This spot for your company
Chicago Sept. 30- Oct. 3, 2004
(Pro Stock is after the Fuel classes)
A pro gallery is here
The fall race at Chicago has had a lot to live up to based on previous years performances, but it is something the track and the racers themselves look forward to! This years version not only meet the previous years but it annihilated them and the gauntlet has been laid down for the future once again.
The weather was fairly cool Friday ( high 60's and low 70's) and really cool Saturday (60's all day), but unfortunately for Friday, the moisture god's determined the fate of the Top Fuel classes just as they were getting ready to blast down on what probably would have been THE Fuel session of the year. But after Friday's lone qualifying round for the pros, Bob Vandergriff lead the long skinny cars with a 4.61. The field was loaded with the best from the NHRA and the top two IHRA drivers making it a total of 26 cars trying for the 16 car field, the total matched the US Nationals car count, proving how important this event is to the teams. The Funny cars also have their biggest field of the year, as 24 cars (matching the US Nationals as well) tried for what would prove to be the toughest field in history. The leader after Friday's only session was Phil Burkart with a solid 4.78. 13 of the floppers were already in the 4's after only one round.
Saturday, the Dragsters under low 60 degree temp, were out first and the hits came in rapid fashion, with 6 cars in the 4.50's and Clay Millican leading after their first shot with a 4.54. The bump was a 4.82 and their was still one more round. Oh ya, hitters Larry Dixon, Rhonda Hartman and Andrew Cowin were not in the field yet. The final round was a jaw dropper, as Doug Kalitta and Cory Mac both ran 4.40's the first at 85%, 8 cars were in the 4.50's or quicker and the bump spot was one car away from being quicker than 4.700. Morgan Lucas sat on the bump spot with a 4.716 nd Larry Dixon ended up out of the field, as was Scott Weis and Andrew Cowin. The Funny cars were even more impressive Saturday. After the first round on Saturday, Del Worsham was leading with a career best 4.730 that had everyone wondering if a '60 was possible. Five cars were in the 4.70's and the bump was 5.02. But the fireworks started in the final round. With the quick eight in the field yet to run, the bump spot was already a class record 4.862 (Tony Bartone) and notables Ron Capps and Tim Wilkerson were not in the field. Gary Densham joined the 4.70 club with a 4.769, Tony P. improved 1/100ths from earlier and both Burkart and Scelzi failed to improve. The final four were Medlen, Force, Worsham and Cruz. Force and Medlen were next. Did I say the crowd and everyone involved were wondering whether a 4.60 was possible? It was and of Course John Force was the first to hit the milestone number. He blasted his way to a unreal 4.697 at 332.75, both were record setting runs at he could back up during Sunday elimination's for an extra 20 points and more notoriety. Eric Medlen, he went an equally impressive 4.763/323. In the final pairing , Cruz moved up to a 4.766 but Del could not improve from his earlier 4.730.
What would elimination's hold on Sunday. What was that famous line, "You ain't seen nothing yet"!
Sunday Final Elimination's ....................Top Fuel without Larry Dixon in the field, just does not seem right. But that was not the only upset in TF, as in the first round three of the top four qualifiers were all ousted. Doug Kalitta was dealt a blow by Rhonda Hartman of all people in a great side by side race, Cory Mac was thrashed by Morgan Lucas, who ran a solid 4.50 in the first round almost 2/10ths quicker than in qualifying and #4 Clay Millican lost by 3/1000ths against John Smith in side by side 4.57's. David Grubnic might feel the worst of all though as his 4.49/333 was not enough to advance him to round two. Tony Schumacher defeated him with a 4.47/331.
In Round two, Vandergriff, Herbert and Bernstein stayed strong running 4.50's and Tony Schumacher got lucky with a 4.83 victory over Rhonda Hartman. None of the second round races saw side by side close races. In the semi finals, Doug Herbert defeated Bob Vandergriff to reach his first final round of the year and continued his strong showing with his third 4.50 run (his best a 4.516). The other semi final, saw one of the best races of the weekend and possibly the year as Tony Schumacher defeated Brandon Bernstein 4.509 - 4.506. Brandon had a slight rt advantage but Tony got a 9/1000's victory and his 11th final round of the year. What a contrast of team success for the final, but don't tell that to the Herbert team who has as much experience in their camp. "Ace", Jim Brisette, Ron Douglas and Sam Shockley all have a wealth of experience and it paid off in the final as Doug left first by .015 and outran Tony with a 4.517 - 4.527. The win moved him to within 50 points of Cory Mac for sixth place in the standings.
Go here for the point standings for Top Fuel.
Funny Car elimination's ........... would be tough to top the qualifying rounds but round one was a dozy. We'll start with Force and Tony Bartone. John had to run 4.744 to back up the 4.69 from Saturday. The race was no contest and Force not only backed up the run he surpassed it with an even quicker and faster 4.665/333.58 to reset both ends of the national record. Wow!!! Four other pairings had 4.70 winners and the victory by Gary Densham over Whit Bazemore was a side by side 4.75 match-up that had a MOV of .002. All but Gary Scelzi (which puts another nail in his championship hopes) in the top half advanced.
In round two, Force defeated Tony Pedregon with a 4.714 Cruz won in a smoke-fest over Gary Densham, Del won by 2/100's over Jerry Toliver and Eric Medlen thrashed Phil Burkart with a career best 4.74. The semi finals ended with Force taking out Cruz with another low 4.70 (4.72) and Del Worsham got a holeshot .008 victory, 4.80 - 4.783. Del Worsham was back to early season form, but he was close to a 1/10th slower than Force pretty well every round. Consistency has always paid dividends for the CSK team and it did in this final round as well, with Del running his third 4.80 (4.809) pass of elimination's, and John Force surprisingly smoking the tires after an even start for both drivers. John actually earned one more point than Del for his r/u, due to the new national record.
Go here for the point standings for Funny Car.
Pro Stock............... was also expected to produce new class bests, but it was not anticipated that so many cars would run in the 6.60's. 12 cars ended up running 6.60's in qualifying and a record 6.718 bump spot was in the books by the end of Saturday. The slowest speed for all the qualifiers was just under 206 (205.88). First round never had any huge upset like Dallas the week before other than Jason Line losing on another hole-shot and Edwards suffering the same fate.
Round two saw the top three advance to the semi finals, Anderson, Connolly and Johns, and in the upset pairing of the weekend between Rickie Smith and Bruce Allen, Allen came out on top by .0012, making his second semi final in a row. The semi finals were not all that close as Anderson won his race against Allen by over 4/100ths and Steve Johns either had a problem at the line or got distracted as he was over 2/10ths late and clicked it early giving Connolly an easy win. The final was not the expected marquee match-up everyone expected as Greg Anderson red lit and Dave Connolly broke giving him a coasting victory. This was Connolly's sixth final round in the last seven races. Anderson like John Force received more points than the event winner, though by virtue of him resetting a new national record.
Go here for the points standings.
Guy Van Syckle photos (Copyright speedzonemagazine.com)
Click here for a complete gallery