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Mac Tools U.S. Nationals
Indianapolis, IN
(August 29-September 3)

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Monday, September 04, 2006

It's over

Well, it's over. The 52nd annual Mac Tools U.S. Nationals is in the record books, and with that comes the close of a little younger tradition, the second annual National DRAGSTER Staff Blog. It's been our pleasure over the last four days to play host to this online notebook of behind-the-scenes activities from this year's Big Go.

It's always a mixed set of emotions as the final credits begin to roll at Indy. On the one hand, as the finalists roll to the staging lanes, there's the excitement of knowing that in a few minutes, the hard work of the previous days will be borne out, at least for the winners. We watched them sweat and toil, fret and strut over these days and followed their every move, so we, too, want to see winners crowned.

Make no mistake, Indy is a marathon not just for the racers, but the fans, officials, and, yes, even the media. Chasing down stories, staying atop breaking news -- and this weekend there was plenty of that -- and trying to keep fans around the world up to speed on the action at O'Reilly Raceway Park can be a trying endeavor, but one with great rewards.

While we’re all a little sad to see it end, like the racers themselves, we’re eager to get back to our families, many of whom haven’t seen us for a week, and to recharge out batteries for the final stretch run to the 2006 NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series world championships.

If you’re just finding this blog, be sure to work your way back to the start and find all of the numerous posts in chronological order, or, if you’re a return visitor, enjoy our final posts and maybe relive some of the earlier ones.

The National DRAGSTER staff extends its sincerest congratulations to this year’s champions -- Tony Schumacher, Robert Hight, Greg Anderson, Matt Smith, Bill Reichert, Frank Manzo, Glen Treadwell, Mark Faul, Dan Fletcher, Heather Robilotto, Iggie Boicesco, Brad Personett, and Joshua Hernandez – and looks forward to sharing their stories with you in print over the next few weeks in National DRAGSTER.

Again, thanks for coming, and thanks for your support of NHRA Drag Racing.

Monday, September 04, 2006

My 25 years of attending the U.S. Nationals

Just after the completion of Monday's semifinal rounds, I responded to an exercise in curiosity and added up the number of times I’ve attended the U.S. Nationals. Much to my surprise, I came up with an even 25, beginning with my first visit to the granddaddy of all NHRA national events in 1967. Obviously, there were several races that I missed over the course of the years, but I can honestly say that I was on hand to witness many of Indy’s most memorable moments.

Not unexpectedly, the year that stands out the most in my memories was that first event in 1967, where I saw Don Garlits break into the sixes to win the final round over James Warren, which allowed him to shave the beard that he said he would continue to grow until he broke that magic barrier. At the same race, I also witnessed Jack Chrisman’s ’67 Comet clock a 7.60 at a time when the top Funny Cars were running 8.00s, and saw Doug Thorley win the Funny Car eliminator title with a genuine Chevy-powered Corvair.

Other memories that stick out include Don Prudhomme’s victory in 1970 over Jim Nicoll, whose car was cut in half by a finish-line clutch explosion, and of course Steve Carbone’s huge upset win over Don Garlits in the 1971 final after their legendary starting-line burndown, along with the first of Bob Glidden’s many Pro Stock wins at Indy in 1973.

In later years, there were Frank Iaconio’s final-round win over Glidden in the first year of the 500-cid Pro Stockers in 1982, Kenny Bernstein’s historic double victory in the Funny Car shootout and Monday’s regular eliminations, Garlits’ “comeback” victory in Top Fuel in 1984, and many others.

One might think that after having been to so many of these events that the excitement and glamour of this race would begin to wear thin, but I can assure you that this is not the case. The 2006 event has simply been nothing short of spectacular, what with the quickest fields in event history in both Top Fuel and Funny Car and spectacular racing with more than the usual quota of holeshots and upsets in Pro Stock and Pro Stock Motorcycle.

I often talk to the racers and ask them if NHRA’s current 23-event schedule has diluted the impact of the U.S. Nationals over the years, and the unanimous response is absolutely not. No matter how great their career achievements have been in other races, they all agree that there is nothing like winning the U.S. Nationals. And from the viewpoint of a reporter and a fan, I wholeheartedly concur.

