NHRA Full Throttle coverage is presented by Sonny's Racing Engines
April 1 -3, 2011
Sunday Eliminations Report
(Story and photos by Bob Wilson)
UPDATE - 9:00 AM
It's been a weekend of contrasts at the SummitRacing.com Nationals at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Thursday, move-in day, featured clear, hot weather with a forecast of even higher temperatures for Friday, the first day of qualifying. That certainly came to pass with one of the hottest days of the year so far for Las Vegas. Nary a cloud in the sky, and only a very slight breeze made the conditions challenging for spectators, crews, drivers and the race cars. Track temperatures soared to over 130 degrees and the biggest challenge of the day for the race teams was negotiating the tricky, slippery super-heated racing surface.
Few teams were able to accomplish that task with anything like their normal performances, but the smart folks took what the track and the atmospheric conditions were willing to give them. For those racers, a position near or at the top of the qualifying charts was their just reward. Others, the stubborn ones who tried to impose their will and their horsepower on the unyielding asphalt and concrete were rewarded with only copious amounts of tire smoke and the resulting engine and driveline damage that accompanied their free-wheeling attempts to get down the quarter- mile (or 1000 feet in the case of the fuel classes).
Saturday's forecast was for cooler temperatures and on some charts even a slight chance of precipitation and that seemed to be the case when the morning dawned with heavy cloud cover and some serious wind. While the temperatures weren't that much lower than Friday's sweltering conditions, the corrected altitude readings had only dipped a few hundred feet and the barometer readings were barely improved.
The one major beneficiary of the cloud cover was the track temperature and it was reflected with a maximum at least 10 degrees less than the previous day. Accordingly, performances improved in many cases, but it was still a difficult track for most competitors and as qualifying drew to a close, the leaders sported higher e.t.'s than normally seen at NHRA national events. When the final qualifying sessions began on Saturday afternoon, the air temperature had abated enough that some much better finish line speeds were recorded, but it was only when the supercharged cars of Top Alcohol and Pro Mod came out at the end of the day that some serious improvements in overall performance were seen.
COMP Eliminator - Round Two
Hopefully this was a good portent for today's eliminations and with temps forecast to be nearly 20 degrees lower than the first two days of the event, the chances for redemption seemed solid. With eliminations starting at 9:00 am, the first serious horsepower category, Comp Eliminator, rolled out half an hour later and the Canadian contenders lined up in the first four pairings of their second round of eliminations. One by one they fell until only Edmonton's Casey Plazier was left standing to go into the quarter-final round.
Recent Winternationals winner, Rob Harrison, fell to fellow Division Six competitor Brandon Huhtala, despite his best effort of the weekend and Langley's Bob Marshall got out of the groove and shutoff early to lose. The top qualifying Canadian, Fort St. John's Mike McKeigue couldn't wait for a green light and left waaaay too early to give up his chance.
TOP ALCOHOL FUNNY CAR - Round Two
Following right away was the second round of Top Alcohol, with the Funny Cars out first and the first three pairings of the round saw the favourites advance, with Doug Gordon, Jay Payne and Tony Bartone advancing to the semis. Oregon's Brian Hough, with a brand-new car, upset the #2 qualifier, Sean O'Bannon, who's car had fallen two tenths off its qualifying pace in the first round yesterday and couldn't find the missing horsepower in time to overcome Hough's best of his weekend 5.64.
TOP ALCOHOL DRAGSTER - Round Two
After an evenly matched seven blown and seven injected cars faced off in qualifying, only two of the nitro cars remained standing after the first round, and they were fated to meet in the first pair of this round. Megan McKernan redlighted away any chance she had against the Tom Conway-tuned Texas car of Mark Taliaferro. She must be kicking herself all the way back to California as Taliaferro instantly ignited the tires and crawled to the finish line in just over 17 seconds. Then, in a very strange and unexpected turn of events, the last three pairs of the round turned into bye runs for Cowie, Whitely, and Severance.
First up, Cowie took the unopposed run when the James Butler - Hugh Ridley car came up lame with some serious clutch problems which extended all the way to a very badly bulged bellhousing. Next casualty was Chris Demke in the Jerry Maddern car, which after losing three engines in the past two days, collectively said "no mas" and withdrew. The final dropout was Cody "Flash" Perkins, who saw at least one of his engines expire in... well a 'flash' and provided the biggest oildown of the weekend.'
After the alky dragsters had finished their rather abbreviated second round, an intermission for the pro driver introductions, the obligatory crowd revving, the skydiving guy with the flag, the armed forces colour guard and the national anthem preceded the first round of Top Fuel before a nearly full grandstand. After two days of less than spectacular attendance, the fans came out in droves - possibly in no small part due to the much improved spectator conditions weather-wise - and the scene was set for another successful national event in Las Vegas.
TOP FUEL - Round One
The first pair of Top Fuel cars fired up right on time as part of an exacting TV-driven schedule mandated for today, as in VE HAVE VAYS of making you service your cars in less than 75-minutes or ELSE! With a fairly benign track temp of only 108 degrees and just over 4000 feet of corrected altitude, the conditions were better than they'd been at almost any previous point on the weekend. The only first round decision that could remotely be considered an upset was Doug Kalitta (#9) taking out Bob Vandergriff (#8) and really, that pairing is always as close to a toss-up as can be. To no one's surprise a new low e.t. of the meet was set not once, but twice, as Del Worsham broke into 3.8's with his opener, and Tony Schumacher trumped him a few pairs later with a new best of 3.87. The carnage in the round was not terribly significant but a fireball (Chrisman) and a big oildown by Shawn Langdon did slow proceedings somewhat.
FUNNY CAR - Round One
There was a similar performance pattern playing out in the nitro floppers, as again the cars picked up the pace and again the #9 (Tony Pedregon) car took out the #8 car (Bob Tasca). A more serious upset was (#12) Jeff Arend dropping (#5) Matt Hagan, as Arend stayed consistent and Hagan slowed to provide the margin of victory. Unlike Top Fuel, no one eclipsed the low qualifying e.t. of John Force and only half of the racers showed any e.t. improvement at all. And as could be expected, all the low-dollar, independent racers were gone at the end of the round. The best matchup of the second round looks like J. Force vs. T. Pedregon, with Hight vs. Beckman in a big-buck battle on the undercard.
PRO STOCK - Round One
The "factory hot rods" (by the way, does anyone other than NHRA announcers really use that hackneyed phrase anymore?) got their eliminations underway with a group of very close, side by side races that saw only one car of the 16 qualifiers run slower than 6.74 and the quickest e.t. of the round clock in at 6.67. Some great performances that took more the naked eye to ascertain a winner at times, but as usual, the excitement factor was somewhat lacking. Three of the eight races could be classified as upsets, plus with Erica Enders advancing to the second round, there's at least some interest for the women in attendance. And has anyone driven a Pontiac (a new one) lately? I thought not.
PRO MODIFIED - Round Two
With the international flavour evaporating quickly in the desert sun, as one of the two Canadians (Commisso) and the Swede (Gullqvist) eliminated in yesterday's first round, the last remaining Canuck hope (Kenny Lang of Manitoba) went down to defeat at the hands of Roger Burgess's suddenly dominating turbo 'Vette, leaving just Khalid Balooshi vs. the USA for Pro Mod supremacy at this event. Balooshi kept his hopes alive by taking out the lone female contestant, Melanie Troxel, and as quickly as the cars went through the round, there were only four men left standing for the next round of eliminations.
COMP Eliminator - Round Three
The Northwest is definitely dominating the category this weekend as four of the seven third round contestants hailed from Division Six. Leading the way into the semifinals was the Alberta car of Casey Plazier as he took out fellow Div. 6 racer Brandon Huhtala to move into a fourth round match against the A/Altered of Alan Ellis. The 2010 Division champion, Aaron Strong, also advanced to the semis to face "Dangerous" Dan Fletcher who took out the Super Modified of North Bend, Washington's Jeff Lane.
TOP FUEL - Round Two
The eight cars left in competition for this round could be divided into three camps: Schumacher, Kalitta, Al-Anabi - Johnson, and the lone single car team left, Brandon Bernstein. Only one car from each of the three multi-car teams advanced to join Bernstein in the semi-finals. The first three pairings saw the #1, 2 & 3 qualifiers advance, with the only upset being Antron Brown dumping teammate Tony Schumacher to take his spot in the next round. Every car ran in the 3-second zone, with Brown upping the ante considerably with a new low e.t. 3.84 pass at a top speed of the meet 320 mph. Dixon faces Brown (who holds lane choice) in the semis, while Bernstein gets his pick over Kalitta.
FUNNY CAR - Round Two
No new performance marks were set in this round of nitro flopper racing, but the brothers Pedregon both advanced to the third round, as Tony took the measure of his former employer, John Force, in an exciting fire-filled match - Pedregon was seriously on fire by the finish line but didn't lift, while his brother Cruz took out Ron Capps. Joining them in the semis will be the last Schumacher car (Johnny Gray) and the last Force car (Robert Hight) and two big-time battles will be on the line.
