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Minter: Ups, Downs At Drag Strip

Rick Minter | Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Sunday, May 16 2010

Larry Dixon had an up day at Atlanta Dragway on Sunday. (Photo courtesy of the NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series)

By Rick Minter | Senior Writer
RacinToday.com

Commerce, Ga. – A few random thoughts from Atlanta Dragway and a press box a little bit of my usual beaten path:

Whether it’s at a NASCAR superspeedway, a 3/8-mile dirt track or an NHRA drag strip, there are few things in life that match the feeling of hearing a race track prayer, the National Anthem and then the sounds of racing engines.

It’s also a pleasant change to see racing activity at 11 a.m. Eastern time, especially on a day when there’s a chance of afternoon rain in the forecast. On the other hand, it’s a little disappointing to see one of the first Top Fuel cars down the strip leave some oil on the track and briefly delay the proceedings.

And for the home-town crowd, it was a downer when local driver and part-time Top Fueler Bob Vandergriff Jr. went out in the first round after qualifying eighth in his first appearance of the season.

I owe Funny Car Jack Beckman one, so here goes. Beckman, the defending winner at Atlanta, was gracious enough to grant a long phone interview the week before the Southern Nationals then took time for a lively discussion/debate on Friday about the gimmicks being foisted on racing on the oval-track and straight-line circuits and other big-picture issues facing motorsports as a whole.

In the end we agreed to disagree on many things, but it was a friendly conversation from start to finish.

All Beckman asked all weekend was some help promoting his personal charity of choice – the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. Beckman is a Lymphoma survivor, and he said he owes it to the people who were raising money 15 years ago and whose efforts led to the treatments that saved him.

“It’s a way of paying it forward,” he said.

To participate, Beckman says all fans need to do is visit his website www.gofastjack.com and click on the donation link.

And he’s not expecting his fans to empty their rainy day accounts.

“We’ve had some big donations, but what I’d rather see is thousands of people to give $10 or $20,” he said.

It doesn’t sound like a lot to ask.

Being in the same part of Georgia where Nationwide Series driver John Wes Townley resides had me thinking about the strange turn of events since Townley was ousted from the Richard Childress Racing Nationwide Series entry that is sponsored by Zaxby’s, the restaurant chain co-founded by Townley’s father Tony.

Young Townley was replaced at Phoenix after crashing in practice, supposedly because he was living up to his “John Wrecks Weekly” nickname from his rookie season.

Former series champion Clint Bowyer took over, and while he’s run better he’s also torn up a good bit of equipment. He’s had three crashes since Phoenix, and has an average finish in the No. 21 of 23.2.

Care to guess what Townley’s average was when he was ousted?

How about 22.4, with one DNF due to a crash.

Leave it to John Force, the man of many, many words, to come up with the best one-liner of the day at Atlanta. After advancing out of the first round with a gutsy drive from the disadvantaged right lane at Atlanta, he described his run as a “green-white-knuckler.”

– Rick Minter can be reached at rminter@racintoday.com

Rick Minter | Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Sunday, May 16 2010
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