite a few more rounds to have a chance at that title.”
Special Cheering Section - David Baca and his sponsor, Mach 1 Air Services, have invited the entire population of a Seattle-area Muscular Dystrophy summer camp to this weekend's event.
The idea was the brainstorm of Baca, a 48-year-old from Brentwood, Calif., and Mach 1 Air Services CEO Mike Entzminger, who saw first-hand the positive effects a day at the races had on another young Muscular Dystrophy patient earlier this year in Chicago.
"I attended the Chicago race and David had invited a young girl named Alex Dzimitowicz out as his guest," Entzminger said. "She had such a great time and became David's biggest fan and we were all so touched by this little girl's enthusiasm for life and our race team that I wanted to do something more."
Entzminger and Baca quickly put the wheels in motion for another day at the races for some additional budding race fans affected by Muscular Dystrophy and the plans soon encompassed inviting a large group of "Jerry's Kids" attending a Seattle summer camp.
"I've always tried to use my race team in special ways so we can give something back to all these great communities that support drag racing and our sponsors," Baca said. "We've been doing something at every race this summer and this is just a continuation of that. With Mach 1's support, we decided this time we weren't going to limit our invites so we asked the whole camp of kids to come out as our VIP guests."
Already this summer, Baca has helped raise awareness for the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Research Foundation, the Mark Hindy Charitable Foundation benefiting the children of the 9/11 disaster, Alex's Lemonade Stand for pediatric cancer research, and the Muscular Dystrophy Association - Chicago Chapter. Previously, Baca teamed with NFL Hall of Fame quarterback Jim Kelly and his Hunter's Hope Foundation.
"We're coming to Seattle to win this race," Baca said. "That's what we do. And the way we've been running this summer, I wouldn't be surprised if we took home the trophy. That's how much confidence I have in this race team right now.
"What's interesting is that ever since we started having our special guests out to each of these races, we've been going rounds and finding some success. Maybe there's some good karma coming our way. I do know how much my crew guys respond to the excitement a little kid that's been through some tough times brings when they come into our pits and get so excited about what we're doing. It lifts all of us to a higher level."
The Incumbent - Brandon Bernstein hopes to defend last year’s victory at Pacific Raceways.
“Our team has been fortunate to celebrate victories every year since my 2003 rookie season,” said Bernstein. “Last year we won twice, St. Louis and Seattle. At the halfway point this season, we were third in point standings, we’ve been to the final round four times and have won twice. Seattle is the middle event of the three-race West Coast Swing, and if we can do well in these three races, we have a bona fide chance at the POWERade championship title. It would be awesome to be in the dogfight at the end.
“We have a team that’s very capable. Tim (Richards, crew chief) knows what it’s like to handle the pressure of a championship run, having won five championships as a crew chief for Joe Amato, and one for my dad the first year he joined our team in 2001. Tim and his wife Kim have a wealth of experience to draw upon and we’re very lucky in that regard.
“We need to stay focused and go rounds.
“Before the action starts on the racetrack, however, we’re going to participate in our annual motorcycle ride and Burnout Party Thursday evening (July 20) with two of our local sponsors, Downtown Harley-Davidson and Olympic Eagle Distributing. It’s a great way to relax before we get down to the business of qualifying on Friday.”
Bernstein won the O’Reilly Spring Nationals in Houston in April, the Pontiac Performance Nationals in Columbus, Ohio, in May and was runner-up at the O’Reilly Summernationals in Topeka, Kan., in May and the O’Reilly Midwest Nationals in St. Louis in June. He has 10 career victories and three runner-up finishes heading into the Western Swing.
Gone Fishin' - "Hot Rod" Fuller and David Powers Motorsports are joined this weekend by Woodlan, Wash.-based fishing supplier G. Loomis as an associate sponsor. Catering to the avid outdoorsman, G. Loomis manufactures state-of-the-art fishing tackle and accessories for the fresh, saltwater, and fly fisherman. Team tuner Lee Beard befriended the Loomis family years ago on one of his many expeditions to the rivers and streams of the Northwest United States; a friendship that continues to this day.
