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in the world of drag racing

Black Bar

The latest update as of January 27, 1999

Wow, another week zips past and where the heck has it gone? Despite the lack of updates on this page, there has been lots going on behind the scenes here at Northern Thunder. If you haven't checked out the Press Clippings index lately, you'll be in for a bit of a surprise. Lots and lots of articles added. Admittedly, many of them are from previous years, but they provide some very useful background and insights into how things have evolved to the current state in the world of drag racing.

There's also tons of current news to report, but for tonight I'll only have time to touch on some of the headline items. If you bypassed the "home page" to get here, you may not have noticed that the Backfire !! page has been updated for the first time in nearly three weeks. Believe me, that's the last time I'll wait so long. It's taken nearly six hours over the last two days to add all the messages (and my "pithy" replies), so to see what people have been saying to me and about me, check it out. Next big job is to update the Top Ten Lists. Lots of them to add, just never enough time to get it done.

Now for some of the headlines:

The Dead Dodge Report

Gee what a surprise! You've read all about the engine explosion in my Ford duallie earlier in the month, then read about all the problems with the race engine... now it's time to hear about our latest problem. Driving to work last night, my faithful '86 Dodge Ramcharger died. Looks like an engine, transmission and a few other bits to fix/replace. What else can go wrong? No, let's not even talk about all the work the trailer needs. The budget says "next year" for that one.

Down Under Invasion Delays

If you noticed the numbers on the scoreboard mysteriously changing lately, here's the reason why. For the consecutive shifts worked, the explanation is simple: They keep running out of work for me every month or so and after 20 graveyards in a row, I actually had a day off on Sunday. Can't remember doing much other than sleeping and typing, but it was quite a disorienting experience being away from my desk at work for almost 36 hours.

The other numbers on the scoreboard are a little more serious though, as yet again, we've had to delay our trip downunder. This time the reason is that we just won't have the engine finished in time. If you've read about all the problems we've had lately with parts not fitting, not arriving or just not available, then you'll start to understand. There's really not much sense in shipping the car down to Australia without an engine, is there? Plus, by waiting an extra four weeks before leaving, we save on airfares (they drop to the "low season" rates on April 15), accomodation and other living expenses and we still have the car ready to race at the same time as originally planned. How ?

Well, I've decided to let my crewchief, Tom Mohan, fabricate our intake manifold here, instead of having my good friend (at least he was until he reads this probably) Ken Lowe build it in Australia. The cost savings are obviously substantial, since Tom works for "free" and we'll arrive in OZ with the car ready to run, instead of minus the manifold. On paper it's a good move, but time will tell whether it's the wisest way to go.

Racer Meetings

As has been well reported elsewhere (Horsepower Heaven and The Grapevine), there have been two racer meetings held in the last week concerning developments at Mission Raceway Park. While I wasn't able to attend either of them, the reports on the two previously mentioned websites pretty much sum up what happened.

The story is not over yet as the rumour mill has been working overtime cranking out more and more bad news about the situation. Trust me, I don't want to get involved in this, so I'll leave it others to report on the story(s). All I can say is: Let's get this resolved and get busy with the drag racing. Cut the politics, cut the crap and lets get on with what really counts. That's it from me on the subject.... for now....

Pre-Season Testing

Last weekend saw testing at two separate sites in Arizona; Chandler and Tucson. Warm, dry weather greeted the racers, but winds and the resulting dust on the track proved quite an obstacle to good numbers. The usually quick guys went quick, and some new faces and race cars appeared.

Number one of course, was ex-Pro Mod racer Scotty Cannon with his "Nitro 'Mater". After dazzling everyone with the artwork on the car, he blew them all away with some very stout numbers, especially for a nitro rookie. How about this: 4.97 at 306 mph. Not bad for a start, eh? Check out his new "out there" website at Cannonball Racing for more information and some stunning pictures. Pro Mod's loss is definitely Funny Car's gain.

Another new face in a fuel car, was Top Fuel rookie Gina Marie Ferraro, who made some good 300 foot runs, but never attempted a full pass. Oh yeah, she's all of 19 years of age, too. Another teenage girl in a fueller. Gee, girls have all the luck. At the rate my "career" is going, I'll be collecting an old age pension before I get into one. Fueller, that is (in case you had any doubt!).

Another young person, Andrew Cowin, formerly of Sydney, Australia, didn't have quite the same luck with his five attempts to get down the track. Despite having some experience back home over the past two years, including a 4.92 on his final license pass, young Andrew (son of many-time Australian champion in Top Fuel and Funny Car, Graeme) was unable to get past the 300 foot mark under power all weekend. Reports indicated a destroyed clutch and at least one engine explosion. Pretty tough way to start his NHRA career. Maybe the old saying about "the grass is always greener" might be applicable in this case.

Andrew is not the first Aussie to move his racing to the US lately, as Victor Bray's ex-team driver Troy Critchley made the jump nearly a year ago. This season he'll be driving Johnny Rocca's new Pro Mod car. Next to make the jump is the Melbourne Funny Car team of Peter and Helen Russo, who, with the complete lack of bookings for funnys available in OZ currently, have decided to relocate to California.

Now comes word that another Melbourne team, that of Charlie and Darren DiFilippo, may be bringing their Top Fuel operation to the states in the next year or two. The only people reversing this trend at the moment seem to be a couple of Canadians, and of course, Rachelle Splatt, who after flashing to prominence in NHRA Top Fuel in early 1994, made a quick return to Australia when the Luxor team disintegrated.

If the current trend of Aussie racers to desert their homeland and try their luck in the blast furnace of "big time" racing in North America continues, their "lack of opportunity" complaints could become a self-fulfilling prophecy. It must be tempting to want to "prove" yourself on the NHRA circuit, but being a big fish in a small pond has some advantages over being a very small fish in a rather large ocean. An ocean that's full of sharks and other hazards.

Funny Business

This next item is (to me at least) a real classic. By now, you've all heard about the Penthouse magazine sponsored Funny Car of Jim Dunn, with Kelly McGrath slated to drive. Well, guess what? Seems that Kelly has a small vision problem, and will need to undergo surgery before he can drive the car. Can you remember what your mother used to say about one of the side-effects of reading "those" magazines was? Could it be? No, but it gives one something to think about, doesn't it?

Down Under Thunder

While the North American drag racing season is just starting to stir, with pre-season testing happening and the Winternationals still over a week away, the season in Australia is in full swing already. Several events have been rained out, but last weekend Adelaide had a very successful Top Doorslammer and Pro Stock show. Strong headwinds (and the resulting dust on the track from the still not completed spectator mounds) prevented any records from being set, but Victor Bray did run as quick as 6.31 at over 227 mph in his '57 Chevy. No word yet on how Peter Gratz's new '70 Daytona ran, but the event was well attended and provided some great racing action.

The scene shifts to Brisbane's Willowbank Raceway this weekend for the second round of the annual Castrol New Year Series. The event will feature another round of the Top Doorslammer championships, plus the first round of the Top Alcohol series. The first round of the Castrol series, scheduled for January 2nd was rained-out, so this will be the first major meeting of the year in Queensland. Current weather reports are favourable and the pre-entry list is growing daily so it should be (as they say downunder) a "pearler" of a meeting. We'll have a full report on the Top Alcohol action on our Stats Page on Sunday (January 31).

That's all I've got time for tonight, but remember, for all the latest news and views -- "extreme", or otherwise -- keep tuning in to "What's New".

Black Bar
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