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Tue, 20 Feb 2007, 10:20 PM

At Least It Shouldn't Rain
By Bob Frey
Photo copyright 2007 Auto Imagery, Inc. and BME Photography

Force in '95.
With one race down and the NHRA POWERade tour heading to Firebird Raceway in Phoenix for the 23rd running of the Checker, Schuck's, Kragen Nationals, we should be sure of one shouldn't rain this weekend. After all, this is the desert we're headed too, isn't it? OK, so maybe it's not the actual desert but I like our chances of getting through the weekend without rain and that's more than we can say for the Pomona event. And believe me, having three days of racing with no rain makes for a much better weekend for everyone. I've always said that my idea of a good race is one that ends on the day that it is supposed to end. Let's hope that holds true in Phoenix. One thing that we know will be true, as much as any track we go to during the year you can expect the unexpected in Phoenix. Don't believe me, then just ask John Force or Del Worsham. John came

Del Worsham in '02.
to this race in 1995 accused of having traction control devices on his car and when he hadn't qualified after three rounds you heard a lot of "I told you so" comments from the other competitors. John then limped into the field in the #12 spot and then, on Sunday, he beat Brad Platt, Chuck Etchells, Al Hofmann and Tom Hoover to win the event. It should also be noted that at that event John kept his qualifying streak alive at 128 consecutive races....For his part, Del faced a similar situation in 2002. At his sponsor's race, after three rounds of qualifying, the best Del could do was a 5.864. But after the final round of qualifying he had vaulted the CSK car into the field at the number ten spot. On Sunday, Del did the same thing John had done years earlier, he won the race. Del beat Gary Scelzi, Gary Densham, Scotty Cannon and John Force to get the win. Like I said, expect the unexpected at Firebird Raceway. Did you know that those two Funny Car drivers, John and Del, are the only ones to win more than once in Phoenix? John has done it a stunning eight times while Del had recorded wins in 2002 and 2004. Other than that, the race has been won by a dozen other Funny Car drivers, but none of them did it more than once?

Scelzi vs. Hight
Gary Scelzi and his Mopar / Oakley Dodge team are coming into Phoenix in the lofty number one spot in the points and it will be interesting to see how he does at Firebird Raceway. Did you know that in the history of the Funny Car class only five drivers have opened the season with consecutive wins? And did you know that it hasn't been done since 1997 when John Force did it? Before that you have to go all the way back to 1983 when Frank Hawley opened the year with three consecutive wins to find the last time a FC driver went four rounds at each of the first two races of the season. Gary had a great car in Pomona where he was the number one qualifier and set top speed before going out and winning it all on Sunday....Robert Hight, who was in the other lane, actually in both lanes, in the Funny Car final in Pomona, really showed me something on that run. Sure he crossed the center line but he also pulled the car back and still got to the finish line ahead of Gary and that's some driving job. Robert is a great asset to the sport and he has to be reckoned

Kenny Bernstein
with at every race this year. If I were racing in the Funny Car class I would say that Robert has, in my opinion, one of the cars that would scare me every time it comes to the line. By that I mean he is a threat to run low elapsed time and top speed on every pass and if I'm in the other lane, that scares me....If you look at the drivers who qualified for the FC field in Pomona and then look at the ones who failed to make the show, where do you see the changes coming this weekend? Think about it, you had really good teams and tour regulars like Del Worsham, Gary Densham and Tony Bartone missing the field. You also had Kenny Bernstein making a very good run of 4.847 and not qualifying while Terry Haddock, Grant Downing and Bob Bode also missed the cut. Now, if you think that and two or three of those non-qualified drivers will get in this weekend who do they bump out? I'm telling you that some of the regular drivers on the tour will miss the cut at least once this year and that could include John Force. John's heroic qualifying run in Pomona was something special but you have to wonder how long John can keep that streak going. With a lot of great cars and drivers at every race someone has to be left outside, and with every point being very important as we head toward the

