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Wed, 3 Sep 2003, 08:25 AM

U.S. Nationals Pit Notes
Courtesy of Keith Burgan

CLERMONT, Ind. -- Paul Smith has a reputation for being busy at the races, having run both a Top Fuel and Funny Car entry when Chuck Etchells first hit the NHRA national event tour in the late 80's and following up with the same scenario with his own cars in the 90's. Here he has gone one step further as he is heading up Terry Haddock's flopper entry while also consulting on the tuning of the dragsters of Mitch King and the legendary Don Garlits. So far Haddock is the only one of the trio to make the cut, sitting on the bump at the close of tonight's final session.

While Shirley Muldowney's storied career ends at the conclusion of the current season her husband Rahn Tobler will continue to be a part of the Top Fuel landscape as he will assume the role of co-crew chief for Doug Kalitta's Mac Tools entry in 2004. Jim Oberhofer who currently shares the tuning duties on Doug's car will move to Scott Kalitta's team, which debuts here with Mac Tools/Jesse James backing.

Jason Line returned to his role of driver here as Troy Humphrey Motorsports is running him in the Cavalier that Greg Anderson drove last year. The entry is a defacto team car to Anderson's Vegas General Construction Grand Am and putting the package together was no stretch as Troy is Greg's father in law. Line made the cut in the initial session Saturday afternoon but his 14th best 6.874 did not hold up for long as the bump rapidly came down in the second session. When his turn came Jason produced a 6.836 that left him tenth in the order when proceedings ended.

Terry Adams noted that he is very happy with his new Jerry Haas Cavalier, which debuted here. Although off the pace in the opening session Adams bumped into the show in 12th place with the third best 6.836 of the session as he had the slowest mph of a trio that included Jason Line and Dave Connolly.

On the subject of Connolly, his Bullet Motorsports Cavalier now sports a paint job that mimics the legendary Grumpy's Toy series of cars raced by his engine builder Bill Jenkins. The formerly plain pearl white Chevy now features the black outlined red striping of the Jenkins entries as well as gold leaf lettering in the original Jenkins style.

Former Paralax Race Cars owner Grant Downing made his Funny Car debut here after finalizing his license runs here during last week's test session. Downing who is now employed by the Worsham team as a fabricator built the car himself and after making his initial laps earlier this year hauled it here last week and was signed off for his ticket after a pair of 5.3 second 280+ mph laps. Downing's limited budget means that he definitely has the smallest trailer in the pro pits as his borrowed 26' tag unit with its graffiti style lettering is dwarfed by the surrounding big rigs. The all volunteer crew is a mixed bag of New Zealanders and Australians as befits Downing's kiwi ancestry and typically they were having a good time late Saturday night after Grant carded a 5.123 that left him just one spot out of the show.

Both John Force and Tony Pedregon are using the new generation Mustang bodies here with Force's car being finished up in the pits prior to the commencement of qualifying. Tim Gibson's latest aero effort has what must rate as the largest spill plates ever seen on an NHRA legal entry. With the overall height of the spill plates being capped by the sanctioning body at 5" above the roof or 60" above the ground along with a 2" maximum trough in the rear deck the desire to put more spoiler on the car had reached an impasse. Gibson's solution was to lower the rear quarter panel itself behind the rear axle centerline and thus add more spill and lateral element surface. The Castrol team noted that the gains in downforce are incremental rather than major but in the current tight Funny Car environment any little bit helps.

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