Budds Creek, MD - Returning to the scene of one of the triumphs that led to a strong runner-up finish in the 2000 Sunoco Race Fuels Pro Stock championship chase, Mustang wrangler Tom Lee was really hoping for a repeat performance this weekend....
Budds Creek, MD - Returning to the scene of one of the triumphs that led to a strong runner-up finish in the 2000 Sunoco Race Fuels Pro Stock championship chase, Mustang wrangler Tom Lee was really hoping for a repeat performance this weekend. With the 2001 title already locked up by Gene Wilson, Lee is still in a position to maintain his number two ranking, which in light of Wilson's dominating performance this year would be considered a very successful effort.
In deference to all the things the former rookie of the year driver from Kingsport, Tennessee wanted to have happen at this year's CARQUEST President's Cup Nationals, the one thing he didn't want to see was the 6.552 elapsed time record that he set at the beginning of the season eclipsed. Unfortunately, between the things he could control, and the things he couldn't, his return to Maryland International Raceway just didn't play out according to the script.
While Wilson initially struggled to make the field, Lee put his Charlie Taylor-owned 2001 Mustang in the show with a mark of 6.650/211.43, good enough for the number 8 spot. He elected not to run the final session on Friday evening, but came back Saturday to post a slightly better 6.630/211.59. In the end, he lost one spot, ending up number 9 in the field. In the meantime, Wilson, who only managed to get cleanly down track once in two days, made the best of it, posting a new ET and mile-per-hour record by virtue of a jaw-dropping 6.532/213.37 pass.
After a first-round exit at last week's CARQUEST Autumn nationals at Rockingham, a race he also won in 2000, Lee and his team we're trying their best to prevent a duplication of that particular state of affairs. In spite of their best efforts, however, a case of deja vu was about to descend upon the Lee crew as Tom opened eliminations Sunday morning against number 8 qualifier Brian Gahm. Both cars left well, then developed tire shake. Gahm was able to drive through it, but Lee had to throw in the towel, and choke down another bitter pill.
"We've had a tough time the last couple of races," Lee acknowledged. "The car has basically been pretty good, but we just haven't been able to get it all together. We've qualified all right, but it's been a struggle at times. But to go out in the first round here and at Rockingham, especially after we won both events last season, has not been easy to accept. And I'm not real happy with Gene Wilson, either," he said with a laugh. "Sure, he's had a storybook year, but he has the championship- he could have left my record alone! Actually, it'll just make us bear down and work to come back stronger."