NHRA Full Throttle coverage is presented by Sonny's Racing Engines.
Big O'Tires Nationals
(#'s courtesy NHRA and DRC)
Top Fuel ..
What a Sunday it was in both fuel classes, as the points chase is absolutely jammed up for the final race at Pomona in two weeks. Del Worsham won the event in Top Fuel running low ET of elimination's in the final round (a 3.824). I guess that is putting an exclamation mark on the event as the win and low et combined with his earlier #1 qualifying effort. In the final round he defeated Spencer Massey who ran a very close 3.834.Massey had 1/10th at the tree so the margin was a scant .0018 at the stripe. Worsham defeated Shawn Langdon (round one), David Grubnic and Antron Brown (semi finals) to earn his spot in the final round. The win was his 7th of the year and it vaulted him back into serious contention, as he trails Spencer Massey by a miniscule two points heading into Pomona. Massey defeated Ron August, Bob Vandergriff and a red lighting Brandon Bernstein in the semi finals.
Other notable pairings in Top Fuel were Antron Brown and Tony Schumacher paired up in round one (Antron got the win over a tire smoking Schumacher) and a ¼ final matchup with Bernstein and Larry Dixon. Dixon was forced to pedal his ride and that was enough for BB to get the win.
The championship is still very wide open as the top four drivers are within two round (plus a few qualifying points) Massey and Worsham are 2 points apart and then Brown is another dozen points back of #2, and Larry Dixon sites in 4th, 44 points back of the leader. What a final it will be.
1. Spencer Massey
Beside being in the hunt for the Top Fuel title, the DSR team was allowed to run their Shroud (albiet with a few modifications).
Bob Vandergriff in 11th place in the standings, would be sitting in 8th place if the old point's rules were in place. He has earned more points since Indythan all but four teams in the shootout. MAybe a good way to reset points if that is what the NHRA sticks with is to allow all teams in the series that run the full slate, be allowed in the countdown. Those who have run all 16 events that are outside the top 10 would start with the same amount of points (say10-20pts. less than the # 10 driver, or by the amount they are outside the top 10 when the final regular season event is complete).
Tony Pedregon put on a light show light like Terry Haddock did previously in two qualifying runs, as he light up his Herzog Contracting body in the second round against Bob Tasca.
Tasca lost to Gray in one semi while Capps got the better of Cruz Pedregon in
1. Matt Hagan
Pro Stock .
Jason Line 2,592
motorcycle class is down to two drivers for the season championship, Eddy Krawiec
and Hector Arana Jr.
2010 series champion LE Tonglet, took out Steve Johnson in round one.
Karen Stoffer's hope for a top three finish ended with a DNQ Saturday.
Eddie Krawiec 2,589
Other finals rounds
Pro Mod --Leah Pruett, Left lane, (0.068) 5.910 253.04 def. Danny Rowe, (0.062) 5.940 243.55
Top Alcohol Dragster -- Chris Demke, 5.385, 267.00 def. Michael Manners, 5.390, 270.05.
Top Alcohol Funny Car -- Tony Bartone, Ford Mustang, 5.547, 260.41 def. Shane Westerfield, Chevy Monte Carlo, 5.674, 255.10.
Super Stock -- Peter Biondo, Pontiac Firebird, 9.946, 117.92 def. Jackie Alley, Chevy Camaro, 9.703, 136.12.
Alley moved into the point lead in SUpuper Stock and has a chance for the world title.
Stock Eliminator -- Jim Meador, Chevy Camaro, 11.047, 108.81 def. Andy Durham, Dodge Challenger, 9.693, 139.16.
Jim Meador (above) took out Andy Durham (below).
Super Comp -- Billy Torrence, Dragster, 9.039, 176.19 def. Bill Dennis, Dragster, 9.027, 174.80.
Super Gas -- Ed DeStaute, Chevy Corvette, 10.057, 148.49 def. Michael Miller, '27-T Ford, 10.036, 148.36.
Saturday final qualifying
Worsham far lane
Final qualifying in Top Fuel saw Del Worsham rip off a great 3.796 to take the #1 spot and three more bonus points. He got a total of 9 plus the 8 for a total of 17. Point leader Antron Brown did not pickup any bonus points and got 4 for his #5 spot. A 13 point swing. Spencer Massey was the #2 qualifier with a 3.824. Take away Worsham's run and you ran .07 separating the #2 - #16 qualifiers, similar to what a Pro Stock field would be. Notable non qualifiers included Morgan Lucas (again), Cory Mac and Terry McMillen. A total of 11 cars did not get in the field. Top Fuel in general looks pretty strong.
