NORWALK, Ohio --
Evans had plans to run five of the six races scheduled to host Pro Fuel on the year and he parlayed that schedule into one simple equation for the team - 20-0. As in 20 scheduled rounds of competition with zero losses.
Unfortunately Evans' plans didn't exactly pan out like he had hoped, but it was still far short of a disappointment as Evans visited seven of a potential eight finals with four wins as he wrapped up the championship by midseason to collect his second career Pro Fuel title in three years behind the wheel of the famous "Black Pearl" nitro-powered dragster.
"We went to all of the finals and we only lost four laps of racing all year so that is quite an accomplishment and something we are very proud of," Evans said. "Our goal at the beginning of the year was simply to win every race. Unfortunately we blew that at the very first race, but we were still determined to come out of this thing with the championship. So after that less than stellar start we regrouped and gave it our all the rest of the year."
At the very next race Evans finally found victory lane on day one of the San Antonio Nitro Jam in Texas, but again lost on the second night to leave Evans with just one win in four tries and a season round record of 5-3, losing in the finals to three different drivers.
Not exactly the way the team had hoped to start the year. So what went wrong?
"We got ahead of ourselves a little bit. We struggled with a sporadic crew and we simply ran into some unforeseen problems," Evans said. "These cars are so unpredictable and it is like playing dice, you really never know what you are going to get.
"The crew situation didn't really help either. Every race we had a different crew and because of that I didn't have the time to spend on the computer that I normally get between rounds because I was too busy working on the car. We struggled with that a little bit, but in the end it all worked out as we went on a nice run following Baton Rouge."
And that they did.
Beginning at the Mardi Gras Nitro Jam in Baton Rouge, Evans fired off a string of three consecutive victories to help him run away with the Pro Fuel championship and essentially seal the title by midseason. You see despite the lack of wins to start the year, Evans still managed to make every final of every race and following the Pittsburgh Nitro Jam in May, Evans had compiled four wins in seven finals with a win-loss record of 11-3.
"You really never know what you are going to get with these cars. We ran really good in Pittsburgh and following the race we put the car in the trailer, took it home, did some standard service on it and put it right back in the trailer untouched figuring we would go to Martin and have the same success. We didn't change anything and it didn't run quite as good. Why? That is just how they are," Evans said. "We still can't complain. We had an amazing year and we are so glad that the IHRA invited us to be here all year and have given us the opportunity to run our racecar and take the handcuffs off of this class a little bit.
"We didn't exactly meet our beginning of the year goals, but we still had an amazing year and one we won't soon forget."
Evans finished the year with four wins, while championship runner-up Kristen Dennis recorded two wins and Cherissa Smallwood, Casey Grisel and Don St. Arnaud all took home an Ironman trophy.
"We want to be in the record books," Evans said. "We are going to put a canon in this car and we are going to be the first A-Fuel car to run a four. That is our goal. We are going to race for the championship next year, but our main goal will be to do something no one in this class has ever done before.
"We actually planned to try it this year, but we were afraid that if we went all out that we would get lost in the woods and we wouldn't achieve our goal of winning every round.
"I am disappointed we haven't been able to do a little better as a class as far as performance because we have been turned loose to do whatever we want to do as far as performance, but next year that is going to change. Next year is our year."
Until then Evans and the crew will revel in another championship performance that has seen them record 12 wins in three seasons and fell just a handful of points shy last season of winning three championships in a row. So with so much success already, what keeps them coming back?
"The fans are what make this fun. This series is a lot of fun because you get to meet a lot of people and believe it or not most of the people are tickled that we take the time to talk to them and sign pictures for them, but that is what we are here for to share the experience," Evans said. "We get to have our fun on the racetrack because of the fans so we like to repay the favor by giving them an experience they will never forget."
And if Evans and the team can become the first Pro Fuel to break the four-second barrier you can be sure there will be a lot of fans that will leave with an experience they will never forget.
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