Wayne County team withdraws from competition
Reprinted from the Aug. 9, 1996 issue of National DRAGSTER
After 14 months of extensive effort to develop a new engine combination to replace the engines vandalized in a mid-May 1995 break-in to their shop, Mike
Sullivan and David Hutchens, owners of Wayne County Speed Shop in Fairfield, Ill., announced July 26 that the Wayne County team has formally withdrawn from NHRA Pro Stock competition. Sullivan and Hutchens are liquidating their racing operation after a 25-year partnership that produced a Sportsman championship for Hutchens and three Winston Pro Stock titles for Darrell Alderman.
Wayne County's continued lack of success in developing the new engine design with the 4.900-inch-bore- spacing block was the leading cause for the decision. They did not attend any events in 1995 following the break-in and canceled plans to race at the 1996 Chief Auto Parts Winternationals following a disappointing test session in Bakersfield, Calif., a week before the event.
The team made its first appearance in competition with one car driven by Alderman's teammate, Scott Geoffrion, at this season's Pennzoil Nationals in
Virginia and followed with unsuccessful shots at making the fields for the Mopar Parts Nationals, Pontiac Excitement Nationals, and Mopar Parts Mile-High Nationals. The Wayne County Dodge never ran quicker than 7.12 seconds.
"The pressure we put on ourselves, the pressure from the fans, and the pressure from our sponsors have taken a tremendous toll on the team," said Sullivan. "Since the break-in at the shop, we have lost two key employees due to stress, and 14 months without success only makes it worse for the rest of us."
"David and I just don't see things the same anymore," Sullivan continued. "I don't need the added stress with Hutchens in a leg cast for six weeks. [Hutchens was injured July 6 in an off-road ATV accident.] I'm 55 years old, and my family and my health are more important than racing," noted Sullivan.
"The team apologizes to its many fans," continued Sullivan. "We'd like to thank our sponsors and all the Mopar fans for their loyalty. We firmly believe our decisions are the right ones, including our decision to stick with development of a new-design engine. Sometimes you try everything you know and realize it's time to move on with your life."
Larry Baker, general manager of the Mopar Parts division of Chrysler Corporation, responded, "We regret that Wayne County has decided to dissolve its partnership, but we support them and will continue to work with them as we make the transition to a new race team. We owe them a great deal for the long list of track records and national records, the 34 national-event wins, and the three Winston championships they provided. We are pursuing other options to keep Darrell Alderman and Scott Geoffrion in Dodge Avengers and return to competition as soon as possible.
"Lou Patane (Chrysler's director of motorsports operations) and I are investigating all options at this time. We have made some inquiries, but no commitments have been made. When we decide on the best plan, we will make another announcement. Right now, we're open, but we hope to return to the NHRA Chief Auto Parts Winternationals in 1997 with Scott and Darrell driving for a two-car team. They want to stay with Mopar, and we certainly want them to stay. We know we have the two best drivers in Pro Stock."