Nitronic Research Nitromania
Retro Racing Review Part I
By Mark Hovsepian
TOP FUEL (Team-by-Team)
STEINER & BERGER RACING
The 2002 VRA Champ has a new set of the Webster billet heads and aside from some minor changes in the cockpit (throttle pedal position) the car remains basically the same. With only 3 runs above six seconds during the entire '02 season, it is no wonder why Steiner has been nicknamed the 5.80 bracket racer. A test session at Sacto prior to the March Meet is planned. Crew chief Brad Berger continues to make progress with his battle with colon cancer. Get well soon, Brad!
The Utah Posse has spent the winter rebuilding from the damage sustained from that wheelstand at Bakersfield. The car has been "front halved" and wheelie bars added. Jack Harris continues his torrid pace with an aggressive (but partially tentative) 15-race schedule this season. Three new members have been added to the posse - Don & Steve Tyrell along with Steve Watson (who will join the team in Boise after Bakersfield as co crew chief assisting Brett Harris.) The Sheriff's '03 season will be highlighted with a new car, currently being built by Frank Parks (Neil & Parks). This car will more closely resemble earlier slingshots in appearance with "rounder body panels" and other features that have been lost during the 50-year evolution of the front engine dragster. If there is any doubt in your mind that this car will be a beauty, note this; Scott Parks has been getting tin-knockin' lessons from none other than Tom Hanna. Yes! Look for a competition debut at the Boise Nightfire event after testing at Rocky Mountain Raceway in Salt Lake City, home of the Jack Harris "Fall Thunderfest" on Sept 1.
MIKE FULLER MOTORSPORTS
The President of the AA/FD, Inc. group will hit the strips this year with enough gear to rule the world. Spare motors, heads, and a backup chassis will enable the Fuller/Dunlap squad to take on all comers in 2003. We may see the mean side of these two gentlemen this year.
The VRA record holder will run the four West Coast Goodguys races, the four Sacramento races, the two in Boise and the CHRR. Jim Murphy has added Torco Oil and VP Fuels to the program while Orchard Supply Hardware is back for 2003 (their third year.) Changes to the car include Alan Johnson billet heads and an RCD tri-drive that puts the mag, oil pump, and fuel pump in front of the motor. A little paint freshening to eliminate the "ouchies" they picked up last year and the WWII crew is ready to go.
NITRO FEVER No Known Cure
Dave Smith's Sacramento Raceway / Pac-West Trailer sponsored digger is currently driverless. The quiet departure of Mike McLennan comes at a time when this team is poised to make the most noise ever. Capable tuner Chris Nance joins Mike Troxel and Elton Allred and Smith has purchased one of the new Rodeck blocks. This car will most certainly be a contender the instant the vacancy is filled in the cockpit. Sacramento Raceway will host four events this season that feature front engine fuelers including an AA/FD show within the Division 7 Lucas Oil points meet, April 25-27. Nitro under the lights on Saturday - it doesn't get much better than that! *** Late breaking rumor - Jason Richey may audition. Stay tuned. ***
GROUND ZERO MOTOR SPORTS
Wild Bill Alexander is at the controls of the Good Ship Eirich and the team is focused on regaining that 5-second performance they have had in the past. Lynda, John and the team are in the process of rebuilding and restocking the war wagon for a schedule that includes 4 Goodguys races, 4 Sacramento dates, August in Boise and the CHRR. Brian Van Dyke of www.DairyJobz.com is on board this year along with longtime supporters Western Chrome of Fresno, Dubose/Kopshever Chevrolet of Chowchilla, Stirling Racecars, Fred Crow Enterprises, Dwight Hughes, Crane Cams, and Mallory Ignitions.
RICH HOWELL MOTORSPORTS
AAFD board member Rich Howell will support as many events as work permits and don't expect him to miss any until he gets that 5 second speeding ticket. Fred Farndon will be crew chief on the 2002 & ½ Stirling car with Mike Patterson doing the machine work and engine assembly. Rich's brother Paul (business and race car partner) will continue to do the clutch and drive the transporter. Long time crewmembers Josh Lee and Matt Thompson will be back as well as new crewmembers Jeff Thompson and Garey Compston.