McMillen vs Zizzo in qualifying.
Massey and Torrence
Clay Millican made the field.
1 99 Del Worsham,
Chino Hills CA, Hadman-TFX 3.796 322.88 322.88
In Funny Car it was a real battle royal and by the end of the final round Ron Capps got the run Tim and Kim Richards were hoping for a 4.080 to take the #1 spot. Two other drivers ran 4.08's as well, Mike Neff went 4.083 and Cruz Pedregon went 4.087. The final two sandwiched the 4.085 by Robert Hight in round one. The top four drivers were within .007 of each other. The top eight were only .025 apart. The most notable DNQ was by Jim Head, who ended up #19.
1 28 Ron Capps, Carlsbad CA, '10 Charger 4.080 315.49 315.49
In Pro Stock the big question was would anyone else run a 6.50, like Mike Edwards stellar pass in the first session earlier in the day. The question was answered fairly quickly as by the fourth or fifth pair; every driver was 2-3/100ths slower. Mike Edwards also make the quickest run of the final round, a 6.620 just a few ticks quicker then Jason Line's 6.628. Warren Johnson was outside the field again, and the great NW hope Mark Wolfe got in the field in the #16 spot and got to run Mike Edwards for his effort.
1 3 Mike Edwards, Coweta OK, '09 GXP 6.594@ 208.81&
17 208 Warren Johnson, Sugar Hill GA, '09 GXP 6.693 207.27 207.27
1 300 Hector Arana Jr, Milltown IN, Buell XB9R 6.879 194.46 195.39
------------ Not Qualified ------------
17 1680 Justin Finley, Stamford CT, Suzuki GSXR 7.084 191.16 191.16
In Pro Mod, Brad Personett out-dueled his old team (Roger Burgess' R2B2), with a great 5.848/256. His ex team-mates Leah Pruett and Melanie Troxel were second and third with 5.855 and 5.897 apiece. Jay Payne was the quickest Blown car with a 5.91 (#4) and Khalid Balooshi was the quickest Nitrous car with a 5.996 (#9).
1 348 Brad Personett,
Elkhart IN, t'68 Camaro 5.848 256.70 256.70
------------ Not Qualified ------------
17 4 Troy Coughlin, Delaware OH, t'68 Camaro 6.119 246.03 246.03
In TAD Jim Whiteley lead all comers with a 5.320/268.33 Mike Manners in the Shredder A/Fuel car was #2 with a 5.322/272.33. 10 A/Fuel cars and six blown car filled the field. The bump spot was a 5.539. A bit of disappointment for Johnny Ahten in the final qualifier as the NHRA forgot to switch over the clocks to read for 1320 feet and his timers stopped at 1000 feet. His 1000 foot ET read 4.65 which would have put his 1320 ET right around the 5.539 bump (it actually would have been around a 5.51, looking at other incremental's from runs in the area). The kicker was the NHRA did not allow him to make a rerun. I would be pissed!
1 4 B/AD Jim Whiteley, Grand Junction CO, CNE-BAE 5.320 267.75 268.33
------------ Not Qualified ------------
17 56 B/AD Eugene Tumbarello, Denver CO, Uyehara-TFX 5.552 255.92 255.92
In TAFC, Tony Bartone switched gears from his FED Nitro car from a week earlier at Bakersfield (where he ran low ET for the weekend, a 5.56). His ET here in Jackson Brothers Mustang flopper was a class best 5.560/260.51. His ET in the FED was also a 5.56 with a (6) @ 263. John Lombardo was #2 with a 5.609. Keeter Ray rounded out the 16 car field. Only two rounds were run due to the fact there were only 16 cars on the proerty.
1 4 Tony Bartone, Long Island City NY, '09 Mustang 5.560 260.51 260.51
Big O Tires Nationals
Top Fuel (1st session)
The next six pairs featured a host of newer and part-time racers but they didn't detract from the show even though some smoked the tires, or suffered other problems enroute to the finish line. Canada's Ike Maier, in the Paton Family dragster joined Nataas in the 3's with a nice clean 3.98 - 304 pass, followed by Pat Dakin's slightly better 3.96 opener. In the fifth pair of the session, T.J. Zizzo - in his family's very impressive, hard-running low-budget car - dropped into the 80's with a strong 3.899 - 310.13 to take over top spot. Odds were pretty good that it wouldn't hold up but at the least would guarantee Zizzo a spot in the top twelve.
pairs later, Zizzo still was king of the mountain (for the moment) but the 3-second
club filled rapidly and the 12-car bubble, which had started at Dominic Lagana's
6.22, had steadily dropped to Terry McMillen's 3.97 before Del Worsham was finally
able to knock Zizzo off his perch with a very good 3.879 at 316.97 mph.
