Shirley Headlines Nitro Match Race Action from E-Town and Lebanon Valley
By Billy Anderson
26th Annual Snap-On Tools Night of Thrills Co-Sponsored By P.C. Richard & Son
Old Bridge Township Raceway Park kicked off its summer event season Wednesday night June 6 with the 26th annual Snap-On Tools Night of Thrills, co-sponsored by P.C. Richard & Son. The match race featured a variety of vehicles and big names, the headliner being legendary Shirley Muldowney and her Top Fuel car. Muldowney paired off with Snap-On Tools driver Doug Herbert for a pair of matches.
The two vehicles opened the show at approximately 8 p.m., when Muldowney went up in smoke before the 60-foot clocks. Herbert made it to half-track before hazing the tires and he pedaled a couple of times before shutting down to a 5.259, 210.28. Muldowney coasted to a 12.143, 76.33. Both teams were certainly disappointed with their first passes, and went back to tune it up for the final.
In one of the more exciting match race pairings ever, Herbert took his sponsor's event title with a 4.662 at a shut-off 299.33 mph. Muldowney was no slouch with her best pass of 2001 thus far, 4.720 seconds at 314.75 mph, setting Top Speed.
Funny Car action featured 1992 Winston Champion Cruz Pedregon matched up with local favorite Terry Haddock. Haddock had problems in round one and shut-off, while Pedregon pedaled to a 5.518, 250.13. For round two, Pedregon, in a special Flaming Frank Firebird entry and receiving help from the Fasching Brothers, shut off early but still recorded a great 5.220, 231.48. Haddock had problems and coasted to an 18.612, 72.37 in his Avenger.
Another famous female racer, Bunny Burkett, went off against current Cape Codder driver Paul Lee in a Federal-Mogul Funny Car match. Burkett laid down long burnouts both passes. In round one, she crossed the outer boundary line, got off the throttle, then nailed it again en route to a 6.406, 211.56. Lee won the round on Burkett's disqualification with a 6.421, 222.40. In the final, Burkett took the event win by driving around a huge Lee holeshot. The Bunny and the Boys Avenger laid down a 6.187, 231.00 to upend Lees coasting 6.866, 182.03 in Ed Parker's Corvette.
A special Pro Motorcycle match between Bob Spina's Nitro Harley and Wendell Douthat's Funny Bike Suzuki was exciting. Douthat shocked the troops in round one when his methanol-burning Funny Bike recorded the quickest Suzuki pass for the class,
6.771 at 207.24 mph. Spina had problems and coasted to a 12.691, 91.32. In the final, Douthat took the win with a tire shaking 7.114, 204.42. Spina's engine was not running on all cylinders, but still managed a 7.863, 178.02.
Mike Ashley was the king of Pro Modified action. He set Low E.T. in round one with a 6.441, 199.08 in the Gotham City
'63 Corvette. That lap, despite injuring the engine at the top end, set a new nitrous Pro Modified track record. Ashley returned in round two and set Top Speed with a 6.475, 216.58 lap, defeating Frankie Vlahavamis' Lumina. Vinny Budano laid down a 6.544, 214.38 from his nitrous Corvette, while Pat Musi set a new track E.T. record for Outlaw Street with a 6.625, 212.16 from his Firebird.
Jessica Willard added to the female win column by winning two straight in Jet Dragster action. The Queen of Diamonds ran a 5.167, 304.39 best. Lou Pereira's Chariot of Fire recorded a 5.453, 290.61. In Jet Funny Car, Al Hanna defeated Ernie Bogue, Jr. in an evenly matched pair. Hanna's Eastern Raider ran a 6.042, 268.60; Bogue's Blast From the Past '57 Chevy
went 6.058, 265.59.
Danny O'Day won in Wheelstander action with a 9.221, 144.99, besting Richard Hutchins' Chevy Rebellion (9.746, 130.94). Fans also
were treated to Monster Truck crushes, culminating in Dennis Anderson flipping over his GraveDigger truck, much to the delight of the crowd. Anderson was unhurt.
Overall, the Englishtown, NJ facility launched its 2001 match race season in high style.
It's not many match race events where fans can say they saw a 4.66 to 4.72
second Top Fuel match at 314 mph!
Shirley Does the Valley
Shirley Muldowney made a stop at storied Lebanon Valley Dragway on June 10 for the Nitro at the Valley show. Muldowney was the star attraction along with 1992 NHRA Winston Funny Car champion Cruz Pedregon in a special Top Fuel vs. Funny Car match race, sans handicap. It was a special event for Muldowney, who got her start in upstate New York and
has a successful history with the track. Ex-husband Jack Muldowney, who got her started in racing, was on hand as part of the crew, and Muldowney's first car,
a 1958 Corvette, was on display as well.
On the opening pass, Muldowney reset both ends of the track record with a 4.91, 290.88 lap
punctuated by tire smoke at the top end of the track. Pedregon, in his "Flaming Frank" Firebird, lost the blower belt early in the run and coasted to a 14.86, 54.56. In the final, Pedregon smoked the tires at 300 feet, potentially due to lack of tuning data from the first run after losing the belt. Muldowney made almost a virtual repeat of the first
run with the tires smoking from half-track to the finish line. She still managed to better her previous time
with a 4.909 at 293.66 mph. Pedregon coasted to a 7.40, 115.73.
Danny O'Day was also setting track records in the Wheelstander category. On his first pass, he took the Superwinch '34 Ford to an 8.87, 150.41. Pete Hoenck was on hand with the Heartbeat High S-10, and he ran a 10.17, 126.13. Pro Modifieds and Pro Comp were also
competing. The weather was gorgeous for Lebanon Valley's second major event of the year, creating high hopes for the Division One
Federal Mogul event in July.