Championship Drag Racing

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

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Monday, September 03, 2007

The finals ... and the final entry

The air is always electric at Indy as the finalists pull into the staging lanes, and that feeling runs all the way from Super Gas through Top Fuel. Everyone that's still on the grounds jockeys for the best view, whether it's the fans in the stands rising to their feet or the hordes on the starting line jostling one another to see who gets the most prized Wallys of the season.

And the finals are always worth the price of admission alone (and believe it or not, there are a handful of people each year who show up only to see the finals and pay the full Monday ticket price to do so). From watching Stock winner Peter Biondo live up to his "Terminator" nickname with a .009 light to win his sixth Indy title –- two each in Super Comp, Stock, and Super Stock -– to seeing Brandon Wilkinson win his first in Super Stock with a better-yet .001 light just got us started.

Andrew Thomas survived the math to win a tight double-breakout Super Gas final while Pat Fitzpatrick took down world champ Ron Erks for the Super Comp glory.

Evan Knoll couldn’t lose the Alcohol Dragster final as Marty Thacker is sponsored by his Torco company and Dave Hirata by his Skull Shine line, and the two waged a classic blown alcohol versus A/Fuel final that went to Thacker and the blown car. The amazing Frank Manzo won his ninth career title in Alcohol Funny Car, tying him with Bob Glidden for the most wins in U.S. Nationals history, downing the pesky Bob Tasca III.

Scotty Richardson, previously a winner at Indy in Super Stock, Stock, and Super Comp, lost his bid to become the race's first four-class winner when Jason Coan bested him in the Comp final and Josh Hernandez proved human again in Pro Mod as the early season dominator lost a close final to Harold Laird's Corvette to set up the Pro finals.

I crept around the starting line trying for some winner reaction photos, and my luck was about as good as Chief Starter Rick Stewart's pre-final predictions (see "Starter Sez," below). I got to see Matt Smith's team bow their heads in disbelief when he triggered the red-light and, looking across the A-board, got to see Harry Lartigue's team celebrating Craig Treble's win, and Harry doing the winner's interview with ESPN's Dave Rieff.

I had spent a very pleasant 10 minutes chatting with Ken Black prior to the Pro finals, and he was quietly confident that Greg Anderson would make history and win his fifth straight Indy Pro Stock title while graciously acknowledging how tough the Cagnzazzi team is and the depths of his admiration for what Victor Cagnazzi has accomplished.

I slid over to Anderson's side of the track and trained my camera on Black as the cars left the starting line. Swiveling my head back and forth between Black and the cars racing down the track, I saw Black turn away from the track before the win lights even triggered, a tell-tale wiggle of the Summit Pontiac his early cue that they would go home empty-handed. True to his word, he sought out Cagnazzi through the throngs to offer him a hearty congratulatory handshake.

I also had spent a few minutes with John Force before the final, and he expressed concern about Indy's notoriously tricky right lane, even though I assured him that both Thacker and Manzo had won out of that lane. Again I guessed wrong, pointing my camera at the losing team (man, am I a jinx or what?) and they turned around quickly into the final as Hight's mount faltered. Across the A-board, an emotional celebration erupted in the Mike Ashley camp and they celebrated and honored the memory of Eric Blake Faulkner.

Finally, Top Fuel at Indy. If you read the blog I wrote way back on Thursday, you know how I feel about this one round of racing. It's everything to the drag racing world. Schumacher was gunning to join the first short list of drivers (10) with six or more wins at Indy and Dixon looking to win his fourth Indy title. With the smart money on Schumacher, I focused on crew chief Alan Johnson with one eye and the track with the other, and the Army car ran away with the win. It was Schumacher's fifth win in the last six years at Indy, an amazing feat.

All that was left to do was congratulate the winners, wrap up the balance of our reporting, and pen this final installment of the third ND Staff Blog. I hope you've enjoyed the variety of stories the staff has presented over the last four days, stuff you might not read anywhere else told in a fashion you won't find anywhere else. I'm proud of my team for their creative efforts. I hope you enjoyed reading this as much as we all enjoyed bringing it to you, and that you'll join us again next year. Same place, same time.

Monday, September 03, 2007

Coulda, Woulda, Shoulda

Ron Capps didn’t like losing the final round of yesterday’s Skoal Showdown, even if it was to Don Schumacher Racing teammate Jack Beckman, and he really didn’t like losing to Kenny Bernstein in round one today. Losing is bad enough, but losing on a holeshot is about as bad as it gets.

