SHREVEPORT, La.-Von Smith didn't get what he wanted, which was to keep his slim hopes for a third straight IHRA funny-car championship.
Smith, however, doesn't have to hang his head, and he will go back home to Tennessee $20,000 richer for winning the IHRA.Com Funny Car Shootout on Friday during the Mopar Parts World Finals. He ran an elapsed time of 5.906 seconds at 239.06 mph to put away the record-holding Jim Lape, who posted a quicker 5.874/239.74, aided by his tremendous .119-second starting-line advantage at the Red River Raceway quarter-mile.
The rest of the weekend didn't go as well, and his quest for a three-peat came to an end during Saturday's first round of eliminations. He needed to go two rounds further than Scott Weney to keep his title hopes alive, but he ran into Billy Gibson.
Gibson, who surprised Lape and Weney at Budds Creek, produced a pass of 6.025/236.09. In the other lane, Smith was having trouble controlling his car, shaking and then slowing almost immediately for a run of 11.566/72.44. Smith's loss assured Weney of the title.
Weney proved the major stumbling back in Smith's run to the 2000 season championship. The driver of the Atomic City Tool-Nitro Fish Trans-Am won only two of the last eight IHRA tour stops-Grand Bend and Norwalk-which didn't help his cause. He did wrest the points lead away from Weney briefly after ousting his chief rival in the second round in Cordova. Weney regained the lead for good in the next race in Leicester, N.Y., when he bumped Smith from that show in round one.
When the weekend started, Smith's chances for remaining in the championship hunt included strong qualifying numbers, and Thursday's first pass didn't go well. He shook the tires off the starting line and shut down around the 200-foot mark, posting no time.
A big portion of his shootout winnings would be shot on repairing the car, according to Smith.
"I think we already had $12,000 of it spent from our damage from yesterday (Thursday)," says Smith, who mentioned that his funny car encountered a tremendous rear-end explosion.
Smith pulled double duty on Friday. In addition to trying to win the shootout, he was seeking to record a strong qualifying pass. He did both and posted the third best qualifying time with his 5.906/239.06. It didn't help after falling out in the first round on Saturday.
Smith will not be thinking of ways to salvage the season and to at least finish second in the Funny Car points in the rain-rescheduled CARQUEST Autumn Nationals at Rockingham, N.C., Dragway on Nov. 4-5.