The countdown contenders were prominent on the qualifying sheet as Al-Anabi teammates Worsham and Dixon sat in #1 and #4, while the DSR cars of Schumacher, Massey and Brown occupied the #3, #5 and #12 spots respectively. And the tension and drama can only increase as each qualifying session goes on and eliminations proceed on Sunday. Nothing will be decided this weekend but this race will certainly go a long way in determining the world champion.
Top Fuel (2nd session)
In the very next pair Rod Fuller went just a hair, a thousandth of a second, quicker than Lagana to take over the 2nd spot while Steve Chrisman put out head gaskets and blew up near the finish line. After a quick check of the lane and removal of the wounded race car, it was back to qualifying which saw Maier lay down another solid pass at 3.96 - 305 mph that was only good enough for the #18 position. Tough field already and still 21 cars in the lanes. Running alongside Maier was Clay Millican who moved into the 3.80's and improved 22 spots on the ladder with a 3.89 - 316.97 time.
The international flavour of the Top Fuel field continued as Cory McClenathan wheeled Santo Rapisarda's Aussie car into the 3's at 3.96 - 307 mph, but their efforts only yielded a #17 spot on the list. The first side-by-side 3.8-second match followed, with Antron Brown jumping all the way to the top spot with a 3.86, while Ron August ran a career best in the Hartley car at 3.899 - 316.90 to grab at least a temporary #6 on the qualifying roster. One pair later David Grubnic nearly took over the top spot from Brown but fell a thousandth short at 3.864 to move into the new #2 position. Overshadowed by the glow from Grubnic's scoreboard, Nataas put down another very good 3-second pass at 3.97 but fell to #17 in the process.
With six more pairs of cars still in the lanes the 12-car bump was already down to 3.90 and still certain to drop further. In rapid succession, Bob Vandergriff grabbed the top spot at 3.85, followed by Brandon Bernstein at 3.83, then the momentum stopped as Morgan Lucas blew up and oiled the track on the top end, finally putting a mercifully short interruption to the entertainment. As soon as things got going again, two Texas boys, Spencer Massey and Steve Torrence carded identical 3.856 e.t.'s to take the new #2 and #3 spots and keep the position shuffling and bumping going. As an exampled, Massey and Torrence were sitting #15 and #16 before they ran.
The round closed with more of a whimper than a bang as only Larry Dixon improved with a good 3.86 to move back into the field in the #7 spot (fromn #15) but Schumacher and Zizzo failed to get into the 3-second zone and Worsham smoked the tires at half track. To show just how tough this show has gotten in such a hurry, the early leader in the first session, Zizzo, is outside the 12-car field at #14 after two sessions. Following him in the order is Schumacher at #15. Tough? You bet!
Top Fuel round two
1 7 Brandon Bernstein,
Fairview TX, McKinney-TFX 3.833 321.27 321.27
------------ Not Qualified ------------
13 7727 Ron August, Pleasanton CA, Hadman-TFX 3.899 316.90 316.90
Funny Car (1st session)
Leading off was one of the "rookies" in the field, Canadian Todd Lesenko, and he almost made it too exciting as the car nearly drifted into the timing blocks at the finish line. No harm done and they fired the next pair, which featured Alexis De Joria who was making just her third start in a nitro funny car. She certainly didn't disappoint as a 4.14 at 302.96 clocking showed she was ready to play with the big boys. That pass was followed by a series of 4.20-something laps and it wasn't until the 11th and 12th cars of the round crossed the finish line that anyone was able to join De Joria in the 4-teen range.
That pairing saw Tim Wilkerson (4.15) and John Force (4.18) to move into line behind Ms. De Joria for the #2 and 3 spots on the ladder. Ron Capps followed with a very good for the conditions 4.15 - 307.09 to move up to the new #2 position, then Mike Neff showed everyone the way home at 4.145 at nearly 310 mph, to ace De Joria out of the top spot by the difference in mile per hour. Two of the prime championship contenders met in the last pairing of the round and Matt Hagan showed he's still got some bullets left in his gun with a new low e.t. of the round at 4.142 versus Jack Beckman's 4.149 that left him in the #4 position. All in all, a decent session with some very good and very closely bunched performances at the top.
