in the world of drag racing
The latest update as of September 6, 1999
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?)
Available January 1, 2000