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Sat, 14 Oct 2006, 04:11 PM

Pro Stock Qualifying Notes, Final Session
By Dan Bennett

DINWIDDIE, Va. - Notes from final, round 4 qualifying in Pro Stock at the NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series, Inaugural Torco Racing Fuels NHRA Nationals listing lane, driver name, elapsed time/top speed this round, position in order following run, best prior elapsed time/speed, and position in order prior to run:

3:29 p.m. Weather conditions: air temperature 66 degrees, relative humidity 29 percent, barometer 29.89 inches, adjusted altitude 595 feet, track temperature 92 degrees.

Erica Enders is on the bump spot at 6.630.

Usually, the last session is not known for big changes in the ladder, but we still have some excellent conditions. Especially for cars that have previously a bit off, there still may be hope.

Left Lane: Jerry Haas Runs 6.830/199.79, Now #28; Best prior run: 6.767/201.97, Was #28
Right Lane: Bob Benza No Time, Now #30; Best prior run: 17.447/90.44, Was #30

Two Haas-built cars pull to the line and the builder is in one of them. To be honest, at this point both have to be huge underdogs to push into Sunday's show.

Benza's car goes ape again right at the hit. That crew has to be really searching for what is upsetting that car so badly.

Haas drifts out of the groove in the lower gears but brings it back to the center of the lane.

Left Lane: Barry Grant Runs 16.176/48.59, Now #25; Best prior run: 6.713/206.48, Was #25
Right Lane: John Mahoney Runs 12.688/66.84, Now #29; Best prior run: 6.883/198.47, Was #29

It's a choreographed exercise in getting ready to go home.

Grant's car stands up and heads off center. Mahoney goes straight but doesn't get any better grip on the track.

After watching Grant leave, Chief Starter Rick Stewart puts the tree on standby and takes a look at the starting line. Evidently he didn't see anything that bothers him as we fire the next pair.

Left Lane: Tony Rizzo Runs 6.820/204.08, Now #24; Best prior run: 6.700/204.45, Was #24
Right Lane: Tommy Brown Runs 6.707/207.27, Now #25; Best prior run: 6.735/205.98, Was #27

Two more cars closely associated with Jerry Haas. Two more drivers that have to be wondering what it's going to take to get into this show.

Sweet run for the Virginia native, but this is a Pro Stock race like no other in history.

Rizzo goes straight down the chute but also does not improve.

Left Lane: Dave Northrop Runs 6.657/207.34, Now #20; Best prior run: 6.640/207.37, Was #20
Right Lane: Steve Schmidt Runs 6.676/206.89, Now #22; Best prior run: 6.682/206.99, Was #22

It's pretty amazing that Schmidt is still not qualified, and a good indication of how critically competitive this class is.

Two very nice runs miss the mark. That's a career-best ET for Steve.

Steve Schmidt's incremental times: 60ft-1.002 sec., 330ft-2.801, 660ft-4.299/164.13mph, 1,000ft-5.589

Dave Northrop's incremental times: 60ft-0.989 sec., 330ft-2.784, 660ft-4.280/164.49mph, 1,000ft-5.570

Left Lane: Mark Pawuk Runs 6.658/206.67, Now #17; Best prior run: 6.633/206.95, Was #17
Right Lane: Ron Krisher Runs 6.663/206.42, Now #21; Best prior run: 6.671/206.29, Was #21

Two more excellent runs. This class has progressed so far that making a 99% perfect run is just not enough.

Left Lane: Erica Enders Runs 6.638/207.78, Now #16; Best prior run: 6.630/207.75, Was #16
Right Lane: Warren Johnson Runs 10.390/94.75, Now #19; Best prior run: 6.638/207.27, Was #19

Two points of interest on the line. Enders has been as high as #3 in the standings. I shouldn't have to introduce Warren Johnson. Neither is qualified.

WJ made it out to about 400 feet and the shake that was being hidden from view became real evident as the car went nuts.

Erica stays in.

Left Lane: Jim Yates Runs 6.669/206.35, Now #15; Best prior run: 6.625/207.02, Was #15
Right Lane: Max Naylor Runs 6.672/207.27, Now #18; Best prior run: 6.637/207.18, Was #18

Naylor is the last car not qualified. Can he knock her off the 16th position?