“Man, it hurts bad right now,” said Capps after his Showdown loss. “I’m happy as heck for Don [Schumacher] and those guys on the [Mail Terminal Services] team. That’s a good bunch of guys. But when you get that far and lose it’s like somebody punched you in the stomach.”

Bernstein then delivered the knockout blow with a 4.92 to 4.87 holeshot victory. Bernstein cut a .045 light against Capps’ .097. It is the second holeshot loss in as many races for Capps, who was victimized by Tony Pedregon in round two in Reading. What’s more, Capps will leave Indy without the POWERade points lead, which he had held for the last 14 events.

“I wanted to throw up on the return road on the way back,” said Capps. “I felt so confident this morning that we were gong to have a great day, and we should have. The car ran great, and that’s why it’s so disappointing. It would have given us lane choice for the second round [against new points leader Robert Hight]. I have to fix whatever is wrong. I really thought I had a good light. With the way I was staged I felt like it wasn’t a bad light.

“For a long time we’ve been the points leader and right now we’re not,” added Capps. “It’s down to the next three races and we’re going to have to go to Memphis with a full head of steam. We’re staying to test here tomorrow with a brand-new car. We’re going to make two runs and we may run it in Memphis, it just depends on how it goes.”

Monday, September 03, 2007

Starter sez ...

For four straight days he's been showered with their rubber, inhaled their nitro, and covered in their clutch dust, so who better to handicap the Pro finalists of the 53rd annual Mac Tools U.S. Nationals than Chief Starter Rick Stewart?

I took a quick run down to the line where Stewart was taking a brief timeout during the pre-final-round festivities, resting his rubber-speckled frame on a folding chair in the center of the two lanes where, in just a few minutes, eight racers will run the most important final of the year if not their career.

In Top Fuel, Stewart's going with Tony Schumacher; "his crew chief [Alan Johnson] just has so much experience and knows how to win here," he said. In Funny Car, Stewart gives the nod to Robert Hight. "That's going to be a good one and I know both are really motivated, but I have to think that Robert is really motivated to win this one for John [Force, team owner] to make up for John not qualifying," he assessed.

In Pro Stock, Stewart is favoring Greg Anderson to become the first driver to win five straight U.S. Nationals titles and is picking Matt Smith over Craig Treble in the Pro Stock Motorcycle final in what he expects will be another "good ol' drag race."

Monday, September 03, 2007

Random Indy thoughts and observations

The Mac Tools U.S. Nationals always provides plenty of interesting things about which to talk, and with eliminations winding down, my mind is racing as I process the many different things I’ve seen throughout the weekend and today in particular. The hot topic at the track right now is the return of Shirley Muldowney, who confirmed this weekend she was working on creating a Top Fuel team with Division 1 Top Alcohol Dragster racer Sheila Kopchick (pictured below) as the driver. This confirmation set off a firestorm of discussion on message boards and in the pits of O’Reilly Raceway Park at Indianapolis. As I cruised the pits between rounds earlier today, I ran into Muldowney and Kopchick sitting together on a golf cart outside Doug Herbert’s pits. Both were signing autographs for fans, and when there was no longer a line for Kopchick’s signature, Muldowney quipped something to the effect that Kopchick should be prepared for longer lines in the future. I briefly talked with Kopchick, congratulating her on the new gig, before departing.

Kopchick’s current class, TAD, continues to provide one of the oddest stats surrounding the Mac Tools U.S. Nationals. Since the alcohol dragsters and alcohol Funny Cars were separated in 1981, only one driver, Rick Santos, has won Indy in TAD more than once. That trend will continue this year with either Dave Hirata or Marty Thacker adding their name to the roster of winners. The continuation of the statistical oddity was actually guaranteed after yesterday’s first round because all eight drivers who advanced — Hirata, Thacker, Spencer Massey, Noah Condo, Todd Datweiler, Aaron Olivarez, Jeff Bohr, and Ken Perry — had never won the most prestigious race of the year. By comparison, Top Alcohol Funny Car has produced five multi-Indy winners.

Though I try to stay as impartial as possible while covering events, in the back of my mind I always have favorites, whether it’s drivers I’d like to see for various reasons or paint schemes I like most. This year, I have to admit that one of my favorite special paint schemes is that of Mike Ashley. Not only is it raising awareness for a good cause (the Eric Blake Faulkner Foundation), but it is just nice looking (as are the crew uniforms). One of the things about the car that caught my eye was the handprints, and that prominent feature also peaked my curiosity about whether artist Chip Foose traced someone’s hands for it or just freehanded it. I’m told the handprints were traced, but I was unable to find out exactly who was the hand model.