Funny Car (2nd session)
Unfortunately, the first pairing turned into a single run as Peter Russo's team failed to fire, leaving Robert Hight to run a single which he did in very fine fashion, blasting into the 4-ohs at 4.085 and 311.27 mph to chalk up the top numbers for the day. The question now was "can anyone top that?" The next few pairs didn't come close to that range but they did make solid improvements and the 12-car first day bubble moved down steadily from the opening mark of 4.27 (held by Paul Lee). Jeff Arend at 4.16 and Bob Bode at 4.19 put the Pedregon brothers on the outside of the provisional field, then Todd Lesenko showed some real power and turned a 4.19 to move into the top 12.
That pass opened the floodgates of 4-teen passes as eight of the next 10 cars joined that zone. The bubble kept moving down further and further and cars running near the end of the session, who began the round solidly in the field, were out of it before they had a chance to run. Melanie Troxel cranked out a 4.10 at over 310 mph to move into second place and the Pedregon brothers bumped back in, and the bump spot finally stabilized at 4.166 (Tony Pedregon).
One of the most impressive runs of the round, at least in my mind, was Alexis De Joria's second attempt and she showed real mettle as a 4.12 - 305.15 flashed up on the boards, moving her up from #8 (she kept getting pushed further down the list as the cars ran ahead of her) all the way to #3. That position only lasted a few seconds as Matt Hagan closed the session with a 4.09 - 310 pass to take the #2 spot behind Hight and push De Joria down to fourth. That ended an excellent round of nitro funny car qualifying which saw a lot of very good runs, a little bit of tire smoke and again with virtually zero downtime.
Funny Car round two qualifying
1 8 Robert
Hight, Yorba Linda CA, '11 Mustang 4.085 311.27 311.27
------------ Not Qualified ------------
13 1 John Force, Yorba Linda CA, '11 Mustang 4.180 305.70 305.70
Pro Stock round one
The first two cars in the 20 car Pro Stock entry list were two of four Fords entered, Grace Howell in the Cunningham Mustang and Mark Wolfe who was back in Pro Stock after a decade away from the class. He purchased the Mustang Buddy Perkinson drove the last few races. Wolfe is renting a Morgan powerplant for the final two weekends of the season. The two got decent baselines with mid 6.7's apiece. With the field and as good of air as Vegas usually gets, the two runs would be around .07-.1 away from making the field. The next pair, Buddy Perkinson and Gordie Rivera were also well outside the field with Perkinson running Larry Morgan's brand new car. He went 6.73 in its maiden voyage. Steve Kent and Warren Johnson were in pair #3 and they made 6.69 laps. Even those would likely be a couple hun back come Saturday afternoon. Larry Morgan and V. Gaines ran like the first two pairs and their low 6.70's would not be enough for Sunday elimination's. From there, all the teams made solid mid 6.6 runs or quicker (except for Roger Brogden who clicked it off early on a troubled run) as Jason Line took the round one lead with a 6.624/207 run. Mike Edwards ran 6.627@ 208 to take top speed of round one. Both drivers were quicker and faster than the first Vegas race in 2011 and the the Vegas 2 event in 2010. The track record is 6.623/208.04 (set in 2009)
Round two saw Brogden make a huge step forward with a 6.683, but even tat would likely be outside the top 16 (the top 12 for sure) Morgan ran a 6.677 , a huge improvement from round one and Mark Wolfe ran a 6.708 (his quickest run in a Pro stock car). Very little off shuffling from the cars in the field and only one or two others improved (KJ by a couple thou and Greg Anderson by over a Hun). Saturday's first session will see the biggest change from Friday and the field will likely be set after Saturday's first session.
Pro Stock second session
1 5 Jason
Line, Mooresville NC, '09 GXP 6.624 207.66 208.07
------------ Not Qualified ------------
13 452 Steve Kent, Lottie LA, '09 GXP 6.687 206.07 206.07
Pro Stock Motorcycle
All the usual hitters made their way to the top of the pack and after round one Eddy Krawiec lead, followed by Jerry Savoie. Karen Stoffer was the only top rider who struggled with her tune-up in round one, as she sat #16 after round one. In round two both Arana's, Hines and Krawiec made the best runs , and they are #'s 1 through 4 after round two. Arana Sr. went 6.924 and Hines went 6.940 to lead. Stoffer had real issues in round two and needs at least one stellar run on Saturday to make the field.