PRO STOCK - Round Two
Proving the old adage that it's sometimes better to be lucky than good, the lowest qualified car left in the show, V. Gaines, coming out of the "lucky" #13 spot took out Shane Grey with the slowest winning time of the round. Make that the slowest winning pass of the event. But he's in the semi-finals and 13 other Pro Stock racers on the grounds can't make that statement. Quickest of the first round, Mike Edwards, was again the quickest and holds lane choice over "Cinderella" Gaines, while Greg Stanfield has the advantage over Vincent Nobile in the other semifinal match.
TOP ALCOHOL FUNNY CAR - Round Three
With no weak sisters in this quartest of blown alky funny cars, it was going to be a battle of reaction times and tuning decisions that would decide the finalists. Last year's World Champion runnerup, Tony Bartone, continued his string of low 5.60 times and left ahead of Doug Gordon to take the first win of the round. Following up with a bit of an underdog victory was Oregon's Brian Hough, who stayed in the 5.60's all day, and took out Jay Payne who was stuck in the 5.70's and just couldn't up the ante to stay with Hough.
TOP ALCOHOL DRAGSTER - Round Three
Down to the final four now, with three of them being among the quickest blown alky dragsters in the country, and the fourth, one of the Tom Conway-tuned group of very competitive injected nitro cars. Faced with the task of taking out the last A/Fuel Dragster in the field, the young Canadian Cowie notched a new low e.t. of the meet, at 5.367 coupled with a big speed of nearly 268 mph. Taliaferro trailed by only half a car length as he gave Cowie a great battle all the way to the finish line. In the other pairing, Joey Severance took out the high country car of Jim Whiteley in an even closer race, taking the holeshot win by a margin of just three feet, with both cars running 5.39. Two blown cars, both from Division Six in the final; definitely not what might have been expected three days ago.
PRO MODIFIED - Round Three
In a display of real diversity, the three different induction systems allowed in this category fought it out in the third round for a berth in the final. And in a surprising turn of events for the supposed underdog nitrous combination, the two finalists became the naturally aspirated cars of Balooshi and Smith. Taking out a comatose (.226 light) Roger Burgess with the holeshot of the year, Smith advanced to meet Khalid Balooshi, who benefitted from the redlighting largess of supercharged racer Danny Rowe.
COMP Eliminator - Round Four
Down to the round of four and the last two hopefuls from the Northwest bowed out, with Casey Plazier dropping a very close decision to the 6-second altered of Ellis, despite running his quickest and fastest numbers of the weekend. Pro racer Dan Fletcher took out Aaron Strong in an even closer race, with the margin of victory being just a few feet. Congratulations to all the great Division Six competitors who certainly let their southwestern counterparts know they had to battle this weekend.
TOP FUEL - Round Three
Two pairs of cars left and the first match saw Brandon Bernstein take a come from behind victory over a slowing Del Worsham, whose engine went south at half track. In the other match, Antron Brown ran slightly quicker than even his low e.t. of the previous round, carding a 3.843 coupled with another 320 mph speed to take a convincing victory against an over-matched, but game Doug Kalitta.
FUNNY CAR - Round Three
Again, we've got just four cars left standing.... and hold on, one of them is down as Tony Pedregon can't make the call. Looks like he still doesn't have the budget or the crew to compete against the biggest dogs, even with his latest sponsorship additions. And Johnny Gray benefits, as after a series of less than scintillating qualifying passes, he's stayed steadily in the 4.20 zone all day and has parlayed that into his first final round appearance in the latest incarnation of his funny car career. Meeting him in that final will be Robert Hight who cut an amazing (aka: lucky) light to take a holeshot win over Cruz Pedregon. After four straight runs in the low 4-teens, Pedregon must feel cheated to not be in the final, but in drag racing, you've got to win at both ends of the track and Hight certainly did his job on the starting line.
PRO STOCK - Round Three
In the real David vs. Goliath battle of this category, Vieri Gaines produced his best run of the event, carding a 6.70 to give Mike Edwards a serious fight for the right to advance to the final round. Unfortunately for Gaines, Mr. Edwards merely set a new low e.t. and top speed of the meet with a 6.66 at nearly 207 mph for the win. Meeting him in the ultimate round is Vincent Nobile who benefitted from a really bad (-.175) redlight from Greg Stanfield to move into his first ever NHRA national event final in Pro Stock. Looks like Godzilla vs. Bambi in that encounter.
TOP ALCOHOL FUNNY CAR - Final Round
Despite the seeming dominance of force-fed induction systems, firstly supercharged, now laterally the turbocharged combination popularized by "Bad" Brad Personett last year, it was a pair of (not quite) old-school nitrous-aided cars in the final round. Relative newcomer to the class, Khalid Balooshi, took the measure of one of the pioneers of the Pro Mod category, Rickie Smith, in a very close match. Balooshi ran four consecutive 5.9-second times to cover Smith's trio of 6.0-second clockings, and in the final a slightly quicker leave and a few hundredths quicker e.t. translated into a full car length win.
TOP ALCOHOL DRAGSTER - Final Round
In a rematch of last year's final round at this event, two racers who traveled all the way from the Pacific Northwest, Shawn Cowie from Richmond, BC and Joey Severance from Spanaway, Washington, met once again to decide the event title. With Cowie as the defending champion, low qualifier, holder of low e.t. of the meet and lane choice, it seemed all the cards were in his favour. But this is Vegas where literally everything is a gamble and no one was betting against Severance, a fierce competitor and former Division Six Champion. As expected, Severance left first by a few hundredths, and kept Cowie at bay until nearly the 1000 foot mark when a big bang from the blower indicated it was game over and Cowie flew by to take another well-deserved Las Vegas victory. Congratulations to the entire team: Ron and Shawn Cowie, Taylor, Bill and Shirleen Moore, Kyle and the rest of the gang.
PRO MODIFIED - Final Round
With the two nitrous cars meeting in the final, and the oddest of odd couples in the pairing, Rickie Smith from the Carolinas, and Khlaid Balooshi from Doha, Qatar, it was anyone's guess as to the outcome. Smith's decades of experience might be the deciding factor, but Balooshi has shown some serious skill in his short Pro Mod career and had laid down an ultra-consistent series of 5.90 passes in the upper 230 mph range. Smith by comparison, had been mostly stuck in the 6.0's with only one quick trip into the 5-second zone all weekend. Balooshi took the win by a car length, leaving on Smith and outrunning him. The final verdict read 5.97 to 6.01, with Balooshi winning the reaction time battle by two hundredths of a second also.
PRO STOCK - Final Round
Expect the expected and you won't be disappointed, and Mike Edwards certainly lived up to that ethos, taking the event victory in a surprisingly close match over rookie Nobile. Making it closer than Edwards wanted was the very good leave by Nobile who clocked in at .019 in the reaction time war, covering Edwards' very good .030 start. But horsepower won out as Edwards stayed in the 6.6-second zone for a two foot victory, timed at a margin of .007 seconds. A win is a win however, and Mike Edwards laid claim to his 29th NHRA national event Wally.
FUNNY CAR - Final Round
As we wind our way down to the very end of the SummitRacing.com Nationals, just two races remain, both with nitro-fuelled vehicles, and both with the biggest and best-funded teams in the sport represented. In a "take that!" smackdown by the John Force group, young Robert Hight took out Johnny Gray's Schumacher car in a very close and exciting race. The drivers left the starting line together and stayed that way almost to the finish line, with Hight's Ford eking out a two hundredths of a second win in the final round.
TOP FUEL - Final Round
And then there was one. Just one lonely little race to wrap up another Vegas event. Antron Brown vs. Brandon Bernstein. The odds favoured Brown by a wide margin, but this is drag racing, where anything can happen once the engines start... if they even start, that is. Despite a serious dose of nostalgia coursing through the grandstands, trying to will Bernstein into the winners circle, Mr. Brown laid down another in his patented 3.8-second timeslips and left first just for good measure. While Bernstein gave him a serious fight, with another solid 3-second pass, the margin at the 1000 foot stripe was more than two car lengths, and left no doubt who was the winner on this day.
Another solid weekend of Drag Racing at Vegas as the Bruton Smith facility again shows that the people will come out. The Sunday crowd was standing room only and they weren't disappointed. No real stellar numbers except from the Pro Mods and the Top Alcohol classes. The Pro Classes actually took two days to get their acts together performance wise. A couple new winners and a change in the standings in Funny Car and real close battles in Top Fuel and Pro Stock as well. Khalid Balooshi is the front runner in his nitrous Camaro and Shawn Cowie is proving to be THE car to beat in TAD. Tony Bartone will not let Frank Manzo run away with the season as the Boggs tuned Mustang was the class on eliminations after struggling in qualifying.
The next event is at THE king of drag strips, the B. Smith owned ZMax Four Wide drag strip in Charlotte Carolina in two weeks. SpeedZone will be there to give you the best coverage on the West Coast.
Sunday final rounds.
Top Fuel -- Antron Brown, 3.887 seconds, 318.84 mph def. Brandon Bernstein, 3.947 seconds, 311.13 mph.
Funny Car -- Robert Hight, Ford Mustang, 4.149, 307.79 def. Johnny Gray, Dodge Charger, 4.169, 301.81.