Monday, September 03, 2007

A strange dichotomy

Standing near the starting line watching the first round of eliminations this morning, the tension was so thick you could smell it… or was that nitro in the air? It had to be mixture of both: adrenaline-laced tension with more than a hint of nitromethane. I was watching the crew members as each team accompanied their car and driver to the starting line, backing up the car after the burnout, hurriedly wiping at the tires of the fuel cars, and making last minute adjustments and checks before standing back in support and anticipation. It got me to thinking about how different the atmosphere surrounding the car and driver is before the run in comparison to how it is once the pass is behind them.

I was lucky enough to tag along with Jerry Foss, a top notch photographer for ND (he’s also the Assistant Photo Editor), to the top end a couple of days ago for a few qualifying rounds. Once you get away from the excitement of the starting line and the grandstands packed with fans, it’s eerily quiet here at O’Reilly Raceway Park. You can hear the burnouts in the distance, but you feel so removed from the action. By the time the drivers come around the bend and emerge from their cars, it looks like the adrenaline rush is winding down for most, although the first thing the majority of them ask is, “What’d I go?” Whether they won or lost, most of the drivers seem to have a sense of relief. With the run behind them, the gears are set in motion to move on to whatever is next, another round or another race on another day. While there isn’t much smiling at the starting line where everyone is completely focused, anxious to see if their efforts will be more successful than that of their opponent, at the top end everyone begins to relax and lighten up. At least for a little while.

Monday, September 03, 2007

The other Prock Rocket

Robert Hight’s Auto Club-backed Ford Funny Car is often referred to as the Prock Rocket due to the tuning prowess of crew chief Jimmy Prock, who has tuned the Team Force driver to 21 low qualifier awards in just 63 career starts.

Now, Hector Arana’s Lucas Oil Buell might just as easily be called “the other Prock Rocket” thanks to the efforts of Jimmy’s brother, Jeff, who brought his fuel injection and clutch tuning expertise to Arana’s Pro Stock Motorcycle team earlier this year.

“He started helping me in April; about the time we went to Atlanta and we’ve been running great ever since,” said Arana. “Now, I’ve adopted him.”

Jeff Prock, the son of 1970s Funny Car star Tom Prock, previously worked for Top Fuel racers Joe Amato and Gary Clapshaw, but enjoys the unique challenge of tuning a 6-second, two-wheeled Pro Stocker.

“An engine is an engine and a clutch is a clutch, the only difference is that one has eight cylinders and the other has two,” said Prock. “Oh, and the bike doesn’t burn nitro which means it takes a lot less work to keep it running. I liked working on nitro cars, but I’ve been there and done that. I wanted to do something different and Hector is a great guy to work with. We’re having a lot of fun.”

After qualifying second at this week’s Mac Tools U.S. Nationals with a strong 6.95, Arana posted a pair of 7.04 runs to beat Mike Berry and Steve Johnson before falling to Craig Treble’s Suzuki.

Monday, September 03, 2007

There’s always the unexpected…

The first two rounds of Pro Stock competition proved once again why the winners are not determined by the ladder sheets. Pairings that look like “done deals” can often result in major upsets, and that happened again this year at Indy.

For example, Jeg Coughlin was a heavy favorite in his first-round match-up against Greg Anderson with Anderson’s struggles in qualifying and his loss of lane choice stacking up the odds in Jeggie’s favor. But Anderson, not normally known for his starting line expertise, jumped to a .014 to .062 reaction-time lead over Coughlin, and even though his transmission kicked out of third gear on the run and slowed his Summit Racing Pontiac to a 6.738, it was enough to hold off the Chevy Cobalt, which slowed to a losing 7.073 at 157.80 mph.

Larry Morgan had the favored left lane against Kenny Koretsky in the first round, but got badly out of shape and suffered a 6.764 to 6.947 loss. And, in round two, the heavily-favored Jim Yates was a surprise loser when his rear end broke off the line, allowing Koretsky to win despite a troubled time of 7.379, 170.23.

With two rounds to go, there may be more upsets to materialize as the remaining racers left in competition go all-out to win the most prestigious national event of them all.

Monday, September 03, 2007

Like a day without …

It's like the MLB playoffs without the Yankees, the Masters without Tiger Woods, the E Street Band without Clarence Clemons, the Playboy Mansion without the Bunnies. Somehow, Monday at Indy without John Force just doesn't seem right. Sure, I know that he's missed qualifying for The Big Go before, most recently in 1984 but also in 1979, but that, as they say, was "a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away."

