New Camaro Makes Its NHRA Debut In Las Vegas

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Saturday, March 31 2012

Greg Stanfield takes a pass in the new Pro Stock Camaro during Friday's NHRA qualifying session in Las Vegas. (Photo courtesy of Joe Sherk)

Greg Stanfield ushered-in the new Chevrolet Camaro era in National Hot Rod Association Pro Stock drag racing Friday during qualifications for the 13th annual SummitRacing.com NHRA Nationals at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

Stanfield posted the ninth-quickest quarter-mile run of the opening two sessions, and 12th overall on the provisional ladder.

“We’re excited because the car went down the track and we got good data from the run,” Stanfield said. “I think we have a lot of potential. We’ll work on the car and free it up. We can make it go faster and we’ll just keep working on it. The important thing is going down the track.”

The Nitro Fish/Coffman Tank Trucks Camaro was timed in 6.733-seconds at 204.85 mph on its first pass. Although he improved his numbers to 6.727-seconds at 204.88 mph on his second effort, Stanfield slipped to the 12th slot. “We had a different tune-up on the last run and ran better, but it wasn’t quick enough,” crew chief Eddie Guarnaccia said.

Stanfield and crew picked up the Jerry Haas-built Camaro late last week, and tested at a track in Tulsa, Okla., earlier this week. “We did a lot of experimenting with setups to try and get rid of the new car bugs,” Guarnaccia said. “We made a couple of runs that were respectable, plus we had so many things to try.”

Several General Motors Pro Stock teams currently running the venerable Pontiac GXP chassis are planning to phase-in the Camaro during the season. The Summit Racing Equipment.com Nationals is the fourth of 17 regular-season events on the Full Throttle Drag Racing Series schedule.

Meanwhile, two-time/reigning Pro Stock world champion Jason Line raced to the top of the order after a best pass of 6.659-seconds at 207.34 mph in his Summit Racing Equipment Pontiac.

“This is probably the nicest run I’ve made this year,” Line said. “To be able to outrun Mike Edwards, who always runs well here, is an accomplishment. And because it is a Summit-sponsored race and we’re in [team owner] Ken Black’s hometown, it makes it all the better. We were a little bit soft in the first round, and I still think there’s at least a hundredth or more left in the car. It was important for us to qualify well today because of the forecasts for winds (Saturday).”

Edwards – another former world champion who won both Vegas races last season and holds both ends of

Jason Line is on Pro Stock provisional pole.

the track record – was second with a 6.669-second run at 207.30 mph in his Penhall/Interstate Batteries Pontiac. Allen Johnson was third in his Team Mopar Dodge Avenger at 6.679/206.92.

NHRA Pro Stock icon Bill “Grumpy” Jenkins, a master of the internal combustion engine and a legend among Chevrolet faithful, died on Thursday. Widely recognized as “the Father of Pro Stock drag racing,” Jenkins was 81.

Voted No. 8 among NHRA’s greatest racers in a 2001 expert’s poll, Jenkins scored just 13 NHRA national event wins between 1965 and 1975. But Jenkins won the “Factory Hot Rod” division’s first two races in 1970 driving a 1968 Camaro powered by a 430-cubic-inch aluminum V-8 fielded out of his Jenkins Competition shop in Malvern, Pa. When NHRA changed its rules to allow a small-block wedge engine in a lighter car in 1972, Jenkins responded by building a 331 CID engine. His “Grumpy’s Toy IX” won five of the season’s first eight events and six of eight national meets.

Jenkins reportedly earned $250,000 in 1972, matching NBA superstar Wilt Chamberlain for highest salary among professional athletes of the day _ notoriety that also led to a feature in “Time” magazine.

Jenkins’ spot among NHRA’s top-10 revolved around his contributions to the advancement of normally aspirated engines for drag racing competition.

“Everyone at NHRA is saddened by the passing of Bill ‘Grumpy’ Jenkins, not only a pioneer in the sport, but also an iconic figure in NHRA Pro Stock racing,” said Tom Compton, president, NHRA. “He was there from the beginning, playing an integral role in the formation of Pro Stock and remained involved in NHRA for decades. His presence and trademark gruff exterior and cigar will be missed but never forgotten at the starting line at NHRA Full Throttle events.”

