in the world of drag racing
The latest update as of October 4, 1999
The "national event that refused to die" was just completed at Heartland Park in Topeka. A one-day rain, cold and wind delay resulted in an unwanted Monday finish. Unwanted, as in the next stop for the circus is barely three days away. The "Autozone Nationals" begins at Memphis Motorsport Park on Thursday, leaving the teams that stayed for the final rounds at Topeka barely enough time to have a shower, shave, hamburger and hit the road for Tennessee.
The amazing comeback from the dead story of Team Winston finally evaporated in a cloud of tire smoke against Joe Amato in the semi-finals. Two wrecked cars, several destroyed engines and a non-stop thrash finally took their toll. They did better than anyone expected and with their one round too early exit, gained an extra couple of hours to get to Memphis and.... begin putting together yet another new race car for this coming weekend. Yes, another car, this one a brand-new (Hadman, of course) chassis that is enroute from California as this update is being written.
If they're still alive a week from today, then they'll have the unparalleled luxury of nearly ten days off until the Texas swing portion of the death march to Pomona. Gary Scelzi leaves Topeka sitting in third place in the Top Fuel points standings, only 43 behind leader Tony Schumacher and just 29 behind second placed Joe Amato. With four events remaining, there is still an excellent chance for Gary to claim his third consecutive "world" championship.
In other news, a real underdog success story slowly developed over the weekend in the Top Alcohol (Federal-Mogul) dragster field. Unheralded (and almost unknown to most race fans) Calvin Friesen of Headingly, Manitoba, Canada, driving Doug Doucette's Winnipeg-based A/Fuel car went to the final round. Qualifying in only the 14th position with a reasonable 5.74, Calvin upset one heavy hitter after another to go to his (and car owner Doucette's) first national event final round.
In the first round of eliminations, they stopped California's Rick Henkelman with a 5.86, then stepped up to a 5.68 to dispatch Michigan's Shawn Bowen in the second round. Then, after a tremendous display of sportsmanship, waiting for Michael Gunderson's crew to fix an air-line fitting, clipped him in a very close match, 5.55 to 5.56. By the way, that 5.553 is the quickest ever for a Top Alcohol Dragster in Canadian history. Even though it was an A/Fuel car, the boys from the prairies receive our congratulations. Well done, Doug Doucette, Calvin Friesen and Ken Murray.
Unfortunately, the dream died in a cloud of tire smoke in the final against Melanie Troxel's "In-N-Out" burger car, which streaked to victory with a very strong 5.46 at 256 mph. Still, an incredible performance for the Canuck team and one that all Canadians can be proud of. Just think: beating Henkelman, Bowen and Gunderson in consecutive rounds.... three of the best cars out there and then only losing to a very dominating (and currently the quickest in the country) Troxel in the final.
That's all we have time for today, but be sure to check out the latest NHRA Top Fuel and Top Alcohol Dragster points standings and the Topeka results on our Stats Page. And as always, more news from the world of drag racing as it happens. PS: For anyone looking for the story of Bruton Smith's offer to buy the NHRA, check out the September 30 edition of "What's New".
PPS: According to the track announcers at Topeka, Speedvision will be broadcasting the tape-delayed coverage of eliminations from the "Advance Auto Parts Nationals" TONIGHT (Monday, October 4) at 6:00 PM Pacific Daylight Time. Be sure to tune in or program the VCR for all the action.