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Houston 2002: The "REAL" Super Bowl

By Phil R. Elliott

While most of the nitro addicts headed for the western sites of Tucson and Las Vegas, the gasoline snorting door cars headed for Houston Raceway Park and the Pontiac Excitement Pro Stock Super Bowl. Rigs began to roll through the gate Tuesday but cold weather, wind and rain kept actual activities to a minimum, although several teams tried. It was Thursday before they finally made some noise.

The Super Bowl is a real qualified race, with testing for Pro Stocks and Pro Mods from each sanction, with a little extra incentive of cash for a few rounds. Entry for the testers is free and the early season fans really enjoy the laid-back pace.

All kinds of rumors had crept into "the news" as to performances from the Pro Stock cars and as teams gathered, the stories unfolded, either squelching or embellishing the previously wild tales.

One story revolved around just how many Pro Stock Truck teams would be moving on/up to cars. Another was that the 3-car David Nickens-led Dodge team had already recorded 6.7s at over 203 mph. Several other rumors revolved around a not-too-secret session at Darlington.

The rain finally gave up just after noon on the last day of January, giving Bruce Allen (6.907/199), Mike Edwards (6.857/200) and Ben Watson (6.92/199) enough track to get down. Several others were less successful.

On Friday, the weather stayed below 60 degrees but the performances warmed the event. With such a low stress level, several teams were able to make several passes.

Mark Osborne earned one of the better time slips (6.804/202) with one of the powerful Dodge Neons.

After decent runs Thursday, Allen had nothing but tire shake from the Reher & Morrison Speedco Truck Lube Pontiac Grand Am. Bruce had but one 1.015 60-footer to smile about.

Better was Darrell Alderman's Neon, which hit stunning 0.986 and 1.004 60-foot times before running into control problems.

Following testing elsewhere, and four more get-acquainted runs earlier in the day, Bob Glidden pulled to the line in Steve Schmidt's Southern Rods & Parts Grand Am which wiggled its way to his career first "six," a 6.870 at just 191 mph.

Tom Martino had a couple excellent runs Friday – the first with a 1.005 sixty, and a fine 6.834/201, the second a better 0.997 sixty and a 6.829/200.

Arturo Delgado considered his runs successful, first a shut-off 6.913/189 and later a 6.865/199 – both right at 1.000-sixty. A third, more aggressive, 0.999 ended in tire spin and an early dismissal.

One of the strongest in the short program was Robert Patrick, whose 0.989-sixty gave the quickest FoMoCo in NHRA PS history a few knowledgeable nods. Dad Eli Patrick continues to make the car fly.

Jim Yates had nothing but trouble and never really made it thru the timers. In three tries, he experienced severe tire shake three times.

Others who tried to negotiate the Houston surface were Ben Watson, Robert Freeman, Larry Peternel, and Don Smith.

With preliminary testing out of the way, the teams prepared to get in their first qualifying shots. It was the 2nd day of the 2nd month of 2002 and conditions were almost too good for testing, if that is possible.

In the second PS pairing, Tom Martino dazzled with a 6.786, almost 203 mph clocking! In the third, Tom Hammonds' 6.823/202 took the measure of Ben Watson's 6.897/200, a superb side-by-side. Then Arturo Delgado (6.930/197), Bruce Allen (6.829/202), and Mike Thomas (6.857/201) had decent individual efforts.

The 8th pairing saw Mark Osborne spin hard against Robert Patrick, then get train-lengthed by the improving Ford, 6.833/201 to 6.918/202. Next up, Larry Morgan, his Neon looking like a blue streak, pulled away from Jim Yates, 6.763/203 to 6.826/ almost 203! While jaws were still on the ground, Darrell Alderman's 6.745/204 (!) bested Tim Freeman's 6.811/203! Mark Pawuk's clean 6.820/201 barely drew notice but moments later, Mike Edwards' 6.763 at nearly 203 mph did. There was discussion about the run, because Edwards had trouble earlier in the round, repaired, and then made his pass after another class. It was eventually disallowed.

In a total of less than ten minutes, NHRA-legal Pro Stock history was made. A total of 21 cars went down the well-prepped track in phenomenal conditions. The bump for the eight-car field, shortened from 16 due to time constraints brought on by track electrical problems, was already 6.826, with defending Super Bowl champ Bruce Allen on the outside.

To explain a few things,

After earlier testing, Eagle One Chevrolet Cavalier driver Ron Krisher had to go in for emergency surgery. So, it was Tim Freeman behind the wheel at Houston.

Don Smith advanced from his truck to an ex-R&M Firebird, a proven commodity, with R&M power. The Harley-Davidson dealer will take delivery of a new Grand Am before 2002 is too far-gone. Tuning help will come from Bill Jenkins.

The second and final qualifying session began with Larry Peternel recording a career best, his first ‘six', a fine 6.983/197. Unfortunately, it was only good enough for a distant view of Darrell Alderman's 6.780/204.45 (fastest legal clocking ever) in the other lane!

In the next pairing, Bob Glidden improved on his previous best with a 6.822 to bump Yates and received his first official over 200 mph time slip as well, a whopping 203.00.

