Burkart bitten by gremlins in round one
Englishtown, Sunday: Though once again the blue Checker, Schuck's, Kragen team showed solid and undeniable glimmers of progress and hope, this time in Englishtown, New Jersey, the end result left the same distasteful flavor lingering in Phil Burkart's mouth after round one. From that point forward, Burkart and his teammates focused on helping CSK red team driver Del Worsham and didn't allow themselves to dwell on the gremlins that beset them on Sunday.
A terrific qualifying show made every pass critical, but also made the Friday night run indispensable in terms of qualifying position. Burkart's 4.863 on Friday night was solid, and certainly locked up a place in the show for the New York driver, but when the low 4.80's and the 4.79's started to roll in it left him 14th. On Saturday, only one driver was able to improve his position, Whit Bazemore who crept up from 16th to 15th on the final pass. Burkart made another solid run on Saturday afternoon, but had to play with the hand his 4.863 had dealt him.
"We made a couple of real solid passes in qualifying, although both could obviously have been better," Burkart said. "But, this field was stout and the Funny Car class is stout, so there's no such thing as an easy deal or a good first round match-up. The only good first round you can have around here anymore would be the one where the other guy doesn't show up."
Burkart's 14th spot, of course, lined him up against the No. 3 qualifier, who in this case was Gary Scelzi. Scelzi was the most recent winner on the tour coming into this event, and was roundly considered the hottest, baddest, hombre in the class.
"Hey, they're good and they're confident, and that's a tough combination," Burkart said. "But, honestly, we thought we'd found some things to tweak on and I really figured we could give them a race. I felt good, and I knew I had to leave on him to give us a chance, but by the time I backed up from the burnout I knew the only chance I had was for Gary to mess up."
Burkart, who had missed driver introductions while his team fired, re-fired, and re-fired his motor again trying solve a cylinder head issue prior to round one, had hoped the gremlin was vanquished. When he did his first round burnout, and began to back up, he knew better.
"It sounded pretty awful backing up, and we were pumping a lot of fuel out of two cylinders. Whatever the issue was, it was still there. On a qualifying pass I would have shut it off, but this was first round so you have to give it a shot. I decided to leg it out there, but if Gary was pulling away I wasn't going to blow it up. We've hurt enough parts and pieces lately."
Burkart got a huge jump at the tree, which at least gave him a chance momentarily. His head start of nearly 5-hundredths was gone in a flash, however, as Scelzi powered to a 4.183 on a clean run. Burkart legged the wounded animal out to mid-track before lifting and calling it a day.
"It's a shame, because we either lose close ones or have weird things go wrong on us," Burkart said. "But, our teammate had a great day and they've got their car turned around. We go straight to St. Louis now, and plan on getting our car turned around there."
Return to Team Reports Archive
Return to the Home Page