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in the world of drag racing

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The latest update as of February 20, 2000

2000 Australian Nationals Logo Biggest news this week is the 34th Australian Drag Racing Nationals, completed yesterday at Melbourne's Calder Park Raceway. As is so often the case, the weather played a major factor in the outcome, with temps reaching the low 40's (celsius) -- that's well over 100 fahrenheit, folks. Even when the sun goes down, the thermometer doesn't. Consequently, it became a "survival of the fittest" battle and the winners circle saw some new names.

Biggest upset of the meet had to be Roy Smith, in the Smith & Atholwood car winning Top Fuel. Roy qualified in the seventh spot (his lucky number as it turned out, eh?) and parlayed a string of high five-second times into victory. In the most unlikely pairing in a Nationals final in many years, Roy met Terry Sainty and eventually prevailed over him in a no-holds-barred "tyre" smoking, back pedalling, last man standing wins, type race.

Roy's victory was his first in Top Fuel in many, many years and his first round wins ever in the S&A car. The win also marked the first time that the legendary Sainty Billet 3-Valve overhead cam engine has won a National event in Australia. Even more surprising, runner-up Terry Sainty drove Gary McGrath's Chrysler-powered car, instead of his regular ride, the Sainty Speed Works Special.

The posted $100,000 bonus for the first 300 MPH run in Australia remained unclaimed for the second year running. Top Speed of the meet was turned by Darren DiFilippo (at only 282 mph) and he also set Low ET at a very tame 5.15. The 4.80's and 4.90's turned earlier this year by DiFillipo, Jim Read and Rachelle Splatt were nowhere to be seen this weekend. Obviously, the heat played a major factor in this.

Over in the Top Alcohol ranks, a major three-way fight for supremacy developed between Gary Phillips, Mark Brew and Wayne Newby. In fact, when qualifying finished, all three had turned 5.75 ET's. (Phillips had the quickest third digit). And all were over 240 mph at the finish line. The fuellers couldn't get down the track quickly, but the blown alky cars certainly could. The ten car field eventually bumped at a fairly quick (by Aussie standards) 6.34, with the two alternates only a tenth off the pace. A good show all round. Personal bests were achieved by several cars, notably Dean Oakey's first five-second pass, Frank Intini getting his small-block Chev down into the 6.30's and newcomer to the class, Robert Ambruosi, whipping his Funny Car to a 6.25.

In eliminations, the "usual suspects" quickly established their dominance and by the final round, Mark Brew and Gary Phillips lined up to face each other for the third time in three events this season. This time however, the final result was different, with Mark Brew taking his and partner Bob Brackam's car to a holeshot victory over many-time National champion Gary Phillips. With the victory, Mark has moved to within five points of Phillips after three of the five events on the Championship calendar.

You can check out the Top Fuel and Top Alcohol results by clicking on the Nationals logo at the top of this update. To view the points standings, go to the The Stats Page.

Jim Grant - 1320 Racing

From the "It Couldn't Have Happpened At A Worse Time" department, comes the latest news on Jim Grant's "Downunder Doorslammer Tour 2000". If you've been following the developments on his tour around Australia, that started in November at Calder Park, you'll know that he was entered in Comp Eliminator at the Nationals. While primarily a match race car, he was slotted into the AA/AP (Altered Production) class, with an index of 6.97 to run against. The field of 20 cars, trying for the 16 available spots in eliminations, promised to be a "tough ask" for Jim, but he and his hard-working crew were up for the challenge.

Alas, it was somehow not meant to be, as he kicked a rod out of his only engine during his first qualifying pass. It happened at half track, with the car at 150 mph and nearly put Jim's Dart into the wall. He managed to save it, averting a total write-off, but is now sitting in Melbourne with a dead KB and no spare block. A bummer of the highest magnitude.

As Jim said in his message of last night: "some good has come out of all this bad" and he's already located a Stage VIII KB block and is awaiting delivery of some new Ron Parr connecting rods. He's also got some new "off the shelf" Arias pistons, a Littlefield high-helix blower and is in his own words: "PRESTO: We'll be coming back bigger, badder and faster!"

At this time he plans to return to Canada shortly to attend to some personal business, while his Aussie crew rebuilds the engine, and isn't sure how many events he'll miss. The next race on the tour schedule was to be Willowbank's "Nightfire Championships" (March 18) and he's certain to skip that one, but may be back in time for Adelaide's "Supercharged Outlaws" show in April. As soon as we have more news from Jim, we'll be sure to pass it along. For his full report from the Nationals, check out the latest Backfire!.

Time is, as always, running short, so I'll have to close for now. But not before giving everyone who has visited Northern Thunder lately a VERY BIG THANK YOU. I'm simply amazed at how many visitors this little ol' website has received in the past few months and the numbers so far this month are bigger than ever. I'm not sure what has caused this much interest in what I'm putting up on the web, but I must be doing something right. If only I knew what, though . . . Seriously, thanks to everyone for giving me so much incentive to keep doing the site and stay tuned for continued improvements in the coming weeks and months.

The next update is planned for tomorrow, but if you've been here before, you know how tomorrow sometimes arrives a day late and a dollar short. Or something like that.

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