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Dornbos Reviews...

The 1998 IHRA Northern Nationals

By Doug Dornbos

This 2 years old, from 8/3/98. It was the first race review I ever wrote and posted it on the NHRA newsgroup...

I just got back from the best kept secret in drag racing, the IHRA Northern Nationals in Stanton, MI and had a GREAT time. Here are just a few observations about the race:

1. This crowd is the BEST! I did not hear a single "Show me your (body parts)" all weekend, never smelled dope smoke once, saw no beer spilled on anyone, and never saw anybody puke or get hassled! I think the reason for the good behavior is twofold: they don't vend beer at the track (which they can get away with probably because they don't have major beer sponsorship) and they do not have general camping at the track. This could be the best crowd in drag racing. It was a track record for attendance.

2. Through judicious meal planning and finding an incredible lodging deal, I was able to attend this event for all 3 days for under $135 including my ticket, parking, all meals & snacks, gas, and lodging. I ate steak on Saturday night and pork roast on Sunday afternoon, corn on the cob and sweet or baked potatoes both days, all on the grill. I also ate pie a la mode all 3 days, which is, in my book, mandatory at a national event. :-)

3. It seems that wherever I sat, most of the people around me had never been to a national event before and never saw top fuel before. I think this is a growing spectator sport.

4. They ran the usual exhibition vehicles, 2 jets, and a wheelstander. A local guy also ran his homemade twin 500 C.I. Cadillac front-engine dragster with which he attempted to smoke the tires for the entire 1/4-mile. I thought it was cooler than the people around me did. They also ran an exhibition race of a jr. dragster type altered and funny car, which the people around me thought were cooler than I did.

5. The guys I really enjoy are the inline-6 altereds (J/A) and there were 3 there, all Fords around 300 C.I. Two were Weber carbureted and 1 w/ 3 Holley 2-barrels. They all ran around the 8.8-9.2 range. The one I especially cheer for is the "Pepper Mill" out of Canada. This guy takes the time to talk to us in the pits and has a car that is not a "trick of the week" kind of thing. He made it to the semis in modified.

6. No AMC power in any class this weekend :-(

7. Pro Mod is VERY cool. The Undertaker has the best schtick in drag racing. The entire crew goes out to the line for the night qualifying session dressed in black ghoulish looking garb. I doubt I'd like to see a lot of this but for novelty, it's a hoot.

8. I watched a bunch of S/S out of respect for Joel (racecarart@aol.com). Cool cars and they get those front wheels up higher than the corn!

9. I wish Pro Stock was a little more stock and a little less pro. Once you put a big rear spoiler and a big hood scoop on these already generic looking cars, it is really hard to tell what they are.

10. As I understand sportsman racing in the IHRA, you qualify against your index but then on race day, can dial-in to anything up to a tenth slower than your fastest qualifying time (no breakouts). The advantage with qualifying high seems primarily for lane choice and bye-run possibilities. Somebody please help me here if I'm wrong.

11. I don't think I'll pay for reserved seating here again. I sat in the top row and could not see past half-track ever! I blew off my reserved seat for late Saturday and all of Sunday and sat in the North grandstands and could see MUCH better.

12. Shirley Muldowney smoked her tires in the finals after clocking an amazing 4.69 at 312.5 in qualifying. I can't believe she is not on the tour and is only match racing some.

13. The classiest move of the event was Bruce Litton and crew waiting for David Bieneman's crew to repair his broken throttle cable near the burnout box during the third pro qualifying session. Neither car was in the field. Bieneman could not get repaired so the race director waved him off anyway but Litton's crew showed real class in not forcing the issue. They smoked their tires on the run and didn't make it to the show.

14. Don Lampus was unbelievingly consistent in T/F: 4.84, 4,84, 4.82, 4.82, but then smoked his tires against Shirley in the second round while she ran a 4.98.

15. My diagnosis is that the Top Fuel Harley-Davidson guys are missing a brain chemical needed for proper interpretation of reality. Wow!

16. So many combinations of fuel, delivery, and body styles make IHRA funny car very cool. Speeds to the 240s.

17. Maybe the coolest thing I saw had nothing to do with drag racing, a little whirlwind came through the track and I got to watch it from the top of the grandstands. People standing close to it but with their backs turned to it didn't even seem to know it was there but it was sucking papers, cardboard, people's hats, etc. up so high I could barely see them, to the clouds the way it looked, and then dumping the stuff off in the adjoining cornfields. I was glad it didn't cross a moving funny car at speed.

18. There was a crash in a sportsman class Friday night but I didn't see it and don't know what happened. I believe the guy is still in the hospital but don't know more than that. They prayed for him in church Sunday morning.

19. Some guys can write race reports in a very concise and professional manner. My thoughts are pretty jumbled and random at this point. I guess you take what you get.

Doug Dornbos


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