1 5 Hector Arana,
Milltown IN, Buell XB9R 6.924 190.86 190.86
------------ Not Qualified ------------
13 69 Bailey Whitaker, Ft. Lauderdale FL, Buell XB9R 7.076 188.78 188.78
TAD session one
With the Top Alcohol Dragsters lurking in the lanes, and 12 of the 19 cars in attendance running the injected nitro combination, plus decent atmospheric conditions for Vegas with just under 3000 feet of corrected altitude, a performance improvement over the funny cars seemed a good bet.
an instant tire-smoker from Johnny Ahten, the Winnipeg-based car driven by Scott
Palmer put down a solid 5.40 - 255 mph number to get things started on the right
Two of the real braintrusts of injected nitro racing shepherded the next pair of cars into position, with Tom Conway tuning Mark Taliaferro (and running in the previous pair with Bart, Sidnei Frigo from Sao Paolo, Brazil) and Jerry Darien commanding the Megan McKernan car. Taliaferro laid down the first big number of the day, blasting out a 5.35 at more than 272 mph to definitely raise the performance bar. McKernan trailed by a car length with a good 5.41 clocking. Those passes were followed by more 5.40's before another pair of A/Fuel cars, those of Michael Manners and Chase Copeland, laid down almost identical laps at 5.322 and 273 mph for Copeland and 271 for Manners.
round finished with three of the four blown cars in the lanes running, starting
with two of the baddest blown alky hombres in the country, Chris Demke and Jim
Whiteley, putting down a decent pass (Demke at 5.47) and a great pass (5.34) for
Whiteley. With just two cars left to run in the session (Cody Perkins missed the
round), the top four
TAD session two
The Alcohol dragsters came up next and like their full-bodied counterparts, the slow cars from the first round ran first. Ahten moved up into the 5's, but dropped cylinders and shut off early to a 5.92 for at least a temporary spot in the field. However, the 6.01 bump spot that Ahten jumped over was still very soft and certain to fall considerably and quickly. Did I just write quickly? It only took the next pair to obliterate it and move it down nearly half a second to 5.55 as Eugene Tumbarello clocked that number alongside Cody Perkins opening pass of 5.48 in a somewhat rare all-blown battle.
As the session wore on, no one clocked better numbers, except for Blake Alexander who stepped up all the way to 5.67 from his opening stroll of 22 seconds. All the 5.40 cars stayed stuck in the 5.40's but most of them did show consistency, a trait that usually helps on race day. With only two pairs left in the lanes we saw the first side-by-side 5.3-second match of the round as Scott Palmer (in the Doucette car) stepped up to a very nice 5.38 alongside Mark Taliaferro who nearly matched his opening 5.35 with a 5.36 e.t and the big speed of the session at 273.19 mph.
The next pair saw the two best blown cars in the country meet and Jim Whiteley took the measure of Joey Severance with a low e.t. 5.32 - 267 pass to jump into the #1 spot, while Severance's otherwise excellent 5.35 - 263 left him stuck in the #5 position. The round ended with two more injected cars and Manners showed consistency with a 5.35 (ran 5.32 earlier) while Copeland fell off a tenth at 5.42.
TAFC Round two Friday
1 4 B/AD Jim
Whiteley, Grand Junction CO, CNE-BAE 5.320 267.75 267.75
------------ Not Qualified ------------
17 256 A/FD Blake Alexander,
Wirtz VA, Spitzer-BAE 5.678 219.40 219.40
Top Alcohol FC (1st session)
By the time the first session for the Top Alcohol cars rolled around at 10:45, proceedings were only slightly behind schedule. And in contrast to the engine blowing, timing block obliterating, and other assorted mechancial mayhem featured at last year's edition of this event, the downtime was minimal right through the first round of Top Alcohol and Pro Mod qualifying.
The Funny Cars led off, but the first few runs produced nothing worth mentioning and it was the third pairing before a 5-second e.t. showed up on the scoreboards. When two of the eastern invaders met in the fourth pair of the round, the first 5.6-second laps checked in, with Paul Gill taking the early pole position at 5.55 - 256 mph. Those numbers held up until the final pair of the 16-car session showed just what the track was capable of. First across the finish line was Tony Bartone in the Rick Jackson car at a very quick 5.56 - 260 mph clocking. Trailing him, but not by that much, was the new #4 qualifier, Roger Bateman, with a solid 5.68 - 253 mph lap.
That was it for the alky floppers: the top half of the field in at 5.83 or better, then only one more 5-second pass, followed by a quartet of 6's, and three early shutoffs. Really nothing to get too excited about on a collective basis, despite the presence of some very good timeslips for Bartone, Gill, and Frederick Tigges.
