Archive for February, 2009

NHRA: Capps tops Head after remembering the past

Posted in Column, NHRA with tags , , , , , , , , , on February 11, 2009 by Martin Henderson

Gary Densham had a sign on the back of his trailer asking for financial support for his racing operation. His car was black, devoid of the color livery of a sponsored team.

Same with Jim Head. No sponsor, no commitment to running the full NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing season.

Yet Densham and Head faced off in the Funny Car semifinals at the 49th Kragen O’Reilly Winternationals at Auto Club Raceway in Pomona. What does that say about the economics at play in professional motorsports when a couple of independents can get just as far as cars backed by NAPA Auto Parts and the Auto Club of Southern California?

Well, it says there are still sponsor bargains to be had. It also says that Densham and Head know what they’re doing, that professional racers have become notoriously adept and learning to steal from Peter to pay Paul, that they will manipulate parts and favors and do everything they can to squeeze every ounce of horsepower out of an engine that produces 7,000 of them.
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NHRA: It’s a golden moment for Connie Kalitta

Posted in Column, NHRA with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on February 11, 2009 by Martin Henderson

One couldn’t help but pull for Doug Kalitta on Tuesday afternoon in the finals of the 49th Kragen O’Reilly NHRA Winternationals for one reason: Pulling for Doug Kalitta meant pulling for Connie Kalitta.

The man known as “The Bounty Hunter” in his racing days is celebrating his 50th year in drag racing, but nobody could have faulted him if he had stopped at 49.

He will be 71 on Feb. 24, and has given the bulk of his life to drag racing. Last year he gave his son, Scott, a two-time champion who was killed instantly in a qualifying crash at Englishtown, N.J.

Kalitta Motorsports was at the next event a week later, so maybe it shouldn’t be a surprise that it cobbled together its resources to open the Full Throttle Drag Racing season at the series’ second-most prestigious race.

Conrad “Connie” Kalitta is a drag racer, and will be for as long as his heart continues to beat. It’s what he knows, it’s what he is.
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NHRA: Not exactly off to a Full Throttle start, but not exactly lacking storylines, either

Posted in Blog, NHRA with tags , , , , , , , , , , on February 8, 2009 by Martin Henderson

The first  two days of the season-opening Kragen O’Reilly NHRA Winternationals at Pomona weren’t exactly run at full throttle. New series presenting sponsor Full Throttle Energy Drink must see the irony: “Go Full Throttle or Go Home,” which pretty much summed up the fan experience as the rain poured on Pomona. There was no throttling, and everyone went home wet. That is, if they came out to the track at all.

But you had to like the drama Saturday in the first day of on-track activities. Although Antron Brown at first appeared to run the fastest 1,000-foot time in history, the story of the day was Larry Dixon’s failure to qualify in the debut of the Alan Johnson Al-Anabi Racing dragster.  With the team behind him that helped Tony Schumacher win his fifth consecutive title a year ago, Dixon’s debut was nothing short of disastrous, a full-throttle flameout. Lined up against Schumacher in the last pair of the day under threatening skies, Dixon encountered problems and coasted to the finish. He wasn’t going full throttle, and you can pretty much figure out what that meant.
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NHRA Top Fuel preview: A rivalry where ‘the Dark Side’ resides

Posted in Column, NHRA with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 7, 2009 by Martin Henderson

Take Brandon Bernstein, Antron Brown, Cory McClenathan and J.R. Todd and place them all on one side of the street.

Then look to the other side where Tony Schumacher and Larry Dixon are standing because that’s where the action is.

Schumacher alone won 15 races in 2008, and now his crew chief, Alan Johnson, formed his own team and not only hired the best driver in the division, but also brought 15 of the 16 members from last year’s team that gave Schumacher a season for the ages.

Is it possible for that team, with first-time crew chief Jason McCulloch handling the major decisions under Johnson’s guidance, to repeat what Schumacher did a  year ago? Probably not.

Nevertheless, it’s easy to understand why Dixon bought out his contract from Don “the Snake” Prudhomme: These opportunities A) don’t come around often, and B) are too good to pass up.
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NHRA Funny Car preview: Expect the Hight of drama in this shootout

Posted in Column, NHRA with tags , , , , , , , , , on February 7, 2009 by Martin Henderson

Cruz Pedregon proved in 2008 that timing is everything. As two of the three North American racing series determine championships based on playoffs, the only thing that matters is making those playoffs.

That’s how Pedregon managed to win his first NHRA Powerade Funny Car title since 1992. He made the six-race playoffs, then won the last three races after winning only once in the previous 11 years.

The smart money in 2009 says the title will come down to a two-time champion and two-time runner-up, neither of whom finished in the Top 3 last season.

Tony Pedregon and Robert Hight.
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