It's two outs and the bottom of the ninth for Paul Romine in Shreveport SHREVEPORT, LA (Oct. 14) -- The time has come and CARQUEST Top Fuel pilot Paul Romine has one last shot to defend his IHRA Top Fuel World Championship. This weekend at the...
It's two outs and the bottom of the ninth for Paul Romine in Shreveport
SHREVEPORT, LA (Oct. 14) -- The time has come and CARQUEST Top Fuel pilot Paul Romine has one last shot to defend his IHRA Top Fuel World Championship. This weekend at the newly constructed Red River Raceway, located north of Shreveport, La. Romine and Tommy Johnson, Jr. will meet at the IHRA World Finals to determine who will wear the #1 on their car in 1999.
"I can't wait to get out there and race for this thing," said Romine about the championship. "Tommy's going to be tough and we'll need a couple breaks to win, but I'm confident we still have a chance."
Throughout the 1998 IHRA Snap-on Drag Racing season, Romine and Johnson, Jr. have been deadlocked a top the Top Fuel point standings. The season began at the IHRA Prolong Super Lubricants Winter Nationals in Bradenton, Fla., where Romine qualified the CARQUEST dragster #1. In round one though, he smoked the tires and was upset by Wayne Bailey. Meanwhile Johnson, Jr. advanced to the final and won.
At the next event in Darlington, S.C., the IHRA Southern Nationals, Romine qualified #3. He advanced to a rain-delayed final and met Johnson, Jr. for the title. Despite a .019 hole shot, Romine lost, 4.941/288.83 to 4.972/289.01.
With their backs to the wall and needing a win to keep pace with Johnson, Jr., the CARQUEST team entered the IHRA Summer Nationals in Cordova, Ill. focused on winning the event. Romine qualified his CARQUEST dragster 2nd and watched Johnson, Jr. lose in round two while he advanced to the final round. In the final, Romine met four-time IHRA Top Fuel World Champion Doug Herbert. No longer a full-time IHRA competitor, Herbert played spoiler and defeated a tire smoking CARQUEST machine in yet another rain delayed final.
From Cordova, the IHRA tour moved the next week to Leceister, NY and the CARQUEST Empire Nationals. Still needing round wins to keep pace with Johnson, Jr., Romine handled the pressure of competing in front of his sponsor. He won the event, winning with a single in the final when Johnson, Jr. couldn't answer the call because of a broken chassis.
Now within striking distance of the top spot, the CARQUEST team moved on to Stanton, Mich. with aspirations of taking the points lead away from Johnson, Jr. Romine qualified 3rd while Johnson, Jr. qualified 6th, setting up a first round encounter. Despite an IHRA elapsed time record of 4.765, Romine lost to Johnson, Jr.'s hole shot aided 4.772 in the quickest side-by-side Top Fuel drag race in IHRA history. Despite the first round loss, Romine gained 100 points for the IHRA World Record and Johnson, Jr. lost in the next round when he red-lighted.
Next on the IHRA schedule was its largest event, the Prolong Super Lubricants World Nationals in Norwalk, Ohio. Winner of the '97 IHRA World Nationals and the '98 CARQUEST Fox Hunt at Norwalk Raceway Park, Romine entered the race as the favorite. He qualified with top time, a blistering 4.72 and advanced to the final round. Meanwhile Johnson, Jr. lost in round one to newcomer Don Lampus. In the final, Romine met Doug Herbert. A win would vault Romine to a 250 point lead, but Herbert again spoiled Romine's chance for precious points. Starting line tire smoke from the CARQUEST dragster and a 4.88 e.t. by Herbert only allowed Romine to take the Snap-on points lead by 50 points with two events left.
The last IHRA event was held at New England Dragway in Epping, N.H. At the IHRA North American Nationals, Romine qualified 3rd whilr Johnson, Jr. qualified 2nd. This put Romine and Johnson, Jr. on the same side of the elimination ladder, setting up a possible semi-final confrontation. Johnson, Jr. destroyed an engine, but won his opening round race against Jack Ostrander. But Don Lampus again upset the points battle, defeating Romine in round one, just as he did to Johnson, Jr. at Norwalk. The first round loss by Romine took him out of the top spot and again gave Johnson, Jr. the points lead. Johnson, Jr. went on to advanced past a tire smoking Lampus in round two, but it was a costly victory, he destroyed an engine and hurt his chassis, again causing him to be unable to make the call for a final round race.
Despite a first round loss by Romine at New England, his third first round loss of the '98 season, he is still in the IHRA World Championship hunt as the IHRA tour moves to the new Red River Raceway for the IHRA World Finals.
"We tested in Shreveport a few weeks back and gained some positive information about the race track which could be beneficial this weekend," Romine said. "We made five laps and tested a few news things. Last weekend we struggled in Memphis (at the NHRA event, Oct. 9-11), hurting parts and shaking the tires, but I think we're beginning to work through those gremlins we should be ready for this weekend."