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March 7, 2004 Final Professional rounds: (photos courtesy Guy Van Syckle and Brian Losness and are copyright speedzonemagazine.com 2004)
.....One of the closest finals in history. Johnson by .0008 over Connelly
Pro Stock got the short in the air it needed when Greg Anderson (sorry Greg) lost out in the semi finals giving other teams hope. While the race was his to lose and he did have his worst light of the weekend and he has only had two worse lights in the last 32 rounds of racing (that is as far as I went back). It is hard to believe that Greg is still getting talked about and he lost. I honestly feel this was an aberration that won't happen to many times and you can bet that Greg is already beating himself to death over a .063 light. Anyway, the finalists in Pro Stock Kurt Johnson and youngster Dave Connelly put on a great race with Kurt Johnson getting the win by less than 1/1000th's. Kurt's .0.057 6.835 203.49 was just enough for the kid's 0.032 6.860 202.38. Margin of victory was 3 inches or .0008.
Funny Car saw the sentimental favorite Del Worsham's CSK sponsored Funny Car at the CSK race take on world #1 Tony Pedregon in his first final as a team owner/driver. Both Car were pretty solid in elimination's with the exception of one run for Tony who had a pedal fest in the semis against Eric Medlen. Del was a 4.90 machine in the hot Arizona sun. Worsham seems to excel when he is in the bottom half at this track as he has won before in that position. He comes into elims with his competitor probably not taking the team to seriously and it paid off. In the final round he never tried to overpower the track and Del did his job on the starting line. He had a great .044 light and ran a 4.970/303 to defeat Tony who had a .094 light and 5.098/251 run. Tony had to thrash in both the semi finals and finals in the pits but managed to get the car to the starting line. A credit for a new team, and a credit to the teams in Funny car that are perhaps showing a bit of parity, there ha been four different finalists. Del Worsham goes into the Gatornationals in first place in the point standings.
Del and Phil were not only "who ever has the best car wins" they had the nicest graphics on the CSK cars ever (except for the "DEW" car).
In Top Fuel, Brandon Bernstein and Doug Kalitta were facing off. Kalitta was in this second final of the short season and while he did run pretty well, Bernstein had to be considered the favorite based on his three previous runs on Sunday he was a mid 4.50 machine, running 4.54, 4.57 and 4.55 respectively. Kalitta had gone 4.64, 4.74, and 4.84 n the first three rounds. The final went to form even though Doug left with a great .019 light to Brandon's .073. At the finish line, Brandon ran his best of the day with a 4.537 to Doug early shut off 5.837. Brandon goes into the Gatornationals in third place 6 points behind Tony Schumacher. Doug sits in second, two points back of Tony.
Brandon did his job all weekend as did tuners Tim
Richards and Kim Richards.
March 7, 2004 Final eliminations at Firebird were something to behold as none of the favorites (i.e: #1 qualifiers), went to the finals. David Grubnic was a second round casualty in Top Fuel when he went up in smoke against Cory Mac, Gary Densham also lost in round two as he smoked em against his old team mate Tony Pedregon. In Pro Stock, I bow to Kurt Johnson as he got a hole shot win against the "King" Greg Anderson in the semi finals. In the early rounds of Funny Car, John Force is not the early dominating player like everyone expected as he went out in round one against Phil Burkart and Wilkerson was upset by "home boy sponsor" Del Worsham.. In the 1/4's, Burkart kept up his long odds task and beat Gary Scelzi and Del Worsham is looking like the race was a sponsor fix as well when he defeated Whit Bazemore, making a "team CSK" Pairing in one Semi Final. In that semi final Del got the close side by side win to go to the final round . The other semi saw Tony Pedregon take on Eric Medlen when he defeated Gary Densham in another smoker for the JFR team. Medlen won his second round race against TJ. Medlen and Pedregon was a great rivalry match up but it did not look good, when Eric failed to do a burn out. But the race turned into a pedal fest for both drivers. Tony got to the finish line first putting him in his first final as a team owner. The matchup between him and Del should be a great one. In Top Fuel Brandon Bernstein is looking like he did not miss a beat as he took out Tony Schumacher in one semi final with a 4.55 to a 4.56 for Tony. The other semi matched up Doug Kalitta and Cory Mac. Cory has really been out moneyed all day but he still managed to go rounds, but his luck ran out in the semi finals when he smoked the tires. Two pretty even cars will face off in the final but Brandon has a big edge based on semi final performance. Like I stated earlier, Pro Stock was the huge surprise as KJ defeated Greg Anderson on a hole shot in the semis. Dave Connelly got a huge hole shot win in the other semi against Larry Morgan as he parlayed a.017 rt and 6.862. Morgan's .054 6.838 was just over 1/100ths to slow at the finish line. Kurt Johnson gets lane choice in the final round
March 6, 2004 (photos courtesy Guy Van Syckle, Mark King and Brian Losness and are copyright speedzonemagazine.com 2004).
