Reporter’s Notebook: Darlington Winternationals - Pro Modifieds

By Jim Luikens

A number of prominent IHRA Pro Modified and Pro Stock competitors were at last weekend’s 31st annual Darlington Winternationals. Some competitors were there to test and some were there to race. Some were at legal specs and some were in match race trim. This week we’ll talk about several of the key Pro Modified participants and their results. Next week it will be Pro Stock’s turn.

Scotty Cannon

It was obvious to anyone driving by that Scotty Cannon was indeed “in the house” as his transporter was positioned right up against Darlington Dragway’s outside fence. The car that he was driving was the same 1953 Studebaker that he drove before he departed the Pro Modified class six years ago for Fuel Funny Car.

When Scotty arrived at Darlington his Studebaker was set-up in match race trim to chase the $5,000 bonus that track manager Larry Hensley had put up for anyone that could eclipse the 5.98-second elapsed time that Mitch Stott recorded at this same event last year. Two days of testing saw Scotty fail to get down the track, so for Saturday’s qualifying sessions the car was converted to legal status.

Scotty recorded runs of 6.218 (at 227.50 miles-per-hour) and 6.184 (at 228.60) before losing traction during the third and final session and slowing to a 7.457 at 116.51. Interestingly his 60-foot time on the 7.45 run was .957 and his 330-foot time was 2.61 seconds, which would have led to a great run if the car could have remained hooked-up.

Scotty’s 6.184-second elapsed time seeded him third into the P/M show, behind Mitch Stott and Ed Hoover. For race day, Scotty returned his car to match race trim. After a bye in the first round he recorded a 6.245 in a losing second round effort to Tommy Mauney’s slightly slower 6.281. Neither driver was ready for the green light, but Tommy was able to react slightly quicker.

Scotty’s plans for the 2004 season are flexible at this point. He plans start the season by competing in both sanctioning bodies and then, near midseason, determine which association he should focus his attention on for the remainder of the year. He also mentioned that he is receptive to another fuel ride if the right opportunity presents itself.

Mitch Stott

Mitch Stott rolled into Darlington carrying the big number 1 on both side windows of his Corvette. It was the same Corvette that he has used for the past several years but it has been treated to a new paint job that features an updated color scheme and new graphics. A discreet lettering job has been done on the simulated factory gas cap.

Corvette aficionados know that Chevrolet changed the plastic gas cap insert on the 1963 to 1967 Corvettes each year. On Mitch’s (simulated) factory gas cap small lettering denotes that this car was the 2003 IHRA Pro Modified World Champion. A very cool and classy touch.

Competing in legal trim, Mitch’s first qualifying attempt produced a 6.173 at 228.71 to qualify number one after the first session. The team’s engine guru, Jimmy Rector, could not have been happier with that run and he felt that it would be impossible to improve upon it if conditions remained the same.

As a result the team decided to sit out the second qualifying session and wait for the cooler evening conditions before trying to run again. That plan almost backfired as the day’s schedule fell far behind, pushing the final qualifying round late into the night. After carefully considering the quickly falling track temperature the decision was made to participate the final round anyway. An even better 6.136 at another 228.71 clinched the Pro Modified pole position for the Stott team. Satisfied with their performance, the team elected to sit out Sunday’s eliminations.

The biggest difficulty the team faced the entire weekend came when their connecting rod manufacturer called to say that he had discovered that some connecting rods had been shipped with the hole for the bearing-locating pin not drilled deep enough. When that happens the locating dowel sticks too far out of the rod cap and can potentially score the crankshaft. Unwilling to risk a catastrophe the team chose to replace their connecting rods. Unfortunately this required a complete engine tear-down in the pits. The exercise proved to be well worth it when at least one of the mis-manufactured rods was discovered.

Tommy Mauney

Tommy Mauney was on hand to shake down the 1963 Corvette Pro Modified that he built late last year for Mike and Kelly Prockish of Anchorage, Alaska. Tommy was running in outlaw trim, using a supercharged 526 cubic-inch Alan Johnson engine that came straight out of Greg Gunnerson’s Top Alcohol Dragster. Like any good T/AD engine it featured a PSI supercharger instead of a P/M class-legal roots-type supercharger. Additionally the PSI blower was being spun at 125% over, far beyond the class-legal 25% over that is permitted.

The car was also running 100 pounds light for legal P/M weight and using a larger Top Fuel style tire to boot. The entire crew, all of which are from Alaska, worked tirelessly throughout the weekend as Tommy experienced two major engine meltdowns. Despite having more than enough power, his best elapsed time for the weekend was the 6.230 that he recorded during his first meltdown run in the second qualifying session on Saturday. Tommy sat out the third session as the crew overhauled the car after his fiery second round.

On race day Tommy advanced to the finals where he was to face Shannon Jenkins. The race could not be run and Tommy became the runner-up when he lost the coin flip. The team did receive some consolation when they were awarded the “Wally” that was reserved for this race.

Shannon Jenkins

Shannon Jenkins was on hand directing the two-car effort of Mike Castellana and himself. Treating the weekend strictly as a test session, Shannon recorded runs of 6.404, 9.753 and 6.283 at 221.18 during Saturday’s three qualifying sessions. Meanwhile, Mike saw 6.579 and 8.921 times come up on the scoreboards before getting it all together on his final qualifying run and recording a 6.380 at 214.51.

On race day Mike departed but Shannon stuck around to continue testing. Despite not treating the race as a race and letting the chips fall where they may Shannon actually made it to the final round with runs of 6.209 and 6.281 after a first round bye. He ended splitting the day’s rewards with his co-finalist, Tommy Mauney when the final could not be run.