Time Becomes Lee's Biggest Enemy after Second Round Exit at World Nationals Norwalk, OH - It was gut check time for Kingsport, Tennessee Pro Stock standout Tom Lee at this weekend's IHRA Mopar Parts World Nationals at Norwalk Raceway Park. The...
Time Becomes Lee's Biggest Enemy after Second Round Exit at World Nationals
Norwalk, OH - It was gut check time for Kingsport, Tennessee Pro Stock standout Tom Lee at this weekend's IHRA Mopar Parts World Nationals at Norwalk Raceway Park. The premier event on the eleven-race Summit Drag Racing Series national event roster marks the completion of two-thirds of the races for 2001, a fact that may not exactly thrill Lee and car owner Charlie Taylor.
Struggling mightily to keep pace with runaway Sunoco Race Fuels Pro Stock points leader, Gene Wilson, Lee has had just about everything that could possibly happen - good and bad - happen behind the wheel of his record-breaking 2000 Mustang this season. From multiple final round appearances and an event win to breaking a motor without having a backup available, the infamous emotional roller coaster ride is one that Tom is real familiar with.
Coming into Ohio, there was still a mathematical possibility that Lee could catch Wilson, and challenge for the championship. But he needed to go as many rounds as possible down the stretch, and, of course, Wilson had to go into an uncharacteristic slump real fast. With the goal of qualifying well and clicking off rounds uppermost in his mind, Lee also had to bear the additional responsibility of defending the Sunoco Race Fuels Pro Stock Shootout title he won in 2000.
The final qualifying session on Saturday was the Shootout semi-final, and it was this particular moment in time that Lee will likely remember as the highlight of his weekend. Facing holeshot artist Wilson, he exacted a satisfying measure of revenge, out-leaving the leaver 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, Tom came up just short in a great race with Carl Baker, who left first and went on to claim the win in a close and exciting finish, 6.662/208.04 to 6.652/ 208.55.
On Sunday, Lee, who qualified fourth overall with a mark of 6.672/ 208.04, staged up beside number 13 man John Bartunek in the first round of eliminations. Cutting another good light, .457 to .481, Lee parlayed his starting line edge into a 6.725/ 206.70 to 6.736/204.70 victory.
In the next stanza, Tom's reaction time let him down, his .530 not enough to overcome Brian Gahm's .469. He gave it a great try, gaining on Gahm all the way down the track, but in the end the deficit was just too great, and Lee's 6.669/207.15 was 0.012 seconds (approximately 4 feet) behind his opponent's 6.718 206.10 at the stripe.
With Wilson moving on, it may be time to accept the fact that the championship may be beyond the Tennessee gentleman's grasp for this year. But whether it is or isn't, rest assured that this team will do whatever is within their power to be close at the end. Lee echoed that sentiment when he remarked, "We've fought through so much adversity this year that we don't intend to lay down now. As long as there are still races to win, we'll never quit thinking that we can get the job done."
For more information on Tommy Lee, visit his website at www.tomleeracing.com or log into drag racing's largest Internet e-zine at www.competitionplus.com.