Top Alcohol Funny Car(2nd session)
With a number of racers looking to make some serious improvement over their first attempts, the alky floppers came out in arguably the worst conditions of the day, with corrected altitude nearing 4000 feet and track temps just over 100 degrees. The slower cars from the first session led off and while some jumped up and ran well, notably Kris Hool and Jay Payne with 5.68 passes, others like John Evanchuk and Clint Thompson still struggled to get down the track. John Lombardo fired the first big shot of the round, going from a 5.98 opener to a 5.609 - 259.66 to fall in behind only Bartone on the list.
Steve Gasparelli and Sean Bellemeur made small improvemnts, Paul Gill nearly matched his first pass (5.65) with a very consistent 5.67 and Tony Bartone ended the round by nearly matching his first big (5.56) number at 5.57 - 259.86 to show they can ran hard in almost any conditions. Interestingly, the only downtime of the entire session and the two sessions for these cars came in the final pair as Tigges took out the half track timing blocks necessitating a quick vaccuming of the track.
TAFC qualifying round two
1 4 Tony Bartone,
Long Island City NY, '09 Mustang 5.560 260.51 260.51
Pro Mod qualifying
Pro Mod (1st session)
Team owner Burgess left before the tree came down and negated what appeared to be a very good, at least 5-second pass and the round continued with lots of 6-second passes and aborted runs - Chip King pedaled and pulled a wheelie at half track for instance - with 6.0 clockings being the best numbers recorded. Until Melanie Troxel came up and blasted out a 5.93 - 251 to put three out of the four Burgess cars at the top of the field. The final pairing of the round featured the two championship contenders, leader Khalid Balooshi and second-place Danny Rowe, but neither broke through the 6.0-second barrier, landing in the #4 and #5 spots.
Pro Mod (2nd session)
But there were still cars struggling to get down the track and it was the 12th car of the session, Mike Janis, before we saw our first five of the evening. Janis put down a very good 5.99 at 239 mph to ace out Personett for the #3 spot and was followed two pairs later by the best of the round (up to that point) by Danny Rowe, with an even better 5.919 - 244 clocking to move into the #2 spot. That effort was contrasted by points leader Balooshi failing to improve on his first session 6.01 and landing in the #7 position at the end of the first day.
The session closed on a real high note as the two women in the field, Leah Pruett and Melanie Troxel, both in turbo cars, blasted into the 5.8's with a pair of very impressive laps. Pruett took the top spot with a 5.85 - 252 and Troxel followed her only slightly at 5.89 - 253 mph to move up to the second spot in the field. What a way to finish the show for the day and it definitely put the rest of the competitors on notice that they're going to have to step up or be left behind.
Pro Mod qualifying round two
Leah Pruett, Cherry Valley CA, t'10 Mustang 5.855 252.24 252.24
------------ Not Qualified ------------
17 4 Troy Coughlin, Delaware OH, t'07 GTO 6.355 234.66 234.66
Pro preview By Bob Wilson
starting line and the media centre behind, we next ventured into the pits in search
of a story, an angle, a vibe for this event. It certainly didn't take long for
a number of items to start bubbling to the surface. The sheer number of eastern
racers in attendance, many of whom had never ventured this far west, was quite
Mark Wolfe - Pro Stock
Let's start with our first stop on this magical mystery tour through the pits and work our way through the list. After a decent and energy replenishing pulled pork sandwich from one of the midway operators, we wiped the barbecue sauce off our chin and headed for the Pro Stock pits in search of Marysville, Washington's Mark Wolfe. A "reformed" Comp racer who finally broke his bad habit by selling the turbocharged '96 Thunderbird that was the second love of his life and bane of his very existence with its frustrating inability to break through the invisible wall that kept it from showing its true potential. The car's last full run, at the Northwest Nationals in early August saw it card a 6.38 - 224.06 pass before Mark pulled the plug and sold it.
Turning his attention to a low-mileage year-old 2010 Mustang that had seen Buddy Perkinson behind the wheel for the last few events, Mark reached an engine-leasing agreement with Ford power maven Larry Morgan and the die was cast. With tuneup, driveline and chassis assistance available for the asking from Morgan, Wolfe made the decision to not wait any longer and get in the cockpit and start driving the car. With zero runs in the car prior to this race, he will make his maiden voyage in the car in tomorrow's first qualifying session and see just how close, or how far off his tuning theories are. Whatever the result, Mark and his number one crewperson, Dana, will be overjoyed just to be on the track at Las Vegas and barking with the big dogs.
