A late arrival at the track (10:30 in our case) always means a long, rushed day where you're always running to catch up. Running to the starting line to catch some shots that you'd otherwise miss, then running back to the media centre to update the website before the next round of eliminations begins. Always trying to catch up. And today is one of those kind of days.
We've rushed through the first (of five) rounds of Top Dragster elimations - and if we think we're going to have a long day, try living in their fireboots. Five rounds of eliminations, PLUS (for the eight quickest) an "Elite 8" shootout that takes three more rounds. Eight passes in one day for a blown car like Neil Lachelt's? Whew!
That was followed by the Pro Nostalgia (blown alky) funny cars, the Pro Mods and the (Top) Alcohol Funny Cars. We're currently on hold due to a bit of oil on the track, but as soon as we're back up and running, the Pro Mod bikes and Nitro Bikes will enter their first round of elims.
It's been announced that we're already running a bit behind schedule - gee, surprise, surprise - and the first round of the Nitro Jam is now being touted for 2:00 instead of 1:15. That should push the finish back to at least 5:00 or even 6:00 pm. Oh well, we're in it for the long haul. Then all we have to do is drive back to Vancouver in time for breakfast tomorrow morning. It's gonna be a ride... and a half, because the Charger's "chipped up" and ready to fly. Do up that seatbelt Dean!
Not much time to go into details of what's happened this morning, other than to mention that the track definitely seems to be hooking, especially the right lane. The Pro Mod cars seemed to enjoy the conditions, with Joe Delahay running 6.14 at 231 mph and Rick Di Stefano finally getting close to reaching his new Camaro's potential with a 6.20 pass. After a host of troubled qualifying runs, it was good to see all eight cars run in the 6's in the first round of eliminations.
The Alcohol Funny Cars ran hard, but only Rob Atchison stepped up over his qualifying time, with a very strong 5.75 at 250 mph to send Nathan Sitko home early. The two other big hitters, Roger Bateman and Ken Webster laid down good runs, but in each case a half tenth slower than their qualifiers, at 5.75 and 5.85 respectively. The #3 seeded car, John Evanchuk, nearly matched his qualifying time with a solid 5.83 to gain lane choice over Webster in the semis, while Bateman barely kept his choice (by .008 second) over the much improved Atchison.
There's not much good to report on the Pro Nostalgia Funny Cars as it's been a weekend from hell for many of them. At the midnight BBQ in their pit area last night, I sat beside Sherrie Bodnarchuk who told me of her problems on the last qualifying run. Sherrie summed it up with "The crank broke, that wiped out the block and took a bunch of other stuff with it. We've got enough spare parts at home (in Saskatchewan) to put it back together, but we're done for the weekend."
But she was far from the only one with breakage woes as there were several no-shows for their first round this morning, and others broke on the burnout, like Ted Queen, Troy Sitko, and Rod Elliott, while Cal Tebb threw away his chances by leaving before the tree was activated. At this point I have absolutely no idea who will be back for their next rounds. Stay tuned!
The oil on the track is gone and the nitro harleys are blasting underneath the tower as I try to type this with the laptop bouncing off the desk with the concussion from their engines. The next item on the agenda is the Nitro Thunderfest in the fuel pits when the nitro funny cars and dragsters fireup en masse for what is quite a show. We will have some pics from yesterday's fan fest on the Saturday picture's page, but don't expect to see them until tomorrow.
We've completed the first round of the Nitro Jam, with all the big dogs running, and some running very hard, finishing with the Shockley family's jet trucks - both running solo today. According to the schedule, we should be almost ready to run the second (and final) round of the jam in just a few minutes. But they're still calling sportsman cars to the lanes and I think I've got time to write a few paragraphs before the pro cars come up.
The best performances of the round were the alcohol funny car brigade, with John Evanchuk running consistently and taking out Ken Webster in the semi-finals, while Roger Bateman dispatched Rob Atchison in an all-Canadian semi. Bateman holds lane choice over Evanchuk by a bunch (nearly two tenths) and has to be the favourite, but we all know how upsets can and very often do happen in this sport.
Another great round of competition by the West Coast Pro Mod racers saw only one car fail to run a 6-second et in the semis, as Joe Delahay fell victim to tire shake and coasted through. Rick Di Stefano slowed from his first round time with the car skating around quite a bit, ceding lane choice in the final to Colorado's Tommy Johanns who dumped Dan Vogt to take the advantage in the final round.
Despite the Pro Nostalgia cars dropping like flies in the fall, the Prostalgia (nitro) floppers, all seven of them, appeared for their first of two rounds today. Some very good numbers, including a new track record for speed (246.08 mph by Tim Boychuk, breaking Terry Capp's old 244 mph mark), were turned. 5-second performers were Boychuk with a 5.90 and fellow Edmontonian Andy Beauchemin at a career best 5.96 e.t.
Other highlights were Jay Mageau's first trip into the teens with a 6.17, while Todd Losenko, Steve Nichols, and Mark Sanders ran low 6.0 times. Just for good measure, Mark "Mr. Explosive" Sanders nearly re-broke the track speed record with a 245.76 mph clocking. All in all, an excellent round of racing.
Moving to the long skinny stuff, the Top Fuel field was joined with local nitro funny car racer, Jason Duchene, who faced off against fellow Edmonton resident, Tim Boychuk, who was driving the Paton family dragster - and they're Canadians too. The other four racers were part of the travelling IHRA circus and frankly, none of the teams laid down a number to be proud of. The quickest e.t.'s were 5.12 and 5.13 and the top speed clocking of 261.12 was nothing to write home about.
The Pro Fuel show was similarly undewhelming, both in numbers of cars and numbers on the scoreboard. Two cars failed to show, Ed Verenka for reasons unknown (perhaps they slept in again) and Spencer Massey because the car he bounced off the wall last night in the shutdown area was not repairable at the track. The two blown alcohol "ringers" faced off again and produced the two quickest e.t's of the round, but the rules mandate that the two quickest WINNERS in the first round race for the championship in the second round.
Not the two quickest overall, but the two quickest winners, meaning that Greg Sereda's 5.75 was bumped out of the final by Jeff Hamelink's round winning 6.10, which dispatched Keith Falconer's early leaving no-time-recorded pass. Ashley Bart was the quickest of the round with a 5.60 and has to be considered the prohibitive favourite to take her second "ironman" in two days. I can't wait to see how IHRA media man Larry Crum dances around that fact in his event wrapup story. It is, after all, pro FUEL as in NITRO, not blown alcohol.
It's now past 3:30, and the junior dragsters are rattling our eardrums from underneath the tower, so it must be nearly time for the final round of the 2010 Nitro Jam Rocky Mountain Nationals. I'll sign off for now and put up another short report after the finals and then we'll be off on the highway home.
That's it from the IHRA Rocky Mountain Nationals at Castrol Raceway