POMONA, Calif. -- When rain forced the cancellation of qualifying late today with only three rounds completed the longest current qualifying streak in top fuel came to an end. For the first time since the 1991 U.S. Nationals Cory McClenathan will not be a part of eliminations. That 179 race streak spanned ten seasons in which McClenathan's total number of DNQ's is just three with the first two coming in that initial year. Joe Amato holds the all time streak record in T/F at 191 events while John Force has now qualified at 253 consecutive races.
As to his future plans McClenathan told FNN that he is talking with three teams about taking his MBNA associate deal to them next year. McClenathan has purchased the rolling stock of his current team with a view to being able to provide a winning package as part of the deal.
In a post qualifying press room session Force noted that he was late in arriving due to the fact that he was finalizing a five year contract with Ford Motor Company. When questioned as to the possibility of his stillborn third team running in 2001 team force commented that an announcement would be made at Monday's NHRA/Winston Awards Ceremony.
Jim Epler was also on the DNQ list here and that situation may result in an early preview of at least one team's 2001 personnel line-up. With no car to tune John Stewart may move to his new home at Skuza racing a race early. Stewart's main responsibility there will be getting Lance Larson's power to the ground.
Current indications are that this will be Cruz Pedregon's final event running his own operation. The team has struggled to find a major backer and here was running with support from long time Pedregon family friend Frank of Frank and Sons Card Show. Pedregon told FNN that he planned to re-evaluate his situation following this event where he missed the cut by six thousandths of a second. Pedregon also noted that the team needed to be properly funded rather than being forced to put together deals race by race as has been the case this year.
East Coast flopper shoe Terry Haddock who started the year here in the Lindsay/Moore entry was again at Pomona but as a spectator. Terry has driven for several teams this year but now plans to be back in action in 2001 in his own car.
Aussie Peter Russo struggled in the good air conditions here, smoking the tires at the hit on his first two attempts. Today he did at least get off the line but spun the tires down track and a 6.0 run was the end result. Having primarily raced in the summer months during their previous forays here the team simply had problems harnessing the extra power created by the cold air.
Chassis builder Grant Downing had a brand new car here for Del Worsham but after yesterday's crash the Checker/ Schuck's/ Kragen team was forced to assemble the car for Frank Pedregon. The teams travails this year have produced nearly enough work to keep Downing busy but his Paralax Race Cars shop has also mounted some 22 bodies for various teams including the WWF operation and Jim Dunn.
John Smith was back on Dave Schultz' Sunoco Suzuki here following Dave's emotional victory at Houston. Smith was somewhat down in the final order with a 7.309 that placed him 8th in the final order.
Harley Davidson announced today that a multi year agreement had been signed teaming Sreamin' Eagle Performance Parts and Vance and Hines Racing. The main aim of the partnership will be to create a competitive Harley Davidson pro stock motorcycle. The 2001 season will be a development year with the team planning to attend selected events with a rider to be named later. Terry Vance noted that a major part of the V&H business is designing and building performance exhaust systems for Harley Davidsons and that he and partner Byron Hines would be able to use their many years of racing experience to advance the Screamin' Eagle program.
The cancellation of the final qualifying session was tough on tuner Wayne Dupuy who had struggled to put both of his charges in the show. An inconsistent batch of clutch discs was Dupuy's main problem as both Don Lampus' and Cristen Powell's cars smoked the tires virtually at the hit. Earlier today Lampus looked to on a good run but banged the blower before half track. Powell never did make it off the start line in the Nitro Fish Camaro and was 29th in the final order when qualifying ended early.
John Force had the "Grinch" body back on his car today. After Thursday's blower explosion the team reverted to the regular Castrol GTX shell yesterday while the special body was patched.
FNN talked to Todd Smith of the Yankees team today about the stunning 4.522 run by Mike Dunn yesterday and he commented that right from the start the Gwynn/ Steinbrenner team planned to run big numbers. Initial test laps at Moroso and Gainesville were inconclusive as the team struggled to dial in new management systems and when the car was sorted out a lack of traction at other venues was the inhibiting factor. A post Memphis test indicated that the team was on the right track and the rest is history.
Top Fuel car owner Peter Lehman was here as a spectator as were his driver Clay Millican and tuner Mike Kloeber. The first season team lost a close battle for the IHRA championship last weekend in a tussle with Paul Romine that went down to the final round at the last race of the season. Both teams reset the IHRA national record during the Rockingham event but Romine held the mark going into the final with Millican needing to further lower it to win the championship. Both cars smoked the tires and Romine added another trophy to his shelf.
Lehman plans to return to the IHRA next year but don't rule out some appearances at NHRA events as well.
Larry Meyer, until now a tuning consultant with Gary Densham's operation will be
joining Etchells Racing in 2001. Meyer's official title will be Research and
Development Technical Engineer and he will work with both the Tommy Johnson and Jim
Epler parts of the team. Meyer's main claim to fame is that he is the only crew
chief other than Austin Coil to have won a Winston Funny Car championship in the
last 11 years as he tuned Cruz Pedregon's car in 1992.