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

ROUSH YATES RAMPING UP FOR PRO STOCK DEBUT

humphreys_mustangIf you can think of the 2010 NHRA schedule as a series of battlefields, then it shouldn't be too hard to fathom how one engine builder is sizing up the competition looking for just the right time and place to make their assault on the Pro Stock class.

D-day is coming. The field of battle is the Pro Stock class. The army is lead by Justin Humphreys driving an all new Ford Mustang. All that is left to be done is to pick just the right beach to release the horses.

Roush Yates Performance Group is moving into the NHRA arena.

DARRELL RUSSELL: A FRIEND HELPS US REMEMBER, A SPORT IMPROVES ITSELF

04_30_2010_russellEuropean road racing had its wake-up call last July. Formula One driver Felipe Massa suffered a serious head injury from a rear-suspension spring that popped loose from Rubens Barrichello's car and struck him in the helmet as he was traveling about 170 mph in qualifying for the Hungarian Grand Prix. That incident happened six days after Henry Surtees died from injuries in an accident at a Formula Two race at England's Brands Hatch course. Surtees was struck on the head by a wheel that had come off another car.
 
For drag racing, the alarm sounded six years ago -- Sunday, June 27, 2004, at Gateway International Raceway near St. Louis, with the death of Top Fuel racer Darrell Russell. Cut down in his prime, his life blunted by a broken piece of his dragster, Russell died so suddenly and so incongruously from the way he lived.
 
Always smiling, always unflappable, Russell was the epitome of happiness. He genuinely was joyful, and that radiated from him. No one would have guessed such an alarmingly violent, ugly act ever would be associated with the polite, handsome, clean-cut Texan. This was the same unassuming man who in 2001 capped his acceptance of the Auto Club Road to the Future Award by saying, "I love you, Julie" to his wife in a boyishly innocent touch of sweetness.

MODEL CARS FUEL GARLAND'S DRAG RACING PASSION

DSC_0727When Mike Garland was 5 years old, he began building model cars.

Little did he know, a youthful endevour would become a lifelong passion.

Now, nearly 50 years later, Garland is still active in building some of the finest model Funny Cars and other race cars out there.

PINKS ALL-OUT SHOWS BUSCH'S LOVE FOR DRAG RACING

10PINKSTP1557“They call it the 'best appearing burnout car in Super Gas',” said Kurt Busch, a bit of pride in his smile, as he relaxed on the flight back to Talladega Superspeedway after a day of racing at zMAX Dragway in his 1970 Dodge Challenger outfitted with a 1200 horsepower 427 cubic inch hemi engine.

That's 1199 more horsepower than his wife, Eva's, Andalusian named Lauro; which, according to Busch cost more than his 1200 horsepower to purchase, and also maintain.

Seems the perfect match, they both love horsepower.

REMEMBERING FAST COMPANY: THE MOVIE

04_15_2010_fastcompanyNHRA VP of Operations Graham Light described the summer of 1978 as a lot of fun.

Former Funny Car driver Gordie Bonin felt it was a balanced mix between fun and the absurd.

The two drag racing figures teamed up as drivers in the 1979 B movie Fast Company.

Fast Company featured lots of Funny Car footage in its storyline about an aging Top Fuel driver and a sponsor-driven team owner who walked outside of traditional ethical lines. There were plenty of fires and a number of explosions, some skin from the female actors and a great measure of ludicrousness from producers not familiar to the sport.

DAN FLETCHER: MAN OR MACHINE?

Dan Fletcher's name is way, way up the list of all-time sportsman greats, right up there with Peter Biondo, David Rampy, Scott Richardson, and Edmond 04_15_2010_fletcherRichardson. So how does he do it? How does he win national event after national event, year after year after year?

"I don't know," said Fletcher, who'd sooner whack his index a tenth than brag. "It's a lot of hard work, a lot of preparation. There's no 'Don't worry about it,' no 'Oh, that'll be okay for one more run' with me. I don't know how anyone could ever think they're going to win when they don't put everything they have into every single detail. It's hard enough to win when you do. I check everything three times. I'm anal to a fault, and I obsess over everything."

No doubt he does. So do lots of people – they just don't win nine national events a year, like Fletcher did in 2009. He has an ability to concentrate under pressure and a knack for making the right calls at the top end that few drivers will ever possess.

VEGAS P.R.O MEETING WILL DETERMINE GROUP’S NEXT MOVE

04_15_2010_proThe NHRA, on Page VI of its 2010 Rulebook, lists in the basics of drag racing section, a definition of drag racing.

“The sport of drag racing is an acceleration contest between two vehicles racing from a standing start over a straight race course.”

It is that one simple line in the rulebook which has the Professional Racers Organization up in arms over the recent NHRA 4-Wide Nationals to the point the board issued a letter to both the NHRA’s upper management and zMax Dragway’s Bruton Smith stating their intentions of not racing another four wide event for points.

They did, however, point out a willingness to discuss participation in a non-points earning version of the event.

CAROLYN MELENDY: PRO MOD’S FIRST LADY

3-10-10carolynmelendyCarolyn Melendy wonders sometimes if her place in drag racing history is destined to be one of the best kept secrets in the sport.

Twenty years ago, Melendy, now a Super Stock racer from Bayville, NJ, was Pro Modified’s first female driver.

Credit the late Vinny Napp, owner of Raceway Park with providing the inspiration, then Robby Vandergriff for leading her in the right direction.

The guts to go racing against some extremely hard core male drivers were Melendy’s, exclusively.

BEVIS BATTLES HIS WAY BACK FROM CANCER

04_02_2010_bevisYou don’t need to tell Todd Bevis he’s a blessed man.

Bevis, of Mooresville, NC, lives day to day believing a blessing from above is the only thing which stands between him building race cars for Victor Cagnazzi and residing six feet under.

Bevis was diagnosed with cancer on May 13 of last year. Six months after the last chemo treatment, he was at the NHRA 4-Wide Nationals smiling more than ever. The former drag racer turned tube-bender realizes the experience of the last year has been as enlightening as it was painful.

COMP: STILL RACING ALL OUT

03_10_2010_compNHRA’s Competition Eliminator class has probably the most widely diverse group of cars in any of the sportsman categories. It’s here where you’ll find everything from front-engined dragsters to street altereds to coupes, sedans, trucks, whatever; all competing on a handicap basis against one another. Powerplants can also run the gamut from big cubic inch Pro Stock style engines to four cylinders with and without power-adders (turbocharging, supercharging, nitrous oxide).

Attempting to maintain some sort of parity amongst the combatants falls to an index system much the same as used in the Super Stock and Stock classes. As an example, the A/EA (A/Econo Altered – a sort of misnomer because there is nothing “Econo” about this class) of David Rampy which is powered by a small block Chevrolet engine carries a quarter-mile index of 7.86. The Chevrolet Cobalt of 2009 Comp champion Bruno Massel, Jr. uses a turbocharged 136-cubic inch powerplant and runs in the BB/AT (BB/Altered Turbo) and runs off a 7.27 index. When Rampy lines up against Massel, Rampy receives a .59-second headstart which is dialed into the ‘tree.

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