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Cory Mac Clinches At Brainerd

| , RacinToday.com Saturday, August 15 2009
Bob Tasca sets to launch Friday at Brainerd.

Bob Tasca sets to launch Friday at Brainerd.


Cory McClenathan, Bob Tasca III, Mike Edwards, and Karen Stoffer grabbed the qualifying leads Friday at qualifying for the 28th annual Lucas Oil NHRA Nationals at Brainerd International Raceway in Minnesota. The event is the 16th of 18 events that make up the regular season of the 2009 NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series.

With just this event and two more remaining for drivers to make the 10-driver fields that will comprise the championship hopefuls for the six-race playoffs, teams were jockeying for positions and trying to learn all they can as the regular-season fight nears its completion at the Labor Day weekend Mac Tools U.S. Nationals presented by Lucas Oil.

McClenathan, who clinched his spot merely by making his first pass of the day in his Fram Tough Guard dragster, wasn’t content to just enter the field that way, charging to the No. 1 spot with a 4.004 that he improved upon in the second session with a 3.910. McClenathan was the No. 1 qualifier earlier this year in Bristol.

“I just can’t discount this team at all,” said McClenathan. “They’ve done such a good job for being such a new team. A lot of emphasis was made at the beginning of the season about the Al-Anabi team being completely different, but with all my guys going to Tony [Schumacher’s team], this just goes to show that Don [Schumacher] made the right call.

“Todd [Okuhara] and Phil [Shuler], those guys have been around for a long time. Towards the end of last year, they started spending a lot of time with Mike Green, and I think that’s where they really picked up on it. The window of opportunity in a dragster is bigger than a Funny Car, and the guys are able to throw the whole trailer at it and take bigger chances. I like that about these guys. I’m not afraid when we go up and they say, ‘We’re going to be a little aggressive; we’re going to go for it.’ I get excited when they say that. Every time you come out here as a driver you want to do the best you can for them. I want to win a race before we get to Indy and [the Countdown to 1] starts. Todd, Phil, and I all talked and we said we want to be in full stride by the time we get there, and that’s still our goal.”

McClenathan’s Don Schumacher Racing teammate, defending event and world champ Tony Schumacher, is qualified No. 2 with a 3.926, while Morgan Lucas, whose family sponsors the event, looked good in the GEICO Powersports entry with a third-quickest 3.942. Larry Dixon is qualified No. 4 in the Al-Anabi dragster, which is tuned by Alan Johnson, who wrenched Schumacher to his victory here last year.

Rookie Spencer Massey holds down the No. 12 spot at the end of day one, the final spot that will transfer from today’s efforts to Saturday’s final sessions. The remaining five drivers will have to be among Saturday’s quick qualifiers to fight their way into the field.

Tasca was the No. 1 qualifier after the day’s first session but had dropped to 10th by the time he pulled his Quick Lane/Motorcraft Ford to the line in the final pairing of the second session. It took him just 4.214 seconds to regain the top spot and bump reigning world champ Cruz Pedregon from the pole. Tasca previously was the No. 1 qualifier in Gainesville earlier this year, where he also won his first Funny Car title.

“I heard that Cruz took over the No. 1 spot [with a 4.238] while I was in the staging lanes, and Chris [Cunningham, crew chief] didn’t change a thing. We then went out and got the No. 1 position back with a 4.214. That meant that Chris was aggressive from the get-go and had the car set up to run a low 4.2, and I admire him for that. Our attitude is that we want to be in the top five of every session because that puts you in the position to win a lot of races. To be No. 1 in both rounds today was a real bonus.

“The improved track conditions made a big difference. The sun came off the racing surface, and the track came around, especially by the time that we ran at the end of the session. If we had run in the first pair, we couldn’t have gone the 4.21.”

Pedregon, in the midst of a tough season and in danger of not qualifying for the Countdown to 1 playoffs and chance to defend his title, has his Rahn Tobler-tuned Advance Auto Parts Toyota in the second spot. John Force, who has won more races (11) and more rounds (64) at the Lucas Oil Nationals than in any other event in the NHRA Full Throttle Series, continued his BIR love affair by placing his Castrol GTX Mustang third with a 4.245 with teammate Mike Neff is right behind him with a 4.267, give Ford three of the top four spots in the field.

