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in the world of drag racing

Black Bar

The latest update as of September 6, 1999

Australia Australia Day.... comes early at Indy   As the first rounds of eliminations at the US Nationals unfolded today, a number of very interesting developments came to the forefront. First, was the surprise failure to qualify of several very high-profile racers: Kenny Bernstein, Larry Dixon and Cruz Pedregon, to name a few. Second, was the surprisingly successful efforts of nitro coffin newcomer Cristen Powell, Aussie rookie Andrew Cowin and the "where the heck did he come from" Bob Gilbertson in his new "experimental" Murf McKinney nitro funny car.

The upsets in the first round of Top Fuel left the prognosticators shaking their heads in disbelief and the calculators smoking in the NHRA points standings office. Paul Romine beats Gary Scelzi. Andrew Cowin beats Joe Amato. Say whaaaat??? Hold on, it gets weirder. Dave Grubnic beats Scott Kalitta. Eddie Hill (with a flat tire) beats Doug Kalitta. Mike Dunn (the season-long points leader) loses to Tony Schumacher. Switching to the plastic coffins, Frank Pedregon beats John Force. In the first round? Warren Johnson beats Kurt Johnson. Oops! How did that get in here? Anyways, that one WAS a foregone conclusion... wasn't it?

By comparison, the alcohol classes were tame; the usual suspects won, as expected. Rick Santos and Darren Nicholson steamrollered their way to a final round showdown, shutting out the injected nitro cars along the way. Santos even managed to out-do Keith Stark's earlier 5.50 effort, with a 5.49 for low ET of the meet. In the alky floppers, low qualifier Tony Bartone (very quick 5.61) and defending "world" champion, Frank Manzo, are scheduled to face off in the final.

Back to the Australia day opening now. While "Aussie Dave" Grubnic failed to survive the second round, going up in smoke against Bob Vandergriff, one Australian racer did survive the round. And he survived the semi-finals too. Australia's newest national hero, 20-year old Andrew Cowin, is posed to become the first Aussie citizen to win an NHRA national event... if he can get by Cory McClenathan in the final. It's shades of 1987 all over again. Long-time fans of drag racing can surely remember the epic battle at the '87 Winternationals, pitting Graeme Cowin's "Aussie Raider" against the best nitro funny cars in the world. And if not for a colour-blind crewman (who mistakenly hooked up the colour-coded fuel bypass lines incorrectly before the final round), Cowin may have beaten the all-conquering (at the time) Kenny Bernstein.

Can the dashed hopes of 1987 come true in 1999? Stay tuned for the final round coverage of the US Nationals later this afternoon and then check out our complete alcohol and fuel (dragster) results to see how it all unfolded. Don't forget, the tape delayed (on the west coast) final-round coverage of the race will be broadcast on TNN from 5:00 -- 7:00 pm. this evening.

Later tonight (or early tomorrow morning), we'll be back with some very interesting comments made by some US alcohol racers concerning the proposed rules changes for "Federal-Mogul" Dragster and Funny Car for next season. Here's a brief sample, in the form of a (tongue in cheek?)

Federal-Mogul Funny Car goodies for sale or trade
Available January 1, 2000
  •   5.60's at 253 mph tune up. Easy on parts, took several years and thou$ands to accomplish. Immediate results. For sale for five quick-pick lottery tickets from last week or trade for a Mark McGwire or Sammy Sosa rookie card.

  •   14 mm. 54 tooth mag bottom blower pulleys. Makes a great salad bowl, sand castle mold or works great as a hamster exercise wheel. Sell or trade for a 1964 pre-LBJ dime or trade for expired McDonalds MONOPOLY game pieces.

  •   14 mm. 24 tooth mag top blower pulleys. Great as a small cup holder, storage for golf tees, or can be fun rolling down the driveway. Set of six for the change in your couch cushion or trade for three spent long distance phone cards.

  •   WANTED: 80 pounds of sand we've been pounding responding to the "proposed" new rules which will be effective next year, as our responses have again fallen on deaf ears. This should be pretty plentiful, as not many were in favor of them. We need to bolt this much on our car to be legal. I hope it doesn't fall off.

  •   WANTED: An IHRA rulebook. I want to find out what we need to do to switch. IHRA has announced "PRO Funny Car", 12 events and a television contract for all 12 to be broadcast on TNN. The next obvious move by Glendora is to remove us from half of the National Events next year. NHRA circulated flyers at Indy explaining how they are considering alternating FM/D and FM/FC at National events. ie: Funny cars this event, Dragsters next event, Funny Cars after that and so on. They will also roll 60% of the missing alky category's purse into the participating category and keep the remaining 40% for the Senior Vice Presidents' retirement fund.
Black Bar
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