Automobile Club of Southern California NHRA Finals
Burkart adds bookend to '06 with semifinal finish
On this weekend, Burkart was focused on finishing well for his Marc Denner and Chris Cunningham-led team, but like every member of Team CSK he was also caught up in, distracted by, and conscious of the vicious wreck his teammate, Del Worsham, suffered on Friday. Despite the overwhelming emotion felt by every member of the team, Burkart and his squad were able to put their best work on the track, including a strong 4.774 during Saturday's first qualifying session, which secured the No. 12 spot in this very stout race field (so stout the 4.70 runs stretched all the way down the ladder to Gary Densham's 4.799 in the 13th position.)
The bottom half effort brought with it the expected amount of tough competition for round one, as Burkart was paired with Eric Medlen from the John Force camp. Medlen had clocked in with a 4.723 during qualifying, so Burkart and his crew knew they had a huge task in front of them.
"This whole field was so strong, it was like 'pick your poison' from top to bottom," Burkart said. "We ran well in qualifying, really well, and we came into the race 12th. We had Medlen in round one, and that's one of those things where you figure you need a perfect lap to beat him. We weren't going up there to set a career best or try to run something we aren't really capable of running, we were just trying to put a good lap on the board."
That they did, as Burkart powered to an impressive 4.789 to take the win and perk up his whole team, who had just witnessed Worsham's heroic weekend come to a close with a heartbreaking loss to Gary Densham.
In round two, Burkart had a chance to avenge Worsham's earlier loss, as he lined up against Densham for a shot at the semi's. This time, both drivers left the line nearly together, but the outcome of the race was evident just a split second later as Densham boiled the Goodyear tires while Burkart took off down the track. At the top end, with the victory well in hand, Burkart did suffer some loss of traction, but he kept after it until he crossed the stripe with the win light on. The season continued.
In the semifinal the opponent was Jack Beckman, still new to the class but driving one of the baddest hot rods in the world and coming off his first Funny Car win in
Knowing Beckman would likely put a stout number on the board, the blue CSK crew aimed for one of their better runs of the weekend, thinking a mid-4.70 would be needed to advance to the final. Their prognostication was correct, as Beckman stormed to a 4.74, but Burkart's mount was not able to keep up the pace. Tire spin, some parts breakage (no doubt related to the tire spin) and a loss of power at the top end all conspired to end Burkart's day. Season over.
"Hey, we didn't have that bad of a year," Burkart said. "We ended up 8th in the toughest field of Funny Cars ever, I think, and that says a lot. At the start of this year, I bet there were 15 or 16 teams that really, sincerely, thought they could finish in the top ten. A lot of them didn't, but we did. And on top of that, we won a race and finished 8th. We have a lot of momentum to build on, and every one of us is already looking forward to 2007."
Ups, downs, elation, and frustration. All aptly described the blue Checker, Schuck's, Kragen team's year, and all lead them into the off-season with one goal for the new year. Just win.
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