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Sat, 6 Sep 2003, 04:17 PM

Top Fuel Qualifying Notes, Session #4
By Keith Burgan

CLERMONT, Ind. - Notes from round 4 qualifying in Top Fuel at the NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series, 49th annual Mac Tools U.S. 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:
Left Lane: Shirley Muldowney Runs 15.810/52.31, Now #25; Best prior run: 5.372/175.89, Was #25

This one was over early for the pink car as Muldowney was smoking the tires by the time the rear wheels got to the 60 foot clocks. Shirley goes into the final session in last place in the order and well outside the current 4.723 bump, having yet to make a full pass here.

Left Lane: Chris Vandergriff No Time, Now #23; Best prior run: 5.163/183.94, Was #23

The early numbers looked good for Vandergriff but the front end was climbing from the 330 foot mark and about 500 feet out the car went vertical with the rear wing contacting the track surface at the eighth mile mark. At that point the car pirouette on the wing, bounced in the air and came back to earth front first, facing the start line. As the forward portion of the chassis collapsed the car moved to the left and impacted the wall and eventually came to a halt a couple of hundred feet past the traps. Vandergriff was conscious when the safety safari arrived on the scene and was soon extricated from the car.

Left Lane: Scott Palmer Runs 4.723/307.58, Now #16; Best prior run: 4.954/249.90, Was #22

2:15 We are back after the debris and spillages form Vandergriff's accident were cleaned up. In another left lane single Palmer's Rick Cassel tuned car equals Darrell Russell's elapsed time and makes the show on the basis of speed.

Left Lane: Joe Hartley Runs 4.947/255.58, Now #23; Best prior run: 4.909/245.99, Was #22
Right Lane: Tim Gibson Runs 4.700/308.78, Now #14; Best prior run: 5.260/191.54, Was #24

Palmer's joy was short lived as Gibson steps up with the George Thorogood entry of the Dawson family and puts Jim Head on the bump. Hartley's car trailed flame and "stuff" from half track on and the clean up trucks are rolling again.

Left Lane: Darrell Russell Runs 4.643/319.07, Now #13; Best prior run: 4.723/304.25, Was #18
Right Lane: Luigi Novelli Runs 4.951/256.55, Now #22; Best prior run: 4.880/292.33, Was #22

The order changes again as Russell finally gets a good run in and moves up to the #13 spot. Novelli slipped from his earlier pace and will have one more chance to make the cut, although it will take a career best for him to get in.

Left Lane: Kenny Bernstein Runs 4.549/325.61, Now #6; Best prior run: 4.637/314.39, Was #12
Right Lane: Mitch King Runs 6.497/126.41, Now #21; Best prior run: 4.850/299.66, Was #21

Tim Richards finally got the run that he was looking for as he puts Kenny Bernstein all the way up to the #6 position. King puffed the tires before half track and stays 21st.

Left Lane: Scott Weis Runs 9.044/92.81, Now #12; Best prior run: 4.634/312.57, Was #12
Right Lane: Don Garlits Runs 7.687/97.73, Now #20; Best prior run: 4.805/310.77, Was #20

Both cars went up in smoke by the 330' clocks and coasted on through so the bump stays at Bruce Litton's 4.707.

Left Lane: David Grubnic Runs 12.070/75.77, Now #11; Best prior run: 4.633/321.42, Was #11
Right Lane: Doug Herbert Runs 5.723/164.25, Now #19; Best prior run: 4.733/299.53, Was #19

Grubnic smokes the tires about 300 feet out while Herbert had flames out of the back of the Snap-On car at half track as he too got loose. Nothing on the track however and the call goes out to fire the next pair.

Left Lane: John Smith Runs 5.973/153.54, Now #10; Best prior run: 4.611/317.87, Was #10
Right Lane: Jim Head Runs 12.412/69.47, Now #17; Best prior run: 4.710/309.98, Was #17

Tire smoke at the hit for Head and just past the 330 clocks for Smith was the story for this pairing. Head was the sole remaining car not in the show at this point so Litton will stay qualified despite being at Epping today.

Left Lane: Rhonda Hartman-Smith Runs 8.716/96.67, Now #9; Best prior run: 4.599/311.13, Was #9
Right Lane: Paul Romine Runs 5.709/156.53, Now #8; Best prior run: 4.563/299.26, Was #8

Same story as the prior runs as Rhonda is loose before 330' and Romine shortly thereafter.

Left Lane: Cory McClenathan Runs 9.529/86.25, Now #7; Best prior run: 4.558/318.99, Was #7
Right Lane: Doug Kalitta Runs 5.903/145.66, Now #5; Best prior run: 4.534/311.05, Was #5

Tire smoke part xxx as Cory Mac is the first to break the Goodyears loose, followed soon after by Doug Kalitta.

Left Lane: Larry Dixon Runs 4.554/326.71, Now #3; Best prior run: 4.530/326.08, Was #3
Right Lane: Tony Schumacher Runs 4.550/324.20, Now #4; Best prior run: 4.534/322.50, Was #4

As this session has progressed Kenny Bernstein's run has looked more and more impressive but this pair at least came close with matching 4.55's and no sign of haze from the Goodyears.

Left Lane: Scott Kalitta Runs 10.694/89.87, Now #2; Best prior run: 4.503/327.51, Was #2
Right Lane: David Baca Runs 8.537/91.59, Now #1; Best prior run: 4.499/324.51, Was #1

Well, it was good while it lasted. The quickest pair of cars on the property joined the smokers club this time and with the sun warming the track it is doubtful if anyone will be able to disturb the order at the top later today. The only thing that might help is that it is now 3:04 , we are 30 minutes behind schedule at this time and the final fuel car session will obviously not start at 4:10 as scheduled.

Timing data courtesy of CompuLink

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