"Over the years, I've stretched plenty of fish lips with the Loomis family," Beard said. "Now they're going to come into our world and see how we get our trophies. I'm sure they're going to be blown away and I have a pretty good idea that our sport is a little bit louder than what they're used to. Maybe they'll bring us some luck and we'll have a better result on the racetrack."
Adding Up - Tony Schumacher has his calculator working overtime.
Having moved up three spots in the standings, while totaling some valuable round points, Schumacher has recently been crunching numbers just like a college professor would do.
“I guess I have been doing that,” admitted the defending NHRA POWERade Top Fuel world champion. “Since winning in St. Louis and then getting to the finals in Denver last weekend, suddenly, we’re just about in the thick of the championship chase.”
The Chicago native is hopeful the U.S. Army team’s resurgence will extend into this weekend’s race.
“In two races, we’ve gone from being 312 points behind the leader to 209 points behind (Doug Kalitta),” he added. “If we can match that improvement (103 points) in the next two races, we’ll be right there.”
With the Seattle tour stop looming, Schumacher continues to lavish praise on his crew chief, Alan Johnson, and the rest of the U.S. Army Top Fuel crew.
“There’s never been a moment when they’ve thrown their arms in the air due to frustration,” he said. “The prevailing thought is that our soldiers never give up, so we’re certainly not going to. I wouldn’t trade Alan Johnson and my guys for anyone.”
In the last two years, Pacific Raceways, which is the second of three venues on the NHRA’s annual Western Swing, has been a welcomed sight to Schumacher. After capturing the pole, he won the 2004 event, and then lost in the finals last year.
“We’ve had success there so we’ll cross our fingers that we’ll do well again this year,” he related. “Like I said earlier, we want to keep carving away at the lead. Every round win will get us that much closer to challenging for our third straight title.”
Bring It On - Whit Bazemore says to bring on the hot temperatures. In his oponion, the hotter it is - the better it will be.
"The hotter the race track, the harder it is to get traction," explains Bazemore, driver of the Matco Tools Iron Eagle Dodge Charger R/T Funny Car. "One of the hottest we've ever had was Denver this past weekend; it makes the window for performance smaller. But, it's the same for everyone. I'm the kind of person (who believes) that the bigger the challenge, the better, so the harder it is, the better, in my opinion.
"Personally, I love the heat. I love racing when it's hot. I feel good in the heat and so I enjoy it. A lot of people don't like it."
Bazemore is confident that the increase in the car's and team's performance in the last six races - despite mixed results, including five top-half qualifiers, a runner-up finish as well as five early-round exits - is a precursor to future success for the Matco Tools team. "We've got a team that has tremendous potential, but so far this year we haven't lived up to it. There have been a lot of changes on the Matco Tools team and it took time to jell and there have been more recent changes," he adds.
"The bottom line is that the chemistry in our team is excellent, the Matco Tools guys are great and we've just lost a lot of races, quite honestly, which we shouldn't have lost. Too many times this year we have been ahead of our opponent on Sunday and we ended up losing the drag race. That's the frustrating thing.
"My priority in Seattle is to go up there and take the hunger that we have for winning and try to turn it into some round wins and get ourselves back on the map."
Oh, Aunt Bee - Sometimes a driver just can't escape a childhood nickname.
Sometimes called "Opie" in his much younger years, Del Worsham has never really been known as the sort of guy who says things like "Golly gee" or "Oh darn." Having grown up on a skateboard and a BMX bike in Southern California, the 36-year old Worsham still utters references to things being "rad" and his normal exclamation point to prove any fact's validity is to say that it's "for reals." Worsham's many fans shouldn't be surprised, though, if 21-time Funny Car winner drops the word "Schuck's" into more than a few conversations and interviews this weekend in Seattle. They also shouldn't fear that such language is a sign of Worsham's transformation into a Midwestern farm boy.