Monday, September 04, 2006

Vinny's wild weekend

Comp racer Vinny Barone is a former national champ and one of the most animated characters in all of Sportsman racing. In his 30-plus years of racing, Barone has seen it all, but at Indy, he was the star attraction in a couple of bizarre races that almost defy description.

Barone had little trouble in qualifying as he put his record-holding A/Street Roadster into the top half of the highly competitive 64-car field. In round one, Barone got what he thought was a freebie when opponent Don Wingert left a red-light glowing on the starting line. Not wanting to risk hurting his index, Barone coasted downtrack but inadvertently crossed the centerline to take an early turnoff.

Barone was shocked to learn that he had been disqualified for crossing the centerline and immediately headed for the timing tower to plead his case. Once it was revealed that a top-end worker had directed Barone to take the early turnoff, he was reinstated and began to prepare for round two.

The second round featured a similar result as Barone got loose and shut off, watching as three-time NHRA champ David Rampy took an apparent victory. A short time later, Barone got another reprieve as the race was rerun due to oil on the racing surface. On the second try, the outcome was reversed as the normally rock-steady Rampy was counted out on the starting line for apparently taking too long to stage.

Barone defeated former Indy Super Stock champ Doug Lambeck in round three, but his wild ride finally ended in the quarterfinals when he lost to low qualifier Bo Butner’s amazing AA/SM Cavalier. Barone had a .003 light and ran a 7.87 on his 8.46 index, but it wasn’t nearly enough.

“I’ve been in some wild races, but I’ve never seen anything like this,” said Barone. “It was crazy. I knew I had a good light against Bo, but that car is just too darn fast. There wasn’t much I could do.”

Monday, September 04, 2006

TAD’s Indy oddity continues

One of the oddest stats surrounding the Mac Tools U.S. Nationals has to be the fact that there has only been one repeat winner in Top Alcohol Dragster since the alcohol dragsters and alcohol Funny Cars were separated in 1981. Rick Santos, who won in 1993 and 1999, is the only driver to repeat in the class, and the trend of first-time winners will continue this year. Garrett Bateman, Noah Condo, Randy Meyer, and Bill Reichert are the final four TAD competitors in this year’s contest, and none have won in Indy. This tradition of first-time winners becomes especially intriguing when you compare it to the Top Alcohol Funny Car class. Five flopper drivers have won Indy two times or more, and three have won three or more: Frank Manzo (seven), Pat Austin (five), and Brad Anderson (three).

Monday, September 04, 2006

Backstage 'speed dating'

You’ve all heard about “speed dating,” that phenomenon where singles gather and spend a precise five minutes each with potential dates, trying to learn all about their tablemates? Well, sometimes backstage during the pre-race ceremony feels a lot like the same thing. With all 16 qualifiers from all four Pro classes gathered behind the stage, there’s a lot of talent per square foot, and it’s kind of fun to see how many hands you can shake and how many “How ya doings?" you can fit into the time before the racers are called class by class for their introductions. There’s simply not enough time. You do some head-nod acknowledgements, shake a few hands, and maybe snag a little quality face time with a few others.

John Force had kind of distanced himself from the throngs and was pacing around getting his game face on; curiously absent were the ubiquitous Driving Force cameras that have shadowed his every move this season. Force told me that he told the producers that Indy is so important to him and his team that he had to send them packing. As Force told us yesterday in the pressroom during his low-qualifier interview, “The sponsors love the Hollywood thing and all that, but our job is to win races.”

I checked in quickly with bloggers Dave Grubnic and Hillary Will, the former of whom apologized for his recent lack of blog activity – “I’ll get you a new one as soon as I get back home,” he promised – and the latter who shared details about her crazy schedule over the last month that included the back-to-back events in Brainerd and Memphis, Indy testing, and an IHRA national event at Norwalk, which she won.

I welcomed the NHRA VIP Members of the Race, 15-year NHRA members Charlie and Nancy Brock of Mattawan, Mich. (who, as part of their reward, were hustling around getting autographs from the stars), chatted with a few team publicists – Todd Myers of Kalitta Racing, Bob Wilber (resplendent in Murray’s yellow instead of his normal Checker Schuck’s Kragen red as he cheered on Phil Burkart Jr. in DNQ’d Del’s stead), and Snake Racing’s Ted Yerzyk (who said that T.J. took solace in yesterday’s Skoal Showdown final-round loss because the car is running so well now) – and then spied Whit Bazemore and Larry Dixon in deep conference.

