2003 Summit Nationals News & Notes
By James Drew
Courtesy of Nitronic Research
Jeggie Coughlin and Jessie James hangin' out at The Strip. Photo by James Drew
The 2003 NHRA POWERade Summit Nationals at the strip was a GOOD race.
It had something for everyone. This will not be a race report. You can get that elsewhere. This will be down & dirty notes...
In Top Fuel, the Brad Hadman new carbon fiber body debuted... The car made two good laps at 4.57 & 4.60, but the car smoked the tires three times. I like the looks of the car and to answer the one question everyone has asked, myself included, the body mounts with pins in the front. It has a slip joint in the rear so that when the chassis flexes at speed the body also moves. This may be the look of the future for TOP FUEL. I was told by a source that the Amato Team has six month exclusivity with Brad Hadman on this venture.
Larry Dixon set the top speed mark at this race. It looks like Dick LaHaie has the car to beat at this time, but look out for Connie Kalitta & Jim Oberhofer. They have the quickest car during qualifying, but on race day they have not been able to stay consistent.
This weekend, Team Bud was a little off during qualifying. But on race day they were there to race. In the semis the car went up in smoke at half track. The Tim Richards car just had too much horsepower. The surprise of the race again was David Baca. Johnny West has this machine thundering. The low point of Top Fuel was that the Weis Family car just could not get down the track. On every run, something different would go wrong. A brand new blower belt breaks 200 feet out on one run, a malfunction in the clutch on another. This team just needs a little better luck. The Weis team works very hard, but has had nothing but bad luck.
Also struggling this weekend were the Strasburgs. They spent close to 20 grand to get the 10 grand qualifying. money. Larry Dixon gave Don "SNAKE" Prudhomme a great 62nd birthday present -- a Wally.
In nitro funny car, Whit had the quickest car. In the semis, however, when he got back on the throttle he hydraulic'd the motor causing the blower to backfire. Teams may say that this does not affect them, but it must have messed up their mojo. The Schumacher team is running the Norm Drazy blower on all three cars. And all three hydraulic'd the blower with Gary Scelzi's being the worst one with the big banger. That turned the Dodge Stratus into a funny car puzzle and Gary failed to qualify. Scelzi's bad luck was good for Jack Wyatt who ran his first 4 sec run ever and qualified on the bump.
Tony Pedregon won in the final due to Whit's redlight gift.
Team Force may have won the race but all three cars are putting some funny flames out of the pipes at the finish line. The one having the most trouble is team captain John Force. John has not gotten past the first round yet this year. I was told two different things. One source told me that Austin has been experimenting. Another said it has been something going wrong on every run, but a different thing each time. One more person told me that they were trying to take horsepower away from the car because it was spinning the tires on the top end. What ever the team's trouble, do not count John out yet. There are plenty of races left to win the championship.
John was not in a real good mood on Monday. Their first test pass was not a very good run and it hurt the Mustang body. One source told me that the team was beginning to run out of the bodies.
On the Norm Drazy blower, there are four cars running it at this time, but a fifth team could be running one this weekend in Houston. Norm told me that this team -- in particular, a certain crew chief -- ran his blower in its first trial runs and gave Norm the idea to build it.
The blower on Scelzi's car seemed fine after they cleaned the debris out of the rotors. Some of the intake manifold shrapnel found its way into them but after the application of a little oil, it spun over. None of the cases were damaged in all three backfires. I was told that all three were caused by the drivers getting off the throttle and then back on it. All the crew chiefs I spoke with really like Norm's new blower.
In Pro Stock, the winner was Greg Anderson. He said he had something to prove after not qualifying at the October race at this track. Anderson was on his game all day and he holeshot Kurt Johnson in the final. The surprise in Pro Stock was Scott Geoffrion in Hurley Blakeney's Ford Focus. It was by far the best race yet for the Ford power plants out of Bob Panella Racing Engines. Also kicking butt was Mark Whisnant, who went a couple of rounds. Another in this class with a big smile was Barry Grant, who was celebrating his one year anniversary at this race by going a round.
In Top Alky Dragster, the A/Fuel Dragsters struggled this weekend as David Wells won in the ex Jack O'Bannon car that Rick Santos drove to just a few championships. The car tuned by the same long time drag boat and drag racing tuner, Norm Grimes. The car ran flawlessly all weekend. Surprise finalist was Don Hudson, who drove a great all weekend.
Well, Bucky Austin just kicked ass in TAFC all weekend in his Pontiac Firebird, tuned By Randy Anderson. Randy had this car in the low 5.60s in the heat of the day. Cy Chesterman in his Coca Cola Pontiac made a valiant effort and was the 2nd best car all weekend.
The "Where Did They Come From?" awards in this class were shared by Mark Woznichak in the Rancho Framing car and Ron August. Woz ran a career best E.T. & semi finalist Ron August also ran his best numbers ever.
Kid Rock, who is from Detroit, attended to help promote the Action Collectibles company's long list of celebrity themed paint schemes. He teamed with fellow Michigan guys Team Kalitta.
Jessie James was there also. The TV star was in town to film an upcoming Discovery Channel Monster Garage show. We got some photos of this, but they can't be used until the day of the show. All I can say is it was a very interesting day. I shot four rolls of film & fifty digital images.
Check them all out right HERE.