Archive for November, 2008

NHRA: Herbert’s ‘championship’ season complete

Posted in Column, NHRA with tags , , , , , on November 20, 2008 by Martin Henderson

Doug Herbert said all the mandatory things after his two young sons were killed in an automobile accident a few days before the start of the 2008 NHRA Powerade Drag Racing Series season.

He christened this the “For My Boys” tour and promised the media at the Winternationals in Pomona he would win the championship.

It was a pipe dream, of course.

But 24 races later, at the Auto Club Finals in Pomona, he made good on that promise.

No, Herbert didn’t take a trophy back to Charlotte, N.C. No, he wasn’t recognized in the NHRA Record Book. No, he won’t receive all the spoils that Tony Schumacher earned in the most remarkably dominant season in drag racing history.

But sometimes, championships are won by finishing the race. By digging deep against long odds. By powering forward when you want to give up. By keeping things together in your head, your family, your business, when it seems your world is falling apart.
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NHRA: Under pressure, Pedregon earns his money

Posted in Column, NHRA with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on November 17, 2008 by Martin Henderson

Cruz Pedregon had prepared himself for this moment. Had told himself everything would be all right, that he would be relaxed, that the first round of the 44th Auto Club Finals in Pomona would be just another race.

That’s what he kept telling himself, lying with every word.

Money time.

He was going up against journeyman Jerry Toliver. It would be OK.

Keep calm and stay focused. It was no different from 500 other runs in his career.

Then he tried to strap himself into his 8,000 horsepower Toyota Funny Car and it took hold.

The pressure that he said he would avoid? His body was imploding.

Money time.

Pedregon had crossed over into Ron Capps’ world, had discovered what it was like to be stuffed into a fishbowl and squeezed with a million dreams.
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NHRA: Hight looks like a championship force

Posted in Column, NHRA with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 16, 2008 by Martin Henderson

Robert Hight looks like he should be wearing a brown shirt and shorts and delivering my  packages from HSN. Parcel delivery. Short. Solid. Fit. And maybe that’s appropriate because in Hight’s day job, he delivers the mail for John Force Racing.

He drives a Funny Car 330 mph. For the last couple of years, he has just missed winning an NHRA Powerade Drag Racing championship.

“He’s got everything that it takes, not just to win a championship, but to win 10,” said Force, who has won 14 and knows a little something about what it takes. “I see so much of him in me. Ashley (Force) is still learning the ropes, but Robert is ready right now.”

Though nitro racing may be a crew chief’s sport — and Jimmy Prock is no lightweight — Hight has all the tools to saddle the horsepower and ride the lead car in Force’s Pony Express.
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NHRA: With moment gone, is success Capped?

Posted in Column, NHRA with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 15, 2008 by Martin Henderson

You never know when your moment has passed forever. There’s always tomorrow. At least, that’s the hope.

For Ron Capps, tomorrow has not yet come.

The best NHRA funny car driver to not win a championship suffered through a Powerade Drag Racing season that was about as successful as John Edwards’ campaign, but without the revelations of adultery.

So, at least he has that going for him.
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NHRA: Pedregon on fire and in Cruz control

Posted in Column, NHRA with tags , , , , , , , on November 14, 2008 by Martin Henderson

Back in Feburary when the NHRA Powerade Drag Racing season began, Tony Pedregon made like illusionist David Copperfield and turned himself into a spectacular ball of fire.

Burned hands, burned eyebrows, burned up. But the most surprising thing about the defining image of the season-opening Winternationals was that the fireball was Tony and not his older brother, Cruz.

For the sons of Flamin’ Frank Pedregon, maybe such images are hereditary.

A full season later, it’s Cruz who is smokin’.
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NHRA: For Schumacher & Army, the title fits

Posted in Column, NHRA with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on November 2, 2008 by Martin Henderson

Tony Schumacher led the NHRA Powerade Drag Racing Series Top Fuel championship from wire-to- wire, an impeachable season of excellence that nearly defies description or explanation.

In a race series in which the sanctioning body created a “playoff” to ensure no one ran away with the championship, Schumacher ran away with the championship.

Clinching the title for the U.S. Army Racing team after qualifying of the penultimate race in Las Vegas, Schumacher has been a great champion.

One of racing’s greatest champions.

Has the Army ever had a more representative marketing agent this side of G.I. Joe?

NASCAR driver Joe Nemechek didn’t exactly inspire the image of General Patton. Mark Martin fits the mold, if not the height requirement. Aric Almirola looks good, but doesn’t have five consecutive world championships.

Going into final eliminations at Las Vegas, Schumacher had won 14 of 22 events. His final qualifying lap at The Strip was the fastest all-time to 1,000 feet. That’s called an exclamation point.
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