Fred will focus his attention on Rich Howell's operation but will field a car of his own as time permits. The wily veteran hopes to have the fastest all iron front motored Chevy and has Mike Patterson on the engine with Garey Compston on the bottom end. Special thanks to Dina and Steve Edinger.
Mike Lockman has dumped about a hundred pounds of weight off the car by virtue of a set of Webster billet heads. With a 6.02 in his pocket and "hun" off the scales, Lockman expects to be the first one in the staging lanes at the March Meet to become the 14th member of the Nitronic Research AA/FD 5 Second Club.
TEDFORD, McGEE, HESTER
The Razmataz gang will hit the grounds of the March Meet with a new set of AJ heads. No huge changes to the car. Darrell Tedford is recovering from recent back surgery and Rick McGee still can't wipe the smile from his face since running his first 5 last year at Sonoma.
The newest member of the Nitronic Research 5 Second Club has repainted the "Running Wild" dragster and is ready to go. "Not really changing much, just improving what we got." "Still waiting on a new can but we'll be OK." Gene Amaya returns as tuning wizard - bringing much anticipation of attaining the level of consistency that Brendan had before coming to Top Fuel.
New go fast parts (AJ heads, trick manifold, rear end) and a slimmer, trimmer Howard Haight have lightened the Tribe's GVW by about 100 pounds. Persistent rumors that Howard will have an NHRA A/Fuel ride remain unconfirmed.
CHAMPION SPEED SHOP
Bob McLennan has pushed the "hold" button on the CSS racing operation. Driver Rance McDaniel continues to make improvements with his physical and mental health and if desire were the only criteria - he'd be racing right now. The world's quickest and fastest nitro powered small block Chevy will be running in Kent Terry's dragster. See below.
KENT TERRY MOTORSPORTS
Pulled from the Classified Ads and back on the drag strip - Kent's familiar blue car has been refitted to accept a small block Chevrolet (tuned by Tony Bernardini and Bob McLennan.) Current plans for 2003 include running the 4 West Coast Goodguys races, the CHRR, and one of the Sacto races. Testing prior to the March Meet is an indefinite goal.
Pete "Fritz" Kaiser returns to the seat of Jon and Judy Halstead's digger for 2003 with the crew of Larry Gotelli, Pete & Marlene Kaiser, John Pickett and John Howell. These folks have gigged on several other projects and have what it takes to put the "Hoist" in the Fives.
Pete Jensen's Foothill Flyer gang is in full thrash mode in preparation for the March Meet and beyond. They plan to run all four Sacramento events, the two Boise races, the CHRR, and most Goodguys drags. Kerry and Dick Cooper join Jackson Tires as new sponsors while RedLine Oil, Titan Engineering, Rex Hutchison, Blower Shop, Pac West Trailers, Mallory/Erson, and Hot Heads re-up for '03. The Flyer will sport a data recorder this season for the first time. Our sources tell us that they'll be using an Edelbrock unit, thanks to collaboration with Dale Pulde.
JOHN BLANCHARD RACING
John Blanchard has recruited a new driver, again from the NHRA alcohol ranks. Our spies have tipped us to the name but we won't steal the thunder away from a planned March Meet debut. Licensing requirements to be completed at Sacto. Winter months were far from idle for JB as he took an unprecedented 3 trophies at the recent Sacramento Auto Show. Blanchard has added a RacePak data recorder and vows to "get that 5 this year."