I congratulated Dixon on the arrival last night of his new son, Darien Lukas (gee, wonder who he’s named after). Naturally, most racers’ kids are born nine months from the off-season. The child is the third for Larry and wife Ali, but, as Dixon said, “Once you’ve got one, what’s a couple more? Just ask Don Schumacher.” By the way, longtime Dixon friend Steve Johnson – they met street racing in SoCal years ago, along with Karen and Gary Stoffer – is the new baby's godfather. Steve "the Godfather" Johnson – I like it.

I caught up to Whit a little later and asked him what he thought about Kenny Bernstein’s return to the sport and if he was excited about the prospect of being able to race the Bud King (now "the Monster Monarch"?) in Funny Car. Bazemore was just in his earliest Funny Car days when Bernstein was in his final year of competition in 1989 and never raced him in official NHRA competition. This, of course, was only a roundabout way of probing Whit to find out if he’ll be in a Matco Top Fueler for David Powers next year. Whit played it close to the vest and didn’t really reveal much – neither confirming nor denying but admitting that it would be a wonderful opportunity – but also wanted to acknowledge that a lot of Internet talk about his poor relationship with Don Schumacher just isn’t right. “You don’t work for six years for someone and not have a good relationship,” he said. “People really just don’t understand.”

Then it was quick hello handshakes to the double Dougs – Kalitta and Herbert – who were probably talking about flying or something, and before long most of the drivers had been funneled one by one to the backstage steps for their introductions (and yet another “stage dive” by Ron Capps), the pre-race festivities completed, and it was time to begin crowning some champs at this year’s Big Go.

Monday, September 04, 2006

What a way to start

After three exciting days of qualifying, in which the quickest Top Fuel and Funny Car fields in history were set, eliminations began today at the Mac Tools U.S. Nationals, and the first round certainly didn't disappoint. With this being Indy, everyone expects stunning runs and big upsets, but I think few could have predicted the craziness that was the first round at this year’s Big Go. Who could have predicted that current Top Fuel points leader Doug Kalitta, who has been absolutely stellar on the Tree this year, would lose to David Baca on a holeshot?

But that was just the beginning. Things got absolutely nuts in Funny Car. John Force, who won the Skoal Showdown yesterday and looked to be in good shape today with cloud cover and cool weather, red-lighted for the first time this year. The champ was definitely not happy with the outcome. In a statement in the press center, an animated Force told the media, “I had the best car today, and I failed. This is Indy, and you don’t screw up out here. I’m the best there is, and I forgot how to race today.” I’m sure Force isn’t the only racer kicking himself because a number of other races left jaws dropping. Force’s teammate Eric Medlen lost on a holeshot to Cruz Pedregon, reigning Funny Car world champion Gary Scelzi lost on a holeshot to Phil Burkart Jr., and Tommy Johnson Jr., whose car has been very strong recently, lost in a haze of tire smoke to Scott Kalitta.

The drama continued in Pro Stock. How about red-lights by Mike Edwards and Warren Johnson? Or a holeshot win by Steve Schmidt over Kurt Johnson? And a .002 light for V. Gaines … who’d a thunk it?

Though things seemed to mellow slightly in Pro Stock Motorcycle, the two-wheel contingent also had some interesting happenings. GT Tonglet and Matt Guidera fell to red-lights, and part-timer Paul Gast beat defending Indy champ Steve Johnson to advance.

What an unbelievable start, and it certainly bodes well for another great Indy finish.

Monday, September 04, 2006

About last night

Last night’s rerun of the final four pair of Comp’s second round caught a lot of people by surprise, especially those who thought their U.S. Nationals was over. The problem began when Bruno Massel’s WyoTech-sponsored DD/AT entry split the oil pan in a losing effort. In succession, Steve Ambrose, David Billingsley, Vinny Barone, and Doug Stewart all got loose and lost but, being good sports, pointed no fingers. Ambrose, who won this race in 1988, whose roadster is probably the lightest, also probably got closest to crashing but masterfully avoided disaster. Talking to all four in the staging lanes prior to the rerun, all expressed concern for their rides at some point in their run.

Needless to say, none of the four originally crowned winners – Joey Tanksley, Lee Zane, David Rampy, and Jeg Coughlin – was thrilled with the “do over,” but everyone saddled up and had at it in a quartet of matches that involved a former Indy champ in each pairing.