Pro Stock -- Mike Edwards, Pontiac GXP, 6.695, 205.98 def. Vincent Nobile, Dodge Avenger, 6.713, 205.69.
Pro Modified -- Khalid Balooshi, Chevy Camaro, 5.983, 237.13 def. Rickie Smith, Camaro, 6.012, 237.71.
Top Alcohol Dragster -- Shawn Cowie, 5.365, 267.16 def. Joey Severance, 5.900, 177.00.
Top Alcohol Funny Car -- Tony Bartone, Ford Mustang, 5.625, 257.24 def. Brian Hough, Mustang, 5.824, 248.48.
Competition Eliminator -- Dan Fletcher, Cobalt, 8.331, 131.22 def. Alan Ellis, '23-T Ford, 7.297, 127.40.
Super Stock -- Jody Lang, Malibu, 11.086, 113.41 def. David Rampy, Camaro, 10.295, 128.79.
Stock Eliminator -- Toby Lang, Chevelle, 11.904, 106.05 def. Jimmy DeFrank, Camaro, 10.507, 123.83.
Super Comp -- Justin Morgan, Dragster, 9.064, 165.80 def. Greg Boutte, Dragster, 9.055, 176.97.
Super Gas -- Dallas Glenn, Nova, 10.060, 154.88 def. Mike Ferderer, Grand Am, 10.070, 165.25.
Saturday final qualifying results
1 1 Larry Dixon, Brownsburg IN, Hadman-TFX 3.904 312.78 312.78
------------ Not Qualified ------------
17 7727 Ron August, Pleasanton
CA, Hartley-BAE 4.211 230.72 230.72
1 1 John Force, Yorba Linda CA, '11 Mustang 4.136 309.27 309.27
------------ Not Qualified ------------
17 719 Jeff Diehl, Salinas CA,
'06 Monte Carlo 4.359 283.97 283.97
3 Mike Edwards, Coweta OK, '09 GXP 6.695 206.51 206.51
------------ Not Qualified ------------
17 256 Buddy Perkinson, Hopewell VA, '11 Mustang 6.783 203.37 203.37
1 3 B/AD Shawn Cowie, Delta BC, Hadman-BAE 5.371 267.22
1 4 Tony Bartone, Long Island City NY, '09 Mustang 5.628 257.92 257.92
------------ Not Qualified ------------
Mike Drake, Arcadia CA, '01 Avenger 6.147 236.63 236.63
1 272 Roger Burgess, Duluth GA, t'53 Corvette 5.956 249.81 249.81
------------ Not Qualified ------------
17 5011 Mike Knowles, Grand Junction CO, *'68 Camaro 6.221
LAS VEGAS --
"It's game on now," Burgess said after posting the impressive run. "We've got a competitive race car. The car is racing the way we want it to."
No. 2 qualifier Jay Payne was upset by Donald Martin while Gainesville winner and No. 3 qualifier Khalid Balooshi advanced to the second round with a win over Dennis Radford.
The other first round winners included Kenny Lang, Danny Rowe, Melanie Troxel, Troy Coughlin and Rickie Smith.
Second round pairings include Burgess vs. Lang; Smith vs. Coughlin; Martin vs. Rowe; and Balooshi vs. Troxel.
Eliminations continue Sunday at approximately 2:30 p.m.
Las Vegas Pit Notes - Friday
(words and photos
by Bob Wilson)
In the event you haven't looked at the calendar this morning and realized it's the first day of April.... be careful what you read on other drag racing magazine websites. They always try to reel in an unsuspecting fish or two with an April Fool's joke. Competition Plus got the ball rolling with an "exclusive" story on MAJOR rules changes coming in Pro Stock, with the 500 cubic inch combination being dumped in favor of an all-small block 358 cubic inch, nitrous oxide and supercharger assisted engines. The goal apparently is to be in the 270 - 280 mph range within the first year of competition under the new rules package.
A quick perusal of the other usual suspects, such as the all-time leader in that category, NHRA.com, and the fine folks at Drag Racing Online, didn't show anything untoward posted.... yet. But they've still got a few hours before the statute of limitations runs out on April Foolery.
One last note before we head for the track and Day One of the SummitRacing.com Nationals, the U.S. Air Force is still doing their duty with a stirring (but taped) rendition of reveille played at max volume through the loudspeakers at Nellis Air Force base a few minutes ago, right on time at 6:30 am. NOBODY sleeps in at that facility. Guaranteed! More news as soon as we get set up at the race track. Stay tuned.
Friday - 10:00 AM Update
Ooh, it's gonna be a hot one today, as the dashboard was already showing 23 C (74 F) when I pulled out of the Holiday Inn parking lot "bright and early" at 9:00 A.M. A quick check of the weather network shows a forecast high of 91 F today, dropping to "only" 88 tomorrow, and followed with 70 degree temps and a possibility of showers on Sunday. Those guys are obviously nuts and I'm just going to pack lots of sunscreen and leave the umbrella in the trunk.
Working conditions for the media wretches (like your SpeedZone rep) at this event have taken an upward turn this year with our "promotion" from the dark, dingy depths of the infamous dungeon underneath the tower to one of the ubiquitous rent-a-trailers positioned behind the tower, but within easy walking (like about 100 feet) of the starting line area. One big bonus is a much reduced risk of head injuries from negotiating the 4' 6" entrance door to last year's dungeon accmodations.
The sportsman qualifying started right on time at 8:00 AM and they're moving quickly towards the first really serious race cars of the weekend, Comp Eliminator, which is scheduled to start in half an hour or less. Time to vacate the airconditioned comfort of the media centre and venture out into the frying pan they call Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Our next update may be quite a while in coming as there's a non-stop array of blown and/or nitro-burning race cars running from 10:30 until 6:00 pm. It's gonna be brutal. And I love it. The smell of nitro, the stinging particles of vaporized rubber raining down on me, the sun burning my eyes and nose, ahh yes, that's drag racing.
Friday - 1:00 PM Update
gotten through the first round of qualifying in Comp and Top Alcohol and frankly,
the performances were somewhat less than underwhelming in many cases. Some racers
managed to get down the track fine, albeit not at their usual performance levels,
but at least they were satisfied to take what the track was willing to give them.
Keeping an eye on the track temp readings behind the starting line showed an inexorable
climb into the stratosphere - and trust me, it's going to get worse later this
afternoon - from a decent 104 F at 10:30 to 114 at 11:00 to 119 degrees at 11:30.
What it is now is anyone's guess. It
appears that I've traded my last chance for sustenance (also known as the free
NHRA lunch) for a chance to witness the first qualifying efforts of the Pro Stock
brigade. I'm sure I'll get a chance to catch them again later today or tomorrow.
But now, the Funny Cars and Top Fuel dragsters are filling the lanes, track prep
is nearly over and it's almost time to get loud; REALLY LOUD! Friday
- 3:00 PM Update
We've gotten through the first round of qualifying in Comp and Top Alcohol and frankly, the performances were somewhat less than underwhelming in many cases. Some racers managed to get down the track fine, albeit not at their usual performance levels, but at least they were satisfied to take what the track was willing to give them. Keeping an eye on the track temp readings behind the starting line showed an inexorable climb into the stratosphere - and trust me, it's going to get worse later this afternoon - from a decent 104 F at 10:30 to 114 at 11:00 to 119 degrees at 11:30. What it is now is anyone's guess.
It appears that I've traded my last chance for sustenance (also known as the free NHRA lunch) for a chance to witness the first qualifying efforts of the Pro Stock brigade. I'm sure I'll get a chance to catch them again later today or tomorrow. But now, the Funny Cars and Top Fuel dragsters are filling the lanes, track prep is nearly over and it's almost time to get loud; REALLY LOUD!
Friday - 3:00 PM Update
now officially smoking stinking hot. Don't know what the numbers are but when
the starting line thermometer exploded an hour ago... it's last reading was 131
F and climbing. It's just plain old HOT with a capital H-O-T out here at Vegas.
I thought the first session of Top Alcohol qualifying was rather ordinary, but
it didn't get any better when they switched to Top Fuel and Funny Car. It took
seven pairs of TF cars before the second 3-second run was recorded. The FC's were
no better and it just looks like it's too hot and slippery out there for anyone
to run anywhere near their capabilities. I've
just finished watching Pro Mod and the Nostalgia Nitro Funny Cars run and the
Pro Mod best was only a 6.06 by the nitrous-aided machine of Rickie Smith. The
old-style floppers did their best and to their credit laid down some solid side
by side low 6-second passes, with Jason Rupert best at 6.01. Ed "The Outlaw" Jones
is out now doing his wheelstanding thing, then the Pro Stocks follow with their
second qualifying session and before we know it, the fuel cars will follow, then
the alcohol cars and finally Comp eliminator again. No
time for photos or a full recap until tonight, but worry not, it will come. Looks
the only serious April Fool played today was by Mother Nature on the track surface,
the fans, the racers, and most especially, the photo scum like me. Hang on
Bob, it'll be over soon....er or later. More
news from our intrepid correspondent if he survives the afternoon qualifying sessions. Friday
- 7:00 PM Update
It's now officially smoking stinking hot. Don't know what the numbers are but when the starting line thermometer exploded an hour ago... it's last reading was 131 F and climbing. It's just plain old HOT with a capital H-O-T out here at Vegas. I thought the first session of Top Alcohol qualifying was rather ordinary, but it didn't get any better when they switched to Top Fuel and Funny Car. It took seven pairs of TF cars before the second 3-second run was recorded. The FC's were no better and it just looks like it's too hot and slippery out there for anyone to run anywhere near their capabilities.
