Chicago - Reporter's Notebook
Notes from Jim Luikens' Reporter's Notebook at the 4th Annual Carquest Auto Parts Nationals
|No fact better illustrates the atmospheric conditions that existed at Joliet better than this one: All of the 16 qualifiers in Pro Stock ran better than the track record and all 16 recorded their all-time personal best elapsed time. The weekend began warm but a cold front moved through late Friday with the accompanying rain washing out most of the Friday night round of qualifying. When Saturday dawned clear bright, and 20 degrees cooler than the day before, the race was on its way to record territory.
The size of all of the Pro fields were impressive here. No less than 26 Top Fuelers, 24 Funny Cars and 34 Pro Stockers attempted to qualify for their respective 16 car starting fields. Equally impressive were the alcohol fields as 27 Top Alcohol Dragsters and 23 Top Alcohol Funny Cars attempted to qualify for their 16 car fields.
Two-time Top Fuel World Champion Larry Dixon suffered through a thoroughly forgettable weekend at this event. His best elapsed time, after the three qualifying sessions (Fridays night session was rained out), was 7.283 seconds, which was only good enough for the 25th position in the final standings.
Clay Millican was here driving a Peter Lehman entry sponsored by Werner Enterprises, his IHRA sponsor. Clays NHRA fueler is normally sponsored by 104 Octane Boost but this race was not part of the 10 race NHRA package that 104 had committed to. Chicago resident Lehman wanted to run his hometown race so he brought his car here with Werner livery.
The Stevens Family Top Fueler, that is normally driven by Rick Cooper on the IHRA circuit, attempted to qualify here in Top Fuel. Tim Gibson was driving the car here in what will be its only NHRA appearance this year. After planning only a check out run for Fridays day session the team was severely handicapped when the night session was lost to rain. Saturdays two sessions were lost to a broken fuel line and, then, front suspension damage during the burnout in the second session. A best elapsed time of 10.553 seconds is not at all indicative of this cars capabilities as it is in the top 10 in IHRA points.
Another impressive performance was turned in by hometown Top Fuel driver T. J. Zizzo. He ended up 11th on the qualifying sheet with a 4.622 best. On race day he improved to 4.605 seconds in the first round but that was not enough to beat Brandon Bernsteins 4.526-second run in the other lane.
Funny Car Eliminator also shared in the statistical heroics. John Force was the pole sitter with a 4.697 second elapsed time at 332.75 miles-per-hour. On race day he improved to 4.665 seconds at 333.58 mph during his first round win over Tony Bartone. Runs of 330.96 in the second round and 329.83 in the semi-final advanced him to the final where he faced Del Worsham.
Phil Burkart, Jr. was running the special Havoline body that he also ran last week at the Dallas event. Team sponsor CSK had agreed to let associate-sponsor Havoline run a specific-themed body at two races this year that were not in CSK markets. Neither Dallas or Chicago have CSK stores, and since these races are back-to-back, the decision was made to run the special body at Texas and here.
Jerry Tolivers Toyota Funny Car featured special signage for the new DVD, The Best of Triumph, the Insult Comic Dog. After an upset win over Gary Scelzi in the first round, Jerry remarked over the public address system that every dog has his day and that maybe this would be his. A defeat by Del Worsham in the next round ended Jerrys day two rounds from victory.
Speaking of Bobby Lagana, he plans to pull double duty next weekend at the rained out Norwalk and Reading events. His plan is to qualify the NHRA Top Fueler of Darren Bauder at Reading on Friday before returning to Norwalk for Saturday where he will drive his family's Twilight Zone IHRA Top Fueler. If all goes according to plan he will then to Reading for Sundays NHRA eliminations.