Jenkins always took greater pride in his mechanical achievements than in driving his line of 17 “Grumpy’s Toys” – cars that included Chevy II, Camaro and Vega models. Among his innovations were drag racing’s first dry-sump oiling system, the first kickout oil pans and Pro Stock strut-style front suspension, gas port pistons, slick-shift manual transmissions, cool cans and the electric water-pump fan.

“The Chevy Racing family lost one of its racing legends, Bill “Grumpy” Jenkins,” said Jim Campbell, Chevrolet’s U.S. vice president of Performance Vehicles and Motorsports. “For more than half a century, Bill was a guiding light and inspiration for grassroots drag racers across America. As a driver, master engine-builder, and championship-winning team owner, he was an irresistible force in Pro Stock for decades. Bill’s engineering legacy is embodied in many of Chevrolet’s high-performance and racing components. Chevy Racing extends its condolences to Bill’s family and legions of his fans.”

Jenkins retired as a car-owner in 1983. Jenkins earned many honors, including induction into the Don Garlits International Drag Racing Hall of Fame in 1993, the Motorsports Hall of Fame in Novi, Mich., in 1996, and the International Motorsports Hall of Fame in 2008. He was one of the more prolific honorees in Car Craft Magazine All-Star Drag Racing Team balloting since winning three individual titles at the inaugural banquet in 1967.

On making NHRA’s top-10, Jenkins briefly shed his gruff exterior in 2001 to say, “Since it seemed that the balloting was heavily weighted toward the more contemporary drivers and I haven’t driven in 20 years, I was gratified to make it high on the list. Having so many of the people I’ve worked with show up at my [70th birthday] party in January meant a lot to me. I’ve always had a lot of personal satisfaction from the mechanical end of the sport.”

In 2011, Jenkins wrote the forward to and organized details of his biography – “Grumpy’s Toys, The Authorized History of Grumpy Jenkins’ Cars.”

Morgan Lucas and Robert Hight continued to make headlines Friday, racing to the qualifying lead in

Morgan Lucas is on the provisional Top Fuel pole at The Strip. (Photo courtesy of the NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series)

Top Fuel and Funny Car, respectively, at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

Lucas, who won two weeks ago in Gainesville, Fla. with a dominating performance, rallied from a 10th place effort in the opening round to vault into the No. 1 spot during the day’s final session with a 1,000-foot run of 3.817-seconds at 321.96 mph.

“The first session we were a little over-center, and Aaron [Brooks, crew chief] just went back and was going to back it down. But we went back up there with generally the same setup,” said Lucas, driver of the GEICO/Lucas Oil dragster. “We just made a couple of small tweaks and it went right down there. I’m really proud of the whole team, and it’s been a lot of fun to drive this car.

“If somehow we can make it through (Saturday) and stay No. 1, it would be a really cool thing for us to start the season with three out of four races being No. 1 qualifier.”

Texan Spencer Massey was second-quick with a 3.825-second pass at 322.88 mph in his FRAM dragster, while Clay Millican was third in his Parts Plus dragster at 3.844/318.77. Series points leader Tony Schumacher was fourth overall at 3.849/318.09 in his U.S. Army dragster.

Hight, winner of the last two Funny Car races in Chandler, Ariz., and Gainesville, powered his Auto Club Ford Mustang fielded by John Force Racing to a leading performance of 4.132-seconds at 310.41 mph.

“Everybody struggled the first run, so I think everybody was erring on the side of caution for the night run,” Hight said. “Based on what everybody ran the first run, you’ve got to be cautious and make sure you get down there. Jimmy [Prock, crew chief] told me he thought it would run a 0.12 or 0.13, so it’s really cool right now because he definitely has a handle on this race car.

“It says a lot when you can go from a place like Gainesville (Fla.) and then we’re here and we’re halfway in elevation to Denver from sea level and make the changes and have it respond and run that close to what you think it will run. Good job to Jimmy Prock, and you can see the confidence in him. He’s just so confident in all the moves he’s making, and it’s a lot of fun to drive this thing right now.”