I've just finished watching Pro Mod and the Nostalgia Nitro Funny Cars run and the Pro Mod best was only a 6.06 by the nitrous-aided machine of Rickie Smith. The old-style floppers did their best and to their credit laid down some solid side by side low 6-second passes, with Jason Rupert best at 6.01. Ed "The Outlaw" Jones is out now doing his wheelstanding thing, then the Pro Stocks follow with their second qualifying session and before we know it, the fuel cars will follow, then the alcohol cars and finally Comp eliminator again.
No time for photos or a full recap until tonight, but worry not, it will come. Looks the only serious April Fool played today was by Mother Nature on the track surface, the fans, the racers, and most especially, the photo scum like me. Hang on Bob, it'll be over soon....er or later.
More news from our intrepid correspondent if he survives the afternoon qualifying sessions.
Friday - 7:00 PM Update
two ways to define burnout as it relates to the sport of drag racing: the act
of spinning the rear tires until they lose traction and start smoking. Or the
photojournalist who stands beside a steaming hot chunk of asphalt for nine and
a half hours with hardly a break and still lives to tell the tale of his (pick
one) bravery, insanity, or just plain stupidity. In my case I think the latter
two options apply equally well. Drag
racing is known as quite a numbers game. Everything seems to revolve around numbers:
car numbers, license numbers, elapsed times, speeds, engine sizes, payouts, entry
fees, and the list goes on and on. Today's arithmetic lesson mainly revolved around
temperatures (all bad - both air and track) and corrected altitude numbers (again,
pretty much all bad) and the resulting elapsed times and speeds, which again,
were mostly of the not so good to downright awful variety. As
reported on earlier updates today, the track temperature started warm, got hot,
got hotter still, then got so hot it seemed to be almost on fire at one point.
The air temperature reached well into the 90's (F) and even as I write this, an
hour after sunset, it's still in the high 80's and not dropping quickly. As I've
been reminded more than once today, this is just a taste, a mere hors d'oeuvre
of what it's like here in July. My question is: who in their right mind would
hold a race here in the summer; at least in daylight hours. We
could sum up the day's qualifying action by simply saying no one ran that well
compared to the usual e.t.'s and mph's they are capable of, but on the other hand,
nobody crashed and engine damage was limited to only a few blower bangs, smoked
pistons and other assorted minor carnage. For the most part the track surface
stayed free of errant lubricants or other unwanted fluids. The worst damage of
the day was inflicted more than a few times on the bright orange cones that mark
the incremental timing spots along the track. They were flying and exploding on
a regular basis and took out at least one expensive chunk of Funny Car carbon
fiber nose. We'll have the recap of
today's activities posted later tonight but for now this 7:00 update is all we've
got. Similarly, the photos will have to wait until tomorrow. Stay tuned to SpeedZone
for the quickest updates and reports from the SummitRacing.com Nationals at Las
Vegas Motor Speedway. Friday
- 11:00 PM Update
There's two ways to define burnout as it relates to the sport of drag racing: the act of spinning the rear tires until they lose traction and start smoking. Or the photojournalist who stands beside a steaming hot chunk of asphalt for nine and a half hours with hardly a break and still lives to tell the tale of his (pick one) bravery, insanity, or just plain stupidity. In my case I think the latter two options apply equally well.
Drag racing is known as quite a numbers game. Everything seems to revolve around numbers: car numbers, license numbers, elapsed times, speeds, engine sizes, payouts, entry fees, and the list goes on and on. Today's arithmetic lesson mainly revolved around temperatures (all bad - both air and track) and corrected altitude numbers (again, pretty much all bad) and the resulting elapsed times and speeds, which again, were mostly of the not so good to downright awful variety.
As reported on earlier updates today, the track temperature started warm, got hot, got hotter still, then got so hot it seemed to be almost on fire at one point. The air temperature reached well into the 90's (F) and even as I write this, an hour after sunset, it's still in the high 80's and not dropping quickly. As I've been reminded more than once today, this is just a taste, a mere hors d'oeuvre of what it's like here in July. My question is: who in their right mind would hold a race here in the summer; at least in daylight hours.
We could sum up the day's qualifying action by simply saying no one ran that well compared to the usual e.t.'s and mph's they are capable of, but on the other hand, nobody crashed and engine damage was limited to only a few blower bangs, smoked pistons and other assorted minor carnage. For the most part the track surface stayed free of errant lubricants or other unwanted fluids. The worst damage of the day was inflicted more than a few times on the bright orange cones that mark the incremental timing spots along the track. They were flying and exploding on a regular basis and took out at least one expensive chunk of Funny Car carbon fiber nose.
We'll have the recap of today's activities posted later tonight but for now this 7:00 update is all we've got. Similarly, the photos will have to wait until tomorrow. Stay tuned to SpeedZone for the quickest updates and reports from the SummitRacing.com Nationals at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
Friday - 11:00 PM Update
the condensed version of a recap for Las Vegas today. It follows a chronological
order from the start of Comp Eliminator qualifying at 10:30 am until the end of
the second session of Comp at 7:00 pm. In between are the details on all the fuel
and alcohol burning categories. It's
not quite 10:30 and the sun's high in the sky and heating everything as the Comp
contestants fill the lanes as Stock Eliminator finishes their qualifying session.
The readout at the back of the burnout area is already 104 F and certain to keep
climbing as the day progresses. While the Comp cars were a little slower than
normal, even with their altitude adjusted indexes, the 27 cars on hand trying
to "squeeze" into the 32-car field are running well under their respective indexes,
with nearly half the field more than half a second under. While
some of the Canadian racers are near, or in the case of Mike McKeigue from Fort
St. John, BC (think waaay up north) at the top of the field, our latest Canadian
Comp hero, Rob Harrison opened his ledger with a middle of the pack -0.47 under
the index effort, and Langley's Bob Marshall trailed nearly the entire field with
an off-pace opening lap. 1
5179 A/DA Wade Oman, Castle Rock CO, Fritz 6.583 7.20 -0.617
Here's the condensed version of a recap for Las Vegas today. It follows a chronological order from the start of Comp Eliminator qualifying at 10:30 am until the end of the second session of Comp at 7:00 pm. In between are the details on all the fuel and alcohol burning categories.
It's not quite 10:30 and the sun's high in the sky and heating everything as the Comp contestants fill the lanes as Stock Eliminator finishes their qualifying session. The readout at the back of the burnout area is already 104 F and certain to keep climbing as the day progresses. While the Comp cars were a little slower than normal, even with their altitude adjusted indexes, the 27 cars on hand trying to "squeeze" into the 32-car field are running well under their respective indexes, with nearly half the field more than half a second under.
While some of the Canadian racers are near, or in the case of Mike McKeigue from Fort St. John, BC (think waaay up north) at the top of the field, our latest Canadian Comp hero, Rob Harrison opened his ledger with a middle of the pack -0.47 under the index effort, and Langley's Bob Marshall trailed nearly the entire field with an off-pace opening lap.
5179 A/DA Wade Oman, Castle Rock CO, Fritz 6.583 7.20 -0.617
Right on time the Alcohol Funny Cars came out next in front of mostly vacant spectator seating areas, and the show the first few pairs put on was hardly worth watching. With a reported track temp of 109 F and corrected air of more than 4000 feet, the first three pairs of cars down the track alternated between decent and terrible runs. Then two pairs of side by side 5.7 - 5.8 passes gave hope that the track was coming around, until the session staggered to a conclusion with a few more good passes. The final pair summed up the round as Mickey Ferro and Tony Bartone (two of the heaviest hitters in the class) both lost traction early and shut off. The bump spot, if you can call it that, was established at 16.35. Certainly the late afternoon second qualifying session had to be better.
By the time the Alcohol Dragsters took the stage at 11:40, the track temp was already up another notch at 114 F and the prospects for good performances weren't looking great. Compounded with a short, 14-car field, the dragsters were expected to be hurting. The one bright spot was the parity in choice of fuel and induction as seven injected fuel cars faced off against seven blown alcohol dragsters. In the hot dry conditions it was assumed that the blown cars would have an advantage, but that's just on paper.
Interesting aside: the local A/Fuel veteran Duane Shields was not entered in his hometown race. Is that a hmm... or a hmmmmmm. Just asking, of course. As the first pair of dragsters moved into their burnout routines it was noticed that the stands were starting to fill up, especially the cheap(er) seats on the east side. While it would be nice to think that the sound of blown alky cars was drawing the folks into the stands, it was more likely that the well-announced noon qualifying session for the Pro cars was the bigger drawing magnet.
