POMONA, Calif. -- The biggest news of today's pro qualifying session a toss up between the Frank Pedregon/ Scotty Cannon crash and the amazing effort turned in by Mike Dunn in the New York Yankees dragster. Late in the Funny Car session both Pedregon and Cannon managed to clear the top end lights before the Checker/ Schuck's/ Kragen Pontiac dived across the centerline and drove under the back of the Oakley Camaro.
The initial impact hiked Cannon's car in the air and fractured the body while Pedregon lost the entire body along with the right front wheel. The impact drove Cannon into the right and into the wall where he was once again nailed by Pedregon who had lost all directional control. As the cars slid to a halt against the wall both drivers exited the wrecks under their own steam.
Scotty Cannon comments after making contact with Frank Pedregon during today’s Funny Car qualifying session: "I was reaching up to pull the chutes and it felt like (the car) blew a tire. Next thing I know I slammed into the wall. I'm just glad I was OK. I didn't realize he hit me. It killed the chassis, the headers and all four wheels. We're going with a new chassis and body for tomorrow. The body we’re going with has more downforce, so we'll have to see how it reacts. That was the only car I could make consistent runs with. These cars are built good because it took a hard lick. I wasn't ready for that. I don't hold anything against Frankie. There wasn't anything he could do about that. That's just drag racing. These cars are beasts. My knee took a knock and my wrist is a little sore and I’ve got a bit of a headache, but I feel fine otherwise. We were able to salvage the engine and fuel system and we’ll take some of the other components off the crashed car and transfer them over tonight. We'll be here pretty late."
Neither shoe suffered any serious injuries although Cannon did bang his knee but the same could not be said for their rides. Both chassis were totaled as were the body shells and late tonight both teams were assembling spare cars for tomorrow's final sessions.
Mike Dunn made the news by running the best elapsed time of the season with a 4.522 shot that was accompanied by a 325.69 speed clocking. Tony Schumacher had opened the session with a 4.571 at 320 mph as he made his first full run since crashing in Memphis and his run was followed by 4.58 and 4.59 efforts from Doug Kalitta and Melanie Troxel respectively. Most telling was the fact that while Schumacher was running 266 mph at the half track clocks Dunn was travelling at 273.27 mph.
After yesterday's aborted qualifying attempt Tony Schumacher noted that although still suffering from some pain in his right hand due to the dislocation of several fingers in the accident he was ready to race again. He told the assembled press that he really was not ready to return at Houston and that the additional two weeks of recuperation had helped the healing process. He added that although grabbing the brake lever was painful he could do it effectively and thus felt that he was no longer a danger to the other drivers as he had assessed his condition at Houston.
If Schumacher had been unable to drive here Tommy Johnson Jr was ready to replace him. Tommy had been the original choice to drive the Army entry while Tony recovered but elected to remain at the wheel of Helen Hoffman's Pontiac for the remainder of the year. That car was not on the grounds here as Hoffman had elected to go home after the Dallas race. The Hoffman entry did not have enough points to qualify for the rained out Dallas show but was high enough in the order that the team should have been eligible for the non qualifiers money paid to the 17th and 18th cars at all events.
That money was not paid out although qualifying points were awarded to the cars that raced. It seemed a strange double standard although the whole event had to be considered strange in toto. Hoffman evidently decided that she had enough and headed for home.
Following her career best 4.667 run yesterday Shirley Muldowney sat out today's session and slipped from third to eighth in the order. One story circulating had Shirley hanging up her helmet after this event but her husband and crew chief Rahn Tobler told FNN that if sufficient backing was found they would race again next year.
The memorial service held last night for Steve Evans was an emotional affair for all who attended especially as it closed with the firing of both of the Castrol Funny Cars as well as the restored Greer/Black/Prudhomme front motored dragster.
Despite rumors circulating the pits Gary Densham will be back in 2001. The veteran racer's NEC backing is going away but he still has support from the Auto Club of Southern California and Pontiac with some other prospects as well. Densham also knows how to race on a budget as for many years he made his living as a school teacher while racing during the summer while school was out.
Jimbo Ermalovich was helping out in the Creasy camp here after leaving the Oakley team earlier in the week. He currently has no firm plans for 2001 but with the current shortage of crew chiefs in a rapidly expanding funny car roster he should have no problems finding work if he elects to stay in the sport.
Mike McLaughlin, late of the ExpressAutoParts.com team is evidently headed to Doug Herbert's second team next year, tuning the Carquest entry to be driven by Paul Romine. That will split the current Romine-Clayton Harris alliance that began when Paul was still competing in his front motored nostalgia dragster.
Next year the fuel cars will be running a new component as the NHRA has mandated that a filter apparatus be added to the vent tube from the clutch can. The prototype unit developed by Fram was tested on the cars of Ron Capps and Tommy Johnson Jr. at Memphis and here Fram's Ed Cote was walking the pits with early production parts so that the teams could begin planning their installation.
The current clutch tune-up in the nitro burners results in about 1/2 lb of clutch
dust being deposited on the track during a typical run and when the Pro Stockers
follow the fuel cars on Saturday evening they have problems with the dust.