"The Sheriff" Shuffles The Deck;
Advances To #2 Spot On NR AA/FD List
by Cole Coonce, NR AA/Fuel Dragster Mojo Wire
Los Angeles, CA, July 26, 2001 -- Okay, so it has been entirely too long between updates of the NR AA/Fuel Dragster List... in fact, it hasn't been touched since the March Meet...this is no reflection on how the circuit is doing, it is more emblematic of how much time the arbiter of the List (uhh, me) has spent trying to finish a feature length book on the Land Speed Record (shameless plug, for a peek at that transcript point your browser to http://www.nitronic.com/infinity )...
Awwright... bottom line is I now need a break from working on the book and am compelled to update the doings amongst the elite AA/Fuelers...part of the inspiration for this much-belated update was the performance of this circuit at this months NHRA 50th Anniversary Race at Pomona... there were 16 entries invited to battle it out for an 8-car eliminator and the action was flat out outrageous...
There is a thorough recap of the Pomona barnburner in this week's National Dragster as well as some nifty documentation online (see both http://wediditforlove.com/Pomona-2001_50th.html ), but suffice it to say the action was tighter than the lid on a Mason jar buried in some forgotten civilization...
Among the highlights (and lowlights): Jim "Holy Smokes" Murphy, who had been the #3 car on the list (behind San Francisco-based Champion Speed Shop and Waterloo, Iowa's Suhr & Lechtenberg), dropped to #4 -- but not for a lack of trying. Amongst the tools and quick-fixes applied to the racecar's hardware were hammers (to beat a cauliflowered intake manifold back into shape) and rubber bands (!) used to lock a finicky fuel shut-off lever open (it had shaking itself closed and had contributed to barfy-sounding tuneup prone to banging the blower.
After qualifying 6th with a 6.13 during the last session, Murphy explains the problems that sabotaged their earlier runs, "It (the fuel shut off) would close part way, (the engine leaned out) so we popped the blower." He then added that we "broke the manifold...so we were going to put it in the box and put it away." When the WW2 team looked at the computer data and saw that they were losing fuel pressure as early as 60 feet into the run, the team said, "We can fix this...we gotta' big sledge hammer and beat it (the trashed manifold) flat..."
(Denial came the next evening in the opening round of eliminations, however, as Murphy boiled the baloneys just off of the pad, while his competition, Rance McDaniel clocked Low ET of the Meet (another stat that gets you favor with the List) for the AA/Fuelers with a 6.01 in the Champion Speed Shop car.)
More List Highlites: The provisional #10 car, "Root Beer" Hedge's Mastercam Spl., moved up a notch by the time the clutch dust settled at Pomona, as driver "Techno Tim" Gibson legged out a startling 6.04 and at blistering back door speed of 247 mph during the 23nd round of qualifying. Back at the March Meet, Team Mastercam unveiled a spiffy 60's-period perfect air scoop that some maintain cloaked a bleeding edge fuel injector. Others theorize these new pieces are no just now beginning to "speak" to the clutch... The 247 mph blast stood for Top Speed of the Meet (one measure of how an entry moves up on the List), and is proof positive that these guys are making gnarsome amounts of horsepower. The next day during the first round the team poured a beaker or two of nitromethane, but still overpowered the pavement against Dale Pulde and the Ground Zero machine....
What struck this writer as the most salient facet of the action was how the final round came down to a shootout between two of the baddest hot rods on the scene: Champion Speed Shop and the Nitro Thunder digger, based out of Kaysville, Utah and owned and operated by Jack "the Sheriff" Harris.
These two cars have exchanging blows with the ferocity Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier in a third world jungle and the final round was just one more trading of licks...
Off the pad McDaniel cut a preternatural .413 light; he and Harris are off, mixin' it up and rockin' and sockin' with Champion car spewing tall flames and green chunks of copper like an Independence Day fireworks display ... both drivers tried to get a wheel out, but it wasn't until after they reached the big end that Harris pulled away, 6.15 234 to CSS's 6.30, 223.
The victory catapulted Harris into the #2 spot on the NR List.... and alerted the nitromaniacs who follow this stuff that the most awe-inspiring front engine fueler in the galaxy is straight out of Utah...
After the victory, "Nitro Thunder" co-tuner Scott Mason shook his head and said, "We took so much clutch out of it... we have to make the toy less nasty."
THE OBLIGATORY "TOO MUCH DATA" PARAGRAPHS: We would be remiss in not acknowledging the accomplishments of various participants (and alternates) on the List since the March Meet, so here goes:
MARCH MEET: the Nitro Thunder Posse swept the NR List criteria here, bagging the event win over Lee Jennings' California Trucker, and posting both Low ET (5.99) and Top Speed (244 mph).
