NHRA Pre-Season: Team-ups and
By Phil Elliott
It doesn't seem to end.
With less than a week before the POWERade/NHRA season
commences at Pomona, testing continues in earnest across the country. So
do announcements of teams, team-ups, and changes. I can barely keep
The biggest announcement came from a strange place in
my opinion. NHRA itself announced that Steve Schmidt would be putting
Bob Glidden in his Southern Rods & Parts Pontiac Grand Am. It is no
secret that the sanction and the 10-time PS champ are not exactly
friendly. In fact, I suspect that the folk in Glendora were actually
rooting on John Force during the 2000 season when he was closing in on
Glidden's 85-victory "winningest driver" title so Bob was
not such a big part of their media guide. But, that seems to now be part
of history because arguably the most famous citizen from Whiteland,
Indiana is back.
Glidden's most recent ride came in Schmidt's car
during the '98 US Nats. According to the story, Southern Rods &
Parts has provided the budget for Glidden to drive "for the
foreseeable future" though doesn't suggest if that is a few races
or the entire season.
In other news, Steve Schmidt announced attempts at
putting together backing for Brad Jeter as early as the Gatornationals,
but no information was released on from where funds would come.
Before anyone suggests that this some nostalgic return
for Schmidt and Glidden, you cannot find a more competitive pair in
motorsports. Nothing would please this pair more than to be qualified in
the top half at Pomona, and go to the final to meet Warren Johnson, Jeg
Coughlin, or Jim Yates. Whether it'll happen in their initial outing
or not, look for them to be in the thick of things at every stop.
Like Don Garlits, who until given the opportunity by
Gary Clapshaw at the 2001 US Nationals had not surpassed 300mph or
dipped into the fours, Glidden would like to receive an official
six-second, over 200mph timeslip. But, according to him, it's the fans
he looks forward to the most.
When the Connie Kalitta-led Mac Tools team experienced
nothing but rain – then tire shake – in a two-day Gainesville,
Florida, test, they looked at each other with what-to-do puzzlement. The
first coin-flipping session pointed to Las Vegas because it was on the
way to SoCal. But that decision was amended quickly and the truck stayed
parked. After all, if they could get a handle on "the swamp,"
they'd have a leg up in less than two months when the tour returned
for the annual Gatornats.
Then, a conflict sent driver Doug Kalitta packing.
Luckily, his cousin Scott was in nearby St. Petersburg on business so he
headed for the track.
On his first attempt in a bunch of years, the ex-World
Champ scampered the Jim Oberhofer-tuned machine to a halftrack
3.262/198. Not bad for a retired driver. On the third test, Scott reeled
in a 3.101/268 660-footer on a run that saw him unboot it long before
the final cones. The 4.835/215 coaster gave them a superb baseline.
Kenny Koretsky announced that he'll be running two
Valspar, Rally Wax and Snap-on Tools- backed Pontiac Grand-Ams, and that
the second car will be wheeled by Richie Stevens. The real estate
investor from Pennsylvania plans a limited schedule for himself, while
putting his New Orleans-based protégé on the full tour. Stevens
original ran a successful Jr. Dragster program before moving on to IHRA
Pro Stock under Roy Hill's tutelage. Joe Cunningham and Tom Pierson
have been named c0-crew chiefs and power will come from Frank Iaconio.
Another big news breaker came from Cory McClenathan,
who has been of late racing in circles at several SoCal oval tracks.
He'll return to Top Fuel in Rick Henkelman's dragster. Henkelman,
along with David Baca, will make the move from A/FD to TF.
Cory ran TAD back in the ‘80s, when Rick was running
a TAFC. David, son of historic TF standout Dennis, came on board to
drive the potent injected nitro TAD (which ran low 5.20s last year) over
the last couple seasons. All are extremely enthusiastic about this step.
An interesting part of this story is that "Cory
Mac" won his last couple outings in a very special MBNA-backed Murf
McKinney chassis out of "Team Coach" Gibbs. That car, and most
of its running gear and support truck, was sequestered away in a deal
between Cory and Brad Anderson. A little over a year after that deal was
struck, the car was delivered to Bob Meyer's shop near San Diego for
inspection and freshening. The thrash to get all in readiness includes
inventorying all that was once owned by the Gibbs TF operation. With
what is there, plus the combined talent of the
McClenathan-Henkelman-Baca team, these guys should run at the front of
the pack immediately.
At Baytown, tune-ups for the Pro Stock Super Bowl AND
the drag racing season actually began Tuesday when rigs began to roll
through the gates at Houston Raceway Park. Cold weather, wind and rain
kept actual activities to a minimum, although several teams tried. They
finally made some noise Thursday.
All kinds of rumors have crept into "the
news" as to performances from the Pro Stock cars and as teams
gathered, the stories unfolded, either squelching or embellishing the
previously wild tales.
One story was regarding how many Pro Stock Truck teams
would be moving to cars. Another was that the 3-car Dodge team had
recorded 6.7s at over 203mph. Several test rumors revolved around a
not-too-secret session at Darlington.
The rain finally gave up just after noon on the last
day of January, giving Bruce Allen (6.907/199), Mike Edwards (6.857/200)
and Ben Watson (6.92/199) enough track to get down. Several others were
Others that had decent days were Peggy Llewellyn, who
stretched her shifts to beyond optimum but still hit a career best
7.172/185. Jason Collins thundered to a 6.621/209, and Steve Spiess was
just behind (6.626/209) in IHRA PS.
The Super Bowl is a real race, with testing for Pro
Stocks and Pro Mods, with a little extra incentive of cash for a few
rounds. Entry for the testers is free and the early season fans really
enjoy the laid back pace.
On Friday, the weather stayed below 60 degrees but the
performances warmed the event. Mark Osborne earned one of the better
timeslips (6.804/202) with the Summit Cavalier. I'll have full
coverage of the event within a day or so.