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Fri, 2 Jun 2000, 09:10 PM

GRAND BEND - Friday Recap
By Larry Sullivan

GRAND BEND, Ont. - Performances during the first round of qualifying at the Mopar Parts Canadian Nationals show that Grand Bend Motorplex track has teeth. The track saw its first ever 300-mph runs, and elapsed times that threatened record books.

“We always like to start soft,” claimed Top Fuel polesitter Paul Romine after his 4.769 second pass. “[Crew chief Clayton Harris] and I wanted to run a 4.80. Then we see Shirley [Muldowney] and Clay [Millican] run, and I said, ‘Oh, jeez.’ The car left great, and after making a correction off the transition, the car ran smooth the rest of the way. This is a great little track, and if the weather continues, I think you’ll see speeds you won’t believe.”

Romine’s pass was just .001 seconds off of his season best in the CARQUEST dragster, and his incredible 307.58 mph speed shows that the team is making power in the same league as that of number two qualifier, Shirley Muldowney.

The crowd at Grand Bend Motorplex went wild as Muldowney wheeled her Top Fuel dragster down the course to a 4.785 at 309.38 mph, the first speed recorded in excess of 300 mph at the Ontario facility. While the run was both quick and fast, it was not a smooth one. The car left the groove and veered toward the wall, but she was able to call on her experience to steer it back smoothly and complete the pass. Muldowney said, “We didn’t know what the track could handle, but we knew what we had.”

Clay Millican’s 4.793 at 298.21 mph, good for third spot in Top Fuel, was one more stamp of approval for Grand Bend. “We made a great run,” said Millican, driver of the dragster. “You can expect Mike Kloeber to step it up on Saturday.”

Other professional categories experienced similar performances. In Mopar Performance Parts Pro Modified, Fred Hahn paced the field by over a tenth of a second in his Summit Racing ’54 Corvette, rocking his competitors with a 6.279 at 221.45 mph.

In the opening pair of Screamin’ Eagle Nitro Harley, Vance & Hines rider Doug Vancil flew to a 6.613 at 219.03 mph, almost four mph faster than the World Record. “The record would be nice, but what I really want is a win,” said Vancil, whose elapsed time was good enough for just the fourth position. Steve Stordeur claimed the top qualifying slot with a much slower speed, but his 6.429 @ 203.61 mph put him almost a tenth of a second ahead of the pack.

Former World Champion Jimmy Rector headed up the field after a wild round of Funny Car qualifying. Rector carded a 5.955 at 235.84 mph in his Holbrook backed Avenger, holding off number two seed and defending World Champion Von Smith by just .004 seconds.

In an even closer battle for the pole, the Citgo-backed Monte Carlo of John Montecalvo outran erry Yeoman’s 6.688 @ 207.18 mph by a mere .002 seconds, posting a 6.686 at an identical 207.18 mph in the first session of Sunoco Race Fuels Pro Stock qualifying.

Second round qualifying for the Mopar Parts Canadian Nationals qualifying continues on Saturday.

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