Bill's Prez Cup Notes, Day One
by Bill Pratt
Got to the track pretty late after a full workday and a shot of Washington Beltway 495 weekend traffic.
The first pro qualifying session was already in the books and most of the teams were making adjustments for the next shot.
One team that was not was the Pro Funny Car team of Bruce and Pattie Mullins. This local team has had nothing but trouble at the IHRA President's Cup, despite rocking the NHRA Division 1 world with steady 5.80s out of a 15-year-old combination. As I drove through the pits on my arrival, I saw the familiar yellow Mustang parked inside the trailer. "Oh, no," I thought to myself, "Bruce has had more bad luck at MIR."
But when I caught up to the team, I was greeted with nothing but smiles. Turns out that the War Horse galloped in the right direction in qualifying round one, hitting a straight and true 5.86 at 235 that was second only to Dale Brand's 5.81. Bruce and the Zoo Crew, including Scott Ankrom, Rob Ostrander, and Mike Yohn (with an assist by Leroy Dewdney), set 'er up to rip and rip she did. But since Bruce and the crew have to hit NHRA Maple Grove and Bristol in the next two weekends to protect their points standing in Division 1, the 'Horse went back on the trailer until Sunday to save parts.
Mike Comella really laid down a killer pass in the last session. The Amalie Oil machine laid down a 5.85 at 240 mph that absolutely floored the place! Where did that come from?
Last year's event winner Billy Gibson was on hand driving Ken Sheetz's machine. The car has already been sold, but Ken offered Billy the ride so he could defend his title in front of the hometown crowd. Billy is in the show with a 6.15, run in the slippery final session.
Bunny Burkett had a great act at the 'Cup. She had a huge flagpole mounted into the roof of the Bunny and the Boys funny car. For the burnout, she unfurled a huge American flag. The fans went nuts. On the run, Bunny fought the approaching dewy conditions with all the experience her 30-plus years in the seat have provided her. She flirted with the left concrete barrier all the way down the track, but qualified temporarily with a 6.40. Unfortunately, that number was bumped out and back in the pits, the crew found that the good bullet was toast. Once again, Bunny and the Boys will pull out the ancient 540-inch Walt Austin motor they ran so many years ago. Bunny said she fully expected an all five-second field after today and she wasn't sure that her old iron could run with that. But she will be out there to lay down another run for her thousands of mid Atlantic fans.
The final qualifying session of Pro Mod was cancelled right in the middle, as the track got just too dewy to guarantee the safety of the drivers. No car in the session really made a representative run, with most of them blowing off the tires immediately. The worst case was Tom Patterson's '63 Corvette from Houston, that went ALL OVER THE PLACE immediately at the hit. He went HARD right, then HARD left, then over the centerline and right in front of Tommy Gray. Luckily for Gray, the now-supercharged Undertaker '53 Corvette ALSO couldn't hook up and therefore, averted tragedy. If he had hooked, chances are Patterson would have T-boned him about 60 feet out. IHRA stepped in and cancelled the session. They awarded each car in the lanes the standard five points for a good qualifying pass.
It was time to BRING OUT THE JETS! Actually, things started with Bob Hall's venerable Paddy Wagon wheelstander. A good show and a 9.85 at 137 mph, two-wheel pass cheered the fans.
Jim Neilson came out next with the jet limo. The car has been painted up in a cool purple, orange, and yellow thunderbolt design. Looks good, ran good. The huge sled went 7.35 at 221 for the fans.
Finally, big, bad Bob Motz ended the day with another amazing performance from the jet Kenworth. After the usual superlative fire show, the big rig rocketed down the track to 7.39, 217.84 mph numbers.
More notes after tomorrow's qualifying. With
temps in the 60s all weekend long and MIR's legendary starting line, I smell
world records! bp