In the other lane, Bo Nickens improved on earlier shut-off attempts with a 6.841/202. However, it wasn't enough for a slot on the Super Bowl ladder.

Tom Hammonds' 6.810/202 raised his position slightly for the moment, and alongside, Mark Osborne put the third Neon in the show, his 6.796/202 bumping Pawuk in the process.

There were several more strong performances that failed to touch the ladder settings, including those turned in by Thomas (6.830/200), Morgan (6.791/203.98), Smith (6.864/199), Martino (6.801/203) and Allen (6.878/201. But it was the stunners that came from Freeman, Edwards, and Yates that really set the stage.

First, the Tennessee stand-in driver blitzed the CompuLink timers with a 6.758/204.29 to put Krisher's Chevy in second. Then Edwards, with no previous times for back up, threw a "hail-Mary" 6.779/202 to nab fourth with another Cavalier. And last in line, Yates blasted the Splitfire Pontiac into fifth with a 6.784/202.64.

Two hours later, under a dark and chilly Texas sky, the first Professional elimination round of the new year commenced.

Mike Edwards jumped out to a .004 lead on Jim Yates (RTs .439 to .443), only to be driven around, 6.789/202.82 to 6.812/202.42. Tim Freeman showed that the pre-season Mopar stories were so much bunk when he holeshot Virginian Mark Osborne (RTs .452 to .465), then pulled away to the quickest and fasted NHRA PS run in history, a 6.715/204.94 to an improving 6.778/202.94!

In the third pairing, Tom Martino got off the mark first (RTs .454 to .484) then held off Larry Morgan, 6.798/203.68 to 6.798/201.76. And in the last match, Tom Hammonds grabbed the tip-off (RTs .440 to .463) then watched Darrell Alderman come from behind for the win, 6.750/204.42 to 6.807/202.88.

In the semi-finals, run less than ninety minutes later, the first pairing saw not-so-close-buds Alderman and Yates start things. After long burnouts, both grabbed the lights they are known for, with Kentucky out ahead of Virginia (RTs .423 to .440). The assembled fans, including the drivers and crews of every racecar present, stood in awe as the boards rang up the numbers. The Dodge had beaten the Pontiac, 6.752/204.01 to 6.791/204.05! The first side-by-side 204-mph race was suddenly reality!

The other match was anti-climactic for it was all Freeman. Martino's New Jersey Pontiac spun hard, then it's nose moved out of the groove. A hard fought 7.223/154 was no match for Freeman's 6.743/204.85.

On paper, the two semi-finalists were inches apart. The ET comparison was like a secret agent – .009! Tim Freeman's mount had been quicker, earlier, but few were doing more that good-natured Mopar vs. GM betting. The reactions compared well too. With temperatures continuing to plummet, the only unknown was the track, and it had been consistently good.

The history books will show that this match went to Tim Freeman, when Darrell Alderman slipped out of the groove. In fact, after a great job on the starting line (RTs .420 to .445) the Neon overpowered the racetrack at that late hour, spun it's tires and slowed to a 6.905/202.67, and the first victory of 2002 went to the Pontiac's 6.768/203.98

Q Driver Car ET MPH (Finish)

1 Darrell Alderman 99 Dodge Neon 6.745 204.45 (R/U)
2 Tim Freeman 02 Chevy Cavalier 6.758 204.29 (Win)
3 Larry Morgan 99 Dodge Neon 6.763 203.98 (1st R)

4 Mike Edwards 01 Chevy Cavalier 6.779 202.52 (1st R)
5 Jim Yates 01 Pont Grand Am 6.784 202.91 (Semi)
6 Tom Martino 02 Pont Grand Am 6.786 203.34 (Semi)
7 Mark Osborne 99 Dodge Neon 6.796 202.30 (1st R)
8 Tom Hammonds 01 Chevy Cavalier 6.810 202.27 (1st R)

9 Mark Pawuk 01 Pont Grand Am 6.820 201.40 (DNQ)
10 Bob Glidden 02 Pont Grand Am 6.822 203.00 (DNQ)
11 Bruce Allen 01 Pont Grand Am 6.829 202.76 (DNQ)
12 Mike Thomas 02 Pont Grand Am 6.830 201.46 (DNQ)
13 Robert Patrick 00 Ford Mustang 6.833 201.04 (DNQ)
14 Bo Nickens 99 Dodge Neon 6.841 202.21 (DNQ)
15 Don Smith 00 Pont Firebird 6.864 199.55 (DNQ)
16 Arturo Delgado 01 Pont Grand Am 6.878 199.70 (DNQ)
17 Ben Watson 01 Pont Grand Am 6.897 200.08 (DNQ)
18 Larry Peternel 02 Chevy Camaro 6.983 197.97 (DNQ)
19 Randy Daniels 02 Pont Grand Am 9.341 98.93 (DNQ)
20 Jim Bernard 02 Chevy Cavalier 9.880 93.38 (DNQ)
21 Terry Adams 01 Pont Grand Am 15.971 50.81 (DNQ)

Phil Elliott


Thanks for checking out the PhilZone portion of Draglist.com. If you have accolades, complaints, comments, questions, or if you want to share a story, please feel free to post it on the PhilZone Message Board. Phil

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