Timely Turnaround Jump-Starts Lee's Bid for IHRA Pro Stock Championship Stanton, MI - As Tom Lee pulled out of New York International Raceway Park two weeks ago for the long ride back to Kingsport, Tennessee, the Sunoco Race Fuels Pro Stock ...
Timely Turnaround Jump-Starts Lee's Bid for IHRA Pro Stock Championship
Stanton, MI - As Tom Lee pulled out of New York International Raceway Park two weeks ago for the long ride back to Kingsport, Tennessee, the Sunoco Race Fuels Pro Stock competitor must have felt that his season was as good as written off.
Heading into the event, Lee was second in the points chase, working hard to keep class-dominating Gene Wilson within reasonable striking distance. And even though the job got harder with every passing race, Lee was confident that he could still mount a challenge. After all, he was the only man able to beat Wilson so far this year.
With every point worth its weight in championship gold, Lee knew that he had to keep applying as much pressure as possible on his fellow Ford competitor. The last thing he needed, or expected, was to destroy an engine at a national event while his back-up bullet was in the shop. But that's exactly what happened in New York, and Lee had no choice but to load up his Charlie Taylor-owned 2000 Mustang and head back home, a DNQ written in his logbook.
Heading into this weekend's 20th Annual CARQUEST Northern Nationals with a new motor, and a spare, Lee most certainly felt that he would need a miracle to turn his season back around. And to his complete surprise, he got one.
In what has to be one of the biggest upsets of the 2001 season, Wilson, the master of the holeshot, was uncharacteristically distracted when his car rolled into deep stage prior to his first-round match-up against Chris Holbrook. As the tree flashed, Holbrook was half way to the 330-foot marker before Wilson left, and the door was wedged open a crack for Lee.
He did his best to take advantage, reeling off round wins against the Chevrolet Cavaliers of Angelo Alesci and John Montecalvo, and then the Pontiac Grand Am of Ron Miller to earn his fourth final round berth in six events. His opponent was number 3 qualifier Brian Gahm, another fast-reacting Ford driver.
In a class so often as evenly matched as Pro Stock, many races are won on the tree, and for Lee, his miraculous reversal of fortunes fell just a few tenths short of being complete. With Wilson standing between the cars as a very interested spectator, Lee finally broke a long staging deadlock and rolled into the beams. As the tension mounted, the tree flashed, and Gahm was away first, holding Lee off to collect the win.
For Lee, however, rebounding so strongly from the situation in New York has breathed new life into his program. "This was more than we dared hope for coming here to Michigan," he agreed. "We were pretty down after New York, and after working so hard to get to the point we were at, it's tough to pick yourself up and get focused again. We needed a strong showing here, and thankfully we got it. We ended up having just about a perfect weekend. A win would have been icing on the cake, of course, but we're back on track, and ready to give it all we've got the rest of the way."
Probably not what the Chevrolet and Pontiac contingent want to hear, but for Tom Lee, he knows he's been handed a reprieve, and he doesn't plan to let it slip away a second time.
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.