The opening pass of the top alky round was a very early tire smoker by the dimunitive Prairie girl, Ashley Bart, as she lit them up right after the 60 foot timers. Her opponent, Aaron Olivarez, returning to the sport after a several year absence carded a decent 5.65 to temporarily take the top spot in the field. The second pair, both injected cars, provided the high point of the round, as Texan Mark Taliaferro ran a big 5.40 at 267 mph pass. Considering the conditions, an excellent performance.
After a shutoff before staging Johnny Ahten, the high country Cody Perkins car provided the best visuals at this point in the day with a gigantic injector scoop atop his blown alky dragster. And it ran almost as good as it looked as her laid down a solid 5.46 at 258 mph to take the second spot on the qualifying list. The next pair featured two Canadian cars, the blown one driven by Arizonan James Butler and the injected fuel car by Edmontonian Don St. Arnaud. Both were stuck in the 5.8 doldrums and made little impact on the competition.
As the round was drawing to a close, the track temp (are you sick to death of hearing about it? the problem is that it was the biggest story of the day, so that's why we keep mentioning it) had escalated to 119 degrees and the chances for some good laps, even with some of the best cars in the class coming up, were getting slimmer by the minute and degree. Amazingly, Joey Severance and Jim Whiteley showed they knew how to get down a hot slippery track with side by side 5.40's to take the #2 and #4 spots on the ladder respectively.
That left just the final pair of the round, Demke and Cowie to presumably fight it out for the top two spots and push everyone down a notch or two. It didn't quite work that way however, as Cowie had to work hard to control a skating car at half track, while Demke blew up big time just before the 1000 foot clocks. While Cowie took the #5 spot after the first round of qualifying, Demke was well back in the #11 slot. Despite the short (14-car) field and some very early shutoffs, 10 of the 14 cars that appeared carded at least a 5-second e.t.
The second TAD session was not too much better for the 14 cars in attendance except for the Canadian based Cowie team. The Mundies towing team loves Vegas (three wins div's and nat's) and it showed as he turned in the only '30 of the session a great 5.37@265 to lead heading into Saturday's final session. Joey Severance and Jim Whiteley both stayed consistent with 5.40's apiece, Gator's champ Chris Demke was another tenth off with a 5.55. The earleir #1 qualifier MArk Taliaferro slowed from his earleir 5.40 with a 5.53.
1 3 B/AD Shawn Cowie, Delta BC, Hadman-BAE 5.371 267.22 267.22
TAFC saw only Sean O'Bannon run in the 5.60's in the final seassion as he ran a 5.688 but it was not quick enough to take over the #1 spot held by Mark Woznichak's 5.682 from session 1. Three of the top hitters Tony Bartone, Alexa Je Joria and Mickey Ferro are #15 through 17 in the field with one shot left.
1 75 Mark Woznichak, Ontario CA, '02 Camaro 5.682 251.25 251.25
------------ Not Qualified ------------
17 2 Mickey Ferro, Stamford CT, '11 Monte Carlo 11.192 84.80 84.80
Roger Burgess raced
to the qualifying lead Friday in the NHRA Get Screened America Pro Mod Drag Racing
Series portion of the SummitRacing.com NHRA Nationals.
"The car has been running good," said Burgess, who switched from a supercharged combination from last year to a turbocharged tune up this season. "Even at the last race, it ran good, but it just didn't race good. We had some issues, but I think we've figured them out. Things are going to be a lot better from this point forward. Once we get this car sorted out, it's going to be a very consistent race car. My secret weapon here is (crew chief) Steve Petty. A lot of guys don't know who he is, but they are going to know who he is before the season is over, I can promise you that."
Tire Kingdom NHRA Gatornationals winner and series points leader Khalid Balooshi was second in the 16-car lineup, posting a 5.986 at 238.09 in his nitrous-injected Speedtech '68 Camaro.
Rickie Smith was third with a 6.004 at 238.81in his nitrous-injected '68 Camaro and Jay Payne was fourth with a 6.005 at 239.14 in his supercharged FireIce '68 Camaro.
1 272 Roger Burgess, Duluth GA, t'53 Corvette 5.956 249.81 249.81
------------ Not Qualified ------------
17 6890 Lee Frank, Missoula MT, t'10 Corvette 7.182 206.89 206.89
Pro Stock did not have the luxury of the usual cooler fall temperatures found at Vegas II and the times showed. Mike Edwards was the closest to the 6.60's with a class leading 6.715/206.26. The rest of the top runners (Anderson, Enders, Brogdon, and Nobile ran 6.73's. Point leader Jason Line icould only rn a 6.75 to sit #8 after the first round .
In round two, Mike Edwards improved to a 6.709. Ron Krisher and Jason Line were the only other two to show any improvement in more difficult warmer conditions for the 17 cars on hand. Edwards is .03 ahead of the pack.
3 Mike Edwards, Coweta OK, '08 GXP 6.709 205.63 206.26
------------ Not Qualified ------------
13 21 Kurt Johnson, Sugar Hill GA, '09 GXP 6.766 203.98 203.98
In Funny Car, the hot dry conditions showed on the scoreboard as well, as only John Force was able to crack the 4 teens in round one. His 4.187/299 beside Bob Tasca's 4.221/292 were the best of round one. Tony Pedregon must have added some STP to his nitro as he sits a solid #3 after a 4.26 in round one. The other two Force cars are outside the top 12 after round one. The DSR cars are 4 (Hagan), 9 (Capps), 11 (Beckman) and Johnny Gray did not get his Dodge fired up as a mechanical issue get him from making a lap.
In round two Corrected air was right at the mile mark but a number of teams got their tune ups adjusted in the right direction as the top eight in the order improved from round one. Cruz Pedregon is showing his team has a solid tune-up at all three events this year, he just needs to show that effort in eliminations. He leads after day one with 4.145/306. John picked up .02 and ran a 4.169 Tim Wilkerson went 4.196 and Robert Hight got out of the bottom half with a 4.197.
Johnny Gray had troubles again in the second session, this time on track as he got loose with a couple holes out and played foam block tag, he won as four or five took a ride banging up the front end of his Stratus. Terry Haddock made his debut this year with new sponsorship, a more compact schedule and resources to compete at selected events, in hopes to make better showings at each event. It did not work for his lone attempt in the second session, as he had cylinders out and coasted down the track.
1 71 Cruz Pedregon,
Brownsburg IN, '10 Solara 4.145 306.19 306.19
------------ Not Qualified ------------
13 28 Ron Capps, Carlsbad CA, '11 Charger 4.416 271.73 271.73
Top Fuel saw similar results as the Funny Cars, as hot dry conditions kept good runs to a minimum. After two events in sea level conditions this race is atest of a crew chiefs ability. In the first session four three second 1000 foot runs with point leader Del Worsham leading the group with a 3.93/305. Tony Schumacher is #2 with a 3.96 and Terry McMillen has his best position in the field after one round. His 3.982 is just a few ticks quicker that Shawn Langdon's 3.989. Seven of the 17 cars making runs in round one were off the throttle early due to tire smoke or shaking the tires.
In round two, Dixon picked up the most to run a decent 3.904/312.78 Antron Brown moved up to 3rd from outside the field with a 3.939/311. Spencer Massey and David Grubnic are in the quicker half of the 3.9 zone, with 3.94's apiece. In all 10 of the 19 cars making runs were in the 3.90's. I expect at least a half dozen cars in the 3.80's by days end Saturday.
1 Larry Dixon, Brownsburg IN, Hadman-TFX 3.904 312.78 312.78
------------ Not Qualified ------------
13 12 Bob Vandergriff, Alpharetta GA, Hadman-TFX 4.033 285.29 285.29
Las Vegas Pit Notes - Thursday
With the weather forecast showing temps in the 80's and verging on the 90's for the first day of the NHRA Summitracing.com Nationals at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, then dropping back into the 70's over the course of the weekend, everyone was prepared for a bit of early season heat. But was anyone ready for 94 degree temperatures on move-in day Thursday, leaving many of the northerners especially wondering who had turned the outdoor thermostat to FRY and left the fan on high. The combination of heat and a hot breeze made it seem like summer was just around the corner, and trust me, Las Vegas ranks nowhere on anyone's fun-meter in the summer (outdoors at least).
Is this the new rear tire meant to restrict the speeds in the nitro classes?
Despite the first quarter of the year being over today, the start of the race tomorrow will only be the third of the 22 events on the NHRA national event schedule. With the traditional early-season Phoenix race moved to the fall, and the Houston race moved to a date following Las Vegas, the racers are still working out the early season bugs and blues that befall so many, especially with the curtailment of most in-season testing for the Full Throttle series competitors. Despite it being five weeks between Pomona and Vegas, it`s only been three weeks since the Gatornationals and that may have kept the rust from creeping into combinations and drivers.
At this point it`s impossible to read anything into the points standings for the pro drivers, other than to note that if some of them fall too far back too soon, like for instance Tony Pedregon, who`s already 138 points behind early leader Mike Neff, and Brandon Bernstein, who`s 120 points in arrears of surprise early leader Del Worsham, then catching up and getting back into contention for the championship will become ever more difficult as the season wears on. In other words, the time to start going rounds and gaining some points is now. Not the next race, or the one after, but this one, this weekend.
