in the world of drag racing
The latest update as of October 2, 1999
Well, this was going to be a rather low-key update on all the action this weekend at Budds Creek, Maryland (IHRA President's Cup Nationals) and the NHRA Advance Auto Parts Nationals at Topeka, Kansas. I was going to write about Troy Critchley's (ex-Aussie), new IHRA Pro Mod national record (6.22 ET). Then I was going to update the progress of Glen May's "Cranberry Connection". He's currently, after three of four qualifying sessions, sitting in a rather precarious 14th position, with a best of "only" 6.47. Three straight 6.4 laps; 6.47, 6.48 and another 6.48, with two of them over 215 mph, and he's still only 14th. Are those IHRA Pro Mod fields tough, or what?
Then I was going to mention Steve Harker's NHRA National Event debut at Topeka, where he qualified very strongly (in 10th) with a 5.89 at 242.67 mph. Unfortunately, he was flat-out blown away by Randy Fleming's very strong 5.78 pass in the first round of eliminations today. Despite an even launch, Steve's 5.98 at 243.55 mph, was simply no match for Fleming. Still, for a guy who's still feeling his way around the big NHRA pond, it's quite an impressive start for Harker. Next stop: Memphis, next weekend.
Another Aussie who's making news at Topeka this weekend is young Andrew Cowin, runner-up at the US Nationals on Labor Day. His second qualifer produced an excellent 4.692 at a career-best 307.23 mph and that has him sitting safely in the 10th position, going into today's last qualifying session.
I was even going to mention the action that's taking place at my local track, Mission Raceway Park, this weekend. Mike McHargue from Lewiston, Idaho has brought his A/Fuel dragster up and in yesterday's test-n-tune turned a very strong 5.58 at 250 mph. They've even promised to "turn up the wick" (shorten the fuse?) today. Also, Leo Grocock will be making his final license runs in Ken Rempel's Top Alcohol Dragster, among other testing news from MRP.
However, all these worthy stories pale into insignificance with all the commotion surrounding the Alan Johnson WINSTON Top Fuel Dragster team. Driver Gary Scelzi has had the "weekend from hell" of all time and it's only Saturday. After a rather tame first qualifying run of 4.59, things started to go decidely downhill in a hurry for Team Winston during the evening qualifying session.
A spectacular, low qualifying effort (at the time), of 4.52, ended in a major engine explosion and fireball, well short of the finish line. The flaming dragster slid to a stop deep in the braking area and the resulting damage forced the team to switch to their back-up car for today's final qualifying sessions.
Then their fortunes really turned bad during the first of two qualifying sessions today. Their 4.74 run ended even earlier than last night's effort, and this time the engine explosion broke the chassis in half. Interestingly, pieces of the engine stopped the clocks in Joe Amato's lane, giving him an intergalactic "record" of 522.14 MPH. The really bad news is that since they've already switched chassis's once this weekend, the original, and not so badly hurt, car can't be brought out of the trailer for the final qualifying session, or tomorrow's eliminations. This would obviously put the team in a very deep hole as far as the World Championship points chase goes.
So, with no other options, they've enlisted their chassis builder, Brad Hadman and the nearby shop of Neil & Parks to attempt an overnight rebuild of the crashed car. I was lucky enough to witness a similar "resurrection" at the Northwest Nationals some years ago, when Hadman (with help from Dave Uyehara) brought Darrel Gwynn's car back from the dead overnight. And yes, they went on to win the race the next day. Where there's a will, there's a way. And I never bet against Hadman, Johnson and Scelzi. Will the miracle repeat itself at Topeka? Stay tuned. We'll be back later tonight with another update.