This could be considered a form of cheating, but it is the latest news
from the world of drag racing, so here's the Sunday report from the Division
Six points meet at Mission Raceway.
7:30 AM Time to get up and face another day at the track. The
sun isn't quite as bright as this time yesterday, but the radio weatherman is
assuring me that no rain will fall until late tonight. Since eliminations for
the "fast guys" don't start until noon, I've got a few hours I can spend at
the computer, grabbing photos out of the Canon Optura and possibly getting
the photo page from yesterday posted.
9:45 AM The coffee pot's empty, the Optura batteries are all
recharged and it's time to head for the track. Didn't really get much done
on the event report pages, but it's just too much work to do in too little
time. Maybe tonight.....
11:15 AM Thank goodness for my media pass, as I'm able to
bypass the spectator entrance and the very long walk from the far end of the
parking lot and instead slide through the racer's gate and park less than a
hundred yards from the starting line. Less than fifty feet from the barbecue
that Tom and Dimitri put on yesterday, in fact. All that remains of the heaps
of great food from yesterday is a few empty pop cans, some scraps of tinfoil
and a very satisfied looking Smokey (the dog).
There's not much time to catch up on the latest news, but I manage to take
a quick tour of the alcohol pits and see that the Edgecombe gang has already
left for the long drive back to California. Bob Haffner's trailer is locked
up, but he's standing outside and tells me that he's thinking the main studs
pulled out of the block, instead of a broken crankshaft that was reported
yesterday. (He'll know exactly what's broken when they do an autopsy later
this week). Right now, he's just in spectator mode, along with Leo Grocock
and the Bill Edwards team.
11:55 AM The staging lanes are full of very fast race cars
and everyone is just milling around, smiling and exchanging small talk as the
U.S. national anthem starts playing on the PA system. It's almost time to get
down to business, so I quickly make my way to the starting line photo area in
the gap between the U.S. and Canadian anthems. And as the final strains of
"Oh Canada" fade into a chorus of applause and whistles, the sound we've all
been waiting to hear fills the air.... Whhhiiiiirrrrr.... VROOOOOOOMMMMM.
1:15 PM I've got to sit down and try to collect my thoughts.
The events of the last hour and a bit, especially in the first twenty minutes,
were just mind-boggling. Tremendous, absolutely tremendous, performances from
the dragsters and some wild action from the funny cars. Easily the most
entertaining and exciting racing I've ever seen at Mission Raceway. For the
details, check out the Results page.
Back to the pits, to see what happened to some of the racers, and get some
reactions from the winners and losers. Mike Johnson's team is smiling but
frustrated after running a personal best e.t. and speed, for the car and the
new driver (Brian Hough), but they feel cheated because they still lost by
more than a car length to the Low e.t. injected nitro car of Kevin Brown. "It
just isn't fair...."
Another very frustrated individual, who's likewise still smiling, as he
turned a career best e.t. and the highest speed ever recorded by a blown
alcohol dragster (5.33 at 268.97) is Duane Shields. "He's smiling on the
outside, but dying on the inside; he's just tearing himself up over that
race", says one of his crew members. His late light sealed the deal, despite
the incredible performance of the car. But they'll be back, loaded for bear,
at the next Mission points meet.
Loser of a very controversial funny car race in the first round, is Rod
Clough. His crew have partly disassembled the race car and discovered the
cause of his lane crossing infraction. The rearend housing has broken near
the outer floater mounting flange and the left wheel was able to move around
more than an inch (the axle being the only thing keeping it on the car). No
wonder the car got out of control. Even if he'd been declared the winner of
that match with Pat Austin, they obviously wouldn't have been back for the
The mood in the Hentges camp is one of controlled excitement, as they've
finally (apparently) solved the blower stud problem. The studs stayed together
for the full quarter mile in the first round, and the old manifold seems to
be doing the job. There's no damage to report and the crew is methodically
preparing the car for their semi-final match with the new Low e.t. car of
"There's nothing we can do but try to repeat; we definitely can't beat
ourselves by trying anything wild or trying to cut a perfect light", is the
way Mark sums it up. "He (Brown) is aiming for a 5.20 in the next round,
and we can't run that sort of number, so we'll just have to hope he steps
over the line (on the tuneup) and beats himself."
2:30 PM There's only eight Federal-Mogul cars left in competition,
so the staging lanes aren't nearly as crowded now. Beside them, on the exit
road is a steady stream of early round Sportsman losers heading for home and
the pits are getting emptier by the minute. But we've still got some great
races ahead of us and most of the top guns are still here. The semi-finals
in dragster will be two injected vs. blown matches, while the funny car side
will see the two Austins trying to arrange yet another final round matchup.
