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The latest update as of June 6, 2010
Moving on with this weekend's races and other topics
There's two "major" events taking place this weekend, or at least they're scheduled. First up, despite some weather challenges, the NHRA Route 66 Raceway Nationals at Joliet, Illinois is well into the final day of eliminations. They got through a series of rain showers Friday and Saturday and managed to complete the Jeg's All-Stars competition for sportsman cars yesterday, and now they've moved onto to pro and sportsman eliminations.
Our local Top Alcohol star, Shawn COwie, did himself, his crew and the whole of Division Six proud by finishing in the runnerup spot to the very tough fellow blown alky competitor, Jim Whiteley, in the YNot Racing, Norm Grimes-tuned car. However, young Cowie outqualified Whiteley in the 16-car regular elimination field, ending up second on the list by only .005 to Duane Shields' A/FD.
In the first round of elims this morning, Cowie easily defeated Robin Samsel's nitro burner and holds lane choice (by only two thousandths of a second) over Marty Thacker's blown car in the second round. It should be a great race. There's a long way between the first round winlight and the winner's circle, but so far, the Mundie's Towing team has done everything right. Stay tuned for more updates, or go over to Drag Race Central for the up-to-the-minute updates.
On the funny car side of the pits, both Canadian qualifiers in Top Alcohol Funny Car advanced to the second round, with Calgary's Roger Bateman nearly dipping into the 5.50's (5.609 - 253.47) but he's got a tough task in the next round, facing many-time champion, Jay Payne, and lacking lane choice. His Alberta neighbour, Ken Webster of Red Deer, similarly advanced with a very quick 5.616 - 255.48 and does hold lane choice over "Lil" John Lombardo Jr. in the second stanza. If all the planets aligned perfectly, these two Canadian cars wouldn't meet until the final round - and wouldn't that be something!
The Pro cars are running to form, for the most part, and there's nothing earth shaking to report about any of the categories. An old returning face in Top Fuel, Tim Cullinan (last seen running IHRA events - when they were a real sanctioning body - mainly), who qualified on the bubble and went down to a predictable defeat at the hands of Larry "The Young Sheik" Dixon in the first round. Notable non-qualifiers were the 98-year old (he must be by now) Chicago legend, Chris Karamesines, and the guy that NHRA loves to hate, Terry Haddock, while Luigi Novelli lit up the engine twice, but didn't leave any oil on the track - for a change.
In NItro Funny Car, a trio of low-buck Illinois racers, Bob Bode, Dale Creasy Jr. and Justin Schriefer made the big show, and Tim Wilkerson's son Daniel, was successful in his first outing since a devastating (financially, mainly) crash last season. With two high profile racers near the bottom of the field (Tony Pedregon and John Force), the first round of eliminations looks to have upset-city written all over it. Hang on to see what develops. One other low-buck guy, California's Jeff Diehl didn't fare so well, as evidenced by these video captures from the Competition Plus website. Wow, feel the tension man, what a ride!
Turning our attention to Pro Stock for a moment..... okay, that's long enough, let's move on. Sorry about that dig at the door cars, folks.
10:30 am update
Here's the results of first round action in nitro funny car from Joliet: Ashley Force beat her dad, while comebacking Dale Creasy Jr. set a career best e.t. and speed in a losing effort (by only a few feet) to Bob "Big BUcks" Tasca. In the (relatively) low-buck battle, Bob Bode beat Daniel Wilkerson, with both cars running well. That's all for now.
12:30 pm update
And then there was one.... blown alcohol dragster that is left in eliminations after the second round. Carrying Canada's hopes into the semi-finals is Shaw Cowie, after a close win (and a small amount of revenge after losing to him in the final at Dallas last year) over Marty Thacker. Even better: he holds lane choice over Jared Dreher, who has the weakest of the four cars left in contention for the event win. The biggest hitter at the race, defending world champion Bill Reichert, is on the other side of the ladder and faces Monroe Guest in the semis. More news on this story in about 90 minutes.
In Top Fuel, which has also completed the second round, the usual suspects advanced, with the exception of Cory Mac, who lost on a holeshot to upstart Steve Torrence. In nitro flopper action, it's all heavy hitters in the semis and it could easily be an all-Force team final again. More news by 2pm.
1:30 pm update
From the looks of the latest news out of Joliet, this will be the last update of the day, as once again, it's raining and the radar pictures don't look good for the rest of the day. They did get through the second round of most categories, including the alcohol funny cars, and the canadian contenders are both done for the day. Ken Webster rolled the staging beams and redlighted, while Roger Bateman gave Jay Payne all he could handle, losing by less than two feet in a virtual dead heat. And on the "other side of the planet" Frank Manzo dipped into the 5.40's at well over 260 mph (5.489 - 262.90) to take a very commanding performance advantage into the semifinals. Oh, the latest update shows that he defeated Payne, with "only" a 5.61 to take a less than one foot victory, losing lane choice in the final in the process. Finally, our local star, Shawn Cowie, had his semifinal race curtailed on the starting line when it began to rain.
At the risk of losing my "media credentials" for the scheduled AHRA event at Calgary's Race City later this month, it's time to start lobbing a few warning shots at the bow of the AHRA ship of state. My take on this renewed organization has ranged from incredulity to sadness and nearly every emotion in between over the six or so months since the announcement of its new incarnation. The timing for a new sanctioning body seemed plausible, with the abdication of any semblance of a truly competitive national professional series by IHRA and the desire of a number of tracks for a greater stature in the drag racing "food-chain".
