Jack Harris To Challenge Champion for #1 Spot
by Cole Coonce, NR AA/Fuel Dragster Mojo Wire
10/26/00, Los Angeles, CA--As the clutch dust settled after an absolutely scintillating and sphincter-tightening final round two and a half weeks ago at the Cali Hot Rod Reunion, the holder of the #5 spot on the Nitronic Research AA/Fuel Dragster List, Jack Harris and his Utah Posse, have issued a Challenge to the Champion Speed Shop team for the coveted #1 spot on the List.
Inspired by the outcome of the match between what are arguably the two most dominant diggers on the AA/Fuel Dragster scene currently (whereupon Jack "the Sheriff" Harris and his "Nitro Thunder" machine drove around and dropped "Handsome Rance" McDaniel and the Chevy-powered Champion Speed Shop railjob), Harris and his gang feel they have what it takes to broom Champion off the premier spot on the List.
At the Reunion, it was a brilliant and savvy piece of strategy that enabled Harris to chase down and motor past McDaniel as Harris had instructions from his deputies (Lyle & Scott Mason) to grab the volatile high speed lean out if he saw McDaniel at half track... Harris followed orders from his minions and yanked on the lean out and blasted past McDaniel in the lights... Harris won the Reunion with a 6.09 @ 237 mph to McDaniel's 6.13 @ 227; with McDaniel's gatejob factored in, the margin of victory was less than a hundredth of a second...
Which brings us to the Challenge to take place as Harris and McDaniel face off as the last pair of front-motored Top Fuel qualifiers Saturday afternoon at the Goodguys Fuel & Gas Finals at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. McDaniel has been quicker than the proverbial outhouse mouse out of the hole, while "Nitro Thunder" co-tuner Scott Mason has admitted that they have been sawing through the clutch in attempt to keep from spinning the tires. "We were tippy-toeing at Bakersfield, " Mason said, in reference to a) an initial soft approach to clutch management at the Reunion; and b) when they did get more aggressive as Sunday afternoon descended into evening the plummeting adjusted altitude robbed their team (and by extrapolation, the other fuel teams at Bakersfield) of performance.
There is some conjecture amongst the nitromaniacal bleacheratti that Harris and his bunch will have an advantage at a high altitude track. (Vegas is 4000' above sea level; "The Sheriff" and the "Nitro Thunder" bunch consider the drag strip in Salt Lake City, Utah their home track, which is also over 4,000 feet in elevation.)
"We've run a 6.21 at both Salt Lake and at Boise," Harris said. The 6.21 at Boise was good for Low ET of the Meet at their 29th Night of Fire in August and emblematic of how well the car can run at oxygen-starved drag strips.
As far as track conditions this weekend at Vegas, Mason predicted "a sticky starting line, but a narrow groove that will be absolute grief for the blown fuel cars." He feels that the time for any thermodynamic pussyfooting is over, at least if the driver can keep his fuel dragster in the sweet spot. Despite the factors of a relatively green surface on a new track and the high altitude co-ordinates of Vegas itself, Mason then added that, "if the cars go straight, I wouldn't rule out a 5 (second run)."
How does all of this bode for the San Francisco-based Champion bunch? Can an act that has been crushing 'em on the drag strips of California's Bay Area and Kern County play with equal authority in the High Desert?
After a volatile and uneven start this year, the Champion fueler has been propelling itself up both the ladder on the NR List as well as the Goodyguys VRA Points Race with exquisite precision, holding the #1 position on both charts. Champion has successfully challenged or defended its position on the List without fail, vanquishing Suhr & Lechtenberg, Gotelli Speed Shop and WW2; concurrently they advanced past WW2, Gotelli and Ground Zero to lead in the VRA Points Tournament, which means their agenda in the Silver State is two-pronged: To finish off business in the VRA Points Tourney *and* to end the season as the Nitronic Research's Conquering Lions, complementary laurels which would underscore their postion as the de facto dominant fueler in the entire circuit.
There are signs in the Champion camp that--ever since they took over the #1 spot from Gotelli --they are a little annoyed by the constant pell-mell attacks by other fuel teams. At the Reunion, after much fanfare and sacrificial totems of plastic mice, the #3 List holder Jim "Holy Smokes" Murphy and the WW2 team challenged Champion and came up empty, but it wasn't 24 hour later that the Utah Posse issued the Challenge for the Champion car.
"Being so close to the witching hour, I would check the wires to that button that Jack pushes," McLennan railed in a sarcastic inference to potentail sabotage, referring to the high speed leanout that Harris utilized to propel himself past the Champion car at the Reunion Top Eliminator run. McLennan added that, "rabid mice like to eat wires and they will be all over the Vegas Track... Jack will be pushing that button awfully early this go around." <pre> So, after the California Hot Rod Reunion and going into the Goodguys Inaugural Fuel & Gas Finals, here is how the List stacks up: 1. Champion Speed Shop 2. Gotelli Speed Shop 3. WW2 4. California Trucker 5. Nitro Thunder 6. Suhr & Lechtenberg's "Orange Crate" 7. Fuller & Dunlap 8. Steiner & Berger 9. Ground Zero 10. Kuhns & Hansen