Now in his 10th season driving the Checker, Schuck's, Kragen NHRA Funny Car, Worsham will finally have the chance to mention his sponsor without having to recite the full litany of three brand names, as this weekend's stop on the NHRA POWERade tour has been dubbed the Schuck's Nationals. The venerable Schuck's Auto Supply brand has been a part of the "do it yourself" retail business for generations in the northwest, and as part of the CSK Auto chain it has also become known as the middle leg of Worsham's rapid-fire "Checker, Schuck's, Kragen" verbal delivery during top-end interviews. This weekend in Seattle, Worsham will be able to think in terms of Schuck's alone, and he hopes to keep the customers satisfied with his on-track performance.
"It was great news for us when we heard that CSK was going to sponsor the Seattle race," Worsham said. "It's always been a great event, in a fantastic part of the country, and we've enjoyed having all the Schuck's people with us at the track each year. At one time or another, we've been to most of the Schuck's stores around the south Seattle area, so we're pretty familiar with all of these great people. It will be an honor to promote the Schuck's name this weekend, and I know the big Seattle crowd will be able to relate to that.
"My teammate, Phil Burkart, will be driving a special Chevron Techron car in Seattle, but I'll still be in our beautiful red Checker, Schuck's, Kragen Monte Carlo, flying the colors for all the CSK stores while we give a little added emphasis to the Schuck's brand in the Great Northwest. I know the temptation to use the 'Aw, Schuck's' line is going to be there all weekend, but hopefully I can come up with something a step beyond the obvious. It's not that easy to blurt out something original when you've just jumped out of a 320 mph thrill ride, but I'll try."
Three is fine with me - Most of the current NHRA POWERade professional competitors rate the NHRA’s Western swing of back-to-back-to-back events as their least favorite experience throughout the 23-race race tour. Mike Ashley is one of the few that looks forward to the stretch of consecutive races which began last week in Denver and moves this week to the Pacific Northwest.
Ashley is looking forward to this triple-header of events because it enables the Evan Knoll-owned team to establish continuity for the balance of the season and beyond. The new car and team under Don Schumacher Racing management was formed in less than three weeks and yet managed to qualify last week at the NHRA Mopar Mile High Nationals.
“This is a great opportunity for our team to step forward on the baseline we established last weekend,” Ashley said. “We plan to continue building on what progress we made in Denver. As good as we did in Denver that race also served as the test session we never had. Brian and I spoke today and we both feel good about our program. He feels he has the typical new car challenges addressed and I’m feeling comfortable in the car.”
Ashley has never raced in Seattle and is excited about the experience. Prior to last season, Ashley traditionally competed in only 12-events a year on the Pro Modified tour where he is a two-time world champion.
“I know it’s been said before but it holds true,” Ashley said. “Pacific Raceways is just like any other track; it has a start and finish line and one has to accept the conditions the track gives them. That’s a universal code that remains the same whether or not you’ve run there before.”
Gone Fishin', Part 2 - To repay the loyalty of three of their devoted associate sponsors, Kalitta Motorsports is giving longtime associate sponsors Technicoat Companies, Fischer Honda, and Red Line Oil primary sponsorship signage on the normally Kalitta Air-decorated race car free of charge for one event each during the NHRA’s Western Swing in Denver, Seattle, and Sonoma, Calif.
This weekend marks the second event of the Western Swing and the Kalitta Motorsports Associate Sponsor Appreciation Swing. Kalitta’s flopper will be adorned with primary sponsorship for Fischer Honda for the weekend event in the Seattle.
“I think this is a great way to reward our associate sponsors,” Kalitta said. “Each one of these companies, and all of our associate sponsors, are terrific to work with, and I can’t think of any that I don’t consider some of the folks involved with that company to be friends with as well.
“Rick Fischer (owner of Fischer Honda) has been a friend and sponsor for a long time. He comes to every race and does many things for me and our whole Kalitta Motorsports team. I’m glad we’ve got this chance to give something back to him and Fischer Honda.”
High Techron - Phil Burkart will drive yet another in the long line of "special edition" Funny Cars produced by Checker, Schuck's, Kragen and Worsham Racing. Burkart will wheel a new Chevron Techron Monte Carlo this weekend.
Burkart is excited to put the car on public display this weekend at Pacific Raceways. While doing so, he'd also like to give his fellow Funny Car competitors a good look at the tail lights and parachute packs on his new ride, as he pulls away from them near the finish line.