Two-time world champion Cruz Pedregon was second in his Snap-on Tools Toyota Camry with a 4.159-second effort at 306.19 mph, while Bob Tasca III was third in his Motorcraft/Quick Lane Ford Shelby Mustang at 4.165/303.23.

Qualifying continues Saturday with sessions at 11:30 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. Sunday’s eliminations begin at 11 a.m.

Friday’s results after the first two of four rounds of qualifying for the 13th annual SummitRacing.com NHRA Nationals at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, fourth of 23 events in the NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series. Qualifying will continue Saturday for Sunday’s final eliminations.

Top Fuel _ 1. Morgan Lucas, 3.817 seconds, 321.96 mph; 2. Spencer Massey, 3.825, 322.88; 3. Clay Millican, 3.844, 318.77; 4. Tony Schumacher, 3.849, 318.09; 5. Shawn Langdon, 3.851, 321.81; 6. Bob Vandergriff Jr., 3.871, 322.81; 7. Doug Kalitta, 3.894, 315.78; 8. Khalid alBalooshi, 3.897, 316.45; 9. Brandon Bernstein, 3.933, 311.56; 10. Terry McMillen, 3.959, 280.66; 11. Steve Torrence, 3.960, 308.99; 12. Troy Buff, 3.981, 299.20. Not Qualified _ 13. Antron Brown, 3.994, 309.98; 14. Cory McClenathan, 4.008, 303.23; 15. Damien Harris, 4.232, 270.00; 16. David Grubnic, 4.318, 194.30; 17. Steven Chrisman, 4.333, 279.96; 18. Steve Faria, 4.450, 229.08.

Funny Car _ 1. Robert Hight, Ford Mustang, 4.132, 310.41; 2. Cruz Pedregon, Toyota Solara, 4.159, 306.19; 3. Bob Tasca III, Mustang, 4.165, 303.23; 4. Gary Densham, Dodge Charger, 4.181, 300.00; 5. Mike Neff, Mustang, 4.186, 296.70; 6. John Force, Mustang, 4.196, 305.77; 7. Matt Hagan, Charger, 4.196, 299.06; 8. Jack Beckman, Charger, 4.211, 302.82; 9. Tim Wilkerson, Mustang, 4.212, 292.20; 10. Johnny Gray, Charger, 4.244, 304.39; 11. Courtney Force, Mustang, 4.274, 291.70; 12. Terry Haddock, Chevy Impala, 4.282, 292.01. Not Qualified _ 13. Tony Pedregon, 4.347, 242.76; 14. Jon Capps, 4.366, 258.07; 15. Alexis DeJoria, 4.382, 253.71; 16. Bob Bode, 4.501, 248.57; 17. James Day, 4.846, 173.29; 18. Todd Lesenko, 5.050, 167.05; 19. Jim Head, 5.953, 118.33; 20. Ron Capps, 6.689, 92.68; 21. Jeff Arend, 7.293, 83.71.

Pro Stock _ 1. Jason Line, Pontiac GXP, 6.659, 207.34; 2. Mike Edwards, GXP, 6.669, 207.30; 3. Allen Johnson, Dodge Avenger, 6.679, 206.92; 4. Rodger Brogdon, GXP, 6.693, 206.10; 5. Greg Anderson, GXP, 6.697, 206.35; 6. Vincent Nobile, Avenger, 6.706, 205.98; 7. Ron Krisher, GXP, 6.713, 206.54; 8. Erica Enders, Chevy Cobalt, 6.721, 205.57; 9. Chris McGaha, Avenger, 6.721, 204.45; 10. Ronnie Humphrey, GXP, 6.722, 206.07; 11. Jeg Coughlin Jr., Avenger, 6.725, 205.66; 12. Greg Stanfield, Chevy Camaro, 6.727, 204.88. Not Qualified _ 13. Kurt Johnson, 6.728, 205.10; 14. Steve Kent, 6.741, 205.04; 15. Shane Gray, 6.766, 204.73; 16. Gordie Rivera, 6.874, 200.83; 17. Larry Morgan, 6.968, 176.95; 18. V. Gaines, 8.413, 116.59.

– John Sturbin can be reached at jsturbin@racintoday.com

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Saturday, March 31 2012
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