JIM CULLEN RACING
A new "mag" body from Frank Parks and some AJ heads to go along with the new billet Rodeck are the major updates for this season. Trying some new carbon fiber brakes also. Shedding precious pounds to get that magic 5, no doubt. Former Kenny Bernstein crewman Guy Tipton rejoins the Cullen crew. Denver Schutz will carry on with cockpit duties. "We are now making billet front timing covers for the motors with a crank trigger device for the ignition and dry sump oil pans." Cullen also says, "The material has been delivered to John Rodeck's for the next 12 blocks and hope to get under way with this next batch soon. Price is still $7,250 per block complete with all studs, cam bearings and one set of sleeves." For more info, catch up with these guys at all the Goodguys meets and the CHRR.
BRYAN VAN DYKE MOTORSPORTS
The split between Bob Barry and Brian Van Dyke leaves the future of this team in question - as well as the status of driver Jeff Diehl.
Bob Richardson is accepting applications for partner and driver positions on this team.
Rumors are rampant but a driver has yet to be named.
Lee Jennings will hit the March Meet with a new (and lighter) Stirling car. Testing in Vegas at the Pro Nitro event and also displaying the car during the NHRA Winternationals in the Goodguys tent have helped to shorten the off-season. Ray Zeller has made some fuel system refinements that will keep the Big Bowtie at pace with the Hemis. Special thanks to Donovan Engineering, JE Pistons, Kobelco, and NGK. Incidentally, Lee Paul Jennings (da kid) will share seat time with Trucker crewmember Karl Scheele in the car that he drove in 2001. The AA/FD has been "converted" to compete in NE1.
TRI STATE RACING
Ernie and Stephen McClain hail from Delaware but they probably have as many race dates as most of the West Coast cars. Planned stops for 2003 include Rockingham, Norwalk, Indy, Bowling Green, Delmar and two tracks in Virginia. Team member Stephen Nichols has taken delivery on a new Stirling Funny Car chassis and plans on a debut at the Funny Car Reunion (July 26th and 27th.)
Lincoln's conservative approach to racing has allowed him to race Top Fuel and have fun on a budget. The car is being prepared for a match race with McClain in Rockingham on April 12th then on to Indy for the Goodguys Hot Rod Nationals in June. Other plans include the National Hot Rod Reunion in Bowling Green, more match races and the Citrus Nationals, "all with the McClain's, a great bunch of guys."
MORTON, ALLEN & ALLEN
You may remember Dennis and Don Allen from the Division 7 Top Alcohol scene in the 80s. They have teamed up with Al Morton to field a new AA/FD for 2003. Sadly, the car was damaged during testing at Sacramento and Dennis has yet to complete his crossover licensing. Chassis repairs are already underway but a March Meet debut is doubtful.
Rick Rogers has purchased the ex Voodoo digger of Shep Ginzberg and draped it in a full body adorned with a multi-colored flames over white pearl. Rogers has licensed and will make his competition debut this year. Rogers' sponsors include Drag City and Alt's Tool & Machine in Santee, Ca.
DAN HORAN, JR
The Irish Intimidator Team will test their new, full bodied, 225" Stirling car with their trusty Donovan "just to see what improvement the new pipe makes on performance then we'll put the new billet motor in for the March Meet." "The funny car is ready to run, but no place to go."
"Will test in March & April in Louisiana & Oklahoma with a probable debut at Bowling
Green in June." Freeman, an ONA member, aims to compete at all their remaining 2003 events.
SUDDEN IMPACT RACING
Scott Mason is now the solo driver of this car as former co-owner, Steve Watson, has departed. Bill Taft will be crew chief - assisted by Scott's dad, Lyle. The crew assembled to work on the car is Mike Mason, Mark Madsen, Jesse McDaniel, Tyler Hover, and Hank Lee. First outing will be Boise in April, followed by Salt Lake City and then maybe a trip to the coast. Mason looks to gain more experience with the combination and hopes to turn up the wick on the Chevy as the year rolls on.
A/Fuel is in Bill's rear view mirror as he ditches the big bad hemi in favor of a nitro snortin' BBC. This is the ex Kirk Kuhns - Hansen chassis that Russ Conroy drove for Bill in A/Fuel. Rumor is that Dusty Renteria may shoe.
