McClenathan, Tasca Top Testing
Cory McClenathan powered his FRAM Dragster to a performance better than both ends of the current Top Fuel track record at O’Reilly Raceway Park at Indianapolis Thursday during Day 2 of testing for the 56th annual Mac Tools U.S. Nationals presented by Lucas Oil.
NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series teams utilized the open test session to prepare for the first of six races in the Countdown to the Championship, beginning Sept. 1-6 at the historic multipurpose motorsports facility in Clermont, Ind. The event will be showcased during 10 hours of coverage by ESPN2 HD.
McClenathan, who finished second in the regular season point standings, covered the 1,000-foot race distance in 3.790-seconds at 324.28 mph to lead all competitors. Tony Schumacher, the seven-time and reigning world champion, holds the current track elapsed time record at 3.816-seconds in the U.S. Army Dragster. Antron Brown, driver of the Mac Tools Dragster and Schumacher’s Don Schumacher Racing teammate, is the track speed record-holder at 319.22 mph.
A much-improved track surface meticulously prepared by new O’Reilly Raceway Park operations director Kurt Johnson along with the NHRA Safety Safari had many drivers buzzing about the prospect for record-setting performances next weekend.
“We ran a 3.85 in the heat and thought that was a great number and decided to go with our ‘Friday night’ setup,” Cory Mac said. “Hopefully, we’ll have about the same conditions next Friday night during the race. To go out there and run 3.790 at 324 is pretty stout. It shows that we have the power. We’re starting to get to the point where all three DSR cars are getting closer together and I think we’ll be able to come out here and show what we have for them.”
Two-time world champion Larry Dixon, Top Fuel’s No. 1 seed for the playoffs, posted a 3.823-second pass at 311.34 mph in the Al-Anabi Racing Dragster. And Schumacher, an eight-time U.S. Nats winner, posted a 3.826/310.20 effort.
In Funny Car, Bob Tasca III pushed his Motorcraft Shelby Ford Mustang to the top of the time sheet with a 4.077-second run, just four-hundredths-of-a-second off the track record time for the 7,000-horsepower category (4.073-seconds/Tony Pedregon). Tasca was hoping to post a time quicker than the current record during his final attempt but had issues launching off the line.
“We started off great and ran a 4.077 at 309 right out of the box and then went downhill from there,” Tasca said. “We have been struggling with a lifter issue the last three races and it bit us on the second run and we lost an engine when a lifter broke. We spent the rest of the afternoon changing over to a different style lifter _ one that the (John) Force camp runs _ and came back out and went a 15, which is encouraging.
“That last run I just went brain-dead, two-stepped it, and the good news was that it was testing and not race day. But you want to get the data from any night run. Having the 4.077 data out of the box is very valuable but, man, I tell you we kind of threw that one away. We’ll be OK and the good news is we ran 4.077 and we solved our lifter problems. Those are certainly things we didn’t want to have to deal with next week.”
Matt Hagan was second-quickest in Funny Car at 4.094/300.20 in his DSR DieHard Dodge Charger. Four-time Indy winner John Force, a 14-time world champion, was third-quickest in his Castrol GTX High-Mileage Mustang with a 4.101-second run.
DSR’s Ron Capps, who is looking for his first U.S. Nationals victory, posted a run of 4.143-seconds at 297.55 in his NAPA Auto Parts Dodge Charger _ and was one of the drivers impressed with the track conditions.
“I was just talking to (crew chiefs) Ace (Ed McCulloch) and John Medlen up there and we are firing off a letter to (NHRA president) Tom Compton, Peter Clifford (NHRA executive VP and general manager) and Graham Light (NHRA senior VP, racing operations) because Kurt Johnson and everybody has made this track the best that we have ever seen it,” Capps said. “The track condition is as good or better than the national event will be, so this is probably the first test everybody has really been able to learn something.
“Usually when you come here to test the track is OK, but you can’t apply it to what the race will give you. I tell you if we could have every test session prepped like this you would see teams doing back flips. It‘s great, and I think it will make for a better show.”
First qualifying session for the U.S. Nationals is scheduled to begin Friday, Sept. 3, at 5:15 p.m., EDT, Qualifying sessions will continue Saturday (3 and 6 p.m.) and Sunday (11:30 a.m. and 2:30 p.m.) for Monday’s eliminations, which start at 11 a.m. Tickets are available by calling (800) 884-NHRA, or online at www.NHRATIX.com.
Test results from Thursday’s second session:
TOP FUEL _ 1. Cory McClenathan, 3.790-seconds at 324.28 mph; 2. Larry Dixon, 3.823 at 311.34; 3. Tony Schumacher, 3.826 at 310.20; 4. Doug Kalitta, 3.831, no speed; 5. Antron Brown, 3.860 at 315.71; 6. Shawn Langdon, 3.863 at 313.58; 7. Dave Grubnic, 3.894 at 258.52; 8. Morgan Lucas, 3.901 at 311.85; 9. Rod Fuller, 3.902 at 307.93; 10.Terry McMillen, 3.896 at 290.44.
FUNNY CAR _1. Bob Tasca III, 4.077-seconds at 309.84 mph; 2. Matt Hagan, 4.094 at 300.20; 3. John Force, 4.101, no speed; 4. Cruz Pedregon, 4.106 at 296.57; 5. Del Worsham, 4.138 at 278.40; 6. Ron Capps, 4.143 at 297.55; 7. Jack Beckman, 4.160 at 301.40; 8. Melanie Troxel, 4.224 at 301.67; 9. Tony Pedregon, 4.960 at 197.77; 10. Brian Thiel, 5.585 at 125.69.No Comment