in the world of drag racing
The latest update as of November 15, 1998
It ain't over until it's over . . . but today it really is over . . . The NHRA Travelling Acceleration Circus and Sideshow has packed up for the winter after completing the second Pomona Parking Lot Nationals of 1998 (aka The WINSTON Finals). The "usual suspects" were very much in evidence, with many of the hardcore Southern California "once or twice a year" fuel cars not in attendance. While they rarely qualified or at least had any impact on the big show, they at least provided some serious photo ops and entertainment for the masses. Yeah, it's great to watch 4.50 after 4.50 and 320 after 320, but eventually it's just too much of a good thing. The finish line fireballs of Cory Mac and Tony Schumacher and Mike Dunn just don't have the same impact on the crowd as the starting line (or bleach box) spectaculars of yesteryear.
Who can forget the displays put on by Bobby Neal in the "Birky Bunch" car, Tim Morgan's "Flying Machine", Butch Blair's "Fugowie", The McGee (Quad-Cam) car, Robert Reehl, et al. For the flopper fanatics, there was almost always guaranteed fireworks from Rodney Flournoy, Ray Strasser's "Insanity", Ron Sutherland's "Desert Rat" and Dave "Nasty" Benjamin. Ah, for the good old "daze". One of the most awesome images I have in the old memory bank is seeing Blair blow BOTH slicks on the BURNOUT one year! Try to top that, John Force! Then, the time that Flournoy got the "bright" idea of putting a steel plate behind the burst panel (couldn't afford them at $50 a pop, Rodney?).... can you guess what happened when the blower let go?? Even after the NHRA imposed one-year suspension Rodney and company were still looking for some of the pieces of the car !
Back to the present; At least the "good guys" won the two most important season championships. Gary Scelzi in Alan Johnson's WINSTON Top Fuel car and Rick Santos in Jack O'Bannon's Oakwood Homes Top Alcohol Dragster. Two great results for two very deserving and hard-working teams. The final NHRA points standings are now posted on our Points page and the full (Top Fuel and Alcohol) results from the Winston Finals are on the Results Menu. Remember, it's only 11 weeks until the start of the 1999 NHRA season, at Pomona as always. Don't worry, it'll be here sooner than you think.
Just finished watching the finals on TNN and unfortunately (from my perspective) the Cinderella story of Dale Pulde and friends came to an untimely end about 10 feet off the starting line in the finals. Then the repeat Top Fuel Champion, Gary Scelzi lost to a holeshot and better performance by the "Bud King", Kenny Bernstein. Another story came to an end with the final ride for "Louie the Lizard" on Bernstein's car. God knows what "creature feature" they'll come up with for next year. Maybe borrow an out-take from one of the Miller Lite commercials - some of the weirdest TV ads you'll ever see. Last "party's over" item from Pomona was the final dragster ride for Jay Payne in the 2nd round of Top Alcohol. Next year he'll be running a Funny Car (on alcohol) and won't have to watch the injected nitro cars running away from him anymore.
Final item from Pomona: Congratulations to Northwest Top Alcohol good guy Mark Hentges for some great performances in his return to blown alcohol (after switching back from his short-lived, expensive "experiment" with horsepower in a drum). Qualifying strongly with a 5.68 at 248.07, then improving to a 5.612 in the 1st round, Mark's day ended early with a close half a car length loss to Rick Santos in the 2nd round. A great side by side race ended a bit early as the blower belt came off Mark's car, slowing it to a 5.63 at 233. Still a great performance after all his trials and tribulations earlier in the year and a good way to go into the winter break.
Now for some BIG news from downunder. Bob Jane (owner of Adelaide Int'l Raceway and Calder Park) has announced the posting of a possible $100,000 bonus for the first 300 mph Top Fuel run at his Calder Park track. The bonus money will be first made available at the second round of the Australian Top Fuel Championships on December 5th. If the barrier is broken in qualifying or competition at that event, the bonus will be $50,000. However, if the mark is not reached, the bonus will double to $100,000 for the sixth round of the championship, the Australian Nationals, March 18-20,1999. If the 300 barrier is broken at another track prior to the Nationals, then the bonus offer is voided.
With several cars having come close to the magic mark in recent years, among them the DiFillipo's (298), Steve Read (297) and Rachelle Splatt (297), the bonus money should serve as a major incentive for those teams and others to "step on it" a bit more and go for the big number and big dollars. Don't feel too bad about someone taking the money from Mr. Jane though as the money should be easily recouped in increased gate receipts at the two events. So, who's going to be first to 300 downunder? (NOTE: Rachelle Splatt has run over 300 mph in the USA and in fact became the last member of the Castrol 300 MPH Club while driving the "Luxor" car in 1994)
More good news has arrived from our Queensland "correspondent", Rob Oberg, Marketing Manager of Willowbank Raceways. On Saturday night, the track received the "President's Award" from the Ipswich Region Chamber of Commerce and Industry. Quite an achievement for a dragstrip and a great honour for all concerned at Willowbank. The amazing story of how that facility has evolved from very humble beginnings to its current world-class standing continues. Read the details of the presentation in our Press Clippings index. Also of interest in the report was mention of "international" events planned in the near future at Willowbank. Stay tuned for the details on them as soon as we receive them.
That's all the news .... for now. Stay tuned to this website for all the late breaking news from the world of (Top Fuel and Alcohol) drag racing.