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Phoenix Day One: Phoenix Fallacies

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 meaningful nature.

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 6.959/199.

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 aborted attempts.

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 again?!"

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 the surface.

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 broken belt.

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 slowing 4.845/246.

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.

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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