"The people at Chevron have been huge supporters of our program for many years, and all of us have always appreciated everything they've done for our team," Burkart said. "As the guy who gets to drive so many of these special edition cars, I'm honored to put the Techron name and this great new design on the track. I don't think I have to spell out what would be the greatest way to celebrate this design, and our many years of association. It has to do with winning rounds and celebrating on Sunday.
"The fact that he Seattle race is now the Schuck's Nationals makes it all the better. As a group, our two Checker, Schuck's, Kragen teams have done well in Phoenix at the CSK Nationals, so we were all excited to see CSK pick up the title sponsorship of the Seattle race. If we do as well in Washington as we've done in Arizona, we may start lobbying CSK to sponsor more events."
Racing this weekend in a city known as a home for many "high tech" corporations, ranging from Boeing to Microsoft, Burkart's "high Techron" car has come to fruition in a decidedly more personal way. No product of computerized imaging, the new Techron body was actually conceived by 16-year old Danny Rubin, the son of CSK executive Paul Rubin. A budding artist and a longtime fan of Team CSK, Danny had drawn numerous Funny Car creations for the walls in his father's office (or possibly the door on the family refrigerator,) when his knack for innovative designs finally caught the eye of CSK's Chris Bowen, who has been responsible for most of the team's great special edition cars over the years. Bowen put out the challenge, allowing Danny to put ink to paper for a new Techron design, and the results are likely to impress fans from coast to coast.
"Danny has been such a big fan, and he's really creative, so I thought it would be great to give him a shot at this," Bowen said. "He nailed it. This car is going to look great on the track, while it will also pop off the TV screen. That's one of the great challenges of car design, to make it look good in person and on television. Danny should be proud of his work, because this is a great looking car."
Don't Count Him Out Yet - Greg Anderson knows he is not out of the 2006 NHRA POWERade Pro Stock point championship race.
The three-time and defending Pro Stock champion, left the last race in Denver second to teammate Jason Line in the point standings, the first time he hasn’t been at the top of the standings since the beginning of the 2006 season. In fact, he has been in the No. 1 spot since Sonoma last year (21 races).
“We’re not out of this race by any means,” Anderson said as he left Denver for Seattle. “Every person on this team is dedicated to winning not only races but the championship. Look back, we were second after Seattle last year and went on to win. I see the same opportunity this year, but I don’t want to wait until Sonoma or somewhere else on the schedule to take the top spot, I want to take the lead back at this race in Seattle. After all we’re only 22 points out.”
Last season, Anderson entered Sonoma in second place in the points, and began a streak that led him to his third consecutive Pro Stock championship. From Sonoma to the season-final event, the Minnesota-native, who now lives in North Carolina, went to six final rounds, winning five and won the 2005 championship by 204 points.
Anderson wants to begin putting pressure on his fellow competitors, which includes his teammate Jason Line, who leads the NHRA POWERade point standings, beginning at this weekend’s 19th annual NHRA Schuck's Auto Supply Nationals at Pacific Raceways, in Kent, Wash., just outside Seattle. The Seattle race is the second of three back-to-back-to-back races known to most in drag racing as the Western Swing.
“I said recently in other interviews that the driver who leads the standing at the end of the Western Swing has the best chance of winning the championship,” added Anderson. “If you look back I think the stats will back me up. We want to win every race, but we definitely would like to win here and Sonoma to be the one with the point lead at the end of the swing.
“To do that we have to have this new Summit Racing Pontiac a little more consistent and the driver has got to drive a lot more consistently. If we do that we have a good opportunity at Seattle and Sonoma. It’s crunch time for both Jason and me. Taking nothing away from Dave Connolly, who drove extremely great the whole race, I really think that we had the two best cars at Denver last weekend in the heat. It’s going to be hot in Seattle, so hopefully we can use that to our advantage.”
The First Two - You know it's going to be a close championship race when you fail to qualify at two races and you're still in the thick of the championshp battle.