....runs an exceptional 4.782/322 (below) in hot conditions where only five of the 17 Funny Cars before him even ran in the four's, and what happens, another one of the "Team Force Cars" goes out and steal the #1 spot away from him as Gary Densham (above) in the last pairing ends the day with a 4.773/323. Two days in a row, and too many times to count over the last couple years. Force was right beside Densham until the 330 cones, and he slowed to a 8 second lap. He winds up #3 with his second round 4.808/319 run Friday night. Tommy Johnson sits #4 and Eric Medlen is #5. Here is the field after final qualifying. Pit Notes: Jerry Toliver goes from hero to zero in one week as he fails to qualify on the tricky Firebird surface. His best was an awful 5.78. Team mate Jim Head (below) came the closest when he ran a last ditch 4.997, 1/1000ths shy of the field. Tomorrow's key first round early season matchups include Gary Scelzi and Ron Capps, Tim Wilkerson and Del Worsham and the brothers Pedregon Tony vs Cruz. The pairing that may see a dark horse upset, could be Phil Burkart and John Force. Speedzone picks to advance to round two are: Densham, Bazemore, Force, Medlen, Scelzi, Worsham, Cruz and Ron Capps.
1. Gary Densham AAA of So. Cal. Mustang 4.773 325.77
Bob Gilbertson is in the field for Sunday
Terry Haddock did not make the field
Kieth Jackson did no qualify this weekend
Phil Burkart did not run that well. He is #14
Tim Wilkerson is a solid #7 for tomorrow's first round.
In Top Fuel, they ended up with a full field as Glen Mikres (below left)took a stroll in the Hartman family's third car and made one stellar 8 second lap to sit #16 (he actually launch pretty hard and then smoked the tires 400 feet out). They were so confident in the tune-up that they elected to sit out the final session. Too bad Mike Ferderer couldn't run in TF, as his Super Comp Dragster runs solid 7's sans the throttle stop. Man, it looked alot like the IHRA shows from last year. Hopefully Mikre's car does not just idle down the track in his match up against Grubnic (Virgil Hartman stated they will try and make a hard lap tomorrow against Grubnic). As noted, Grubnic remained #1 with his second session 4.486 held up for his second ever #1 qualifying effort. He also ran a strong 4.534 Saturday to give him three runs in the low 4.50's and high 4.40's. Tony Schumacher (below) is right on his heels as he turned in the two best laps on Saturday, a 4.531 and a stellar 4.548 in the hot early Saturday round. The big matchups on Sunday are Larry Dixon in the unusual position of sitting #13, up against Scott Kalitta. Dixon was running the new set back blower combo for the first time. Clay Millican vs David Baca and Cory Mac Vs Doug Herbert are the other close first round pairings. Expect to see Grubnic, Schumacher, Russell, Doug Kalitta, Bernstein, Millican, Doug Herbert and Scott Kalitta advance to round two.
Here is the final qualifying numbers:
1. David Grubnic Kalitta Air Dragster 4.486 324.51
David Baca takes on Clay Millican
Dixon and Baca are both farther back than they want to be for Sunday's eliminations
David Grubnic got his second ever #1 qualifier spot
Rhonda sit #12 and faces Doug Kalitta in round one.