But the way the organization has presented itself, and the overly ambitious goals they've set for their inaugural season has invited more than a little criticism. The best analogy that comes immediately to mind is that they're trying to "gallop before they've learned to crawl". Check out their website and see what I mean. Click on the CLASSES link and get out your calculator and come up with 23 sportsman classes (eliminators, actually), five nostalgia classes/eliminators, and seven pro classes. Let's not forget the two exhibition classes, bringing the grand total of classes to 37. Thirty-seven? Thirty-seven!
Obviously the plan is not to attempt to run that many categories at any single event, and by the end of the season, we might not see some of the classes at any event, but simply listing that many categories is just so cumbersome for an established organization, let alone a fledgling group like the new AHRA. Ambitious, yes. Crazy, again, yes.
The next point of interst is the TRACKS link, taking you to all.... seven facilities, only four of which are located in the United Staes, despite being the American Hot Rod Association. Oh well. Let's look at these jewels to get an idea of just what the AHRA expects to achieve this year. One of the best known tracks is former NHRA divisional host, Quaker City in Ohiom which boasts 4000 grandstand seats and just over 2000 ft. of braking area for it's 1/4-mile track. Next on our tour is Toronto Motorsports Park, formerly known as Cayuga Dragway, a track that's been in existence, in one form or another for over 50 years, but which lost it's IHRA sanction under rather acrimonious circumstances in 2007. I couldn't find any details on the venue's capacity, but the track is 4200 ft. (total) in length.
Moving south, very far south, we land at San Antonio Raceway, which boasts 13,000 aluminum bleacher seats, and half a mile of shutdown for it's quarter-mile track. Unfortunately, the scheduled Reunion event was cancelled at very short notice, and in retrospect - this is AHRA's admission - too hastily. For some reason, it hasn't been rescheduled for later in the year, and the race has simply been dropped from the schedule. Red flag, perhaps?
Getting back to the AHRA-sanctioned track list, the two western canadian venues, Race City in Calgary, and Eagle Motorplex in Ashcroft have both hosted NHRA divisional and national open events over the years, but don't have the infrastructure to support a true national event. However, in comparison to some of the AHRA tracks, they don't measure up as having any less in the way of facilities. It's impossible to get any details of spectator capacity or other info off their websites, and in Calgary's case, there's just no info on the Reunion race scheduled in less than two weeks, other than a one-line item on their schedule. Frustrating? Yes!
Continuing on our tour of the AHRA track roster, we've seen some video and pics from the Desert Thunder Raceway "Nitro Showdown: at the Midland, Texas track. The spectator count was not very high in the triple digit range, and frankly, it appeared that the venue couldn't hold more than a thousand or so race fans unless they all stood along the fence. Seeing that it's an eighth-mile track is another detraction from it's status as a serious race facility. The AHRA did perservere through a "weekend from hell" weather-wise and gave the few spectators that showed up a worthy show with three Top Fuel cars, a pair of Nitro Nostalgia floppers and a few (local circuit) Pro Mods. Entertaining on a Sunday afternoon, but hardly a national event.
We wrap up this tour of the AHRA tracks, with the facility that's hosting this weekend's Reunion Tour race, Marion County Int'l Raceway in the metropolis of LaRue, Ohio. OKay, you can look it up and see the local population is just over 1000. And the video and pics I've seen from the track show a capacity that would barely seat the town's residents. And this is supposed to be a "national" event track? Clicking on the info link for the schedule and purse for the race reveals that the top category is Super Pro eliminator. Super Pro? Looks more like a bracket race than something to put on a nationals schedule. Or is there a list of feature cars and classes that's hidden from my web browser?
Note: whatever you do, DO NOT click on this link to the track's website. While it may appeal to someone with no taste in music with it's playlist of awful music (I'm sure there's some copyright issues to be addressed there) and general lack of really useful information. But hold on - scrolling across the top of the page - in a very small font - is the almost de rigeur news that yet another AHRA event has been canned. "Due to the amount of rain, the AHRA Reunion Tour event is rescheduled to July 2 - 4th". Gee, couldn't have seen that one coming. Okay, the weather network confirms that it's been raining all weekend in that part of the country, but isn't bad weather following the AHRA like some sort of divine retribution? For what, I don't know. But it's starting to look more than a little jinxed.
Before I leave this topic for now - there's more to say as time goes on about this deal - I've got to ask AHRA to get someone to re-do their website. It really doesn't reflect a professional image and needs an immediate makeover to give it some sadly lacking credibility. Yes, I know, a slick website doesn't guarantee substance, but at least it imparts an impression of professionalism; and that's something that really seems to be lacking for the AHRA up to this point. Another must for the website is timely updates, as evidenced by the latest news on their site being from May 27th. 10 days with no news? Not acceptable for any serious sanctioning body.
Finally, for those who've been throwing dirt on the AHRA's grave, before it's even been dug, or the body has been pronounced more than a little unhealthy, check out Troy Moe's rebuttal to all the flak in the AHRA Is Not Dead story on Bobby Bennett's Competition Plus website. We'll just have to wait and see if he can sustain the already seriously ailing association through it's first (and hopefully not last) season. Calgary is just two weeks away. Could the fourth time be the charm? Stay tuned.
To see previous updates go to the What's Old page