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PhilZone

Pomona Day 2:
Realistic Bumps, Grease Sweep, and Gassers

By Phil R. Elliott

What an amazing thing an NHRA national event is.

There is constant on-track entertainment and some of the greatest people-watching anywhere on earth. There is the manufacturers midway, full of items to drool over and dream about. Beyond that, there are the souvenir and food concessions where one can buy a myriad of items. When one tires of shopping and eating, there is the rock-climbing wall to try, autographs to seek, and maybe a few more race cars to watch.

And this is sure the place to watch them. After today, virtually every car in every class has a new career-best ET or MPH to write home about. Performance seems to be Pomona's alternate name.

Many of you have written to say how much you enjoy the columns and information I've been doing. I appreciate your correspondence and will try to keep feeding you what you want. At an event so well covered elsewhere, I don't feel the necessity to give you round by round, run-by-run, details. Color highlights are what I'm trying to give you, and an opinion or two.

On the way to the track, I noticed the Budweiser Clydesdales being worked next door at the FairPlex horse facilities. They looked happy to be stomping around with their trainer(s).

When I got right to Gate 15 for the third time (twice yesterday), the two gentlemen stubbing both gave me a cheery, "Gooood morning." One asked me, "Well, did you remember your photo vest?" Here's a pair of guys who are standing by a gate near the Arrow Highway, who won't see any of the racing action inside – nothing all day but a few thousand cars – and they've greeted me kindly and remembered my silly plight from yesterday. When I drove away, both called after me, wishing me a great day. Hey, this might not seem like much but I have to tell you that it is much better than the alternative.

When I got parked, I had a nice conversation with Jon Asher regarding the new publication he's involved with. Drag Racing Action will hit the stands with a June issue.

Today, oil downs were plentiful but the Safety Safari kept the track surface in impeccable condition. The alcohol FCs went down it without any problems today, but round one of Super Gas had four broken cars at the start line and two major oildowns.

I did make a point to wander the pits and check out individual action. I noticed that the Team Force and Team Prudhomme pit areas took up quite a bit of acreage. Trying to count just the big rigs and major league motorhomes between the two camps was impossible without removing my socks. And to count the employees of these operations would be impossible unless you were the person doing payroll. It has come a long ways, but I won't get into reminiscing about two or three guys running around in an El Camino with an open trailer or a ramptruck now.

I found Bucky Austin and asked him about the DQ'd run from yesterday. His 5.63 was thrown out due to cloudy fuel that he explained as oil residue from cleaning lines. He told me that nephew Pat actually crossed the centerline.

I noticed that Glen Mikres was overseeing Bob Bode's nitro FC, one of the surprises from Thursday. Amos Satterlee has a similar position with the Tokyo TF operation of Yuichi Oyama. I shook my head in disbelief at this latter pit area – it has all the elements of being fully competitive. I want to know more about where it all comes from.

One of the more amusing scenes was that Doug Herbert and Kenny Bernstein were both signing autographs at souvenir trailers almost directly across from each other. Both eyed each other warily, seemingly making mental notes of the numbers in the other's line. I stood and watched for several minutes.

There were so many fabulous runs in Super Stock and Comp that I hate to even try to describe them. If you're a stat freak like I am, do yourself a favor and head for one of the full coverage sites – especially Summit or NHRA –and dissect some of the many stunning Sportsman performances turned in so far.

Pro Stock came out first. And though conditions were noticeably better than Thursday, and the predicted overcast and cooler air were in place, and nearly everyone improved, I didn't get my "70." But, Jim Yates did run another 6.82 and Ron Krisher jumped over him and KJ for the provisional pole with a track record 6.815/202.94. Kurt Johnson fell off a few thousandths with a 6.84, while Bruce Allen snuck into third at 6.832.

Do you notice the same patter I do? That these teams that thrashed so hard during the preseason are already reaping the benefits? Hmmmm.

Warren Johnson jumped from way off the charts to 7th with a 6.843/202. But what about those Mopars? All of them improved, that's what. The best is Mark Osborne who nailed down 5th at 6.835/201. Back in 11th and 12th are Allen Johnson and Larry Morgan with a pair of 85s. Darrell Alderman had a 6.939/200 lap Thursday and picked up to a 6.906/200 Friday, good enough for 26th – way down the DNQ chart.

