1981 AHRA Grandnationals - Top Fuel
By Rick Howard
The Top Fuel final featured Frank Bradley vs. Shirley Muldowney. Photo by Rick Howard
What a delightful place to stage a major racing event. Acres of verdant, gently rolling hills. Hundreds of broad shade trees provide respite from the summer sun. The entire facility well maintained and manicured. Dragway 42 seems more like a park than a drag strip!
The greatest aspect is the fact that the drag strip itself is as strong and safe as its surroundings are beautiful. The concrete launch pad and wide lanes were treated to a liberal VHT rubdown by that master of strip conditions, Don Garlits. The strip provided and excellent stage for thundering Pro five-second, 250 mile per hour passes and nail-biting sportsmen fender-to-fender competition.
Don Garlits was a bit subdued Friday and Saturday morning. His antagonist (real or media hype?) Shirley Muldowney was leading qualifying with a five while he was in the sixes after three passes. A mid-Saturday 5.86/246, good for the No. 1 spot, buoyed his spirits considerably. Shirley, coming off her AHRA National's win, ripped off a 5.89/245 on her first pass for the second spot. Frank Bradley, making his second '81 Grand Am appearance, was third with a 5.97/231. Chris Karamesines was fourth with a 6.02/236. Dick LaHaie's 6.03/236 got him fifth. Fred Snavely was sixth, in at 6.08/230. Bill Goudreau, experiencing his best career performance, ran a 6.18/231 for seventh. Alky giant, Billy Williams, has parted company with Jeg Coughlin. A fuel motor now residing in his Pro Comp steed got Billy in the program with a 6.35/234 for the bump spot.
Shirley's son John Muldowney in the pits. Photo by Rick Howard
Billy Williams, bringing his Top Fueler that thinks it's a Pro Comp, strapped a hole shot on "the Greek," but to no avail. Chris Karamesines took up the excess slack and blew by the former TAD world-beater in the lights, 6.07/242 to 6.18/139. Fred Snavely also pulled a nifty gate job, but it too fell short. Two-time defending Grand National champ Shirley Muldowney ripped off a stout 5.92/243 to the Kansan's 6.34/220. Bill Goudreau, elated by his qualifying performance, had his bubble burst by Frank Bradley and early tire shake. "The Beard" hooked it to a 6.04/201 while Bill shook and shut off. Don Garlits closed out first round action by raining on Dick LaHaie's parade via a 6.09/240 to 6.12/233 win.
The semis provided a great victory for Bradley as he flat outran long time nemesis and low qualifier, Don Garlits; 5.96/239 to 6.04/240. Karamesines has been enjoying an upsurge of success lately, qualifying well and winning races. Queen Shirley was not impressed and proceeded to pommel him into submission with a Dragway 42 record setting 5.80/250; also good for Low ET and Top Speed of the Meet. Chris recorded a respectable, but insufficient 6.19/236.
The finals paired Bradley, winner of the 1977 and '78 Grand Nationals, against Shirley. Muldowney has won the last two events here in a row and was looking for number three.
Frank Bradley definitely had a negative reply in mind with a good leave and a 5.88/240 to Shirley's 5.90/248 - but hold on race fans...drag racing's "first lady" prevailed! Muldowney refused to fade and drove by Frank in the lights for the win. That's three straight wins at Dragway 42 since her first ever AHRA win here in 1979.