“If you had told me six races ago that we’d be a couple of rounds out of the lead now I wouldn’t have believed it,” said the talented driver of the Skull Gear Chevy Cobalt Sunday after winning at Denver. “But ever since Atlanta, when Tommy Utt (crew chief) came on board, we’ve just taken it to a different level.”
He has been scorching the competition for the past seven races and his current level would be third, as in third place in points, with the top two levels now within reach. Three wins, one runner-up and 619 points have added up quite nicely for Connolly and the team, pushing him to 846 and within 51 points of new series leader Jason Line and 29 of former pacesetter Greg Anderson.
“Greg has stumbled a little and that’s given us all a chance to catch up,” added Connolly, who will attempt to climb even closer to the guys in front of him in the Schuck’s Auto Supply Nationals, Friday through Sunday, at Pacific Raceways in Kent.
He became the first Pro Stock driver to win three times this season on Sunday in the heat and high altitude of the Mile-High city. It was his eighth career title but he was nonetheless ready to vacate the mile-high climes for sea level, Pacific Raceways and a return to normal race conditions. Racing in Denver requires a one-off setup.
Connolly, 23, has one national event victory here and came close to winning twice on July 25, 2004. Shortly after capturing the Super Comp title in sportsman competition, he lost a close race to Anderson for the Pro Stock title.
“It’s going to be good to get off the mountain and get back to sea level. We have done pretty good there and I’m comfortable racing there,” he said.
“We had an awesome car in Denver, but Jason was the fastest guy in each round. I knew what I had to do (in the finals). I went up there (to the starting line) knowing how I wanted to set up. It was basically what you do when you bracket race.”
The result was Connolly’s near-perfect reaction time of .008 of a second (.000 is perfect) got him off the line first and to the finish line first. Line’ s .093 doomed him from the start. He had the quickest time of the round again, but it didn’t matter. Connolly won with a 7.173 at 193.07 mph to Line’s 7.141 at 194.13.
Performances like that are harbingers of a championship-contending team.
With one victory already in the bank in the beginning of what Connolly calls a pivotal NHRA Western Swing (back-to-back races in Denver, Seattle and Sonoma, Calif.), he has the leaders looking over their shoulders.
We do well here - Every trip to Pacific Raceways elicits additional special memories for Pro Stock standout Kurt Johnson, for it was at this track in 1993 that he earned his first NHRA national event win as a promising rookie. Thirteen years later, as he returns for this year’s edition, the ACDelco Cobalt racer arrives not only as an established star in this highly competitive division, but also as the defending champion, having won this event a year ago. Despite his elevated status, his desire to win remains just as strong.
“The entire ACDelco Cobalt crew is pretty excited to go back to Seattle,” said Johnson. “Every driver in Top Fuel, Funny Car and Pro Stock can tell you where they won their first race and what that track means to them. For me, that means Pacific Raceways. As the site of my first win, any categorization of Seattle includes either the number one or the letter A because it’s at the top. We’ve also done well there since then, with a total of three wins in twelve tries, so we’re batting just about .250, which is pretty good in drag racing.
Getting Settled - Erica Enders hopes her transition to Don Schumacher Racing continues its seamless progression this weekend at Pacific Raceways for the Schuck's Auto Supply NHRA Nationals.
Last weekend at the Mopar Mile-High Nationals at Bandimere Speedway, she made her debut in the Team Schumacher Dodge Stratus R/T without any testing in that particular car and qualified No. 13, then lost a tough first round of eliminations against Ron Krisher.
"I'm excited to get back into the car now that I am more familiar with it," said the Houston native. "It will take a little bit of stress off of me for the weekend. Before, I had no idea what to expect, but Shaun (Carlson, teammate and driver of the Team Mopar/SRT Dodge Stratus) and everybody at DSR made the transition really smooth last weekend."
This will be Enders' second trip to Pacific Raceways as a professional NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series driver.
"Last year (as a rookie) was the first time I raced here," she said. "We never came up here and raced before (as a Sportsman driver) because it is so far from Texas, but it's a cool stop on the Western Swing. I'm hoping to do a little better than last year (No. 16 qualifier) and not have a first-round exit."
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