I must mention a car and driver from my home state. J.R. Carr went through enough pre-season testing to wear out a car and a pair of 500-inchers. His Thursday 6.900/201 was slightly off the chart but today the Pasco, Washington, AgriPak Firebird picked up to a nice 6.860/201 and currently sits 14th.

Did anyone ask about Bob Glidden? After spinning and crashing Steve Schmidt's Grand Am last Sunday at Houston – after the main test-n-tune was completed – when one parachute became tangled in the wheelie bars, Larry Morgan offered one of his 2001 Avengers to Glidden. After low- to mid-80s in the Pontiac last week, the Mopar has recorded only a 6.99/198. That was yesterday. Today the car got very loose and the veteran wisely lifted.

The two ex-NBA stars, Tom Hammonds and Larry Nance, ran duplicate 6.876 that ended 17th and 18th, respectively.

BTW, the always tight PS qualifying is extreme here – those 80s that begin with Krisher's 81 don't end until you reach Thomas Lee's Neon (6.895) way back in 24th!

Though there were a great many great runs from the fuelers Thursday, troubles of all kinds left the preliminary ladder wanting for solidarity. Trust me, today brought far more realism to the scene.

First up were the nitrated coupes.

Greg Daebelliehn joined the hunt today and the Bakersfield driver got about 800 feet before the burst plate went over the moon.

In the other lane Tommy Johnson Jr. only got about sixty feet before his smokeless tobacco-backed entry was enveloped in Goodyear smoke. Watching intently from behind the line, Ed McCulloch appeared to have a light bulb go on above his head, and he hurried for the other Team Skoal machine. Later in the session, whatever Ace saw gave Ron Capps a decent 4.852/313.

Terry Haddock got the New Jersey-based Negley's Firebird to about 700 feet before it went silent, but even coasting, it's 5.374/225 would be Friday's bump.

In the 4th pair, Jerry Toliver faced Bob Gilbertson, and while the camo'd Stewart & Stevenson Firebird from Charlotte shook hard enough to throw the chutes out, the badguy black WWF Firebird thundered to a 4.887/313, Toliver's best in a year! He seesawed on the wheel the whole length but was not about to give up what he knew was a good one. I spoke to Jerry about five hours later and he was still walking on a cloud beaming, spouting terms like "monkey off my back." Time will tell, but the likable SoCal-ite may finally be back to a competitive place.

"Joliet John" Lawson's Lucas Oil Firebird was next to find a combo that worked as its 4.907/298 shows.

Brothers Pedregon came next, with the AAP Firebird recording a clean 4.971/302 for Cruz. In the other lane, the nasty black w/flames Castrol Mustang, with help now from KISS, pulled Tony to a flawless 4.809/322!

The previously mentioned 4.85 by Capps in the green Skoal car came next, with Johnny Gray in the Checkers-Shucks-Kragen blue watching from a 5.016/302 vantage point.

Next up came a bittersweet 4.865 for Dean Skuza. The team threw more coal under the boilers causing the car to light up a couple hundred feet before the trap. The new Dodge Stratus body burned for quite awhile and from the looks of the black smoke, it may not return.

In the other lane was the Toyota, which shook hard from 300-600 feet and Gary Scelzi gave it up.

Several cars noticeably quivered as they headed down course, looking as if something was about to happen. The phenomenon is caused I believe by spinning tires right on the ragged edge between total adhesion and hard smoking. Scelzi's run was typical of it, where the quiver evolved into shake and then hard smoke.

The C-S-K ride of Del Worsham quivered too, but also carried him to a wild 4.817/318 clocking that jumped him to 4th. The red Firebird body had moments before been upside down being patched and repaired by at least a dozen crewmen, including Chuck Worsham.

Al Hoffman's 4.901 came next, but wiggles got him for the second day in a row. From halftrack on, the K&N Firebird sashayed but before getting too violent, Hoffman clicked it off to run just 290mph.