APRIL: ADRA West Coast Reunion, Fallon NV, in "Radar" Lechtenberg performed a similar hat trick, beating Butch Blair in the final while clocking Top Speed @ 237 mph; in the semi's, "Radar" scored Low ET with a 6.08; the following weekend, the Goodguys VRA raced at Sears Point, and Rance McDaniel both stepped up and threw down, winning the race and turning Low ET (5.98), while Harris tripped the mph clocks at 241 mph for Top Speed.
MAY; two weeks later the Goodguys series hit Vegas and some different talent made its presence felt: Howard Haight guided Bob Richardson's "Circuit Breaker" fueler to the event win, aided by Low ET at 6.04; Denver Schutz stabbed and steered Jim Cullen's sleek and stealthy railjob to Top Speed at 241 mph; two weeks later Schutz and Cullen reprised their feat, laying down a scorching 243 mph pass at the ADRA race at Cordova; Suhr & Lechtenberg claimed Low ET with a 6.04 and these two teams were slated to meet in a final round that was cancelled because of electrical storms...
JUNE: the VRA show hit Indy in the mind-numbingheat of June, whereupon fabled dragster driver Bob Muravez (nee Floyd Lippencott, Jr.) chauffeured Jon Halstead's Western Hoist machine to Top Eliminator; Top Speed belonged to Lechtenberg and Bill "the Heartbreaker" Dunlap scored Low ET in Mike Fuller's post-modern digger with a 6.14... there were ADRA races scheduled for Darlington and Maple Grove, but the sanctioning body found a way to light money on fire even faster than Top Fuel racers and, due to lack of funds and common sen$e, these races were cancelled. (The promoters at Darlington at least tried to salvage the race and put on a show of sorts, but a dearth of legitimate fuel cars prevents the inclusion of that race as List fodder...)
JULY: Pomona has been litanized already, which brings us to last weekend's Fox Hunt - Night of Fire - Fremont Reunion Race at Sacramento: Mike McLennan took Top Eliminator over the Champion Speed Shop, by virtue of a tire-hazing, money maker-shakin' 6.48 at 216 mph in the Smith & McLennan fueler. Before that run, McLennan wasn't on the List, but the victory moved his team up to the #7 spot, ahead of Steiner & Berger, Mastercam and Ground Zero...
Okay: this bit is more data but deserves a paragraph break: the List points for Low ET and Top Speed from the Sacramento race went to Glen Hutchison and the Foothill Flyer out of Sutter Creek, CA. What is noteworthy about this is not only the exemplary performance (6.11 @ 228), but how the team did it (which is the neat part): It is no secret that the Foothill Flyer "braintrust" likes to try some unorthodox ideas, in fact their removal of canard wings (and the subsequent instability and lane-swapping that followed) had other racers on the circuit ready to get out the rubber hoses or at least file a petition. *BUT* the Foothill Flyer bunch put the wings back on, and Pete Jensen, Mike Civelli and cohorts kept hammering on a decidedly-different tune-up (weirdo cam grind with frighteningly high revs through the lights, a puny 10 amp magneto, a tuned-down blower barely making more air than a grandmother with a tube in her throat, and a pedal clutch as opposed to the decidedly more popular glide-style); suffice it to say, their persistence paid off like a Keno girl on ketamine, as the car and driver have both settled down and are in a groove... According to team co-owner Pete Jensen the dragster went "Katie-bar-the-door, straight as a dog" and, equally importantly, "it didn't burn one spark plug." He also said, "We got this clutch working." For the record, Jensen and Civelli are using a Titan pedal clutch.
Hutchison, like Haight and Schutz, is making tremendous strides but still has not cracked the List. This is emblematic of how tough and ferocious competition has become on the circuit.
1. CHAMPION SPEED SHOP
2. NITRO THUNDER
3. ORANGE CRATE
5. CALIFORNIA TRUCKER
6. FULLER & DUNLAP
7. SMITH & McLENNAN
8. STEINER & BERGER
10. GROUND ZERO
11. Circuit Breaker
12. KUHNS & HANSEN
14. Foothill Flyer
15. Jim Cullen Racing
For more details about where they stand and why, go to:
THE NITRONIC RESEARCH AA/FD LIST http://www.nitronic.com/thelist/
And visit the patrons of the NR AA/FD List!
TITAN SPEED ENGINEERING http://www.nitronic.com/titan/
Pete Millar's DRAG CARTOONS http://www.nitronic.com/dragcartoons/
MYSTERION SCREENPRINT http://www.nitronic.com/mysterion/