:::::: Feature Stories ::::::

(MONO-)STRUTTING THEIR STUFF

1-27-07-mono.jpg
Perhaps
it was a tempest in a Top Fuel teapot. At least Mike Kloeber, Clay Millican's
crew chief, has begun to work with David Powers, Rod Fuller's team owner, in
putting a  positive spin on the situation.

But
call it the January Surprise, the latest in drag-racing politics.

"Monogate"
hit the Firebird International Raceway scene Saturday morning with Powers'
literal and figurative out-of-the-box approach to track-sanctioned preseason
testing at the National Time Trials.

DPM
rolled out the first modern-day monostrut-wing dragster, the
Valvoline-sponsored car for driver Rod Fuller. Kloeber used the word
"confused" to describe his feelings after finding out in a call two
days earlier from race-car builder and longtime associate Brad Hadman that
Powers had purchased the hardware -- and seeing it sitting in the pit across
the aisle.

UP FRONT with Jon Asher

01-25-06-asher.jpgNo publication worth the ink it’s printed with – although in our case
that probably means the pixels you see on your screen – lets the year
end without some sort of review. I could select the Best and Worst of
the Year, but in this instance I’ll just nominate what I think were the
most important stories of 2006. Of course, one man’s version of what
was important isn’t necessary another’s, so ultimately you’ll decide
what you think were the most meaningful stories of the past 12 months.

I don’t think there was one story that’s worthy of being the biggest
news of the year, but unlike Time Magazine, I won’t insult you by
suggesting that you are the story of year.

SETTING THE RECORD STRAIGHT - WHO AND WHAT IS HD PARTNERS ACQUISITION CORPORATION?

1-21-08hdp.jpgOn the morning of May 30th,
2007, NHRA.com posted a release on their website stating “a definitive
agreement” between the NHRA and an entity called HD Partners Acquisition
Corporation (HDP) had been signed whereby all assets related to the
professional side of NHRA racing, and rights “to commercialize the NHRA brand,”
would be acquired by HDP, and that “upon consummation of the transaction, the
acquired assets will be held in a wholly owned subsidiary” of HDP. The
agreement provided some details about some of HDP’s principals, some details
into the management structure of the future subsidiary, and the major  considerations of the proposed transaction.

The announcement quickly led to
an flock of “NHRA Sold” headlines. None 
were true because (1) this announcement was peppered with
forward-looking statements regarding a proposed
acquisition, not a completed transaction as implied by these headlines; and (2)
the NHRA was not “sold”—nor can it be (the reasons why to be discussed in a
future installment).

JERRY ECKMAN IS READY TO TALK

11-14-06-jerryeckman.jpgDark clouds usually dissipate after
a brief storm. However, if you’re Jerry Eckman, those clouds are still
lingering - a painful reminder of the relentless storm he’s weathered
for more than a decade.

Eckman’s wearied eyes speak without
his lips moving. If they could convey a message, more than likely they
would utter, “Enough.”

He used to bite his lip, opting for silence.

Now Eckman is ready to talk. Friendships be damned, political correctness be damned. He wants his life back.

BOB GLIDDEN - AN OLDS MAN?

1-22-07-bobglidden.jpg There are some combinations that were
always an institution in drag racing. For instance, we could always
automatically assume that Bill Jenkins was a Chevrolet man, that the talented
“Dyno Don” Nicholson was pretty much a Ford man at heart, and we always picture
Ronnie Sox in a Mopar. In the same vein, we could always associate Bob Glidden
with a Ford-powered entry. Sure there were the flirtations with a Chevrolet in
1976 at Indy, and the record-setting season of 1979 in a Mopar, but for the
most part the cagey veteran from Whiteland,
Ind., was always a
dyed-in-the-wool Blue Oval man.

However,
a little over two decades ago, unbeknownst to many Pro Stock aficionados, the
Hoosier nearly ended up in an Oldsmobile as part of a revered Hurst/Olds
project. Just what changed his path at the last minute? That answer may never
be fully revealed on the record, but the word on the streets is that the folks
at Ford objected, and at contract time they flexed their muscles by strongly
suggesting that their star driver “cease and desist.”