The last pair was again Whit and John, and unlike Thursday, Bazemore's Matco Firebird went silent shortly after the initial launch. Meanwhile, Force sped on to about 700 feet where the badass black Mustang turned left. Most drivers would have hit the silk, lifted and been called heroes for saving the car. Not Mr. Force. He pulled hard right on the rudder and though from he starting line it looked as if he'd at least scraped the concrete, he managed to keep the car off the wall and actually improve on his previous 4.76, salvaging the car and the run with a 4.749 at only 296mph! For the second day in a row, I was shaking my head in disbelief over the antics of John Force.

Then came the long cars.

After a decent 4.852 baseline by Ken Zeal in Bill Miller's car, the only chassis legendary Don Long welds together, Kenny Bernstein went directly to the head of the TF class with a great 4.583/326!

John Smith came to the line and faced his wife Rhonda Hartman's 9.07 bump on the boards. His Fram machine wheelstood then shook, and he slowed to a 5.39 (Later, Rhonda's similar appearing car duplicated the run almost to the foot.). Oyama's tiresmoking and fireballing 4.90/225 wasn't what he wanted either.

During the cleanup, I had the chance to talk with Darrell Gwynn. He told me that Todd Smith, who has been in Gwynn's employ for several years, has been promoted to crew chief. Of course, Darrell's dad Jerry is right there overseeing everything. Darrell had nothing but nice things to say about the Yankee sponsorship, the whole crew, and the new situation with young Andrew Cowin.

With that testimony ringing in my ears, it was great to see the car, next in line, blast out a 4.490/324 to take #1Q. The crew was ecstatic.

In the other lane, the return of Cory Mac was officially announced with a fine 4.662/315 pass that might have been congratulated more had any other car been in the other lane. The Henkelman-Baca MBNA machine looks well prepared.

So, there was a lot more tire smoke from many cars, there was a big boom and fire from Robert Hallock, a 4.655/312 from Larry Dixon, a jetcar-like pass by Wyatt Radke with flames billowing from about 50 feet all the way through, and side-by-side fireballs by David Grubnic and Darrell Russell.

Doug Herbert and Clay Millican looked like instant replays of their previous day runs – Herbert 4.665/316 to a slightly improving 4.651/312. Consistency being a key to nitro racing, look for these two teams to do well.

To close the session, the previous leader, Doug Kalitta, spun his Goodyears early and lifted, while Sergeant Shoe rode a snarling V-7 to a 4.770/310.

I again shook my head while thinking what a tremendous performance that was with at least one hole dead for the whole track.

With two more Pro sessions, this really could get good.

I watched Super category qualifying, the entire first round of Super Gas eliminations (world champ Ed DeStaute redlit and broke already!), and the final session for alcohol dragsters and funny cars. Actually, about halfway through AFC, I headed for the car.

To complete my day, I went to the NHRA Museum to experience the Gasser Gathering. George Montgomery's A/GS 33 Willys and Hugh Tucker's 28 Chevrolet AA/SR were the headliners, and autographing whatever were Jr. Thompson, "Ohio George," and "Big John" Mazmanian.

The place I've come to know as Steve's (Gibbs) House was packed with the geezers I love. If I wrote just the folk I saw or spoke to, I'd be here all day. One fun conversation was with Dale Pulde and Valerie Harrell, mostly about funny car combos.

Another time, I was within earshot of Don Sparr (B&M) chatting with Leonard Woods (S, W &C). Both look great. A guy walked up and asked Leonard if he might have had something to do with the gassers. If you don't know, Mr. Woods is a larger-than-life, jovial black man, and last night he was in a gorgeous red, white and blue leather jacket covered with various racing logos. The conversation continued something like this:

"So which car were you with?" the boisterous fan asked.

"Stone, Woods and Cook," came the quiet answer.

"What's your last name?" asked the fan.

"Woods," the answer barely discernable.

There were a few seconds of silence as the fan tried to remove hi size ten from his gaping mouth, then he stammered, "Er, would you, ah, sign my book?"

"Of course, sir," replied the gracious Wood, then suggested the fan should really be getting Mr. Sparr's autograph.

In apology, I got to the house last night and could not keep my eyes open. I set my alarm for 5am and have now tapped in over 2,000 words. I can hear what I think is Super Stock running – I'm maybe four miles from the track – so I better close.

Stay tuned.

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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