Wolfe's got all the right stuff, a very nice tractor trailer and a car with the ability to be competitive quickly, so he's not worried about making the transition from a Comp car to Pro Stock. Besides, he's gone a tenth quicker and at least ten mph faster than any NHRA Pro Stock has ever run. We'll be out there watching and reporting on his new adventure as a full-fledged pro.
Chris Karamesines - Top Fuel
After leaving the Pro Stock pits and strolling down the very long line of big rigs in the fuel pits, I couldn't help but notice near the end of one lane, a lonely little 5th-wheel Chaparral with plain white paint and only "Chris Karamesines" lettered on it. A couple of small Lucas Oil (his newly gained sponsor) decals adorned the rear door and the pit area was deserted. Presumably the car and all the support equipment were in the trailer and with no requirement to run the car today, the crew and driver were nowhere to be found. Karamesines must be in the area though as we spotted him throughout last weekend at Bakersfield's Hot Rod Reunion. Amazingly enough, he's older than most of the long-retired honorees and attendees at the reunion, yet still campaigns - even though it's on a somewhat limited basis - a serious Top Fuel Dragster. At 82 +/- years of age. Simply incredible. Long live the Golden Greek.
Steve Chrisman - Top Fuel
current NHRA Top Fuel racer that was spotted at Bakersfield last weekend, and
he even had his car with him. I noticed the car go by on the return road and wondered
what was up with that. Steve explained that it was brought in as part of a display
honouring the Chrisman family, one of the most famous and revered in all of drag
Peter Russo - Funny Car
Turning another corner brought another small surprise. A very small surprise indeed, as a trailer barely big enough to contain a race car, let alone a real late-model nitro funny car, held the brand-new, never-run Funny Car of Australia's Peter Russo. Even though Peter and his crewchief Helen weren't around, the friendly Aussie crew were only too happy to give me all the "goss" on the car. It's a new piece, built by Melbourne's Murray nderson, and was only finished three days before it shipped out to America in a sea container. The body is an older 2006 Chev Monte Carlo but the running gear is all, or mostly all, new parts and the Russo team feels confident that they can run competitively this weekend.
That might be a very tall ask for this group as it's been four years since they've run in the USA, and since then have only made a few short test passes at their local (Melbourne) Calder Park Raceway in the old car. The initial test for the new car will be in the first qualifying session tomorrow afternoon and Peter Russo has nothing but confidence in his and his team's ability to shake away the cobwebs in a hurry and make a solid first impression on the Yanks.
Bob Bode - Funny Car
Spotted a new body sitting on stands outside his pit area, still with his own business as the main sponsor, but it's great to see him out here in Las Vegas again. This track hasn't been especially hospitable to him as he's blown it up and been on fire more than once at The Strip, but he's nothing if not determined to keep competing as often as he can. Having the best looking backup girl in the pits doesn't hurt either, as wife Alice definitely adds to the show. Bode is capable as he showed in winning at Brainerd last year and he's going to put up his best effort again this weekend.
Doug Doucette - Scott Palmer - Top Alcohol Dragster
The unlikely combination of a Top Fuel racer from Missouri and an injected fuel racer from Manitoba seems to be working as Palmer has enjoyed a small amount of success in the Doucette car over the past two years. After Scott Murray, son of crewchief Ken, stepped out of the driver's seat to devote more time to his growing family, the search for a replacement was over quickly when Palmer volunteered his services. Wanting to race more, but unable to afford to run his Top Fuel car as often as he would like, the fit was a natural. Palmer's fuel racing experience, Ken Murray and Doug Doucette's long experience in alcohol and nitro racing combined to produce a car capable of being competitive.
The biggest change to the car this year, introduced at mid-season, was a hand-fabricated very tall intake manifold that on its first pass produced the team's best ever mph reading. But finding consistency with it has proved elusive and a series of tire-smoking runs have kept the team from exploring the potential of their new combination. As this race will be only their fifth and final event of the season, it's going to be a long off-season trying to get on top of things for the 2012 season.
Ashley Bart - Top Alcohol Dragster
When I reached their pit area, the crew was hard at work on the nose of the car, adding more weight in an attempt to cure the car's maddening propensity to do very high wheelstands on almost every pass lately. With very little weight in the driver's seat, Ashley's hoping today's modifications cure the problem and give them a better chance to unleash the potential of the Kenny Gilmour tune-up. Gilmour himself strode into the pits with a box full of new ballistic blankets, for the transmission, the engine diaper and blower and I wasn't sure whether to ask if they had to be replaced due to damage or just age and certification requirements. This car is always worth watching, usually for its unpredictability, but occasionally for its great performances. Let's hope it's more of the latter and less of the former this weekend.