Ron Capps
"Countdown" later this year, the first two days of every national event should be really exciting. I'm not sure that they can be as exciting and dramatic as Saturday in Pomona but remember where you heard it first, very few Funny Cars will go through the year by qualifying at every event. Did you know that last year there were only five drivers who made every Funny Car field? Three of them were from the Team Force camp which just goes to show you how good they are. The others were Ron Capps and Tommy Johnson. In 2005 we had eight drivers make every field and in 2004 there were nine and it will be interesting to see how many make all twenty-three starting assignments this year....Tommy Johnson is the defending event champion in Phoenix and the Skoal Chevrolet Impala has to be considered a factor this weekend. Tommy has a little mini-streak going since he has won one of the first two races in each of the last two years (Pomona in 2005 & Phoenix last year) and he would love to extend that streak to three years. Tommy ran 4.748 in qualifying in Pomona and all that got you in the quickest field in history was ninth place and not even lane choice.

JR Todd
Since the fuel classes both put up record qualifying numbers in California, did you know that at the CSK race in 1997 we saw the quickest field in Top Fuel history up to that time? Would you believe we had a bump spot of 4.802 and we were stunned when Dave Promnitz ran 4.804 and failed to qualify? In the bottom half of that record setting field were Tony Schumacher, Larry Dixon, Doug Herbert, Cory McClenathan and Eddie Hill among others. That's a pretty stout field, isn't it?...The same situation exists in the dragster class as in the Funny Car class and that is, if Clay Millican and Morgan Lucas, for example, qualify this week who will they bump out?....Rod Fuller won the race last year and he looked very good in Pomona. If Rod wins the race he will be bucking a trend that has only seen two drivers win in consecutive years in Top Fuel in Phoenix... Dick LaHaie did it in 1986 & '87 and Brandon Bernstein did it in 2003 & 2004. Speaking of Brandon, did you know that he and Larry Dixon both won their first TF race at this event? Brandon in 2003 and Larry did it in 1995 and for both of them the win came in only their second start in Top Fuel....JR Todd and Jimmy Walsh will try to make a little history this weekend by winning the first two races of the season. As strange as it may be to believe, did you know that in the history of the sport only two drivers have opened the season with TF wins at the first two races? Gary Scelzi did it in 1997 and Gary Ormsby did it in 1989, but other than that, nobody has won eight straight rounds to begin a year. Amazing, isn't it? So, like I said, good luck to JR, Jimmy and the rest of the Dexter Tuttle team this weekend. Of course, looking at what they did in Pomona, it wouldn't surprise me to see JR repeat this weekend, and anyone who thinks they won't be in the final eight for the "Countdown" has to be dreaming...Tony Schumacher leads the list of winners at Phoenix with three in the dragster class while six others have all won the event twice, and of that group only Cory and Brandon are still active...The Top Fuel record has been set three times at Firebird Raceway and Cory McClenathan has done it twice. The driver of the Fram Top Fuel car, and the only active driver who lives in Arizona, set the mark in 1994 (4.742) and again in 1998 (322.92 miles per hour). The other driver to do it in a dragster was Kenny Bernstein who record a stunning 4.664 at this race back in 1996. At the time that was the quickest run in the history of the sport. Did you know

Doug Herbert
that Kenny is also the only person to have won in Phoenix in both of the fuel classes?...After his disappointing first round loss in Pomona Doug Herbert has made a crew change on the Snap-On Tools dragster and that means that Doug Kuch will not be the crew chief on the car, Jim Brissette will be. Jim, who was inducted into the International Motorsports Hall of Fame last year, has been with Doug for a while and they seem to have a very good relationship and you need that in the ultra-competitive world of Top Fuel. Doug Foley, as I was finishing this story, announced that he has re-signed Doug Kuch to his team, and everyone lived happily ever after!!....Connie Kalitta turns 69 this weekend. Happy birthday to one of the truly greats of the sport. I hope I'm enjoying life as much as he is when I'm that age. Connie, of course, will always be remembered for the great start that he had to the 1967 season. Did you know that Connie won the NHRA, AHRA and NASCAR Winternationals all in 1967? He's done a lot of other things too, including getting the last #1 qualifying spot of his career in Phoenix in 1997. That's right, Connie was the number one guy at the race with the quickest Top Fuel field in history. He also had a wild ride in Phoenix in 1996 when he had a tire go flat in the lights and had to bring the car to a safe stop on just three good tires. If you want to know more about that run ask Larry Dixon, he was in the other lane.