Again, for the details, go to the Results
3:00 PM No more nitro... at least for today, as both of the
A/FD's went down to defeat to the quicker blown alcohol cars of Rick Santos
and Mark Hentges. That should be an absolutely classic final. For the flopper
fans, the "happens every race, doesn't it?" battle between Pat and Bucky
Austin will close out their side of the show. First though, Bucky has got
some major thrashing to do after grenading the motor at half track against
Bateman in the semi-finals.
The crowd around Bucky's trailer is so large that it's difficult to get
close enough to even see what they're doing. With my media pass as a shield,
I manage to push through the mob and get inside for a look at the dead engine,
and not one, but two, spare engines on the ground beside the car. "We're taking
bits off all three to make one good one", is the answer. Old friend George
Swann (now running a front-engine nostalgia fueler) is even pitching in to
help in the thrash. This is going to take a while.....
The car Bucky defeated in the semis, Bateman & Reynolds' "Showtime",
is being serviced before they load up and head home to Calgary. After their
Low e.t. and Top Speed effort of the first round, they slipped back into the
tire smoke - tire shake mode against Bucky. Crew chief Bob Reynolds is thinking
about buying more new clutch discs. "They were pretty chewed up after the
first round", is his summation.
The other finalists are going through normal maintenance and eagerly looking
forward to the impending matches. Hentges, who hasn't had any computer data
all weekend, is just looking to repeat his string of high 5.30 passes, while
opponent Rick Santos is still trying to get the clutch sorted out to stop the
shake that has been present throughout the event. They still haven't run in
the .30's this weekend and if they can't in the final.... it could be a long
drive home to Brentwood, California.
5:00 PM Finally we have some action from Bucky Austin's car.
The starter whirrs, the motor roars to life and it looks like we'll have two
finalists for the funny car crown. The schedule for today showed the final
rounds at 4:30, but we've been waiting on Uncle Bucky for more than thirty
minutes already. After all, who's going to tell him that he's out for taking
too much time. Not even Chris Blair is that brave.
5:30 PM The stage is finally set for what should be the two
best races of the day. The quickest, most consistent cars of the event are
at the head of staging and the word goes out to fire them up. By now you must
know where the results are, but we'll spill the beans here for a change.
Dragsters first: Hentges beats Santos in an incredibly close race. Rick
leaves first by .011, Mark outruns him by .012, the win margin is .001 second.
That's right, one thousandth of a second. The gap is less than four feet at
the finish line. Unreal, or what? The jubilation of the Hentges team is mixed
with major feelings of relief that they managed to pull out another win over
the Oakwood Homes team. The national championship is definitely moving into
the realm of reality after this victory.
Now to the Funny Cars: Just how many times have the two Austins met in a
final round at Mission Raceway? Just about every time we have a funny car race,
it seems. And these intra-family battles are always very entertaining. Both
cars are slow to light the second stage lights, as they sit and idle in pre-stage
for a very long time, neither one wanting to give the other an inch in the
Finally they move in, and Pat is away first, shaking hard, but in the lead.
He's pedalling, shaking, out of shape, but still on the throttle until Uncle
Bucky comes around him at half track and starts to move out to a lead. Shortly
after that point, Pat admits defeat and shuts off, as Bucky turns on the win
light with another solid run, with Pat coasting across the line 100 feet behind.
It's not over until it's over... but now it's finally over.
One of the finest drag races that I've ever had the pleasure of attending
has come to an end, with the two final round races being worth the price of
admission alone. Everyone who was here and witnessed this weekend's racing
can feel very fortunate that they were part of an historic event. This one
will long be remembered by Division Six racers and fans as the best in the
division's history. The only problem now is: what can they possibly do for
an encore in just six weeks time at the second FMDRS race here?
6:15 PM The winners circle photographs still haven't started,
but the parking lot is starting to empty fairly quickly, so I take my leave
and head for home. There's just so much to report on, and I'm literally bursting
with words to get down on the computer, and pictures to post, that I can
hardly wait to get home and start working on it. The drive home is relaxed
and pleasant, and my head is still swimming with the images and memories of
the race I've just seen.
11:30 PM The monitor is starting to shrink and grow and lose
focus... or is that my eyes? Either way, it's time to shut it down for the
night, get some sleep, remember to set the alarm, then make good use of the
time I've got tomorrow morning before I head back to work in the afternoon.
Tune in again tomorrow for the Monday morning wrap-up and hopefully, all the
pictures from Saturday and Sunday.