in the world of drag racing
The latest update as of May 7, 2000
NOTE: Yep, you guessed it, more repeat coverage from Mission Raceway's
Lordco BC Nationals. Like I explained in yesterday's update, this is to preserve
it from being buried in the back corner and keep it accessible for the "ages".
Tomorrow's update will be all-new stuff though, talking about the other drag
racing taking place this weekend, down in Commerce, Georgia. Working title:
What If They Held A Drag Race . . .
Sunday morning, the sun is shining, the thermometer is climbing and it looks like a good, NO, make that a GREAT, day for a drag race. So let's get at it. No rain showers enroute on the highway to dampen the spirits today, just bright sunshine and barely a cloud in the sky. Lots of fresh snow on the mountains to the south and the north, but down here in the valley, it's warm and feels almost like a summer day.
After noticing the special "Media" parking, right at the pit entrance, I finally get a parking spot within crawling distance of the pits, for a change. Hey, I'm getting old and walking half a mile before I get started is starting to get old, quickly. Crossing the bridge into the pits once again, my ears are blasted by cars already running, for the first time this week, before noon.
Early eliminations for the slower classes are underway, the grandstands are filling and everything's looking great. Another revelation: Today I finally clue into getting a restricted area pass and with that around my wrist, I'm given carte blanche to wander around the starting line. First I've got to receive a "photographers indoctrination" from Rich Carlson. "Don't get run over, eh?" Yeah okay, I'll try, Rich. Do I pass?
NOON: The first pair of Federal-Mogul Funny Cars fire up, drowning out the last strains of the Canadian national anthem. For a round-by-round description of eliminations, check out the Sunday Results page.
2:00 PM: We've just finished the semi-final round of Funny Car, when suddenly, everyone's attention turns to the top end of the track. No, it's not something happening on the racing surface, but a 30 foot high geyser of water! We've struck water! Eureka!
Actually, what happened was that two children were playing in a below-ground valve box and finally managed to break the pipe, propelling them out of the box under high pressure (no damage to them, fortunately) and letting loose an amazing amount of water. With the gusher being barely thirty feet from the track, all it would take is a change of wind direction to quickly inundate the racing surface.
The call quickly goes out to retired firefighter, and track business manager, Ron Farmer, to rectify the situation. Ten minutes later the flow is cut off and we're able to get back to racing. A funny diversion, but with potentially disastrous consequences was avoided with quick action by the track officials.
Meanwhile, in the pits: First stop on the tour, as usual, unfortunately, has to be Mark Hentges' again. Three runs and three Ka-Booms! Are you sure you still want those damn northernthunder.com decals on there, Mark?
Mark's crew is in the midst of their third hard thrash of the weekend. Burst panels, manifold studs gone, heads off, pan off, a piston and rod assembly coming out.... how bad is it? Here comes a main cap. The intense thrash has drawn a huge crowd so I'm getting out of the way to give the crew some breathing room.
On the way, I bump into Mark's first round opponent, Kim Parker, and am able to ask what happened to her car. Strange as it seems, this is her answer: "My car was shaking so hard and heading for the wall, that when I heard Mark's bang, it was so loud that I thought it was my car! So I shut off, as I heard the crew (over the radio) telling me something that sounded like 'stay off it'. It turned out they were saying 'get back on it', but by then it was too late."
"We haven't run the car (before this weekend) since last August, so I was sort of rusty, and we probably won't get a chance to make any more laps until the next points meet here. But we'll back and ready to run then. We didn't hurt anything today."
Across the road, in Duane Shields' pit, there is nothing but joy. His career best, a 5.46, came at the cost of one burst panel, that let go at 1200 feet. Not a big bang at all and no damage elsewhere. His crew chief isn't sure why it lost the panel, or at least he isn't letting on, but feels confident that they can either repeat that run, or improve on it. 5.30's next? Stay tuned.
Back to Hentges' pit again as the thrash continues, albeit with only a few of the 100 or so spectators earlier. Now we can see why it went boom. A dropped valve, another one destroyed, along with the combustion chamber and a large hole through the dome of the corresponding piston.
Hopefully they found and removed all the internal debris and will be able to run strongly against arch-rival, Dale Carlson, in the semi-finals. Stay tuned. If you've already checked out the Sunday Results page, you know what happened. If not, go there now.
4:30 pm: Nothing left to run but the final rounds at this point and say goodbye to the many new and old friends that are loading up and heading for home. Almost to a person, they are planning to be back here in less than seven weeks for Round Two at Mission Raceway. Even with the lousy start to the weekend, everything has come good in the last 24 hours and the traction and air today are excellent and conducive to some very good performances.
Still able to smile, despite a weekend that has to be categorized as an unmitigated nightmare, is Mark Hentges. In fact, he's proudly displaying his proudest possession: the very exclusive "I Beat Rick Santos Club Member" belt buckle. Let's hope he's smiling as widely tomorrow, when Don Eason finishes the "autopsies" on all the dead players in the trailer. Plus the one between the frame rails from his losing semi-final race with Dale Carlson. No rods out, but one very badly torched head, to the point that one body panel is ruined and a section of frame rail is burned through.
Next door, Steve Federlin's crew is putting away their damaged shortblock from the first round; across the road, Bucky Austin's crew is thrashing, putting in a new engine to replace the blown one (from the semi-finals) and Pat Austin's crew . . . well, they're sitting in the shade, sipping cold soft drinks and waiting for the call to the staging lanes for their final round encounter with "Uncle Buck".
Welcome to alcohol racing, circa 2000. With the amount of damage evident in the pits this weekend, I've got to say it's come a long way in a short period of time. Yes, the performances are way up, and getting quicker all the time, but so is the breakage. In fact, the outlay for new parts is rapidly outstripping the ability of most teams to meet those costs. And for what return on their "investment" are these guys racing? The "return" sure hasn't keep pace with the cost of racing and the numbers are getting more skewed by the week it seems.
So where am I leading with this line of reasoning? Time for another rant about how NHRA Alcohol (Federal-Mogul) racing is on the road to ruin? Hmm, no, not tonight. Let's save that one for a later day . . . like tomorrow. So come back later today, Wednesday, May 10, and check out the Monday Wrap-Up page for my overall impressions of the weekend and what we can look forward to (?) in the coming events on the Division Six points meet circuit and the NHRA National Event circuit.
PS: While the entry numbers at this event weren't too great; a total of 18 cars, at the Southern Nationals in Atlanta, Georgia, this weekend, there were only 20 alcohol cars vying for 32 places in eliminations. Hey Glendora, we may have a problem here, there and pretty much everywhere.