Baytown: Cory McClenathan preview

MCCLENATHAN GOES FOR TRIPLE IN HOUSTON INDIANAPOLIS (March 25, 2009) - With a runner-up finish at the last event of the 2009 NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series season under his belt and a move up in the point standings, Cory McClenathan...

MCCLENATHAN GOES FOR TRIPLE IN HOUSTON

INDIANAPOLIS (March 25, 2009) - With a runner-up finish at the last event of the 2009 NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series season under his belt and a move up in the point standings, Cory McClenathan returns to Baytown, Texas, this weekend for the NHRA Spring Nationals aiming for a triple at Houston Raceway Park.

The driver of the FRAM Top Fuel dragster for Don Schumacher Racing wants to match his 1998 and 2000 Houston victories as he targets his first Top Fuel championship in his 19th season in the class. He was also runner-up in Houston in 2003 and 2005.

Standing sixth in the points rankings after three races, he's just 81 markers shy of first place, and he expects a very competitive season among a handful of the leading Top Fuel stars.

"We have struggled in some areas," said McClenathan, referring to the FRAM team’s somewhat slow start to the season, "but I think we turned the corner with the car tune-up-wise and everything else. (Crew chiefs) Todd (Okuhara) and Phil (Shuler) have a pretty good handle on it.

"Based on the way the FRAM dragster ran in Gainesville with very warm conditions, I think we're going to see a lot of the same thing in Houston. Houston's track surface has just been ground, so it might be tricky, but I trust the Safety Safari will get in there and do its job and prep the track as best as possible.

"Still, when you grind a surface it takes a while to come back around. But I think our car will like those types of conditions. And it looks like the weather is going to be in the middle 70s, from what I can tell, and that should help us a little bit.

"Doing well in the Friday night qualifying session will be a must for us," added McClenathan, who was low qualifier in Houston in 2006. "We need to go from A to B in that session. We've had a little bit of trouble trying to figure that one out, but we've had success there in the past, and any track you do well at you look forward to going to.

"It will be the first time I hit that track with Todd and Phil and the new FRAM crew guys. They have rallied this season and they've done very well. We had a little bit of luck in Gainesville when we needed it and made it to the final round. And that helped us in points."

As for the battle for the championship: "I don't think you're going to see anybody walking away with it yet," he said. "Obviously we knew the Al Anabi team (with driver Larry Dixon who won Gainesville) would definitely step up.

"We didn't know how long it would take them to win their first race, but the fact that they won the third event of the season doesn't mean they're going to be stellar from here on out. I think you're going to see different winners this year. You're not going to see one team winning six, seven, eight races. That's just not going to happen. This year you're going to see a lot more parity in the class than we've had in the past two years.

"It will definitely make it interesting for the fans, interesting for the race teams and it's going to come down to the best tuner/driver relationship. The more the tuners and the drivers communicate the better the teams will be each and every weekend. And it's going to get tougher as we get along."

-credit: dsr

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About this article
Series NHRA
Drivers Larry Dixon , Cory McClenathan , Don Schumacher