Lance and Tracy Osborn have taken a little time away from the races to get their business in full swing and hope to return to the action very soon. See www.cnccenter.net for more info.
The Black Knight will replace his Davis chassis with one from Bill Comstock some time this year. The veteran hopes to kick the parts breakage habit that has plagued him of late.
John Shoemaker has yet to confirm but all indications are that he will not compete this season.
George & Bob Swann with driver Dale Carlson are planning to make a few passes at the Sonoma Goodguys race in May. Other plans include Seattle & Puyallup in July, Boise Nitefire Nats and the CHRR. Special thanks to McNeny Legal Services John Hussey at Autolite Canada, the Swann family, Dan Gagno & family, Brian Binns, Tim Peck, Bob McDonald, Jerry Hall, Rich Rogers, the late Al Swindahl, Walt Austin, Bucky Austin, Larry Pfister & Kokanee Beer.
A new car and new team; will make their debut this year.
"We will be making numerous laps to license and learn this new combination." Al is a member of the Outlaw Nitro Alliance and will make as many dates with them as he can.
Bob Bradley will have a nitro powered SBC 'tween the rails of his A/Fuel Dragster to serve as his "match race motor." A freshened Dale Hall 358" on alky will see duty at the Indy Goodguys race, Bowling Green, Kentucky, Oxford, Maine, Epping, New Hampshire and the CHRR. Bradley plans to handle the driving chores this year after completing a refresher course with Frank Hawley.
The Hemi Hunter guys are getting it all together and hope to have driver Dale Thierer licensed long before the Bowling Green reunion. Keep up to date at www.hemihunterracing.com.
PONTIAC HEAVEN SPECIAL
Steve Barcak's combination is most unique, a blown fuel Pontiac. Steve's initial engine is based on a '59 389 block and displaces 399 inches. It utilizes a billet crank and a set of highly modified Wenzler heads. Most of the motor and components were either designed or built by Barcak with the help of a few friends. This will be the "learn to drive, tune and get used to running nitro" engine. Ultimately the power will come from a rare aluminum Pontiac Ram Air block with a rare set of Mickey Thompson Pontiac Hemi heads of early 60s vintage. "My team and I have little nitro experience and will take our time learning how to set up the car and for me to get seat time." "I am looking forward to getting licensed and running the car at Goodguys meets and other nostalgia events."
SKETCHY DETAILS and UNSUBSTANTIATED RUMORS
Roger Lechtenberg (Orange Crate has a new billet block and is headed West), Todd Meikel, Tim Coffer (2 cars in the works), Chuck Tanko (recent shoulder surgery but tested in Vegas), Bach & Gould, Dave Jackson (Heroes & Villains), Joe Hendricks (rumor; Joe may drive this year), Birky Bunch, Mastercam (new East West clutch, ran at Phoenix with Sean Bellemeur), Jim "Huey" Orban (Time Bandits), Jesse Perkins (Cow Palace Shell - Gary Ritter up?), Randy Lauen (rumor; stepping up this year to full blown nitro), Jeff Deihl, Bob Hallock (saw action late last year but is on his way to Texas with the back motored car for IHRA), Ben Hallock, Neil Bisciglia, Alicia Stirling (engaged, congrats Alicia !), Mike McLennan, John & Ryan Sheridan, Jon Barrett, Al Pridemore, Kerry Morera, Sam Chastain (rumor; will return to Top Fuel), Rick Bruce, Ty Norton, Jim Boyd, Pierre Poncia, Bob Muravez (NHRA, VRA, Cacklefest, etc.), Butch Blair (on the mend and Fugowie Howie is up), Troy Green (brings in Bill Crosby as new partner, may travel more this year), Polson & Cox, Jason Howell (done?), Dom Paris, Dale Pulde (helping lots of folks behind the scenes), Bob Beedy, Jr. , Randi Bridges, Tom McKeon, Brian Sturgeon (New Stirling Texas Car to be completed later this year), David Pace (rumor; will drive for John Dearmore.)
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