Scott Weis' "Race Girl" takes on the girl
Pro Stock was not unlike Top Fuel at the top end, where the top half never changed position or got bumped around. While there was a bit of shuffling, as JR Carr (below left) made the biggest move to #12 and Mark Pawuk moved into the field. At the top, Anderson (Greg that is) was the only driver to run in the 6.70's on Saturday, a feat he accomplished on both laps. The spread from Fridays .105 was reduced to .082 from top to bottom. Mike Edwards and Bruce Allen, Jim Yates and Jeg Coughlin, Jason Line and Larry Morgan, and Trickie Rickie Smith and Allen Johnson are the key matchups. SpeedZone is not going to even try and handicap the pairings except to say look for Greg Anderson take on someone below him and win his second race of the season.
1. Greg Anderson Vegas General Construction Gr 6.746
Edwards is barely in the field.
Gord Rivera is not
Nor is Barry Grant.
March 5, 2004 (photos courtesy Guy Van Syckle)
.....Friday 7:00pm.....(con't from home page) 4.486/324mph run (above). Wow!! I guess the NHRA did a good job on the suspect track surface. 13 drivers went quicker than 4.65 to end Friday's qualifying, but only one (Aussie Dave) is in the 4.40 ZONE!!! Glen Mikres is rumored to be the driver to get into Hartman's #3 car for tomorrow.
1. David Grubnic Kalitta Air Dragster 4.486 324.51
Scott Weis made one lap, and went 4.91. Go here to see why he only made one lap.
Scott sits #4 after Friday.
Clay can play in the big show and has run 4.50's both weekends.
"The Nitro Coupes"
In Funny Car, John Force burned Whit Bazemore (again) as he was the pair behind Bazemore and ran a 4.808 right after Whit had the tentative #1 spot with a 4.809. How many times has a Force car gone out and dropped Bazemore down a notch after he lead qualifying. Right behind Bazemore is Gary Densham with a 4.815. The field has a strong 4.99 bump spot already held down by Tony Bartone. A couple expected qualifiers are still outside and they include last week's winner Jerry Toliver (he did the same last week), Jack Wyatt and Terry Haddock. Jim Head has still struggled to find a flopper tune-up.
1. John Force Castrol GTX Mustang 4.808 319.82
Eric is the driver of the most sought after ride and is showing he deserves to be there.
Steven Neese needs to find over a 1/2 second to have any chance of making this field
Tony Cartone is is for now. 4.99
Del also has new vinyl on the car like his team mate, but no Monte bodies yet.
"The Factory Hot Rods"
Pro Stock is the same song and dance as last week and last year for that matter as Greg Anderson (above) has almost a half a tenth of the field with a 6.748/204 mph effort. Bruce Allen is #2 with a 6.784/202 best. What does the class have to do to match Anderson? Weather tomorrow looks to be substantially warmer than today so the chance of anyone taking the #1 spot is more slim and none, it is impossible in my opinion. The first session tomorrow could yield some improvements by cars that have still missed their setup but for anyone to step up this much is highly unlikely. The fields last year was separated by only .05 on average and this event so far they are separated by .105
1. Greg Anderson Vegas General Construction Gr 6.746
Dave Connelly is solidly in the field
JR Carr is making division 6 proud
Kurt Johnson need a 1/2 a tenth to compete with Anderson
This boat is not an anchor this weekend and is in the field. (Jim Yates is sponsored by Sea Ray Boats)
Ron Krisher is not where he wants to be (#16).
.....Friday 5:00pm... (con't from home page) as Scott Palmer (crashed last week and won't run) Brady Kalivoda, and Scott Weis are no shows. Virgil Hartman is set to have a third car ready if less than 16 make a qualifying run and he can find a third driver. Pick Me, Pick Me! Grubnic leads with another 4.40 lap a 4.49 for the Firebird track record. Funny car sees Gary Scelzi (4.87) and John Force (4.89) 1,2. Yaes, Greg Anderson (6.79) leads Pro Stock.
Firebird Intl Raceway is a race facility that
houses a quarter-mile drag strip, three road racing courses, a 120-acre
lake and the Bob Bondurant School of High Performance Driving. Prior
to the 2004 season the drag strip at FIR was repaved and the pit area
asphalt was chip-sealed while the pit area for the professional competitors
ELEVATION: 1,300 feet
FRIDAY, March 5
Schedule subject to change.