Mopar Mile-High NHRA Nationals
Clutch gives Cory Mac problems and disappointing loss in the opening round
Denver, Sunday: In the opening round of today's eliminations problems beset Cory McClenathan, driver of the Carrier Boyz Racing Berryman Products Top Fuel Dragster, even before he had a chance to run.
On the burnout against Rhonda Hartman-Smith, Cory Mac was unable to get the car into reverse. He immediately switched the fuel pump to high to bring the idle down and yanked the car into reverse. As he was backing up, the car picked up speed, the front wheels started wobbling and pulled the steering wheel from his hand. In the process, he hit the button that deploys the parachute at the end of a run causing it to fall from its pack at the back of the dragster.
Only quick thinking on McClenathan's part and using both hands on the brake enable the veteran driver to bring the car to a stop before any further problems developed.
After all was under control, Hartman-Smith took a solo run down the Bandimere Speedway quarter-mile in 4.934 seconds at 290.57 mph, while a disappointed McClenathan could only sit and watch.
"It was a very disappointing way to end what looked like it would turn out to be a good weekend for this Carrier Boyz Racing Berryman Products team," said McClenathan. "The new Murf McKinney car went down the track both qualifying sessions and we qualified sixth. We thought we were in a good position to do well. It's a shame to give your opponent a win like that without even being able to go down the track."
McClenathan leaves Denver in the No. 8 position in the NHRA POWERade Top Fuel point standings. He has now accumulated 692 points after 13 of 23 events on the 2004 schedule. That places him three points behind seventh place, 27 behind sixth and 60 points out of the top five as the series moves to the Seattle area.
McClenathan No. 6
Denver, Saturday: In 1997, Cory McClenathan, driver of the Carrier Boyz Berryman Products Top Fuel dragster, made a clean sweep by winning the three races that make up what is commonly known as "the Western Swing," three back-to-back-to-back events in Denver, Seattle and Sonoma, Calif.
Only four nitro drivers have accomplished that feat. In addition to McClenathan, five-time Top Fuel champion Joe Amato turned the hat trick in 1991, 11-time Funny Car champ John Force in 1994 and two-time Top Fuel champion Larry Dixon added his name to the short list last year.
After all professional qualifying was cancelled on Friday due to rain, two session were run today and qualifying for the 25th running of the NHRA Mopar Mile-High Nationals is now ended. McClenathan begins his quest to duplicate his feat of 1997 from the No. 6 qualifying position, running an elapsed time of 4.776 seconds.
This marks the 246th time that the veteran driver has qualified in 251 races. Additionally, of those 251 races McClenathan has qualified in the top half of the field 193 times.
"We wish we had had the opportunity to run all four qualifying session with this new Murf McKinney car," said McClenathan. "That would have enabled us to dial the car in a little bit better for tomorrow's eliminations. Even without the extra runs, Todd Smith (crew chief) and the guys did a great job of getting both the car and our new Featherlite trailer ready for this race. We'll be alright for tomorrow. We need to go to the later rounds."
With 350 career round wins, Cory Mac will go after round win 351 in tomorrow's opening round of eliminations against Rhonda Hartman-Smith. Hartman-Smith qualified No. 11 with a pass of 5.001 seconds at 247.16 mph.
McClenathan, who has one win and one runner-up thus far this year, enters this weekend's race No. 7 in the NHRA POWERade Top Fuel point standings. He has 658 points, just 5 points behind sixth and 37 points out of fifth.
New car and trailer for C-Mac
Denver, pre-race: Cory McClenathan, driver of the Carrier Boyz Racing Berryman Products Top Fuel dragster, opens the second half of the 2004 season on a track that he has done well at throughout his 13-plus years on the NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series.
Bandimere Speedway, near Denver, the site of this weekend's NHRA Mopar Mile-High Nationals, has produced two Top Fuel wins (1997 and 1998) and one runner-up (2002) for McClenathan. The veteran driver has also advanced to the semifinal round three times (1992, 1999 and 2000).
In fact, McClenathan's very first win in NHRA came at Bandimere Speedway. In his first national event race as a sportsman driver in Top Alcohol Dragster, McClenathan defeated the late Blaine Johnson in 1989.
"Bandimere is just one of those places, for some odd reason, I've always seemed to do well," said McClenathan, who has 350 round wins in 250 professional events. "I do know I love coming here. I love the Bandimere Family (track owners). They do an awesome job with their race track. I wish I knew the secret of doing well here; I'd try to make it happen at other race tracks.
"Hopefully, some of that magic will be with us this weekend. With the second half of the season starting, it's crunch time for POWERade points. We need for this Berryman Products dragster to go to the later rounds. That means more points."
Entering this event, McClenathan is seventh in the NHRA POWERade Top Fuel point standings with 658 points. By advancing to the later rounds he can position himself to move up in the current standings. He is just five points behind sixth and 37 points out of fifth.
Todd Smith and the Carrier Boyz Racing crew plan to bring back the new Murf McKinney car that has been undergoing repairs since it was damaged in a wheelstand at the Columbus event in mid-June. All involved feel this second debut will produce the results that were expected from the car at its initial outing in Columbus. The team, along with Cory Mac, Andy Carrier and Berryman Products' Maurice Blankenship, will also debut their new state-of-the-art Featherlite trailer at Craig Hospital on Wednesday.
Teams have always had problems with the altitude at Bandimere but they now have a new challenge as NHRA has mandated the use of a new tire beginning at Denver. McClenathan is not sure what to expect when professional qualifying gets underway.
"Right away, I expect the tires to affect us," said McClenathan on the rule change. "It may be good it's happening at Denver. The attitude affects the performance of these high horsepower cars, so it may be easier to get a grip on the track surface. It will be tricky just the same as we figure out how these tires will react. It's just another element to add to the mix in trying to get these cars to perform at their optimum."
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