First a few loose ends to wrap up from INDY:
Terry Haddock has been driving assorted Funny Cars on both sides of the country this year, steering the Lindsay/Moore entry on the west coast and showing up in various cars in the east. He could not put a ride together for the U.S. Nationals so he settled for a crew job with Helen Hoffman's Pontiac. Haddock is qualified for Englishtown and will be back in his own car for that event.
On the subject of Hoffman, late on Monday afternoon and while the event's pro winners were being introduced to the fans, Helen was involved in a discussion ( to use a diplomatic description) with NHRA President Tom Compton. The subject of said discussion was the situation regarding next weekend’s running of the final eliminations of the rained out Matco Tools Spring Supernationals at Englishtown. Hoffman's car was qualified there by Cristen Powell who no longer drives for the team. Hoffman’s current shoe Tommy Johnson Jr is not qualified for the show and while 13th qualified Powell has replaced 14th placed Todd Paton in the Nitro Fish /CP Transportation entry the rules are explicit in stating that alternates are not eligible to enter the race and that qualifiers must be in attendance to earn points and monetary awards. The rule book does not provide a solution for the current situation as it does not address the situation of a car owner who switches drivers for whatever reason.
In this case Hoffman obviously feels that she deserves at least the first round money because she provided the means for Powell to make the show while the NF/CP team also feels that they are in line for remuneration for putting Paton in the show. The simple solution would obviously be for the drivers to return to their original rides but with the current friction between Powell and Hoffman that obviously will not happen.
The situation regarding Hoffman and Powell worsened recently when a lawsuit was instituted by Casey Powell regarding Hoffman’s sacking of Cristen following the Columbus event. At the last two events a crude cardboard sign has been taped to the rear door of Hoffman's trailer soliciting donations from fans to assist in fighting the suit. Although the sign notes that the suit was filed by a former driver and her father some fans obviously misread and and additional note was added stating "No, not Al" in reference to Helen’s husband who currently drives for Jim Dunn and could fairly be classsed as a former driver of Helen's car.
Tim and Kim Richards joined the Exide team on Sunday here and put Melanie Troxel into the show. But for a plug lead faux pas on Monday Troxel probably would have been in the final of T/F, racing teammate Tony Schumacher. When queried by FNN after the event team owner Don Schumacher confirmed that Jimmy Prock would be tuning the Troxel car in 2001 while the Richards’ will be heading up a funny car operation that will be added to the burgeoning team. Schumacher also stated that his ultimate goal was to have a second flopper team as well if funding can be obtained. A driver has not yet been signed for the funnycar but the senior Schumacher noted that he did not lack hopeful candidates over the weekend.
Teams have been employing various methods to aviod oiling the track and thus incurring fines and points penalties. Several of the funnycars and now some dragsters are running a belly pan under the motor to collect any oil that makes its way out of the motor. One major source of oil leaks occurs when a piston is holed or badly backsided, allowing the blower boost to make its way into the lower extremeties of the motor. The smaller volume dry sump pans currently in vogue with some teams are especially vulnerable to splitting under the increased pressure and although reinforcing plates and gusssets are used by some crew chiefs Alan Johnson feels that he may have a better idea.
Johnson's solution has been to have a pan fabricated out of titanium which although about one and a half pounds heavier than its aluminium counterpart is much stronger. Although the cost is high at approximately $3,000 Johnson noted that even in the event of a major engine explosion the rtepair cost does not exceed that of replacing the aluminium version which is usually not salvageable.
For the second year in a row there was a surprise finalist in T/F at the Nats. Last year Andrew Cowin made the cut in the #16 spot and mowed down several hitters on his way to a clash with Cory McClenathan. This time it was Gary Clapshaw, in only his fourth T/F outing, who faced off with Tony Schumacher only to bulb and then smoke the tires.
Randy Daniels' championship hopes took a hit in the opening round of pro stock truck when his Bailey Trucking broke a driveshaft right off the line in his opening round clash with Todd Patterson. When Bob Panella went on to win the event Daniels left Indy with a 189 point deficit and only four races left on the PST schedule.