Rodger Brogdon
I know that testing is one thing and racing is another thing altogether but my eyes will be on Rodger Brogdon when he makes his first run in Phoenix. Rodger, under the guidance of David Nickens, reportedly ran 210 miles per hour at Houston this past weekend. Granted, conditions were excellent, but still, to run 210 is something special. If Rodger makes the field this weekend, which I think he will, he could turn into one of the really neat stories of 2007. Did you know that David Nickens won this race five years in a row in Competition Eliminator?...While there have been fourteen drivers to win in each of the fuel classes, only a dozen have been to the Firebird Raceway victory lane in Pro Stock. That's probably because we have had a lot of multiple winners in Arizona. Bob Glidden (5), Darrell Alderman and Warren Johnson (3 each) and Kurt Johnson and Jim Yates with two apiece. And yet, with all of those multiple winners, did you know that only Bob and Jim ever won the race in consecutive years?...The track record is 6.671 in Pro Stock and was set by Greg Anderson last year and that should get blown away in the first session on Friday. It should. Greg, by the way, looked awesome in Pomona and this week will be very interesting for the Summit Racing Pontiac. Greg won the race in 2003 and was runner-up to Warren Johnson last year and he has got to be the odds on favorite this weekend, at least until someone shows me that they can run with him. And drive like him. Greg's reaction times were great in Pomona and that's just what the class needs, Greg with a great car and great reaction

Larry Morgan
times....A sleeper in the filed could be Ken Koretsky who told me in Las Vegas that he thought he had a car that can qualify in the top five this year. In Pomona he was, let's see, oh yeah, number five, but that darn red light got him in round one and I know he wants to do better this weekend....The same situation exists in Pro Stock as the other professional classes and that is, if a non-qualifier from Pomona is going to get in who is going to get bumped out?...Larry Morgan should be counted on for a starting spot this week despite his troubles in Pomona. Did you know Larry's DNQ at the Winternationals marked the second consecutive race where he failed to qualify? He missed the bump at the final race in 2006 and now at the first race of '07. The last time Larry went two straight races without getting in the field was back in 2003. Larry is one of the best in the sport and he'll rebound this weekend and the Lucas Oil car should be in on Sunday but, like I said, then who's out? It should be fun, don't you think?

Marty Nothstein
Congratulations to Marty Nothstein and the Parker Racing team, also known as the Texas Roadhouse team, for winning in Top Alcohol Funny Car at the Division 2 race in Bradenton this past week. It's Marty's first win of his drag racing career and, believe me, it won't be his last. With additional help from Dent Wizard and Matco Tools, and with a crew that includes Frank Parker, Rob and Tom Cunningham, Tom Krebaum, Tom and Nancy McVey, Tony Gulley and Brad and Jeff Eldred, this is a very good team that could make a lot of noise in the alcohol funny car ranks this year. En route to the win Marty also recorded his personal best with a run of 5.627 and I can't wait to see him in Gainesville...Morgan Lucas won the Top Alcohol

Anthony Bertozzi
Dragster class in Houston when he beat Spencer Massey in the finals. Morgan is going to make a strong run for the Lucas Oil Championship in the Lucas Oil dragster and a lot of the credit has to go to Steve Boggs the crew chief...And Anthony Bertozzi gets special mention for winning Super Stock in Bradenton. Anthony is off to a great start and his win over Peter Biondo goes along with his three wins, that's right, three wins at the IHRA Summit Racing Equipment Pro-Am series opener in Immokalee, Florida.'re the man!....And finally, it is with deep regret that I report the passing of Jim Merten who died earlier this week. Jim was co-owner of the C & M Engineering A/D and he could always be seen in his wheelchair near the starting line watching the car run, and run it did. With Scott Chamness driving, the team set the national record in A/D at a sizzling 6.55. Jim will be greatly missed. Cards can be sent to C & M Engineering, 110 Mooney Drive, Suite 8, Bourbonnais, IL., 60914.

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