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Thu, 7 Nov 2002, 07:53 PM

Top Fuel Qualifying Notes, Session #1
By Larry Sullivan

POMONA, Calif. - Notes from round 1 qualifying in Top Fuel at the NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series, 38th annual Automobile Club of Southern California NHRA Finals listing lane, driver name, elapsed time, top speed, and position in order following run:

Left Lane: David Baca Runs 5.139/223.39, Now #1
Right Lane: Steven Chrisman Runs 10.953/69.93, Now #2

2:41 PM We open Top Fuel with a couple of relatively unknown, second- and third- generation drivers, Steven the son of Jack Chrisman and the grandson of pioneer driver Art Chrisman, Baca the son of Dennis Baca. Both had problems, Chrisman losing traction immediately, pedaling, then losing traction again. Baca had a solid launch, with a 0.848 60-foot time, and was in good shape to 330 feet, but then the car started dropping cylinders and the engine let go on the top end. The track was clean, so there was only a brief delay.

Left Lane: Tim Gibson Runs 10.483/85.09, Now #2
Right Lane: Craig Smith No Time, Now #4

This was actually a single for Gibson, Smith's crew found something wrong after firing the engine and shut it down. Gibson was up in smoke early in the run.

Right Lane: Jim Cavalieri Runs 10.743/82.49, Now #3

Cavalieri couldn't get the car into reverse after the burnout and was pushed back behind the line by hand, a slow process, so you know the engine was hotter than planned. The car got off the line okay with a 0.867, but was shaking the tires and he shut it down.

Left Lane: Mike Strasburg Runs 4.705/303.78, Now #1
Right Lane: Joe Hartley Runs 11.096/65.02, Now #6

Hartley was up in smoke immediately. Strasburg made a very nice run, with a soft launch but right down the groove with no wasted motion, turning in a career-best elapsed time.

Left Lane: Jim Head Runs 4.676/311.49, Now #1
Right Lane: Yuichi Oyama Runs 4.864/266.27, Now #3

Nice pass Head, riding the wheelie bar for about 50 feet before setting the wheels down hard and streaking down the groove. Oyama was a bit slower for the first 330 feet, but wasn't far back at half track and 1,000 feet. Then his supercharger let go with a bright flash of flame and the car slowed. We'll be down for a bit, the damaged car leaving a trail of oil in the shutdown area.

Left Lane: Clay Millican Runs 8.821/85.39, Now #5
Right Lane: Paul Romine Runs 13.224/84.65, Now #10

After a quick cleanup, we get an IHRA matchup, except Romine is in John Mitchell's Montana Express instead of Doug Herbert's CARQUEST dragster. Both cars smoked the tires, Romine immediately and Millican after going less than 100 feet. Millican pedaled, lost traction again, and threw in the towel.

Left Lane: Chris Karamesines Runs 11.407/82.88, Now #11
Right Lane: Melanie Troxel Runs 9.310/89.26, Now #6

Synchronized tire spin, both cars spinning the tires immediately. Karamesines threw in the towel. Troxel pedaled, the tires bit, and the front of the car headed for the sky, forcing her to lift. The front end slammed down hard.

Starter Rick Stewart immediately checked the track and signaled that there was a light mist in the air, apparently just enough to make the track too slick to race on. Then the mist picked up and became a light rain, the car covers came out, and the teams started hooking up the tow straps to head for the pits. 3:10 PM and we're down for rain.

Left Lane: Scott Weis Runs 8.793/93.42, Now #6
Right Lane: David Grubnic Runs 4.727/303.43, Now #3

4:21 PM After a little more than hour and a few laps by the jet dryer, racing resumed. Weis left hard, posting a 0.854 60-foot time, then lost traction. he pedaled, to no avail. Grubnic's car was softer off the line with a 0.875, but he kept the tires tuck to the track for a nice run.

Left Lane: John Smith Runs 5.560/242.23, Now #7
Right Lane: Rhonda Hartman-Smith Runs 4.617/315.19, Now #1

John lost traction, pedaled, and almost saved the run. Rhonda made a very nice run, with a hard launch and a straight run.

Left Lane: Andrew Cowin Runs 9.821/81.44, Now #12
Right Lane: Doug Herbert Runs 4.674/274.55, Now #2

Cowin left hard and then lost traction. Herbert had a good run going to half track, then the header flames started dancing as the engine started mixing the cylinders up and the car lost momentum, only seven mph faster at the finish line than at half track. Then starter Stewart began feeling the track surface once again and called out the tractor to try to get a light film of moisture off the track.

Left Lane: Darrell Russell Runs 4.571/313.22, Now #1
Right Lane: Cory McClenathan Runs 4.615/320.28, Now #2

ere's nothing wrong with the left lane with a super-stout 0.836 60-foot time and a very strong run. Not much wrong with Cory Mac's run, either, losing four hundredths to Russell in the first 330 feet and then pacing him the rest of the way down the track, actually closing slightly in the final 300 feet.

Left Lane: Doug Kalitta Runs 4.599/319.52, Now #2
Right Lane: Tony Schumacher Runs 6.402/159.40, Now #12

Now the lanes are reversed, Kalitta with a nice run in the left lane, Schumacher overpowering the right lane about 200 feet out.

Left Lane: Kenny Bernstein Runs 4.621/318.62, Now #6
Right Lane: Larry Dixon Runs 4.576/324.98, Now #2

Beer cars, a pair, so it must be the last pair. Dixon's run was the more aggressive of the two, 0.840 to 0.854 in the first 60 feet, and the gap opened slightly as they went down the track. Dixon was very strong on the top end, running the best speed of the round, but he could not match Russell's quicker start and slid into the 32 spot.

4:46 PM

Timing data courtesy of CompuLink

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