Tanksley probably was at the biggest disadvantage with the cooling track and his powerful C/D, and there were long faces on his crew after they heat-checked his tires as he rolled into stage. “Too cold,” mouthed one of the crewmembers, and, sure enough, Tanksley spun his way to defeat against Ambrose.

Zane, winner two weeks ago in Memphis, then again defeated ’94 Indy champ Billingsley on a holeshot, .55 under to .56 under, to set up the most bizarre match of the four. Barone, a two-time Indy runner-up, staged his A/SR and waited for three-time U.S. Nationals winner Rampy … and waited … and waited. The normally machine-like Rampy was still inching his way into the stage beams when the red-light came on in his lane after he apparently exceeded the time limit for staging. Barone’s crew cheered, Rampy took the short turnoff at 100 feet and sat in his car, idling, for a few seconds, as if contemplating his next move, before driving back up the return road in disgust and disbelief.

Finally, three-time Indy winner Coughlin, who had to race back to his car after being eliminated in the round of Super Stock run in front of the Comp cars, reaffirmed his earlier victory with a wire-to-wire win over Stewart to end one of the wackiest rounds in Comp history.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Hallowed ground

The Professional and Sportsman champions from the 52nd annual Mac Tools U.S. Nationals will be honored Monday afternoon in an exciting winner’s circle celebration in front of the Parks Tower. However, for racers in Super Stock and Stock, another piece of asphalt at O’Reilly Raceway Park is equally as sacred.

Just beyond the finish line is another winner’s circle, where Super Stock and Stock drivers who have won their respective classes receive their NHRA Wally trophies and have their photos taken for an upcoming issue of National DRAGSTER. For more than three decades, photographer Eric Brooks has been capturing images of happy racers as they accept their hard-earned awards.

“I’ve been trying to win class at this race for nearly 20 years, and I finally got it done this time,” said Super Stock racer Ron Morehead, who claimed the title in GT/EA with his '82 Camaro. “I’ve won class at other races, but this is extra special because it’s Indy. There’s nothing like pulling into that [winner’s circle] and getting your picture taken. It makes all the hard work we do on these cars worthwhile.”

It’s highly likely that the 100 or so other drivers who collected class wins at Indy will agree with Morehead.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Powers' model home

David Powers – former 1970s Top Fuel/Funny Car racer, owner of Rod Fuller’s Lee Beard-tuned Valvoline-backed dragster, and multimillionaire Houston-area home builder - has a new trailer at the event. It’s a hospitality trailer unlike any other, but one that you would expect from a home builder. Unlike other custom trailers in the pits, this one makes extensive use of various kinds of wood, instead of man-made materials. It has wood floors, wood paneled walls, and wood cabinetry of various types and colors to accent the earth tones of the Naugahyde upholstery. It has a huge kitchen at the front with full-size appliances, a sitting room with bedroom in the middle, and a large conference/meeting room at the rear. The front and rear rooms are on different levels. All the ceilings are mirrored to give an effect of more room. It’s the last trailer the late Sam Harris built before his recent death in a traffic accident.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Where there's smoke ... there's lost e.t.

Here’s one of the weirdest things I’ve ever heard about Indy (and when you’ve been coming to Indy for more than 20 years, you’ve heard some really weird things). I was chatting with Barry Davis, super crew chief for David Rampy, and Super-class hitter Sherman Adcock Jr. We were discussing the Sportsman-heavy schedule for the end of the day – two rounds of Comp and Super Comp, the first rounds of Top Alcohol Dragster and Top Alcohol Funny Car, the fourth session for Pro RWD, as well as single rounds for Super Stock and Super Gas that follow the final Pro session – and Adcock was talking about the adjustments teams have to make to their entries to make sure they hit the dial-unders and/or indexes.

Apparently, savvy racers competing in the first rounds of Sportsman competition following the last Pro session realize that their rides are going to lose two-hundredths in performance (Rampy estimated that sometimes it’s as much as five-hundredths) due to – are you ready? – campground smoke.

Apparently, as the last fuel cars have cleared the ORP quarter-mile, the fans flock back to the neighboring campgrounds and fire up their campfires. The pall of smoke descends on the racetrack and cuts down the amount of oxygen in the air as its settles over the quarter-mile. Depending on the wind/pressure conditions, the smoke can either clear or linger through several classes of competition. Who knew?