Not in the Austin Coil years has Force failed to make the field at Indy. Sure, it was tough enough to see him miss the field in Las Vegas earlier this year, snapping a streak that most of us thought would never be broken, but to see the sport's biggest star not in the lineup for the sport's biggest eliminations day is almost too hard to fathom.

Force was the ultimate good sport yesterday after just missing on his final attempt – which was the best run of that final session – congratulating Jon Capps, who had stood by nervously at the top end watching the run on a TV monitor, and turning the spotlight on his team drivers, daughter Ashley and son-in-law Robert Hight.

Force doesn't take failure lightly -- I remember him storming the media center last year after red-lighting in the first round to tell everyone who would listen what a no-driving SOB he was -- and missing Indy is probably killing him as much as it is the rest of us. The man loves his fans and his sponsors, and I'm pretty sure he'd take a red-hot poker in the eye rather than face the thought of letting any of them down.

When Force DNQ'd at Indy in 1984, it wasn't quite the shock it is today. After all, he was still three years away from his first of what is now 125 national event wins and six years from his first of 14 championships.

And, lest we forget, the headlines that year overshadowed Force a bit. It was the year that "Big Daddy" Don Garlits, with the aid of longtime friend Art Malone, made his triumphant return to Indy and, some may argue, helped save a class that was struggling with low car counts, Shirley Muldowney's horrible accident a few months earlier in Montreal and, just before that, a nasty wreck in Columbus that ended the driving career of popular Doug Kerhulas. That year's Indy also featured something now well taken for granted, the first $1 million purse in NHRA event history, and, of course, a huge upset win in Funny Car by Jim Head.

Monday, September 03, 2007

All I want this year is a Wally...

Several drag racing people get to have an event within an event as they celebrate personal milestones throughout the course of the Mac Tools U.S. Nationals, which I think is pretty cool. Imagine celebrating your 35th birthday by going through the lights at Indy at 4.52 seconds at 329 mph. That’s what Melanie Troxel got to do during the opening day of qualifying.

On Saturday, valvetrain engineer Noel Manton of Manton Engineering celebrated his milestone 60th birthday at the racetrack. The following day, Top Alcohol Funny Car great Frank Manzo celebrated his 55th birthday and ran — guess what? — a 5.55 in his win over another great veteran, Vern Moats, in the first round. Manzo also celebrates his wedding anniversary with wife Michele on the same day.

Today, Mike Edwards is shooting for a Pro Stock win as he reaches the half-century mark on his 50th birthday. Larry Dixon isn’t celebrating a birthday, but a Wally would be a great present for his now 1-year-old son Darien, whose cousin Cecily (Tony Pedregon's daughter) turns 8.

This coming week, Jim Head (Sept. 5), Kenny Bernstein (Sept. 6), Austin Coil (Sept. 8), and Geno Scali (Sept. 9), and Robert Hight’s soon-to-be-3-year-old daughter Autumn Danielle (Sept. 10) will all be another year older.

Monday, September 03, 2007

I love the smell of nitro in the morning ...

One of the great experiences for any fan at an NHRA national event is to stand behind the fuel cars as they fire up. Fans can take in the eye-stinging, nose-burning aroma that only a nitro engine can produce.

At exactly 9:30 this morning, in a made-for-TV moment, the vast majority of the 32 nitro teams who will contest today's first round fired their engines at once. With handheld cameras throughout the pits and a helicopter above, the action was covered from numerous angles to make up what should be a fun segment for today's ESPN2 coverage of final eliminations.

Standing atop Parks Tower looking back at the pits, I watched a green fog slowly lift above the trailers and settle like a bank of nitro smog. Breather masks were definitely the order of the day if you were cruising the pits.

Talk about a Cacklefest!

Sunday, September 02, 2007

Indy, the really big go

This won’t come as a big surprise to most of you, but the U.S. Nationals is a really, really big event. By whatever measuring stick one chooses to use – spectator attendance or racer participation – it is undoubtedly NHRA’s biggest event. I’d also point out that with time trials and qualifying beginning on Thursday and final eliminations completed on Monday, it is also NHRA’s longest event, but that’s only if you don’t count the recently completed Toyo Tires Nationals in Reading, which lasted almost a full week thanks in large part to a series of seemingly never ending rain showers.