Alexis De Joria - Funny Car
a very prominent spot at the front of the Funny Car pits, young Ms. De Joria has
put together a very impressive looking operation in a very short period of time.
Todd Lesenko - Funny Car
"pirate" rookie Lesenko, at least in the big show variety of nitro flopper
racing, is making his second career start with the assistance of Chuck Worsham
and the Worsham Flopper. After a few years in nostalgia nitro racing, which even
included one ill-fated (the rear wing fell off before half track) pass in a nostalgia
rear-engine dragster, Lesenko is truly living the dream as he moves up to the
top echelon of fuel coupe racing. He's looking to qualify here and at Pomona to
finish the year on a high note and lay plans for a
Joey Severance and Duane Shields - Top Alcohol Dragster
This is a tandem story as their tales are intertwined in a number of ways. They're the only two racers left in contention for the world championship. Quick note: even though I wrote that Jim Whiteley was a longshot to overtake Shields and win the title, the Shields team pointed out that the best he could do was tie on points and Shields holds the tiebreaker. So that's a done deal. The other racer in the championship equation is Bill Reichert, who's finished his season and can do no better than finish second. Severance could fail to surpass his points total but he'd have to lose before the semifinal round both here and in Pomona. With the way the Severance car has been running lately, that's not too likely to happen.
the rivalry for the championship, the Severance and Shields teams genuinely like
each other and share the camaraderie that is so prevalent in the Top Alcohol pits,
and to a great extent, somewhat lacking in the pro division. A true example of
this is that the Severance car has been in Shields' shop for the past two weeks
while Joe Sr. and Jr. work on it and receive the hospitality of Duane Shields
and his family. They both are pulling for each other and neither will be truly
unhappy to see the other take the title. With two completely different combinations,
Severance blown on alcohol, and Shields injected on nitro, the differences in
their approach to racing are great, but their approach
While visiting the very low-key, relaxed pit area of Severance, I was struck by their casual attitude and quiet confidence in their ability to win the points chase. There was no nervousness or tension, and certainly no over-confidence, just a solid belief in their ability to run well and win when they have to. They were in the midst of installing a new wing, their first carbon-fibre unit, that they'll run with a slightly lower angle of attack and a little less surface area to possibly decrease drag while increasing downforce. It certainly can't hurt and if it cuts their e.t.'s by even a few hundreths of a second, or less, than that little bit could make the difference between winning the big pot of gold or a much smaller one.
Life is good in both the Severance and Shields camps and throughout the Top Alochol pits as everyone readies for the short, intense series of battles to be played out over the next three days. Good racing luck to every one of the competitors. And that's our pit report from The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway on Thursday, the first day of the NHRA Big O Tires Nationals. Join us again tomorrow for more news and views from the track and the pits.
A few additional shots
This weekend will be in memory for their Crew Chief who just passed away Norm Christenson
John Evanchuk made the long distance haul from Edmonton Alberta
Megan McKernan is looking to make waves in her Jaerry Darien Tuned A/Fueler.
Fred Tigges is looking to cap off a solid year which included career best performances
Paul Gill like Tigges is out from the East Coast.
Keith Murt under the Mitch King Top Fuel banner competes at his fourth race of the year. He is looking to qualify for first ever event.
Cory Mac is out with the Rapisarda team. Who will he driver for in 2012? Mike Knowles is at Vegas competing in Pro Mod.
WHEN: Thursday through Sunday, Oct. 27-30
MOST VICTORIES: Greg Anderson, PS, 4; Tony Schumacher, TF, 4; Andrew Hines, PSM, 3.
GENERAL ADMISSION (includes pit pass) - Thursday: Adult, $16; Junior (12-under) Free; 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), $11. Sunday: Adult, $65; Junior (6-12 years) $27; Child (Five and under), $11.
For the fans at home, the race will be televised on ESPN2 in the USA at the following times:
Saturday, October 29th - Qualifying
October 30th - Eliminations
November 1st - Re-air Eliminations
November 2nd - Re-air Eliminations
And for the Canadian drag racing fans, watch it on TSN:
November 2nd - Eliminations
all the qualifying and eliminations results, the stories behind them and the pictures
that bring it all to life, be sure to keep checking back at SpeedZone
Magazine throughout the weekend, starting on Thursday evening.