Even Pro Stock shows some shocking standings stories, as heavy hitters Mike Edwards and Allen Johnson (forever known to this writer for his famous quote "golly bum" in a post-race interview years ago) are not only not in the top ten, but both trail the runaway early leader Jason Line by nearly 160 points. Golly Bum indeed! We'll leave the Pro Stock bikers out of this discussion for now as they've only run one event so far and it's going to be at least a few more races before any patterns start developing.
Similarly, the sportsman racers, including the two varieties of Top Alcohol competition, have a very different system of championship points gathering and it's difficult to pick the favourites until much later in the season. Still, early season successes, particularly on the divisional level are points earned and they will still count as the season nears its climax. In other words, make the hay now while you can and worry about other harvests at a later date. However, some of last year's top ten racers are already piling up the points and looking to increase their totals this weekend in Vegas.
In Top Alcohol Dragster, last season's championship runnerup, Chris Demke, is already atop the standings, followed closely by the #3 runner in 2010, Richmond BC's Shawn Cowie and perennial threat, Las Vegas's own Duane Shields. Trailing slightly is another serious contender, Jim Whiteley in one of his YNOT Racing stable entries. On the Funny Car side of the equation, the champion of champions, 58-time world champion (maybe it just seems that way) Frank Manzo is nowhere to be seen - yet - as his sole outing, at the Gatornationals, ended far too early for his liking with a second round loss. His main protagonist from last season, Tony Bartone, trails the early leader, Kris "WHO?" Hool by only two rounds of racing and is sure to be well up in the top ten all season.
There's really not much sense looking lower in the sportsman ranks at this time as their points earning possibilities and permutations are so diverse that it really is the final two months of the season before a clear picture emerges of who the next champion will be. It can be noted though that the top ten in each of those categories are populated with racers who've amassed substantial points totals already, but have likewise used up quite a bit of their eligibility too.
With strategy playing such an important part in the process, the Winternationals winner in Comp Eliminator, North Vancouver, BC's Rob Harrison has made this weekend's event only his second race of the season. Therefore he's only #25 on the list, but with a perfect 95 points for his one event, a point per event ratio that tops everyone on the list so far. But all it takes is an untimely redlight, or an out-of-shape launch to send one's position in the standings plummeting.
With a full day of qualifying for every category on Friday, and final qualifying sessions for every class on Saturday, plus first rounds of eliminations for everything from Top Alcohol on down, followed by final eliminations on Sunday, it looks like it's going to be three days of nearly non-stop action at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. In addition to all the championship racing, a quartet of Nostalgia Nitro Funny Cars and Ed "The Outlaw" Jones in his wheelstanding stagecoach will be making exhibition passes. The weather is forecast to be only too good, with a zero percent chance of rain, but possible high temperatures in the 90's, dropping into the 70's over the course of the weekend.
That's the preview, now on to the pit notes from Thursday's move-in, set-up, tech inspection day.
Lou & Steve Gasparelli:
It's really not a good start to the notes to lead off with this item, but we must as in a very sudden development, Top Alcohol Funny Car racer Steve Gasparelli withdrew from the event after arriving with the car ready to race. He received the very sad news that his father, mentor and partner on the car, Lou Gasparelli, had been determined to be in the final stages of his very long and hard-fought battle with cancer. He was first struck with this terrible disease ten years ago, fought it, beat it and went into remission for quite a while. But five years ago he was diagnosed with a recurence, and then given six months to live.
It's now nearly ten times that long, but the awful affliction has taken it's toll on Lou and he was released from the hospital yesterday in order to spend his final days with his family. At a time like this mere words carry very little meaning and can do little to lift people's spirits, but from everyone at SpeedZone and the entire family of drag racers, we wish our heartfelt prayers to the Gasparelli family and give great thanks to Lou and Steve for all the fine memories they've given us. Godspeed.
Shawn & Ron Cowie, Bill Moore, et al
After setting the Top Alcohol Dragster world on its collective ears with a series of low 5.2 blasts at the season opening race in Pomona, including the quickest of all time 5.243 (and second fastest at 273.66 mph) and a later pass that could have been even quicker, a 5.256 at a shutting off speed of just 261 mph, due to a redlight in the semifinals against eventual event winner Duane Shields, the team has come in here ready to follow up and improve on their national event record.
Their performances at Pomona followed on the heels of a successful season debut in winning the Division Seven Lucas Series race at Chandler, Arizona's Firebird Raceway and laying down a series of low 5.30 passes, culminating in a race best of 5.28 at 271 mph to lay the successful foundation for their Pomona success a week later. But as quickly as a team rises, they can fall and last weekend's second Division Seven event at this race track saw them out of competition after the first round when a valvetrain (pushrod) failure caused one cylinder to quit running, pushed up the blower boost on that side of the engine, subsequently torching the block and head and leading to the inevitable supercharger backfire. Aka: banged the blower big time.
Driver Shawn, owner Ron and crewchief Bill, along with the rest of the hard-working Mundie's Towing team are looking for a quick and big rebound this weekend at their favourite national event track, site of their two national event victories in Shawn's short Top Alcohol career. There's lots more to report on these guys but that would use up all the material we've been gathering for a feature story on Bill Moore and the entire Mundie's gang. Read it here very soon.
Rob & Dolly Harrison
Searching through the pits for the rumoured entry of North Vancouver's current hero racer, we first spotted a familiar looking refrigerator white Cavalier/Escort/something or other with the ever-faithful IGOR standing guard at the trailer door. "Why white?" I queried. "There's no air conditioning in the car so the reflective properties help and besides, white paint is lighter," Harrison explained. "Hey, are you going to be busy for the next FIVE minutes?" he innocently asked, doing his best Huckleberry Finn imitation. Never being one to resist being sucked into something that I really should have walked, nay, run away from, I replied that I wasn't too busy to help... a little bit.
Fast forward, well not exactly fast, but move ahead half an hour and I'm sweating, dirty and panting like one of his overheated Boxer dogs, as the canopy is finally erected and completely installed. While we're working away with the poles, and rods, and tubes and tiedowns, and finger clamps and god knows what else, I was able to ask Rob and his wife Dolly a few questions about how things have been for them. "Done anything exciting lately," I innocently asked. "Nothing much. Won the Winter-freaking-nationals, but that's about all so far this year," he nonchalantly replied.
You must have been bouncing off the ceiling after that race, I parried, but he deftly returned my soft lob with a "No, actually it was about three weeks later before it started to really sink in. I was sitting at home one night and I just started thinking - I WON the Winternationals - the first Canadian Comp Eliminator racer to ever win that race - and then it started to seem like a bit of a big deal," he continued. Asking if the Wally was in a prominent location above the mantle or on a trophy shelf, he replied that "No, it's somewhere around the house. Maybe Dolly's using it as a doorstop or something," was the tongue-in-cheek(y) answer.
There's much more detail I could provide on this 30-year (or so) overnight success story, but again, I'm saving the really good stuff for a feature story that should be posted in the next week or so. But if Harrison wins this race too... then all bets are off, and I'll probably have to go through his agent just to get an audience with the man. Time to move on and continue my pit tour for now.
Stan & Terry Sainty, and Santo Rapisarda
Meandering through the Top Fuel pits, seeing the ever-increasing size and complexity of the well-funded operations, my eyes were drawn to the smaller, unassuming pit space of Sydney construction crane mogul Santo Rapisarda. Knowing that he'd brought on a new driver this season, Terry Sainty, I walked up to the pit area and at the back of the space, sitting relaxing was an old friend, Terry's father Stan. Walking over to greet him, he was rather taken aback at seeing me for the first time in nearly ten years. "You know, Marg (his wife, who's here too) and I were just talking about you a few weeks ago. Good to see you. Say hello to Terry, he's in the trailer working on something."
An introduction to team owner Santo led to a short discussion about where he's headed this season, with a minimum (not maximum, but minimum) 12 NHRA events on his schedule. "Maybe more; we'll see how it goes. There aren't too many conflicts with our Aussie racing season and as long as I can get the crew over here, we'll be right. It really helps of course to have some real veterans, like Gus and our tuner, Glenn Mikres, who's been with me since 1991."
Stan filled me in on his current situation, which is always busy, but extra busy these days with a couple of large outside contracts for his Wentworthville, New South Wales (suburb of Sydney) Sainty Engineering Works. Their own family-run car, currently sitting third on the ANDRA points table in Top Fuel is also demanding much of his time, especially as he's finally got what he feels are the right camshafts for the unique three-valve overhead cam engine. They haven't been run yet, but will be tested as soon as their next race on the Australian schedule, the Nitro Championships at Sydney Dragway on the first weekend in May.