When it comes to race cars, you’d be hard pressed to find a bigger or more diverse collection of high performance machines anywhere on earth. From Top Fuel through Stock eliminator, there are more than 900 entries on the grounds, and that doesn’t include the multitude of nostalgia vehicles that are on display at various locations or the fleet of vintage nitro-burners that participated in Saturday night’s amazing “Cacklefest” celebration. For the record, the largest class was Super Stock eliminator, which featured 179 entries, 29 of which were the crowd pleasing Dodges and Plymouths that participated in Friday’s Mopar Performance Hemi Challenge.

A total of 106 professional entries made qualifying attempts for this year’s Mac Tools U.S. Nationals, including 23 Top Fuel dragsters, 22 nitro Funny Cars, 33 Pro Stock cars, and 29 Pro Stock Motorcycles.

Finally, NHRA doesn’t release attendance figures so I can’t tell you exactly how many people are here but I’m certain that the number is huge. With four days of picture perfect weather and nary a cloud in sight, this place has been packed since Friday afternoon. I’ve heard it mentioned several times by people who should know that when all is said and done, this should be the second biggest event in NHRA history, trailing only the 50th anniversary Mac Tools U.S. Nationals held in 2004. It might be second, but I’m betting that it’s not by much

Sunday, September 02, 2007

Crew person for a morning

I will readily admit that when it comes to the mechanical side of things, I certainly am not an expert, but my understanding of that area got a big boost today when I was invited to be a crew member for the day on Kate Harker’s Top Alcohol Dragster team. The experience was simply amazing and a whole lot of fun. I have long admired the hard-working, dedicated guys and gals who service the cars with amazing precision and speed week in and week out, and my respect only grew as I watched and helped (or would that be got in the way of?) Harker’s crew.

This opportunity came about by sheer chance yesterday when fellow ND staffer Kelly and I attended the special breakfast with Shirley Muldowney (read more about that in Kelly’s blog from yesterday). Also, in attendance were Harker, her twin sister Diana, top-end specialist Tracie Beller, and clutch gal BJ Carr. Though females have come a long way in the sport (thank you, Shirley), seeing females crewing on a car seems to be rare, so as they introduced themselves to Shirley and the rest of the crowd, they certainly caught my attention. When all the festivities wrapped up, Kelly and I bumped into the girls, who informed me that the crew was in fact made up of all females except for crew chief Tom Conway. By the end of the conversation, the group had invited me to come learn their craft, an offer that I quickly accepted despite the fact that it would mean another early start for me today.

I arrived at the Harker pits at about 8 a.m. today, and Tracie quickly put me to work. I helped her with the spark plugs, then got the thrill of my life when she and Tom let me climb in the car. They needed someone to push in the clutch pedal so they could set the air gap in the clutch, and I was more than willing to assist. Me climbing in the car was pretty comical (though Tom and Tracie were very cool and didn’t laugh at me), but I will save that for the story that will appear in a future ND issue. It was definitely a perfect photo op, so Tracie and I posed for a picture taken by new ace photorgapher Tom Conway -- he tunes championship race cars and can take a picture ... is there anything this guy can't do?!?!?

From there, time flew as the team warmed the car up, made their final qualifying run of the day, and quickly returned to the pits to begin servicing the car in preparation for the first round later today. I spent about four hours with the crew and learned so much that a couple of hours later as I write this my head’s still spinning. I’m not sure I’m quite ready to give up my day job and become a full-time crew member (nor am I sure I’m 100 percent ready), but I loved every moment of the experience and would certainly give it another try if given the opportunity. For now, though, I’ll settle for writing about it. I kept diligent notes throughout the experience and will have a story in a future issue of National DRAGSTER, so be sure to keep an eye out for that.

Sunday, September 02, 2007

Returning to the scene of the glory

In the "you never know who you're going to run into" category, on the way back from a quick barbecue pork sandwich and a stop at the Nitro Mall for some goodies for my new grandchild, I ran into nitro crew chief legend Bob Brandt.

Longtime fans will remember Brandt as Tonto to Don Prudhomme's Lone Ranger back in the 1970s as the duo ruled Funny Car racing from coast to coast, from national event tour to the match race trail. In a 17-year career with "the Snake" that ended in the mid-1980s, the duo won Indy four times (1970, '73, '74, and '77) and four world championships. Brandt also gets credit for Cruz Pedregon's back-to-back Funny Car wins here in 1994 and 1995, putting him among the elite crew chiefs of Indy success. Some might also remember he was instrumental in helping Don and Tony Schumacher get their fledgling Exide Batteries Top Fuel program off the ground in 1998. All told, Brandt has been part of 46 national event wins in various sanctioning bodies as crew chief with Prudhomme, Pedregon, Jim Epler, and Larry Minor. He also tuned for Paul Romine and Danielle DePorter, among others.