Although the plan put in place following the U.S. Nationals called for Cruz Pedregon to drive Helen Hoffman’s car here it did not come to pass. Pedregon was qualifed for the show in his own entry but lacking major sponsorship and unsure if the trip back to the east coast would pay off. Hoffman was lacking a qualified driver for her car and planning to be at nearby Maple Grove the following weekend for the Keystone nats and the deal was evidently done as reported on the NHRA web site.
Instead Cruz was in his own TellerQuick backed Pontiac here and, after Jerry Toliver was eliminated by John Force, Pedregon was the beneficiary of some assistance from the WWF camp. Dale Armstrong and Bob Brooks helped out on the tune-up and prior to the final round the preparation of the car was handled almost in its entirety by Toliver’s pit crew. Pedregon crew chief Garry "Skippy" Kennedy has a connection with Brooks, working for AFT, the clutch manufacturer founded by Brooks and Frank Carsten as his "day job".
Pedregon’s last final round appearance came at this venue last year where he lost to John Force on a holeshot. A similar loss to brother Tony in the semifinal round at Dallas a week later sealed Cruz’s fate and he was replaced in the Joe Gibbs entry by Tommy Johnson Jr.
Clarence Markham looked like the tricycle rider from the old Laugh-In TV show as a second round brake failure on his pro stock bike sent him into the sand trap where the bike simply fell on its side as the speed was washed off. Markham, who took Matt Hines out in the opening round was back for the semi but fell to eventual runner up Geno Scali.
Todd Paton and his family debuted their new funnycar here with a 5.187 effort during Friday’s test session. That lap was followed by a 5.018 at 302.21 mph later that day. Lacking major sponsorship the plain white car carried Paton's #99 on the side with the foil decal spanning the full depth of the body.
Figuratively Whit Bazemore got to race himself in the opening round of eliminations as his Kendall/Matco Camaro was paired with Cristen Powell who shoes the Bazemore owned Nitro Fish/CP Transportation entry. When Bazemore smoked the tires Powell advanced and in the second round she had driven around a holeshot by Cruz Pedregon, seemingly headed for the win when a blower explosion knocked the windshield out of the NF/CP Camaro slowing it to a 5.033 at only 274 mph allowing Pedregon to advance with a 5.026 at 308 mph..
Bazemore had been the star of the previous day’s test when he carded a 4.847 at 314.24 mph to back up his competetive race day times at Indy. It appeared that the Chuck Etchells owned team had finally turned the corner at the U.S. Nationals but here once again a stout pre race day effort was followed by a first round loss.
Although Jerry Toliver was second only to Bazemore on Friday with a 4.885 he to fell off the pace on race day and was the victim of John Force’s low elapsed time of the event (this time around) 4.940 in round two.
During Friday’s test session the best pro stock number was Jeg Coughlin's 6.879, a time that would barely have made the show on the event's original weekend. as Kurt Johnson anchored the show with a 6.880 back in May. Warren Johnson’s 200.53 during the warm up was also the only 200 mph lap this time around while 14 of the 16 qualifiers were over that mark under the cool weather conditions during qualifying.
Things went a little more to plan for Doug Kalitta who had the best number on Friday with a stout 4.591 and went on to win the race over a resurgent Gary Scelzi. Scelzi is now just 29 markers in arrears of Tony Schumacher as the Army entry driven by "The Sarge" was a second round victim.
Mark Pawuk gave Greg Anderson his best shot at taking out Ron Krisher in the opening round of eliminations by putting the Summit team’s best motor and header package in Anderson's car, relying on past preformances to take his own car past Hurley Blakeney's Probe. When Krisher’s car had some sort of electrical problem and slowed Anderson took the victory but Blakeney shocked Pawuk with his first ever round win in NHRA national event competition.
Anderson then eliminated Blakeney before using a perfect .400 reaction
time to take defending event champion Richie Stevens out of the action.
Proving that the instant launch was not a fluke Anderson had a .401 light
against Jeg Coughlin in the final but could not hold off the "Jeggernaut"
as Coughlin extended his seemingly insurmountable points lead with his
eighth win of the season.