Atlanta Scotty Cannon Funny Car Preview

CANNON TAKING AIM FOR FIRST FUNNY CAR WIN AT ATLANTA DRAGWAY COMMERCE, Ga. -- Scotty Cannon had never been so happy about a first round loss. Dean Skuza used a holeshot to defeat the 36-year-old rookie Funny Car driver at Dallas'...

CANNON TAKING AIM FOR FIRST FUNNY CAR WIN AT ATLANTA DRAGWAY COMMERCE, Ga. -- Scotty Cannon had never been so happy about a first round loss. Dean Skuza used a holeshot to defeat the 36-year-old rookie Funny Car driver at Dallas' Castrol Nationals. Cannon, from Lyman, S.C., posted career-bests in elapsed time (4.951 seconds) and speed (308.85 mph) on the run in his Cannonball Racing Pontiac Firebird -- a bright light of hope for a season that has produced its share of struggles. Cannon hopes his recent effort will be a sign of good things to come for his team as NHRA drivers prepare for the 19th annual Advance Auto Parts NHRA Southern Nationals, May 13-16, at Atlanta Dragway. The $1.6 million race is the seventh of 22 events in the $40 million NHRA Winston Drag Racing Series. "You would have thought we won a national event just qualifying at Dallas," said Cannon, who made the switch from IHRA Pro Modified to NHRA Funny Car competition this season. "That was a big lift for us. Then when we ran the 4.95 in the first round we were excited. Even though we got beat on a holeshot by that tough Skuza kid, we felt good about it." Cannon also feels good about his chances at Atlanta Dragway, a track that's located a little over 45 minutes south of his Spartanburg, S.C. home. "I only live about an hour away from Commerce, so I guess Atlanta will be my new home track," said Cannon, whose trademark Mohawk haircut and friendly, personal approach with fans have made him a popular figure in the pit area. "I used to consider Bristol (Tenn.) my home track when I ran IHRA, but being new to NHRA, we'll have a lot of fans and friends at Atlanta since it is so close to home, that's for sure. I've always used that kind pressure as a positive. For some reason I always seem to do well when I race around home." Cannon's had the usual growing pains adapting to his quicker and faster race car. His career-best run in IHRA competition was 6.22 seconds at about 220 mph. Now he's faced with trying to navigate a short wheel base, 6,000 horsepower behemoth that covers a quarter-mile in less than four seconds at over 300 mph. "I feel good in the car," Cannon said. "I've got about 80 hits of the throttle so far, and that first round at Dallas was only about the eighth time I've made a full pass. So I'm still gaining experience as far as driving it down track. But I feel real good about the progress I've made. I knew this was going to be hard and I know that we're going to have troubles on down the road this season. But it's coming around." One reason his program is advancing quicker than expected has been the addition of crew chief Dale Pulde, one of the category's legendary drivers and tuners. "When Dale came on board we removed a lot of the hot rod gizmos we had on the car to get it back to square one," Cannon said. "I'm impressed with Dale. He's turned this team around. He deserves 100 percent of the credit. I am the same driver and we still have the same guys working for the team, but now we've got Dale and he's making it happen. Dale's got 900 million friends in drag racing and he brought a lot to the camp. And Dale's not only a great tuner, but he's also a tremendous driving advisor for me. That's worth its weight in gold. With Dale on board we're headed in the right direction." After qualifying eighth at the season-opening AutoZone Winternationals at Pomona, Calif., Cannon endured a three-race streak where he failed to qualify. For Cannon, who earned six championship titles and won over 35 events in IHRA competition, the slump seemed like it would never end. The slump finally ended at the Texas Motorplex, when he made the 16-car field in the 13th spot and followed that with a career-best performance in the first round loss to Skuza. "Not qualifying for three straight races was devastating," Cannon said. "The worst thing about it was having the long schedule in front of you and knowing you had to keep going and going but not being able to see any light at the end of the tunnel. That was real tough. We had some long rides home those weeks. "Every time we've been bumped out it was a record field or something like that. But that's no excuse. If 16 cars are running 4.90s, then we've got to run 4.90s too. That's the bottom line. This is racing, there are no excuses."

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Series NHRA
Drivers Dean Skuza , Scotty Cannon , Dale Pulde