Mopar Mile-High NHRA Nationals
Burkart's 'gotta believe' in blue at Bandimere
Denver, prerace: The catch phrase seems to have been brought to national prominence by the late Tug McGraw, a tough major league relief pitcher who urged on his 1973 New York Mets teammates and their fans with the saying "Ya Gotta Believe!" Though Mr. McGraw is now probably just as well known as the father of country singer Tim McGraw, the rallying cry from his halcyon baseball days has outlived him, and is consistently used by all manner of teams or competitors who are looking for that edge, that extra bit of self confidence. Phil Burkart, and his Checker, Schuck's, Kragen blue team, are just such believers.
Heading into this weekend's NHRA tilt at beautiful Bandimere Speedway in
"As a group, we have never pulled into a race track thinking we couldn't win," Burkart said. "When we arrive in
"I think Tug McGraw's line came from knowing that a lot of people, whether it was Mets' fans or the media, didn't believe they could win. When you hear that over and over, you start to believe it yourself, but Tug knew better. He knew they could win, no matter what any so-called experts thought, and he wanted his teammates to believe it. 'Ya Gotta Believe' was his motto, and pretty soon everyone did and they went on to win the pennant. It's a great example of the power of positive thinking. We 'gotta believe' too, because we're absolutely good enough to win. We just have to know we can, just like we did in
No fluke, the 2004 Bandimere victory was Burkart's second that season, and it helped him secure his only career POWERade top ten points finish. On his way to victory on that day, he took out Tim Wilkerson, Tony Pedregon, Tommy Johnson, and Cruz Pedregon. In all four laps, he clearly dominated the competition, but in the semi-final he benefited from a little bit of that elusive luck. It was the sort of moment you just have to believe in.
"After the burnout before the semi-final, the guys lifted the body and I immediately saw (co-crew chiefs) Chris Cunningham and Marc Denner flinch and even put their hands up to shield their eyes," Burkart said. "I didn't know what was wrong, but figured we might have a fuel leak or something. Turns out, the brand new blower belt we had on the car was shredding. It was throwing pieces off with every turn of the engine, basically disintegrating right there at the line. There wasn't anything we could do about it, so Chris and Marc hustled me to the line, hoping we could at least launch the car.
"We figured we had to take the green light no matter what, in case Tommy red-lit, or crossed the center line, or blew up, or whatever. I don't think the guys figured the belt would last much longer than the launch, but we went for it. Against all odds, that magic belt held together for exactly 1,320 feet and we drove around Tommy for the win. Why did that miracle happen? I don't know, but we 'gotta believe' we can do it again."
Last year in
"We've done well on the mountain," he said. "We've been to the final two years in a row. We've taken out some of the best in the world to do that. There's no reason we can't do it this week. No reason at all, if we believe in ourselves."
Thanks, Tug. Without you, we might not know just how important it is to always remember, "Ya Gotta Believe!"
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