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Hey, isn’t that Peyton Manning?

Every year, the Mac Tools U.S. Nationals draws a celebrity crowd to check out the world’s fastest motorsport. Last year, actress Sandra Bullock and husband Jesse James attracted a lot of attention when they were on the starting line with Doug Kalitta’s Mac Tools team. This year’s celebrity buzz kicked into high gear when Indianapolis Colts quarterback Peyton Manning took in the sights and sounds of NHRA POWERade Drag Racing today. Manning, a guest of Forrest, Charlotte, and Morgan Lucas, watched Top Fuel qualifying from some of the best viewing spots on the property – first in the photo area on the left side of the track – then moving to the starting line, where he stood between the 7,000-horsepower beasts. Lucas Oil secured naming rights for the Colts’ new football stadium, and Morgan Lucas is running a Lucas Oil Stadium paint scheme at this year’s U.S. Nationals. The U.S. Nationals is the first drag race Manning has ever attended. Word from those who watched at the starting line with Manning is that the allstar quarterback was impressed with what he saw, uttering the word "Wow" as he covered his ears.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Wheeling and dealing

One quality that I admire about drag racers is their resourcefulness. When plans change with more finances needed to accommodate them, drag racers usually seem to find a way to make things happen.

Take Brian Hough (pictured). Hough, from Junction City, Ore., races a limited national event schedule but suddenly finds himself in contention for the Top Alcohol Funny Car championship after wins at three division races and the Schuck’s Auto Supply NHRA Nationals in Seattle. His partner, father-in-law/former Pro Comp driver Jerry Goddard, isn’t able to afford to support additional races to Hough’s schedule, so Hough called on some friends to help him make the trip to Indy. With $2,500 here and a few thousand there, he is here competing with the best of the best. He received help from John Hillier (G&B Real Estate Services), Steve and Nancy Phillips (Bright Oak Properties), and Jack Goanlatt (Truck-Trailer Sales), whose companies are bannered on his car along with valve spring manufacturer Ti-XP and GRP rods. Hough is qualified No. 9 and will face great TAFC veteran Danny Townsend in the first round.

Speaking of Townsend, the VIP Sports TAFC team is expecting to deliver the first Dodge Charger alcohol body next Thursday. Crew chief Frank Parker, who owns the car with father Dan, says that he will officially debut the body at the PRI Show during the off-season. The engineers at Mopar have worked hard to take the Charger design that is used on the race cars of Funny Car drivers Gary Scelzi, Ron Capps, Whit Bazemore, and Mike Ashley and make changes, particularly on the rear deck of the car, to optimize it for the speeds at which it will be used in the alcohol ranks. Roush Composites is manufacturing the bodies, and they should provide ample competition for the Chevrolet Monte Carlos and Ford Mustangs that are being produced for the class. Parker is also excited that his sponsors will be back for another season.

The cutoff for those in the TAFC field was an impressive 5.74, and their dragster counterparts performed well, too, with a 16-car field that ended with a 5.48. Of the 24 TAD racers in attendance, five receive major sponsorship from Torco Racing Fuels, and two will race each other in the first round: Dave Heitzman and Dave Hirata.

“Dyno” Dave Heitzman is new to the Top Alcohol Dragster class this year. He made a career-best pass in the first round of qualifying with a 5.33. I asked him how he got the nickname “Dyno.” Apparently, he raced four-wheelers professionally 22 years ago when he worked in a shop where it was frequently asked if a dyno was available. Heitzman’s boss was on the phone with one such individual one day when he said “yes” and promptly informed Heitzman, “You’re ‘Dyno Dave’ from now on,” and the name stuck.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Benza thrilled with Indy qualifying performance

Bob Benza is the type of racer who competes for the love of the sport. His passion for Pro Stock racing has been kept alive despite the fact that he hasn’t qualified for a national event in several seasons, and so you can imagine his delight after his ’06 Cobalt jumped up to the No. 13 position with a 6.707 in Sunday morning’s first Pro Stock session.

