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Sat, 1 Sep 2001, 07:34 PM

INDY - Top Fuel Qualifying Notes, Session #3
By Michael L. Jex

Track Records Smashed.

CLERMONT, Ind. - Notes from round 3 qualifying in Top Fuel at the 47th 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: Don Garlits Runs 12.098/85.87, Now #18; Best prior run: 5.322/190.46, Was #18
Right Lane: Shirley Muldowney Runs 4.679/320.20, Now #8; Best prior run: 4.647/319.98, Was #8

7:30 PM What a special moment for this reporter - as a young boy I never got the chance to watch these two drag racing gladiators square off in person. What a fantastic opportunity to share in some of the history and pageantry of this sport while we watch these two incredible competitors make a pass down the quarter mile.

To recap the last round for these two, Garlits had a bolt come loose in the throttle linkage and was unable to get his dragster in reverse. Shirley smoked the tires.

The bets are on - pick your favorite and hang on - it's drag racing all over again!! Both cars were loaded for this one - Garlits had too much. Shirley had the better reaction time and never trailed because Garlits smoked the tires about 100 feet off the starting line. Muldowney? Well she just ran the fastest speed of her career, and spanked her most famous competitor. Wow, that was cool!

Left Lane: Bobby Lagana Jr No Time, Now #21; Best prior run: 9.734/90.78, Was #21

This was weird! Lagana's machine started smoking out ALL EIGHT cylinders after the burnout. As he backed up the smoke got thicker and thicker - it looked like melting Aluminum at first, but the smoke started getting darker and darker. The stop engine signal was given, but the motor refused to shut off at first - it ran for about 40 to 50 seconds longer before shutting off with a huge cloud of white and black smoke hanging in there air....

Anyone know what happened here? FastNews has asked everyone in the press center, none of us here have ever seen anything like it before.

We're down for a minute while NHRA cleans up the starting line area. 7:41 PM

Left Lane: Doug Herbert Runs 4.843/237.63, Now #11; Best prior run: 4.701/265.48, Was #11
Right Lane: Luigi Novelli Runs 11.817/80.44, Now #14; Best prior run: 4.857/300.86, Was #14

7:48 PM Whatever it was, it was a mess - it took the safety safari a few minutes to clean up after Lagana. It's getting dark now, so header flames are easily visible in the evening sky.

Like a Roman candle Herbert's Snap-On machine started things off with a few sparklers out the header pipes, followed by the dancing light of the cylinders getting mixed up. That followed with a cloud of mist and smoke behind the rapidly disappearing dragster. At the top end came the inevitable result - a big boom, a large fireball, and more oil on the track. Novelli smoked the tires. Down again - this time to clean the top end of the track. 7:52 PM

Left Lane: Mike Dunn Runs 4.530/327.82, Now #1; Best prior run: 4.593/325.69, Was #4
Right Lane: Bruce Litton Runs 4.736/313.51, Now #12; Best prior run: 4.746/310.27, Was #12

7:54 PM The cleanup of Herbert's boomer was brief - evidently the diaper did it's job very well! Hello Yankees! Dunn just missed the track ET record, but he blasted the speed record on this run. Litton's run was good, but paled in comparison to the action in the other lane.

That's our first side-by-side 300 mph runs of the day...

Left Lane: David Grubnic Runs 4.618/315.64, Now #8; Best prior run: 4.999/223.32, Was #17
Right Lane: Rhonda Hartman-Smith Runs 6.238/136.22, Now #17; Best prior run: 4.921/231.91, Was #16

Grubnic kept all eight candles lit all the way to the end of the track, bumping Smith and putting Joe Hartley on the bubble. His .853 60-foot time is the best of the session so far.

Left Lane: Andrew Cowin Runs 5.132/193.88, Now #7; Best prior run: 4.606/319.82, Was #7
Right Lane: Tony Schumacher Runs 4.623/319.14, Now #6; Best prior run: 4.605/318.77, Was #6

No joy here - Cowin got out of the groove and lifted. Schumacher was on a rope all the way downtrack, the motor started mixing things up right in the lights, but stayed together.

Left Lane: Scott Weis Runs 4.732/316.67, Now #13; Best prior run: 6.857/128.91, Was #19
Right Lane: Chris Karamesines Runs 14.649/67.50, Now #20; Best prior run: 9.429/84.99, Was #20

Weis must be liking the teams move to Top Fuel from Funny Car. Nice pass right down the middle of the left lane. Karamesines smoked the tires almost immediately.

Left Lane: Larry Dixon Runs 5.095/195.70, Now #4; Best prior run: 4.585/316.97, Was #4
Right Lane: Gary Scelzi Runs 4.592/273.77, Now #5; Best prior run: 4.855/217.98, Was #15

Scelzi is just one rung off the last rung on the 16 car ladder - not a spot team Winston wants to keep. The conditions are right to see a 4.40 here - The "Tower Tuners" on the PA system have predicted it... Dixon was on a big pass - .850 60-foot, 2.122 at the 330 mark. After that the right side of the engine started mixing up and dropping cylinders. Scelzi was trailing Dixon till the 400 foot mark, then like a Titan missle shot the rest of the way to the finish line. Gary clicked it off just a little early - that could have been a low fifty for the Winston machine. As it is Gary moves into the top half of the field and bumps out Joe Hartley.

Luigi Novelli is on the bubble. Word comes that Dixon had more than mixed cylinder problems at the top end, we're down for a cleanup at the top end of the track. 8:12 PM

Left Lane: Joe Hartley Runs 4.757/294.95, Now #16; Best prior run: 4.918/295.66, Was #17
Right Lane: Darrell Russell Runs 4.591/322.34, Now #5; Best prior run: 4.648/315.71, Was #11

Just bumped Joe Hartley bumped Novelli, and will stay number 16 for tonight. Russell had to make just a couple minor steering adjustments - the Valvoline machine was on a string down IRP this time. Nice passes for Russell and Hartley.

Left Lane: Doug Kalitta Runs 4.555/316.82, Now #3; Best prior run: 4.580/309.91, Was #3
Right Lane: Kenny Bernstein Runs 4.505/323.74, Now #1; Best prior run: 4.540/323.58, Was #2

The track record falls, the crowd went wild. .845 for Bernstein to 60-feet, the best of the weekend. He was going 273.50 mph at half track.

So with two more rounds of qualifying tomorrow The Bud King is on top, and Joe Hartley is clinging to the 16th spot. 8:23 PM

Timing data courtesy of CompuLink

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