TWENTY QUESTIONS WITH NHRA FOUNDER WALLY PARKS

1-21-07-wally.jpgIf we assume that at least a million words have been written about NHRA
founder Wally Parks – not about NHRA per se, but about its leader –
probably 850,000 of them have been positive. Editorial writers –
including this one, I’m sorry to say – have often attacked the sport’s
“father” for his perceived mistakes in first organizing and later
running the largest sanctioning body (in terms of members) in all of
North American motorsports.

In a scenario that’s eerily reminiscent of the 13-year-old who thinks
his father is completely out of touch with the modern world and knows
nothing and then, when he’s about 18, suddenly wonders how the Old Man
learned so much in just five years, so too have many people’s attitudes
towards Mr. Parks changed in recent years. This is not to suggest that
he’s now above reproach, but it’s more an admission, shall we say, that
in retrospect some of those decisions which were dissected and
questioned for their relevance now appear to have been the right ones
all along.

FEEDBACK FRIDAY - January 19

11-30-06-feedbackfriday.jpgEvery
Friday, Torco's CompetitionPlus.com brings you our Feedback letters.
Read what our readers have to say about our feature articles and you
can even offer your opinions.

FEEDBACK FRIDAY - January 19 

THE DAY THE SPORTSMEN FOUGHT BACK

1-14-07-standingup.jpgThere's nothing more prestigious than winning Top Fuel at the NHRA U.S. Nationals, and that's exactly what inspired a group of sportsman racers to use the first round of eliminations as a protest platform. No sportsman division had dared to stand up to the seemingly invincible sanctioning body, not to mention during their flagship national event. There's always a first time for everything, however, and in 1981 a group of disgruntled sportsman racers took the NHRA to task in front of their paying customers.

This makeshift group of sportsman racers had been rumor fodder in the pits for a few months prior to the event, yet when they confronted the sanctioning body the issue was always sidestepped. On Labor Day weekend in 1981 they took the unprecedented step of airing their concerns before one of the largest crowds of the year. After all, they had nothing to lose.

INTERVIEW WITH HOT ROD FULLER

1-17-07-hotrodfuller.jpgDrag
racing success on the professional level has usually come about after a
long, often arduous climb up through the ranks, and few epitomize this
scenario more than Las Vegas resident “Hot Rod” Fuller. The winner of
13 NHRA national events, 28 points meets and numerous Division
championships in the Super categories, while few remember it now,
Fuller actually competed in Top Fuel back in 1995 and ’96, qualifying
six times in 15 outings. He never made headlines primarily because the
cars he was driving weren’t the most competitive, but all that changed
when he was tabbed by David Powers to handle his new Top Fuel operation
in 2005. Fuller’s selection followed multiple face-to-face interviews
and extensive personality testing in which the recreational weight
lifter outshone the other prospective drivers.

While the Powers team competed in only 15 races in ’05, Fuller and
tuner Richard Hogan amassed a significant record that included three
final round appearance with one victory. That’s an impressive final
round appearance percentage of 20% -- a mark that many veterans would
be envious of.

At the end of Fuller’s first season with Powers Hogan jumped ship to
rejoin mentor Alan Johnson at Don Schumacher Racing with driver Melanie
Troxel. While that kind of departure might have slowed some teams,
Powers reacted by quickly signing two proven veterans, Lee Beard and
Rob Flynn.

AND YOU ARE WHO?

1-14-07-steve.jpg
What’s in a name?

Almost everyone who staged up beside Steve Paulauskis, crew
chief Kelly Bluebaugh, and the rest of the WFO Motorsport team found out first
hand during the 2006 season.

Once just the moniker Bluebaugh gave to his one-man nitrous
engine and machine shop, WFO Racing and Machine, located in Phoenix, AZ, the
WFO stable has grown to include Bluebaugh’s own ‘World’s Fastest Citation’ and
most recently the Chevy Cavalier of 2006 Pacific Street Car Association Pro
Street Champion Steve Paulauskis.

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