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Gone Racin' to the 45th Annual CARQUEST Auto Parts Winternationals - 02/05

Gone Racin' to the 45th Annual CARQUEST Auto Parts Winternationals - 02/05


Gone Racin' to the 45th Annual CARQUEST Auto Parts Winternationals
  The 45th Annual CARQUEST Auto Parts Winternationals were held at the Pomona Raceway track on February 10-13, 2005. Roger Rohrdanz, the better half of the Gone Racin' team, took his trusty camera and worked the starting line at the first race of the season for the NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series. We got our money's worth at this event. Powerful runs on Thursday were only temporarily delayed by a potent storm that washed out Friday's qualifying, and flooded the track and the surrounding communities. Drag racers are undaunted by such setbacks and came back on a cool and overcast qualifying session on Saturday to post some serious times and set the stage for a very exciting and heart pounding finish for Sunday's finals.
On Thursday night, as qualifying was drawing to a close, fans and racers attended the Wally Parks NHRA Motorsports Museum's semi-annual auction. This event raises money to help support the Museum's purpose of keeping motorsports racing's history and heritage alive for the next generation of avid fans and racers. Dave McClelland emceed and led a trio of excellent auctioneers as they sold 110 items for the Museum, including a miniature dragster owned by the late Mickey Thompson. All sorts of artifacts went on the block as bidders raised $20,000 for the Museum.

Although Friday's races were rained out, the Museum still went ahead and held their semi-annual Open House to honor all the men and women who have made drag racing the sport that it is today. Sam Jackson pointed out many in the audience and spoke of their exploits. Jack Mendenhall was mentioned for racing in the first official drag race in 1949, at Goleta, California. Jackson then named the 2005 Grand Marshal and Honorees for the upcoming California Hot Rod Reunion, to be held in October at the famed Famoso track, north of Bakersfield, California.

The Grand Marshal will be Dale Armstrong, well known for his 12 National event wins as a racer, but even more influential for his role as a chief mechanic for Kenny Bernstein. The other honorees were Leon Fitzgerald, Dave Wallace, Dick Landy, Shirley Shahan, Bill Simpson and Dave Uyehara. Fitzgerald drove the fuel altered Pure Heaven and thrilled thousands of fans across the country during the heyday of those wickedly twisting cars. Dave Wallace was a reporter with a passion for the drag cars, a zeal that he passed on to his son, who continues in his father's footsteps. Dick Landy put Dodge, Chrysler, and Mopar on the map in both the Funny Car and Pro Stock categories, and is still active in racing today. Shirley Shahan was the first woman to win a National Eliminator Title in 1966 and raced competitively across the country, earning the respect of her fellow racers and the nickname "Dragon-On-Lady." Bill Simpson helped to create an industry with his safety equipment and marketing savvy. Dave Uyehara built the rails that every successful top fueler used throughout the 1980's, and is the standard for the nostalgia racers of today.

The pits and Manufacturer's Bizarre were humming with activity and lots of action for the fans whenever the racing slowed down on the track. Notables were given tours of the facility and track, and we met many of the greats from the past. There was Eric "Rick" Rickman and Bud Evans, original members of the Safety and Drag Safaris of the mid-1950's, who were sent out by Wally Parks to teach and train the car clubs around the nation in how to set up, supervise and run a drag race. Also on hand was John Daly, a PGA Champion who was famed for his long drives off the tees, and his lovely wife and two sons.

The fans and racers came for the action, and there was more than enough. Upsets on the final day were the rule. In Super Gas Eliminations, a tough field fought for victory with Mike Bolden besting Randy Balough, while Steve Parsons overtook George Scott for the right to win the "Wally." In the final, Parsons took the victory. In Pro Stock, Kurt Johnson faced his father, Warren "the Professor" Johnson, after overwhelming Greg Anderson. Anderson had been one of the most dominant drivers in any motor racing league in 2004, and his speed was a very solid 203.80mph, and left first, but Johnson simply ran past him in a blistering 205.79. Unfortunately for the son in the next round, Warren put an .008 reaction time holeshot and beat the faster Elapsed Time and Speed of his son. Dave Connolly powered past Ron Krisher and set the stage for the final. "The Professor" jumped out to another holeshot, but this time it wasn't good enough to stop the younger driver with the higher speed and E.T. This was Connolly's 4th National win while Warren has won 92 Wally's in his career.

When was the last time you saw John Force's Team of three cars all lose in the first round? Impossible you say, but it did in fact happen. In round 3, Whit Bazemore finally found himself free from the Force Team and looking to score some points, but Tommy Johnson Jr discovered some Leprecaun luck at these races to go along with his driving skill, and beat Bazemore by scoring the perfecta. Johnson is faster with E.T., speed and reaction time. Phil Burkhart does the same to a red-lighting Cruz Pedregon. In the final, the two most consistent cars face off, but Burkhart experiences control problems and Johnson powers down the course in 4.741 seconds to take his first Wally in four years.

Top Fuel is no exception to the fast and frenzied racing in the other classes. Tony Schumacher set a Top Fuel record by blasting down the track at 334.65mph on Saturday and then came back on Sunday to back up the record by going 331.77mph. In drag racing, a new record can only be set when a record time is backed up on the next run by a time that is within 1% of the original time. In landspeed time trials, it is the average of two runs that counts as the record. All this power was too much to control and Schumacher would lose in the second round to Doug Herbert. Brady Kalivoda went for the ride of a lifetime when his right tire exploded sending his car to the left and into the wall, where his car skidded until coming to a stop. Herbert, who has had his share of hard luck on this track, made it into the 3rd round, beating Morgan Lucas, whose car lost traction. Scott Kalitta ran a most impressive run, beating David Grubnic with a fast E.T. of 4.455 at 331.04mph. In the finals, Kalitta worsted Herbert with another awesome E.T. and this is why consistency wins, although a dose of luck never hurts. Kalitta won his 17th Wally with a time of 4.487 at 328.46mph, while Herbert's car experienced trouble and he slowed to a 5.371 E.T. at 181.84mph.

Contact Richard Parks Gone Racin' at [email protected] or vist their website at