IT'S NOT OVER YET
Nov 27, 2008
Author: Bobby Martin
It was a nice showing at one the toughest races in Alcohol Funny Car history.
When we last saw the mighty Parkertech/Lane automotive/CAP Charger it was
heading to the beach. Not the nice kind of beach prevalent in Southern California, but the sand trap at the end of Pomona Raceway, designed to catch runaway race cars. I had just completed a nice 5.64 run at over 253 miles per hour and reached the finish line first against one of the true icon teams of the West Coast, Steve Gasparrelli. I had never raced Steve before this year, but now this is the second National event in a row where we were paired up. We wanted to even the score after Steve got around us in
Dallas. We had lane choice, which I think was a good thing, cuz the right lane was giving lots of people trouble. The cars would head toward the center as if the track were tilted that way. Sho 'nuf, Steve had to pedal
it as his new Mustang was moving to the middle. Ours went straight down the left lane for the W. If you watched the ESPN2 show, you might have heard me refer to the track as Parker Avenue. There is actually a street sign near the starting line. In one direction it says Wally Parks Street, or Wally
Parks Way or something like that. But facing down the track itself, it's Parker Avenue. We thought that was literally a good "sign" that we should do well there. Parker Avenue is named after the police officer who was instrumental in getting racing off the streets in Southern California and actually helping to launch the NHRA. It was after the race was over that things got wild.
Another thing you would have seen if you were watching the TV broadcast closely, or if you recorded it and watched in slo-mo, as I did, is the pilot chutes exiting the car as it's crossing the finish line. The bad news is that neither of the two chutes blossomed. One was sucked underneath the car, as Dennis Taylor explained on - ironically enough - the Norwalk broadcast. The other one just got torn up, and instead of blossoming, it just sort of spun and flapped around. Pomona is not the place you want this to happen as there isn't much extra room to stop if there's a problem. There is also nowhere to turn if you have any speed at the end of the track. As I came to the end, I was still moving pretty fast. The thought occurred
to me to try to turn it sideways to slide it and maybe squeeze around the
corner. But my racing brain calculated that even if I turned it sideways it would still hit the sand and possibly flip the car over. Not good. Then there comes the point of no return. This is where you know you're not going to get it stopped. Again the video shows me making one last correction
before entering the sand trap to make sure the car goes in straight. This reduces the chance of damage to the car and increases the chance that it will stay on the wheels and not tip over. When I hit the sand it was like a snow plow. (Southern California readers will have to bear with me on that description). The sand went flying everywhere and the car dug in, then stopped.
Soon the Safety Safari was on the scene and so were the ESPN2 cameras. How embarrassing. The Safari did a great job of pulling the car out of the sand without hurting it. This was with about 40,000 people and a network TV crew waiting to get the race going again. There's definitely some pressure there. We then rushed the car back to the pits to try to get ready for the next round. NHRA let us bypass fuel check to save time. It's in a crisis
like this where the Parkers really shine. Frank runs the show like a drill sergeant, and everybody knows what to do. For this race, our crew consisted of Larry Radke and Kyle Pelfrey, assisted by supercharger guru Kevin Cantrell. Some other notables pitched in as well. Daniel Wilkerson was there along with Wayne Waite, formally of the CAPAvenger crew, now with David Powers' Antron Brown team. Mopar aero chief Terry DeKoninck enlisted the expert body crew from Don Schumacher Racing to patch up the minor damage to the front of the Charger. Everything came apart and had to be cleaned. This was done along with the regular engine and clutch maintenance. Nothing was skipped. The car was ready in plenty of time for our semi-final match with Steve Harker. In fact, we got to the staging lanes before Steve. As you probably know by now, Steve made a nice 5.56 run and got the win. I actually shut ours off a little early once Steve got the lead. No way was I going two-for-two in the sand pit. Dennis Taylor came by and personally installed two of his parachutes on the car. Again, on TV, you'll notice that for this run the chutes were blue, instead of our usual black. I can gladly report that both Taylor chutes came out right away and gave the car a nice firm, but not violent, tug to bring her to a smooth, safe stop. What
you may not know is that Harker's car hurt the fuel system on that run. He
had to shut his car off in the final, giving Mick Snyder a single for the event win.
I would like to thank the Safety Safari again. I would also like to thank NHRA for the extensive work they've done with the sand traps. Pomona has one of the new state-of-the-art deals and I looked it over real carefully
before the start of the race. It's awesome and scary at the same time. I only went about 30 feet into the sand. It's hard to imagine what kind of trouble a driver would have to be in to reach the end of that thing. It has
two nets, steel cable and barrels of sand at the end. It looks as if it could stop a tank at wide open throttle. Special thanks are in order, though, because as big and brutal looking as that pit is, it didn't hurt our race car. That's important to us as racers, and it allowed us to continue
With 29 cars competing, and as stout as the field was, we were pleased with our semi-final finish. You always want to win, but that wasn't a bad showing. As it turned out, going rounds in Pomona was necessary in order
for the Parker team to stay number eight in the national standings. So that's where we ended up officially. A top ten car in our first year
together as a team. Very cool. We also locked up the Division 3 championship, making us one of only six teams to get the top 10 and a Division title. We also won the Spitzer Cup, which very deservedly goes right to Frank Parker's shop. We are also in the lead for the Jeg's All Stars, but there's a lot more racing to do before that's decided. Stay
tuned to see what happens for 2009.