Said Benza, “I know that we don’t have the resources to beat out teams like Greg Anderson or Warren Johnson for the NHRA championship, but I really enjoy racing, just being out there with the other competitors. I think the last race I qualified for was in Brainerd in 2000, or maybe it was 1999. But to finally get back into the show again is great, and to do it at the U.S. Nationals is extra special. I was runner-up in Comp at this race in 1987, so Indy will always be the biggest event on the NHRA POWERade schedule for me."

Benza, who had most recently been using engines built by Tom Martino, ran a Richard Maskin/Bob Glidden engine this weekend. Said Martino, who recently signed on as the driver for the Maskin-Glidden Torco Oils ’06 GTO, “Tommy told me that he had a commitment to Bob when we began our discussions, so part of the deal was to let Bob use one of our engines. That would assure that Bob would have plenty of power and that Tommy could focus on his role as our driver.”

Said Benza, “We still have this afternoon’s session to go, but I think that we have a good chance of staying in the field. There are several strong cars that are out of the field right now, but hopefully we ran well enough to make sure that we’ll need a wake-up call for Monday’s eliminations.”

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Seldom-seen Cowin is quick

Andrew Cowin, in the Serta Perfect Sleeper-backed dragster tuned by Lance Larsen, looked good after the first two sessions with times of 4.580 and 4.572, both at more than 320 mph. Indy marks only the fifth race for the Scott Griffin-owned team, and Larsen, who left the Werner Enterprises team earlier this year, has only been tuning the car for the last several races. Cowin, the 1999 Mac Tools U.S. Nationals runner-up in his father’s dragster, has known Larsen since his 1981 NHRA Top Fuel championship season with Jeb Allen when they toured Australia that year. The car is the same car that Cowin drove in 2002 for Darrell Gwynn when it carried N.Y. Yankees livery. Cowin, a native Australian who now lives in Wilmington, N.C., noted that he loves John Force’s new Driving Force reality show on A&E. “John Force is my hero,” Cowin said.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Continuing to write his own story

Former National DRAGSTER staff member Todd Veney – who still writes for drag racing’s leading newsweekly on a contract basis – is competing in his fifth Mac Tools U.S. Nationals with his self-financed Alcohol Funny Car. Tuned by his famous father, Ken, himself a former Indy Alcohol Funny Car champ (1981), and wrenched by Todd and Tyler Doyle, Todd’s Monte Carlo opened its 2006 Indy account with a get-acquainted 5.75 before stepping up to a 5.68 at 254.28 – just shy of his 5.67 personal best – on Saturday. Interestingly enough, Todd’s run came in the same lane and at the same approximate speed that his father set the national speed record in fuel Funny Car at Indy in 1982 (Todd gets bragging rights over dad’s 254.23).

The Veneys’ third and final attempt earlier this morning with their unpainted new Monte Carlo-bodied ride was a swing-for-the-fences attempt to improve their already-in-the-field position with a little more clutch and adjustments to the ignition and fuel systems. It ended just off the line in tire shake – “It was either going to haul ass or not make it,” said Todd with a smirk, echoing the oft-heard quote told regularly to ND reporters – leaving Indianapolis resident Todd 11th and setting up a first-round date with former SoCal neighbor Steve Gasparrelli.

Ken, though pleased with the car’s performance, admits they could use a little better pre-330-feet performance but don’t have a different 1st gear to put into the transmission. Gasparrelli ran 5.65 on his last pass, well within reach of the Veneys’ performance and Todd’s noted starting-line skills, a combo that they hope will earn Todd his first Indy round-win.

Ken, meanwhile, continues to enjoy tremendous success on the tractor-pulling circuit with his three-engine Funny Farmall entry, which sports a trio of 557-cid Alcohol Funny Car-like engines in a homebuilt entry made to resemble a Farmall 1066 tractor. Veney, who competes in the Modified class, trying to drag 50,000-plus pounds down the track against not only four-engine foes but jet- and turbine-equipped ones as well, is locked in a tight points battle on the National Tractor Pullers Association tour. He’s won innumerable event titles despite not traditionally chasing points.

On the NHRA side, pop Veney’s record is still impressive: 13 wins in 23 final-round appearances. Todd owns three final-round appearances – in Memphis in 2000, where he was runner-up to Chuck Cheeseman; in Bristol 2001, where he lost to Steve Harker; and in Gainesville in 2002, where he finished behind Frank Manzo – and, as Todd good-naturedly points out, “Between my dad and me, we have 13 national event wins.”

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