Yates has to be disappointed in his performance this weekend. Though he's safe to race in the quickest NHRA Pro Stock field in history, I have to believe he expected to be fighting it out at the top of the list. Jenkins power is exceptionally strong in these conditions.

Naylor comes close, but the Jagermeister car is going home and Erica gets to race.

Left Lane: V. Gaines Runs 6.628/207.78, Now #13; Best prior run: 6.623/207.98, Was #13
Right Lane: Larry Morgan Runs 6.672/207.18, Now #14; Best prior run: 6.623/207.82, Was #14

The cars aren't hitting the mark in this session so far. Most of them are having problems getting off the starting line and losing ET in the first 300 feet.

Gaines' Mopar jumps sideways off the line but he manages it back and produces a surprisingly good run.

Left Lane: Mike Edwards Runs 6.615/208.49, Now #12; Best prior run: 6.622/209.10, Was #12
Right Lane: Allen Johnson Runs 12.329/69.01, Now #10; Best prior run: 6.614/207.43, Was #10

Two more cars that didn't expect to be in the bottom half.

AJ's tires lose control on the way to 330, but Edwards finally seems to get most of the run he was looking for all weekend. In a session where other cars are slowing down, he improves his time.

Left Lane: Tom Martino Runs 6.619/208.20, Now #11; Best prior run: 6.615/208.71, Was #11
Right Lane: Kurt Johnson Runs 6.633/208.59, Now #9; Best prior run: 6.613/209.01, Was #9

How about that Martino? He sits out years and comes back to be a serious contender in just a couple of races.

Nice pass for Martino and a good looking one for KJ. We've got a fairly significant headwind crossing from 2 o'clock to 8 o'clock across the track and it looks like it's affecting the times. I'd guess it's gusting from 5 to 10 miles per hour.

Left Lane: Dave Connolly Runs 6.617/208.23, Now #8; Best prior run: 6.612/208.91, Was #8
Right Lane: Jeg Coughlin Runs 6.628/207.94, Now #7; Best prior run: 6.604/208.33, Was #7

Two more runs that could be textbook examples of what a Pro Stock pass should look like.

Left Lane: Richie Stevens Runs 13.314/63.41, Now #5; Best prior run: 6.601/207.88, Was #5
Right Lane: Tommy Lee Runs 6.641/207.69, Now #6; Best prior run: 6.602/208.17, Was #6

Two ex-IHRA racers meet again, this time at a historic NHRA race.

Richie's car throws more at the track than it can handle and he's out of the throttle by 200 feet.

Lee makes a good pass.

Just when the session became relatively routine, we look at the cars sitting under the tower overhang and see that the front end is off of Greg Anderson's car and various crewmembers are scrambling.

Left Lane: Kenny Koretsky Runs 6.669/208.10, Now #3; Best prior run: 6.594/208.84, Was #3
Right Lane: Greg Anderson Runs 6.594/208.84, Now #4; Best prior run: 6.598/208.88, Was #4

Whatever the problem is, it appears to be fixed.

How about this factoid? Of the 3 quickest drivers in the history of NHRA Pro Stock, Greg Anderson isn't one of them.

Greg fails to move away from meeting his teammate in tomorrow's eliminations. And in some stunning coincidence, he records the exact ET and MPH as Koretsky. Since Ken did it first, he lays claim to the #3 spot.

Left Lane: Jason Line Runs 6.627/208.97, Now #1; Best prior run: 6.571/209.49, Was #1
Right Lane: Greg Stanfield Runs 6.616/207.43, Now #2; Best prior run: 6.584/209.17, Was #2

And that pair ended the session with a whimper, if you can consider low 6.60s as weak. Neither produced a record time, and we've been spoiled so far this weekend with more and better each time we see the cars.

There's no doubt that all the crews are disappointed in some measure since it's going to be a while before we see these exceptional conditions again. I'd bet that there's not a single team in the pits, qualified or not, that feels they took total advantage.

Enders manages to stay in in the toughest field in history, and for that she gets the distinct honor to try and beat the quickest and fastest car in history.

But considering how closely these cars are grouped, I sure wouldn't bet against her pulling it off.

Check back tomorrow for what's shaping up to be one of the most remarkable races in history.

Timing data courtesy of CompuLink

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