Pedregon’s brother, Tony — the talk of the pit area Thursday after a sudden and shocking split with longtime crew chief Dickie Venables and assistant crew chief Kurt Elliott — is qualified fifth at 4.284. Tony Shortall was named interim crew chief and is receiving assistance from Tobler in tuning the points leader’s Quaker State Chevy, which won the race here last year.

Dale Creasy Jr. sits in the 12th position with his Tek Pak Impala with a 4.398, ahead of the seven drivers currently outside the field, including Ashley Force Hood, Del Worsham, Robert Hight, and Matt Hagan.

With a pair of consistent passes within one-thousandths of a second of each other, Pro Stock frontrunner Edwards is halfway to recording his eighth No. 1 qualifying position of the season’s first 16 races after posting back-to-back passes of 6.732 and 6.733 in his ART/Young Life Pontiac. Edwards also has reached the final round at eighth events this season, winning three times, most recently in Seattle.

“Today was pretty good, and the first run of the day was actually better than our afternoon pass, not just by the numbers, but with how it looked on the computer,” said Edwards, who also has top speed of the meet at 204.90. “We missed the tune-up a little bit on the second run with a couple of adjustments that we made, but my crew still did a great job overall today in making the right calls.

“After the Western Swing, we needed to get all of our engines back to the shop and freshened up. I think we might have taken a half day off for a little bit of rest for ourselves, but that was about it. This class is so tough with competition like Jeg Coughlin, the two Summit cars, Allen Johnson, and the others. They don’t let up at all, so that makes it a 24/7 deal for us.”

Denver winner Johnson pushed his Mopar-backed Stratus to the No. 2 spot with a 6.741, a sold half-tenth improvement over his opening pass of the day. Native Minnesotan Greg Anderson is just a thousandth back at 6.742 with his Summit Racing Pontiac for the third spot. Ron Krisher, who ended in the first session in the No. 8 spot, jumped four spots by day’s end after running a 6.754 in his Valvoline Cobalt.

Vinnie Deceglie, who sat out the season’s first 14 events to be with his ill wife, stormed to the No. 5 spot in just his second event back behind the wheel of Nick Mitsos’ Mountain View Tire Dodge after posting a 6.771. Anderson’s teammate and fellow Minnesotan Jason Line, who is doing double duty this week by also competing in Stock Eliminator, where he is the surprise No. 1 qualifier, is qualified sixth in his traditional class at 6.774.

Johnny Gray sits in the 12th spot with his Dodge Status after running 6.804. Nineteen drivers are competing in qualifying.

With a 7.084 at 187.57 mph on her second pass of the day, Stoffer and her GEICO Powersports Suzuki stole the spotlight from Lucas Oil-backed rider Hector Arana, who had held the top spot at his sponsor’s event after the first Pro Stock Motorcycle session with a an identical e.t. at a slower speed, 186.87, and came just a few hundredths of a mile per hour from regaining that top spot with yet another 7.084 in the day’s second session, but his 187.52-mph top end fell just short of displacing Stoffer.

“It’s really nice to have a good pass,” said Stoffer, whose last No. 1 qualifying effort was more than a year ago, in Sonoma. “I won’t say it was a perfect pass because there is no such thing, but it was pretty darn near. And it’s good to do that when you have a single. The track out here is phenomenal; they’ve done a lot of work on it and you can really tell if you look at the e.t.s of all the bikes.

“I was really surprised that we held onto that No. 1 because we had those Screamin’ Eagles and Hector Arana behind us. But it shows the performance we have in that Vance & Hines motor. They gave us good quality work and good quality motors. The team’s done a good job. They ran with that fuel injection, and we had a really good 60-foot so hopefully we can maintain. This is only Friday. It’s great, I’m elated, and it was nice to close a day on a good run. We’ve got two more tomorrow, and then the plan is four on Sunday.”

The strong performance comes at a good time for Stoffer, who sits 10th and on the bubble for the 10-bike playoff field for the upcoming Countdown to 1. The veteran rider has just four round-wins this season and could use a strong effort in the regular season’s final three events.

Reigning world champ Eddie Krawiec, who has been to the final round of the last seven events and won three times, sits third with his Screamin’ Eagle/Vance & Hines Harley-Davidson with a 7.107, just two-thousandths of a second ahead of teammate Andrew Hines’ 7.109; both of their runs also were recorded in the evening session. Mat Guidera holds down the all-important 12th spot with a 7.262. Twenty riders are battling for the 16 available spots in the field.

– Courtesy of the Full Throttle NHRA Drag Racing Series

| , RacinToday.com Saturday, August 15 2009
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