Lee Throws Down the Gauntlet in Sunoco Race Fuels Pro Stock Shootout Norwalk, OH - One of the things the IHRA's mountain motor Pro Stock crowd look forward to most is their annual trip to the Mopar Parts World Nationals presented by Ethanol at...
Lee Throws Down the Gauntlet in Sunoco Race Fuels Pro Stock Shootout
Norwalk, OH - One of the things the IHRA's mountain motor Pro Stock crowd look forward to most is their annual trip to the Mopar Parts World Nationals presented by Ethanol at Norwalk Raceway Park in Ohio. Not only is this the focal point of the entire IHRA national event season, but it's the time and place where the racers get the chance to go up against the best of the best in the eight-car Sunoco Race Fuels Pro Stock Shootout.
The top eight Pro Stock point earners participate in the annual event, which posts a total purse of $40,000, in addition to the $26,500 available for the weekend's eliminations. Shootout eliminations are run in conjunction with the third and fourth qualifying sessions, with the final round contested under the lights during Norwalk's legendary Saturday "Night of Fire". Winning this "all-star" clash means a great deal to everyone involved, for reasons of pride and prestige, as well as financial reward. Just ask Kingsport, Tennessee's Tom Lee, the defending champion of this three-round race within a race.
Focused on chasing down class points leader Gene Wilson, Lee saw this mini-battle as a perfect opportunity to show what he brought to the game this weekend. "This is a great deal for the racers and the fans, because it gives them a chance to enjoy some serious competition before Sunday," Lee commented. "But even though the pressure isn't the same as it is during eliminations, no one takes it lightly, at least I know I don't. It's a great opportunity to show what you've got for raceday, and maybe psych out some of the competition at the same time."
In his first pairing, Lee faced off against the Chevrolet of top contender John Montecalvo, who ceded the run as his Cavalier was instantly beset by blinding tire shake. Lee also encountered tire shake problems out around the 200' mark, and had to pedal his Charlie Taylor - owned 2000 Mustang, cruising through at 6.975/203.46
It was in the next round that Lee made the most of a little psychological warfare, however, as he rolled to the line to face his season-long nemesis Wilson. The young charger from Georgia has wielded his dominance over the field this year by virtue of a hard-to-beat combination of stout performance and split-second reaction times. Lee, who has lost more than one final round match-up to the Wilson Cougar by way of the holeshot, finally exacted a measure of revenge, turning the tables by cutting a perfect .400 light, and then holding off the pursuing Wilson, who left .050 later, for a 6.684/ 207.62 to 6.650/209.23 victory.
In the final, facing Carl Baker, Lee was left at the line by a mere .013, but Baker stretched it out to take the win just ahead of the man from Tennessee in a close and exciting finish, 6.662/208.04 to 6.652/ 208.55. So while he didn't collect the biggest check from Sunoco this time around, his thrashing of Wilson at the tree will surely go a long way towards pumping Lee up for the eliminations, where, as the number 4 qualifier, he faces John Bartunek in the first round. He agreed that the little extra bit of incentive really goes a long way, saying "I'm more focused than ever on doing things right, just so I can gain the upper hand - especially when I race Gene."
For more information on Tom Lee, check out his website at www.tomleeracing.com, or log into drag racing's largest Internet magazine at www.competitionplus.com.