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The latest update as of June 13, 2010
That Sucks - Part One
Things were going along swimmingly at Englishtown (maybe a bad choice of adjective for a drag race), after Friday's tragic death of Neal Parker in a top-end crash cast a pall over the entire event. After a run of weather-affected events this season, the Supernationals looked set to finish on time with no delays due to rain. Until the finalists in the pro categories started gathering in the staging lanes, that is.
It started as a light sprinkle that stayed, and stayed some more and didn't stop for more than an hour. The Safety Safari and track crew got the racing surface almost ready to go, the cars were called back to the lanes, and then.... more rain. With a looming curfew and a cold, wet track, the decision was made to pull the plug and try to finish the event tomorrow (Monday) morning.
I'm not sure how this is going to affect the TV broadcast schedule, especially for Canadian race fans, who have all (we have, haven't we?) set our DVRs, PVRs, etc. to capture three hours of racing on TSN starting at 11:00 am Pacific time (2:00 pm Eastern) tomorrow. It's difficult to imagine that happening with the event not scheduled to finish until literally minutes before air time, and I can't think that they'd put on a partial show that ends with the semifinals.
I guess we'll really just have to stay tuned and hope that the race doesn't get dropped entirely due to the schedule shuffle that has happened so often in the past. One more note for the insanely addicted to fine print folks: on my local TV calendar, the race is titled "NHRA Lucas Oil Deep Clean Supernationals" while on Drag Race Central, NHRA's own website and everywhere else, it's simply the NHRA Supernationals. Hmm. Looking at the NHRA Full Throttle (national) schedule reveals that only six out of the 23 races on the calendar are without a title rights sponsor, and this event appears to have made a late detour into the sponsor-less category.
That Really Sucks - Part Two
Imagine yourself in Shawn Cowie's shoes for a minute or three. You've got an almost new, hard-running, dare I say "bad-ass" Top Alcohol Dragster that is a serious contender for the world championship again this season. You're off to a pretty good start in the points chase, going to the semifinals at the season-opening Winternationals, winning the Vegas national event, runner-upping at a Division 7 points meet, low qualifying at the partially completed Mission race two weeks ago. Pretty good run so far, eh?
Now imagine that you've hopped in the hauler and headed south, a long way south, to Fallon, Nevada. Fallon, you say? As in you've "fallon" on your head ? Where in the heck is Fallon ? Check out Mapquest and the verdict is 16 hours driving time and just shy of 1000 miles south of Cowie's home in Delta, BC. Okay, let's go and see if we can pick up some "easy" Lucas Oil points in what should be a lightly contested event.
Get there, unload, set up and scope out the competition. All three of them. However, there's no pushovers in the bunch, with the possible exception of the hit (and mostly) miss A/Fueler of California's Johnny Ahten. Looks like a winnable race, even with the challenge of 5600 + feet air. Whew!
First qualifying session done, low e.t. so far. Good start. Second qualifying session yields a slightly better e.t. and the final session sees another small, but consistent improvement in the very thin air. Still the Number One qualifer and a heavy favourite to take out Ahten in the first (semifinal) round. Which he does, despite a slightly tardy leave, and ties the track e.t. record for good measure.
To top off the good news, his toughest possible opposition (Chris Demke) is eliminated in that round, and Shawn has lane choice over his final round opponent, Mike Austin. What could be better? It's all coming up roses. At least until they fire the engines for the final. Okay, Austin does his burnout and Cowie.... where's Cowie? He's still sitting behind the water box trying to start the engine. Austin's back from his burnout and ready to stage now and where is Shawn? Yep, still sitting there trying to get fired.
Finally, the track's official starter makes the decision that time's up and sends Austin on his way to the automatic win in the Steve Federlin-owned "Impatience" car... just as Cowie brings the engine to life. Too little, and way too late.
Truly a sad situation, and I'm sure we'll get the whole story on Cowie's SpeedZone blog fairly soon. Bookmark the page and check back later this week for the rest of the story. In the meantime, it looks like we've found another way to put the drag in drag racing.
The last time I attended this event was 2001, and coincidentally it was the last time I competed in my Top Alcohol Dragster, the first, last and only time I qualified at an event in Australia, and what has to certainly be the only time I'll be on a national TV broadcast of drag racing. Well that's all history now, and time to move on to this year's event, with many of the same faces I competed against nine years ago, all going a fair bit quicker and faster than they were in 2001.
For instance, in Top Alcohol, where dragsters and funny cars race heads up, the bump spot this year was 5.65, with the first alternate at a very close 5.66. Comapre that to my bubble qualifying 6.30, and first alternate clocking of something in the 6.40's I believe. And low et. this year was a rather stout 5.51 at 260 mph compared to something like a 5.70 at 250 or so in 2001. Remember that Aussie cars run a much lower overdrive on their screw blowers as compared to their North American counterparts. And there's no injected nitro cars either.
In other categories, Top Fuel has made some serious strides over the years, but this year's event saw only nine cars attend, and only four of them run in the 4-second zone - still over the quarter-mile - with only three cars really competitive. Best numbers of the meet were recorded by national champion Martin Stamatis in the first round of eliminations, with a 4.60 at 316 mph.
The toughest pro category was Top Doorslammer (Pro Mod) with twenty cars vying for eight spots. Western Australia's John Zappia again low qualified at a stellar 5.81, while Sydney's Maurice Fabietti set top speed at over 252 mph. The bump spot of 6.08 wasn't the quickest in history, but the number of good cars on the outside of the field, including the legendary Victor Bray (2nd alternate at "only" 6.13), was impressive. If the event had offered 16 qualifying positions, the bubble would have been a strong 6.33, with the first alternate also in the 6.3's.
Doorslammer eliminations went pretty much true to form, with Zappia blasting out a series of 5.8 times at mid-240 speeds, and won the event to take the national championship over fellow West Aussie, Robin Judd, who slowed from his low 5.8-second qualifying times and took the runnerup spot in the race and the championship. A great show to be sure, one that went down to the final round of eliminations for the season to decide the champion.
While I don't normally pay too much (read: if any) attention to the Pro Stocks, this year's Winternationals saw 15 entrants vying for just eight qualifying spots. Considering that Australian Pro Stock requires small-block engines, with a maximum displacement of 400 cubic inches, a bump spot of 7.11, with the first five alternates in the 7-teens is quite impressive. While no one broke into the six-second zone, low e.t. and top speed came in at 7.03 and 194 mph, again very creditable numbers for such small engines.
One of my favourite eliminators downunder is the (Supercharged) Outlaws, a crazy mix of altereds, front and rear-engine dragsters, doorslammers and funny cars, all with one common attribute: a blower. None of this big-inch carbureted nonsense as is so prevalent in NHRA Top Dragster and Top Sportsman fields, but real race cars, making lots of noise, doing super smoky burnout and thundering down the track. And some pretty good performances. Fairly consistent too. There were only 31 cars in the show this year, and only eleven of them in the 6's, but as always, the Outlaws were one of the more popular classes at Willowbank Raceway.
In closing, congratulations and a "good on ya" to all my Aussie and Kiwi mates who attended and competed at the Winternationals. Until we can get back down there and connect with you all again, take care. And that pretty much finishes this evening's scribblings. Until tomorrow, hang in there.
To see previous updates go to the What's Old page