Don St. Arnaud
Walking into the Edmonton racers pit, I was greeted with an enthusiastic reception, not unexpected considering Don's very successful season opening performance at the Winternationals. Not only winning his first competition round at a national event, but his second and third too, and reaching his first final round.... all in one dream-like weekend. Why wouldn't he be happy? Even a minor mental malfunction while mixing his nitro at last week's divisional event here can't dampen his spirits. With a rigorously enforced 94% maximum nitro rule in force for A/Fuel Dragster competitors, St. Arnaud keeps a close watch on his percentages, and aims for no more than 93.5% in the fuel tank to allow for variances in measurement between his own hydrometer and NHRA's.
At last weekend's event, he carefully mixed a jug of 93.5% and left it in the trailer overnight, then forgetting it was pre-mixed to his own maximum specs, and thinking it was only 93% in the jug, added some more pure nitro, then dumped the resulting mix in the tank. After his first round victory in the very tough 8-car field, the shock and dismay at seeing a 94.6% reading come up in post-race fuel check was very deflating. But it only set him back for a short while; Don took full responsibility for an innocent mistake and the team moved on, ready to compete hard this weekend.
While he's very happy with his results so far this year, Don informed us that he's looking at a rather short season. "I've got some important new contracts in the oilfield business and really have to be on-site with them to not risk having anything go sideways and lose or othewise jeopardize the business. So it's going to limit our racing schedule through the summer, which is the busiest time of the year for me business-wise." His next appearance will be the Division Six race at Mission at the end of May, then possibly the IHRA Rocky Mountain Nationals in late June "and that's only because the contract is in Red Deer and I can drive into the race and back each day" he continued.
"Even though we may not run too often this season, I'm elated at how well we've done, how consistent we've become and I can be very satisfied knowing that my hot rod is ready to race anytime, anywhere and be competitive. But without the business to support this, we can't run, so business has to come first," he concluded. With some very good early runs on the board, and more seat time under his belt, the Don St. Arnaud team is moving ahead very well indeed.
Jeff Johnsen & Hugh Ridley
It's been a tough start to the new season, as the car has just come off an extended "vacation" after last appearing at the 2010 Northwest Nationals. With last year's driver, Dale Carlson, out of the seat, it's been a learning curve for Hugh Ridley's new pilot, Arizona's James Butler, who has made the jump from Top Dragster to Top Alcohol Dragster. The biggest adjustment for the veteran racer has been leaving the starting line with a pedal clutch at 6000 - 7000 rpm as opposed to engaging a transbrake and buzzing the engine to the chip and releasing a button. Or something like that; all this new-fangled automatic converter stuff is beyond this old scribe's comprehension.
Topping off the new driver situation, the team has made what appears to be a radical change in the fuel system, and not totally intentionally. Resisting the pressure to put an inlet diverter in the air stream between the injector hat and the PSI blower inlet, crew chief Jeff Johnsen finally listened to the siren song of "more boost". "People kept telling me that we could gain up to three lbs of boost if we put this 'diverter' in the airstream. I'm not totally a subscriber to the theory that there's no such thing as too much boost, and finally did it at the start of the year. Since then it's been a real battle to get on top of the tuneup again, and we're fine tuning the fuel system," he related.
Another mechanical malady afflicting the car has been a bad batch of sprags in the Lenco transmission. "Four runs in a row we had one disintegrate right off the starting line. The outer rings just collapsed and scattered bits everywhere inside the trans," he stated. With the data gained at three events already under their belt, the hope is that they can turn the corner this weekend and qualify strongly and go a round or three to make up for a somewhat slow start. One extra bit of help for them right now is Bill Edwards Sr., who with his son Bill Jr. gave them a hand at Pomona, and now Bill Sr. is here giving them some of his wisdom and helping Jeff look at some of the issues they're facing with an outside perspective.
Roll call in the Top Alcohol Pits
Even though there must be a few more cars tucked away in their trailers, or still enroute as I closed out my pit tour at 4:00 pm, the numbers are looking rather thin. Distressingly so, as the 16-car fields that NHRA offers at national events were barely filled at the Winternationals (even one car short in the case of Top Alcohol Dragster) and it looks like a similar scenario here. My initial investigation shows only 13 of a total of 14 pre-entered cars. In any event, we're still at least a car or three short of a full field.
The alky flopper situation is healthier, but only by comparison, with just 18 cars noted as here and ready to run (that's subtracting the withdrawn Gasparelli entry) and with the usual breakage ratio, will probably leave them with just enough healthy cars to field a full slate for Saturday afternoon's first round of eliminations. I could go on ad infinitum about the current situation in Top Alcohol, but there's not nearly enough time or space to do the subject justice here, as it's best left for another day and another forum.
One last note before we close this report: The tech inspectors went on a bit of a blitz in the alky pits today and had a number of teams remove their injectors so the air inlet areas in the top of their superchargers could be inspected. We're not really sure what they're looking for, and we haven't received any reports of anyone failing inspection or being asked to remove, modify or replace any parts, but we'll follow up on this issue over the weekend and bring you any updates or feedback we can gather. And that's all from the pits at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
The 12th annual SummitRacing.com NHRA Nationals,
the third of 22 events in the NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series. Drivers in
three categories - Top Fuel, Funny Car and Pro Stock - earn points leading to
2011 NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series world championships. NHRA is celebrating
its 60th anniversary in 2011 and will pay tribute to the evolution of the hot
rod and honor its legendary racers as well as the sport's current stars.
WHEN: Friday through Sunday, April 1-3
MOST VICTORIES: Larry Dixon, 4, TF; Greg Anderson, 3, PS; Jeg Coughlin, 3, PS; Kenny Bernstein, 2, TF; Tony Schumacher, 2, TF.
GENERAL ADMISSION (includes pit pass) - Friday: Adult, $34; Junior (6-12 years), $11. Saturday: Adult, $55; Junior (6-12 years), $11. Sunday: Adult, $55; Junior (6-12 years) $16. Children five years and under admitted free to general admission and pit areas each day.
RESERVED SEATS (includes pit pass) - Friday: Adult, $44; Junior (6-12 years), $21; Child (Five and under), $10. Saturday: Adult, $65; Junior (6-12 years), $26; Child (Five and under), $10. Sunday: Adult, $65; Junior (6-12 years) $26; Child (Five and under), $10.
LAS VEGAS SummitRacing Nationals 60th anniversary celebration salutes Roland Leong as Grand Marshall
The National Hot Rod Association (NHRA) is celebrating its 60th anniversary in
2011. At each track, the NHRA plays host to a drag racing legend who serves as
grand marshal and participates in autograph sessions.
Perhaps Hot Rod Magazine's Cole Coonce described him best. "A shy drag racer from Oahu who came to California, raced ruthlessly, refused to suffer fools gladly, and dominated the competition until the operating capital disappeared unexpectedly. Even then, he found a couple of ways to jump back in the fray."
Roland's glory days began in the mid-'60s when most race cars had names like Ramchargers, Rambunctious, Chi-Town Hustler and Brutus. Fans flocked by the thousands to their local drag strips to see the big names like Jungle Jim (Lieberman), Snake (Don Prudhomme) and Big Daddy (Don Garlits). With less than a handful of NHRA national events to compete in, Funny Car and Top Fuel Dragster drivers earned extra cash by barnstorming in pairs or quartets, match-racing at tracks from Maine to California. It was big news when The Hawaiian came to your town.
It all began in the mid-'60s when Leong decided to build his own dragster and race it. His maiden voyage down the quarter-mile in the front-engine 200-mph machine did not go as planned. The car left the track, crossed some railroad tracks and wound up in the weeds. Dazed but unhurt, Leong decided to take on the role of car builder and owner and tapped Don "The Snake" Prudhomme for the driving chores.
Prudhomme, driving Leong's Keith Black-powered Hawaiian dragster, dominated the 1965 NHRA Winternationals (Pomona, Calif.) and U.S. Nationals (Indianapolis). Leong did it again in 1966, winning the Winternationals and U.S Nationals, this time with ace Mike Snively behind the wheel. Now, instead of having to call the drag strip operators for match-race bookings, track managers began calling him to secure the Hawaiian. Roland and his drivers supported themselves match-racing on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and weekends from Carlsbad to Canada. Over the years, his roster of drivers included Gordie Bonin, Larry Reyes, Butch Maas, Pat Foster and Ron Colson. Bonin was the only driver to race for Leong twice, in 1973 and 1993.
Revell and MPC released several scale model kits of The Hawaiian and the infamous Charger graced the pages of just about every drag racing and hot rod magazine. He was the first to take a Funny Car to a wind tunnel to improve the body's aerodynamics. In 1990, the Hawaiian set national records five times and was the first to break the 290-mph barrier.
And then everything ground to a halt. A three-year sponsorship deal went up in smoke and there was no money for racing in a now-expensive sport. The famed Hawaiian was sold and the shop doors were locked.
Roles reversed as Leong went to work for his former driver, Don Prudhomme, as team manager in 1998. The pair dominated the circuit and nearly won the national championship.
Leong restored one the original Hawaiian Funny Cars - the Charger that Reyes drove to victory at the Winternationals in 1970 - and it will be on display at LVMS April 1-3. Reyes also plans to come to the event.
Roland will sign autographs at the track each day, will serve as grand marshal on race day and also will lead the Speedway Children's Charities track walk. His cars - the restored Hawaiian Charger and a replica of the Top Fuel Dragster - will participate in the pre-race parade.
The NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series brings the biggest names in professional drag racing - including John Force, Tony Pedregon and Tony Schumacher - to The Strip at LVMS twice each year. The NHRA SummitRacing.com Nationals features Top Fuel Dragsters, Funny Cars, Pro Stocks, Pro Mods, Top Alcohol Dragsters, Top Alcohol Funny Cars and Sportsman racers.
To purchase NHRA tickets or obtain more information, please call LVMS at (702) 644-4444 or visit www.LVMS.com. Follow LVMS on Facebook and Twitter.
Team Press releases
Troxel eyeing two chances to succeed in Las Vegas
Personett leads R2B2 Racing charge into Vegas Pro Mod battle
Veteran Larry Morgan ready to take final step in Lucas Oil Mustang
LAS VEGAS (March 28) -- One year ago, just a few months into an ambitious switch to Ford horsepower and bodywork, Pro Stock veteran Larry Morgan was working hard just to make the elimination field at any given NHRA event.
Now, after a sometimes frustrating season of engine failures and massive parts damage, Morgan and crew have found an competitive set-up for the red, white, and blue Lucas Oil Ford Mustang and come into this weekend's 12th annual SummitRacing.com NHRA Nationals at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway with much loftier expectations.
"It's time to get after it," said Morgan, who has successfully qualified for both races this season. "You're going to see some big changes from this team in the next few races.
"We got gun-shy last year because we were breaking stuff every weekend. No one had run a Ford in this class for 25 years and we had a bunch of catching up to do. We spin these motors at 10,500 rpm and when things go wrong it takes awhile to figure out the culprit some times."
An engine builder by trade, Morgan and his loyal staff relentlessly chased their gremlins until finally firming up the components in their BOSS powerplant towards the end of their 2010 campaign.
At first, they were happy just to qualify for every race. Now they're aiming at earning top-half berths in every elimination field.
"We've been steadily moving up," Morgan said. "Every week we're finding something else that helps. Of course, in this class, everyone is doing that so you have to stay on it around the clock. Heck, I wished we raced every weekend so we never rested. I'm so ready to contend for race trophies.
"Our engine parts are solid now, thank God, and we're making great power. If the NHRA would figure out how they want to prep the tracks and quit changing on us every race, we'll be cruising.
"This is an exciting time because, although Jason (Line) and Greg (Anderson) have jumped out to a fast start, everyone is basically bunched up. I think we'll see more contenders for the championship then ever before, and we expect to be in the mix. I'm not even sure how far we can go yet, but we're gonna find out. It's time."
Qualifying rounds begin at 12:30 and 3 p.m. PDT, Friday, and continue with two more rounds at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. Saturday. Qualifying highlights will be shown at 4 p.m., Saturday, on ESPN2. Eliminations will begin airing at 1:30 p.m., Sunday, also on ESPN2.
Lucas Oil Top Fuel pro Langdon not looking for luck in Las Vegas
"What would mean the most to me is if we post solid runs every time we go down the track, in qualifying and eliminations," said Langdon, who grew up three hours from Vegas in the suburbs of Los Angeles. "If our car was in the top three every round, that would be much better than going some rounds because we caught some lucky breaks.
"We've got two good cars on this team between mine and Morgan (Lucas' GEICO/Lucas Oil dragster) and we're proving what we can do to a certain extent. But we still have a ways to go before we'll be satisfied."
Langdon, Lucas, and reigning world champion Larry Dixon are currently separated by just one point in the rankings. Langdon is third, while Lucas and Dixon are tied for fourth. Dixon's teammate Del Worsham leads the way, 38 markers ahead of Langdon.
"On any given day, we can compete with anyone in the class," Langdon said. "We want to get to a point where we're running the same elapsed times and top speeds as the elite teams every round, without thinking we need to catch a lucky break to be there.
"The only way I'll ever be satisfied is if we're low ET of every round. Then we'll lead the class outright and everyone else will be chasing us. Until then, we'll continue working as hard as we can."
Langdon was low qualifier at this race in 2009, so he has a fond memories of the racetrack, and the city of Las Vegas.
"Normally, you go to a race, then you go eat and go to your hotel room," Langdon said. "Vegas isn't like that at all. There is so much to do and it's always a good time. Plus, the track is great and we've run well there in the past.
"Still, our main thing is to stay focused and do what we need to do on the strip. If we do that, then we can have all the fun we want in the winner's circle."
Qualifying rounds begin at 1 and 3 p.m. PDT, Friday, and continue with two more rounds at 11:30 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. Saturday. Qualifying highlights will be shown at 4 p.m., Saturday, on ESPN2. Eliminations will begin airing at 1:30 p.m., Sunday, also on ESPN2.
Mike Knowles Pro Mod
Knowles Continues Association with Monte Carlo Las Vegas Resort and Casino With Display Prior to the12th annual SummitRacing.com NHRA Nationals and Thats No Fooln
Grand Junction, CO There will be no fooln around this weekend for the NHRA Pro Modified Blown Money Team when it comes to this (April Fools) weekends Summitracing.com nationals in Vegas. Blown Money team owner and driver, Mike Knowles, has his team focused on the prize; their first NHRA Get Screened America Pro Mod Challenge victory.
After exiting the season opening Gator Nationals in round one,Knowles crew chief, Al Billes, and crew took some time to continue testing their new combination with pleasing results.
Al and the guys stayed in Florida after the last race and put up some pretty good numbers. Im really excited about our chances in Vegas especially because of our association with the Monte Carlo. They are great people and I love working with them, said Knowles.
Knowles is referring to his long time association with the Monte Carlo Hotel and Resort. Knowles will once again be displaying his Pro Mod at the hotel and resort prior to the NHRA event. Knowles will have his new Tim McAmis Race Cars built Blown Money Camaro on display both Wed. and Thurs. March 30 and 31st before heading to the Strip for the event.
For the event the Blown Money team will be wearing Monte Carlo crew uniforms designed by Justin Spencer of Competition Designs.
The Monte Carlo features the world famous Comedian, Impersonator, Impressionist Frank Caliendo, performing exclusively in the resorts
The Monte Carlo also hosts the modern dance/hip hop crew, Jabbawockeez. Tune in to MÜS.I.C., an audiovisual story of inspiration brought to life through the harmonization of sound and movement with acclaimed dance crew Jabbawockeez. Dressed in expressionless white masks and white gloves, these one-of-a-kind dancers guide your attention to visualize the music through their intricate moves, leaving audiences in awe.
From March 30th to April 30th the Monte Carlo features Spring Break Escape 2011. Escape the everyday and enjoy Spring Break 2011 at one of the best hotels on the Las Vegas Strip! With AAA Four Diamond Accommodations and Special Offers included, it's sure to be a party!
Mike Knowles and the other Get Screened America Pro Mod Challenge competitors will be afforded three shots at making it into the 16 field for eliminations. Round one of qualifying will be held Friday, April 1st at 2:00 AM (PST). The second round will be later that same day at 5:30 PM. The final qualifying attempt will be Saturday at 12:30 AM. The first round of eliminations will be held later that same day at 3:30 PM. Final eliminations will run in conjunction with Sundays professional eliminations.
Mike Knowles' Blown Money Racing would like to thank their sponsors:
WINBERG CRANKSHAFTS www.winbergcrankshafts.com
Jason Rupert Nostalgia Nitro Funny Car
Anaheim, Ca Nostalgia Funny Car Pilot, Jason Rupert and his Mert Littlefield Tribute Nostalgia Nitro Funny Car team will be making exhibition passes at this weekends 12th annual NHRA SummitRacing.com Nationals held at the famed Strip in Las Vegas, Nevada. Rupert along with the McCains Bomb Squad team, and Steve Plueger's LA Hooker and Jolly Rogers cars will give the Vegas crowd a taste of Nitro history when they hurtle their flashback floppers down the Vegas 1320.
Rupert claimed number one qualifier honors at the recently completed 53rd edition of the March Meet posting a 5.693 elapsed time. Rupert then took runner-up honors in the rain delayed make up.
We knew we had a good car, said Rupert. My dad (Frank Rupert) really had this thing on a string. We outran Kris (Krabill) in the final but he cut his best light of the event and took the hole shot win. Thats racing, added Rupert.
After the exhibition event in Vegas the Rupert team will head to next NHRA Heritage Racing Series event in the NAPA Auto Parts Ignitor held in Boise, Idaho at Firebird Raceway from April 29th thru May 1st.
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Jason Rupert would like to thank all his supporters and sponsors including:
Probell Racing Products http://www.probellracing.com/
Lucas Oil Products http://www.lucasoil.com/
Littlefield Superchargers http://www.littlefieldblowers.com/
Pac Springs http://www.pacracing.com/
B&J Transmissions http://www.bandjtransmission.com/
Manton Rocker Arms http://www.mantonrockerarms.com/
Manton Pushrods http://www.mantonpushrods.com/
Hussey Copper http://www.husseycopper.com/HusseyPerformance/Gaskets.htm
Molinairi Racing Products http://molinariracingproducts.com/