Phoenix Day One:
By Phil R. Elliott
So, if you checked out websites at Summit
or NHRA today, you're probably thinking that PIR is junk, there's no
traction at all, and asking why doesn't somebody do something?
You'd be wrong and the people that need
to do something are thrashing right now.
My earlier report was a fun look at getting
to a national event. This report will cover a few stories of a more
When the morning ended, following class
run-offs and Sportsman time trials, it was between 89 and 92 degrees,
depending on whose thermometer you checked. It was hot.
The first few Pro Stocks, including Bob
Glidden (now back in Steve Schmidt's Grand Am) shook unbelievably hard.
The first car that made it more than 200 feet was J.R. Carr's ‘97
Firebird from Washington State. A 6.934/199 number opened most eyes to the
possibilities. And it wasn't long before Ron Krisher blasted out a track
record 6.883/201.97 and the bump was a 6.995. The last three pair saw
Warren Johnson's 6.890/201 side-by-side with Bruce Allen's 6.899/200,
Kurt Johnson's 6.903/200 outrun Tom Hammonds' 6.928/200, and Jim Yates'
6.895/200 whipped George Marnell's 6.91/199. Not, a bad session,
especially considering how it started. The bump was Tom Martino's
The floppers came next, and I'll stand by
my earlier report with one addition. In the first pair, Stephen Neese
faced Terry Haddock. The Neese & Knowles Camaro turned left at 200
feet – further sideways than I've ever seen a car that didn't hit
something. Somehow, it didn't and neither it nor the Negley Electronic
Firebird lost anything but the run.
Next up, Phil Burkart Jr. hit a laboring
5.167 at a career best 312.50 speed. Last, John Force ran a 4.831/314.
They are in first and second, and between their two runs, 17 cars smoked
their tires at or before 300 feet. Enufsed.
My previous report on the long cars should
stand, too, except there were as many shucked blower belts as there were
smoked tires. Plus, at least two cars were unable to make runs. And
besides the numbers run by Tony Schumacher (4.632/329), Clay Millican
(4.737/304), and Yuichi Oyama (4.743/308), there were Doug Kalitta
(4.800/294) and Scott Weiss (4.923/299). After that, there were a lot of
About three hours later, the temperature
had increased and the Pros were back to try again, with changed tune-ups
and mixed results.
In the first pair of PS, Glidden's mount
shook again while Mike Edwards sped to a fine 6.928/199. It was a
predictor of what was to come. Edwards' run put the bubble at 6.947. A
few pairs later, Don Smith's 6.944 bumped Greg Anderson, a favor
returned following a host of mid-6.9 runs. In a tight race, Anderson's
6.933 lit the win light over Martino's 6.935 and both were in, with
Darrell Alderman's similar 6.935 on the new bump.
Alderman's Neon was up next, and his
6.919 moved him up slightly. At that point, the provisionary field was
set, with only shuffling to remain. Carr's 6.914 came next, alongside
Mark Pawuk's 6.931. Hammond's 6.889 vaulted him to second,
momentarily, while Mark Osborne slowed slightly. Larry Morgan made a
similar downward move in another Neon against V. Gaines' hard-shaking
Cavalier. That set up the final six of Marnell (6.899/199) over KJ
(6.928/200), Yates (6.882/200) over Allen (6.882/200), and Krisher set
another track record (6.875/201) over WJ (6.909/200).
I'm certain that after wholesale timer
changes, every nitro crew chief gave strict and highly technical orders to
yank the brake, pedal it and hope for the best.
Neese was first to try and he turned
sideways again. In the other lane, giving the track his first attempt of
the weekend, was "Joliet John" Lawson in the Lucas Oil Firebird.
His 4.985/299 showed what a great team this one is.
Whit Bazemore had his Matco Firebird start
into hard smoke but pedaled twice, recovered, and went on to a 5.137/309!
Then came a few stumbling tire smokers and
everyone collectively shook their heads and said, "Oh, no, not
That is until Scotty Cannon pumped out a
4.892/315. Two pairs later, Tony Pedregon hit a similar 4.885/314,
followed by a 4.887/317 to 4.924/306 pairing of Gary Densham and Tommy
Johnson Jr., respectively. Things were warming up.
Cruz Pedregon got dangerously close to the
centerline and shut-off to a 4.962/278 against Del Worsham's tire
smoker. In fact, neither of the race sponsor Checker-Shucks-Kragen cars
have gotten very far.
To close the day, John Force zipped to a
4.797/318.17 against Burkart's 5.136/270 shutoff. Even Austin Coil
smiled at those numbers.
Though I won't predict that the all-time
FC bump is in jeopardy, this field will get better than Bob Gilbertson's
current 7.432 bubble.
Like the floppers, Top Fuel began with a
car that had not made session one. In this case, it was Don Lampus, who'd
suffered a wing strut failure – discovered while in the staging lanes.
His 4.617/315 was not only a decent tune-up run for the M.A.D.D.-backed
machine, but sent him to the front of the class.
Next up, David Grubnic, who'd made a
burnout but not a run in session one, blasted out a 4.644/308 in John
Mitchell's car. One broken blower belt and a tire smoker later came
Andrew Cowin, who sped to a 4.642 but tossed the belt, which slowed the
Yankee car to only 294 mph. In the other lane, Cory McClenathan's
4.682/315 showed that the tuners were finally getting a better handle on
Mrs. John Smith recorded a fine 4.683 at
just 269 – the victim of another belt – while Doug Herbert floundered.
The crowd responded huge to Larry Dixon's
appearance, due of course to the fact that the Miller machine has new
sponsorship from the Arizona Diamondbacks. D-back shortstop Tony Womak was
present in Miller livery, and appeared to enjoy the show, especially when
a Dick LaHaie pitch was hit out of the park. Dixon's 4.553/321 gave him
the top spot and train-lengthed Ken Zeal's 4.848/297.
Kenny Bernstein's group seemed ready too,
as the Budweiser King carried him to a 4.567/325 for second. With just a
few runs, track opinion began to change. The consensus-pendulum swung from
"horrid" to "adequate." Though the beer war has gone
to Miller over Bud temporarily, certainly Mr. and Mrs. Richards will try
that much harder tomorrow.
Scott Weis and Darrell Russell went off
next, and though the current list shows that the Joe Amato camp improved,
the run was far from what they wanted. The Race girl team slowed with a
Kalitta pumped out a clean 4.605/324.44
that sent him upwards, while Oyama experienced shake and tire smoke. Tony
Schumacher finished the round with an improving 4.606/321 over Millican's
With two shots left, the bump is Rob Passey's
Utah-based car (5.294), and all five non-qualifiers are fully capable of
breaking and entering.
That's it for me, it's 12:45am and the
alarm will go off at 6am again.
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