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Cory Mac Thinks The House Might Rock This Year

Jim Pedley | Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Monday, September 6 2010

Cory McClenathan got off to a hot start at the Countdown to 1-opening Mac Tools U.S. Nationals on Friday. He hopes to end the season equally hot. (Photo courtesy of the NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series)

By Jim Pedley | Managing Editor
RacinToday.com

Clermont, Ind. – It was early evening at O’Reilly Raceway Park and fans who had sat through a full day of sportsman racing and pro qualifying at the Mac Tools U.S. Nationals were headed out the gates and into a traffic jam.

Inside the media center, reporters were headed back to their lap tops after the final interview session of the day.

But Top Fuel driver Cory McClenathan seemed to be no hurry. He was more than obliging when asked if he had time for just a few more questions. And the answer to one of those questions gave some insight as to why.

McClenathan has a feeling that this could be his year; not his year to merely win this weekend’s edition of the NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series version of the Super Bowl (he won the Nationals in 1996 and 1999), but to win it all.

And why not. He has the team and they have shown the speed in 2010.

“I think this is the best chance I’ve had in a lot of years,” McClenathan said. “I don’t want to say, ‘Hey, it’s going to happen’, but it would be a lot of fun if it did. It would rock the house down.”

McClenathan’s house has rocked a number of times since he began his NHRA career in 1991. There were the two victories at the Nationals and there were runner-up finishes in points.

In fact there were lots of runner-up finishes in points. Four times McClenathan found himself second at the ends of seasons. He doesn’t even have to asked anymore if he feels like the NHRA edition of NASCAR’s most famous bridesmaid before he starts talking about it.

“I’ve seen people that have been out here who have been doing this for as long as I have and have never even won a race,” McClenathan said, starting his sentence with a tired sigh. “Then I have seen people like myself, people like Mark Martin, that have been runner-up in different categories for different reasons. I just gotta say that you’ve got to be there to at least be chasin’ for it. I’m still happy where I am, but I’d like to get that one championship under my belt.”

There are a lot of people at ORP this weekend who think McClenathan just might get his championship.

Notably, the people who will be his biggest obstacles to getting it – Top Fuel legend Tony Schumacher, who is shooting for his seventh straight championship, and Larry Dixon, the season points leader and top seed heading into today’s eliminations.

“A lot has been made of Tony and myself, and they put us on the cover of Drag Illustrated,” Dixon said. “I think someone ought to put Cory Mac on there, too. Maybe it gave that team a chip on their shoulder, because they’re running strong.”

Have been all year. McClenathan has not slipped out of the top three in points for a single day in 2010. He has put his orange Fram-sponsored, Don Schumacher Racing dragster on pole four times this year.

He won three events, including the inaugural Four Wide Nationals in Charlotte.

He is the No. 2 seed today. In front of him is Dixon. Behind him is Schumacher, his teammate. All are desperate to start the six-race Countdown to 1 playoffs with a victory.

It is supposed to be warm for today’s eliminations. Anything can happen. Good and bad.

For McClenathan that means taking care of business in the first round against 15th-seed Terry McMillen.

“Obviously, the Countdown and coming to Indy all in one weekend can be overwhelming, but we came out of here with 11 bonus points (earned Friday, Saturday and Sunday), which really helps us a lot,” McClenathan said Sunday night. “We’re all greedy, we’d like to have more but, at the same time, I think we did well here. We’re qualified No. 2. That’s a big deal for us. It puts us on opposite sides (of the bracket) of Dixon and that’s big.”

But, he said, ”(DSR teammate) Hot Rod Fuller ran good the last session (quickest of the round and No. 9 qualifier), and Tony Schumacher (No. 3) and Antron Brown (No. 5) are going to be right there.

“I see a lot of parity going into this first race of the Countdown.”

McClenathan hopes to see another Wally on the table tomorrow and a championship ring on his finger on Nov. 14 at Ponoma.

Jim Pedley | Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Monday, September 6 2010
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