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Sun, 28 Oct 2001, 04:37 PM

Saturday Pit Notes from Las Vegas
By Keith Burgan

LAS VEGAS -- Pro Stock Motorcycle rider Dennis Mirante who fell from his Suzuki early in the second qualifying session on Friday was transported to the University Medical Center where he underwent minor surgery to repair fractures of both the wrist and ankle. The medicos planned to keep the Setauket, N.Y. resident in the hospital for a day or so before releasing him.

Further to yesterday’s note regarding the decision of K & N Filters to switch their backing to the Jim Dunn Racing operation for 2002 FNN spoke with driver Al Hoffman regarding the deal. Hoffman noted that the company's rationale was that they would get more exposure by having a team that was butting heads with John Force rather than their current deal with Andrew Cowin. The fans on hand for today's early qualifying session got a preview of the Dunn team's 2002 package when the car came to the line with next year's paint scheme in place, a move which provided the team with action photos and video footage for promotional and marketing ploys in the new year.

Among the many teams sporting different color schemes this weekend was that of Del Worsham. The Checker/Schucks/Kragen Pontiac was bannering Autolite Pro Tech starters and alternators as once again C/S/K partnered with one of their suppliers in a mutual marketing ploy.

Dale Creasey Sr. was prominent here by his absence on the start line as Dale Jr attempted to qualify the teams Craftsman backed Pontiac. Normally the senior Creasy is out front when "Peanut" comes to the line, but last weekend at Dallas he was injured in a freak staging lane incident. As John Lawson's car was towed to the head of the lanes the tow car brushed Dale's right leg, snagging his pants and pulling him to the ground where the rear wheel rolled over his calf. Creasy told FNN that as the incident unfolded he made the decision to "roll with the punch", afraid the tow car driver might stop with the car on top of his leg if he raised the alarm.

After getting up off the ground Creasy went to the line and performed his usual routine, but later it was obvious that he had not survived unscathed. A trip to the hospital revealed a fracture about 6" up from the ankle and Dale was fitted with a cast. The initial bracing extended half way up his thigh but by the time the team arrived here Creasy had it replaced with a calf and foot only unit and was hobbling around on crutches and going to the line in the tow car.

FNN ran into Sid Waterman in the stage lanes this afternoon as he was promoting the latest product of his fuel system business to the racers. Sid's new piece is a very tidy quick release coupling with some neat innovations. A dowel pin and detent system obviates any chance of the unit disconnecting during severe engine vibration or tire shake and an "O" ring on the tapered sealing face of the "AN" portion of the unit also provide a more positive seal. Waterman is manufacturing the units with fitting to allow direct connection to various ancillaries such as barrel valves and can also provide the part with crimped and pressure tested hoses attached.

In the lull between pro qualifying sessions today Cruz Pedregon announced a multi-year sponsorship package with Advance Auto Parts that will see the former Winston champ abandon his seat in the ESPN booth to return to the seat of his own funny car. Pedregon's 1992 Funny Car series win is all that stopped John Force from having an unbroken string since his first championship.

Pedregon plans on hiring a tuning consultant in addition to having the very capable Fashing clan run his operation next year and currently he has a lot of options in that field. Roland Leong, Terry Manzer and Larry Meyer are all on the market following the demise of Chuck Etchells racing in Dallas and Wes Cerney is also available since his split with Scotty Cannon.

One tuner who does have a job is Wayne Dupuy who will be calling the shots on the Don Lampus entry next year. As noted yesterday Dupuy was planning to tune both the Lampus car and that of Johnny Gray here, but Gray did not return as his father’s condition worsened. When Lampus carded a 4.643 in the opening session today the team decided to sit out the final round of qualifying and ended up ninth in the final order with a first round match-up with Joe Hartley tomorrow.

The Hartley team has struggled of late and although their backing was originally scheduled for just the U.S. Nationals car owner and tuner Alan Hartley told FNN tonight that he felt that by leaving the logos on the car he could compensate in part for the string of DNQ’s. The marketer of outdoor wear and ancillaries for camping, rock climbing and hiking should be happy after the team's efforts here as Hartley recorded a career best 4.639 to jump into the top half of the show.

Hartley's car did throw the rods out as he shut off on that run and his dad was at a loss to explain why. Also afflicted with the same problem was Louis Sweet's Funny Car although in that case there was a downside as Sweet missed the cut with a 5.183 best on that lap. Sweet's car was being tuned here by System 1's Steve Faria who like Hartley was unsure of what caused the top end boom although he did tell FNN that he was still finding his way in the nitro ranks. Well after the explosion and as it rolled to a halt Sweet's Camaro caught fire, evidently the end result of the engine boom pressurizing the fuel system. The fuel tank did not rupture despite being expanded in volume considerably but evidently the pressure forced some fuel out of the vent where it ignited. The Safety Safari trucks were at the scene as the car rolled to a halt and soon extinguished the flames with little damage evident to the body.

When he was unable to make the call for the final qualifying session Wyatt Radke watched the bump spot move past his 4.818, unable to do anything about it. The Western Rock team had problems with a pair of blocks that did not have sufficient oil pressure and ran out of time. Team owner Rick Michael had solved the problem by the time FNN spoke with him, purchasing enough blocks to allow the team to put up a good showing a Pomona's finals. Michael noted that the team were the "home town heroes" at Pomona and that he wanted to make sure that Radke had a chance to make the show there.

After missing Friday's sessions as his all volunteer crew put his car back together with components sourced at the last minute Chuck Beal made both sessions today. First up he noted that he staged the car crooked and was forced to lift on what the early numbers indicated would have been a good run. In the final session the car was again on a respectable lap when a gout of fuel out of the pipes signaled that the input shaft had broken. When the engine was unloaded it zinged so high in the rpm band that the centrifugal force "threw the clutch out" trashing the titanium bellhousing as well as all the parts inside it.

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