Brandt has spent the week visiting old friends, including Don and Lynn Prudhomme at "the Snake's" Brownsburg, Ind., shop, and although he said he wasn't necessarily cruising the pits for a job, but, like most people who have ever had nitro in the veins, would come back "for the right deal."

"I still love this," he said. "I have a lot of great memories here."

Sunday, September 02, 2007

A different point of view

On the way to the track this morning my editor had a brilliant idea. “You should go find Hillary Will and ask her if you can try on her fire suit,” said the ever-conceptualizing Mr. Phil Burgess. The idea definitely sounded like a fun idea for a blog, but I will admit that I felt a little shy asking her if I could don her racing attire. It wasn’t like I was asking her if I could borrow a pen; I was asking to put on the very suit that she wears when she’s behind the wheel of her Top Fuel dragster. Talk about up close and personal, right? As nice as I have always known Hillary to be (seriously, this young lady is exceedingly kind), I honestly wasn’t sure she’d go for it. But, to my extreme delight, she thought it was a cool idea and invited me up to her lounge. She pulled out the black fire suit, one of only two that she’s had since she’s been driving Top Fuel and explained that she doesn’t like to get rid of her gear until it’s totally necessary; it takes a long time to wear this stuff in and get it just right.

When she handed me the suit I realized how strong this girl must be. The suit alone, without the helmet and gloves and everything else, is pretty heavy, and I imagine that trying to walk around in it for any given amount of time would require some muscle. In addition to being pretty heavy, it’s also super thick (as you’d expect it to be, I’m sure), and the thickness of it means that it’s very, very hot. Not a comfy ensemble, for sure.

I also realized that Hillary is much smaller than I am. While I was holding up the suit and noting the weight of it, I thought, “Okay, I could probably get this thing over my legs, but there is no way I’m going to be able to zip it up.” I was right. I did step into it, though, and I was correct in my initial assumptions: It’s heavy and it’s hot, even when it’s only halfway on.

Hillary had the idea that I should try on the head sock and helmet, and she also brought out her gloves for me. As soon as I pulled the sock over my head, I had yet another realization: I could never have a career as a driver, because right away I couldn’t breathe (probably because it covers your nose and mouth, and there is just a small oval hole for your eyes). Hillary helped me put the helmet on, and she showed me how the sock gets pulled down over your shoulders before the fire suit gets zipped up over it. Then she put the squishy neck collar thing around the front of my neck and fastened it in back. We tried to attach the HANS device that goes on the back of the neck, but we weren’t able to make that happen (to be honest, the closed-in feeling was increasing and I didn’t really mind leaving that part off). She flicked down the clear visor, and for a moment, I got to see what the world looked like through the eyes of Hillary Will, Top Fuel driver. It looks pretty darn cool.

Having on the gear didn’t make me feel ready to power a dragster down the quarter-mile, but it sure was fun. Thanks, Hillary! Let me know if you ever want to try on my National DRAGSTER shirt and my nerdy-girl glasses. I’d love to return the favor.

Sunday, September 02, 2007

Yates makes good use of “Grumpy” horsepower

After having failed to qualify for the last three Mac Tools U.S. Nationals Pro Stock programs, Jim Yates came back with a vengeance this year to nail down the No. 2 spot by running a best of 6.658 with his Wiley X Pontiac GTO. Yates recorded the time during Saturday’s evening session and has held on to the position with only Sunday afternoon’s final qualifying round remaining.

Said Yates, “I really have to give the credit to our engine builder, Bill 'Grumpy' Jenkins. Not only has he improved our performance, but it’s just been a real learning experience having him around since he started working with us last year. The only frustrating aspect of this is that we’re not in the position to provide him the proper funding that would enable him to use the full extent of his skills. He still has a lot more tricks up his sleeve, but he can’t implement those ideas until we get some more sponsorship backing.”

Nevertheless, Yates said that having Jenkins on board has been a rewarding experience. “One of the biggest long range benefits from this program is that my son Jamie, the crew chief for our team, is getting a tremendous amount of on-the-job training from working with Bill," said Yates. "He’s been very generous about sharing a lot of his information with Jamie, and I think that all of this is going to be a tremendous boost for Jamie’s future racing career.”

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