Bristol: Scott Palmer preview

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Scott Palmer, O'Reilly Dragster team ready for Thunder Valley Nationals at Bristol, Tenn. BRISTOL, Tenn., April 21, 2003 - Call Scott Palmer's foray into NHRA Top Fuel competition "Drag Racing 101" if you like. It may also be categorized as...

Scott Palmer, O'Reilly Dragster team ready for Thunder Valley Nationals at Bristol, Tenn.

BRISTOL, Tenn., April 21, 2003 - Call Scott Palmer's foray into NHRA Top Fuel competition "Drag Racing 101" if you like. It may also be categorized as the "School of Hard Knocks".

Palmer and the crew of his O'Reilly Auto/ACDelco/Simple Green dragster didn't expect any special treatment when they made their professional debut at Houston two weeks ago. But they believed they had better than a 50-50 chance of making the 16-car field. Testing had gone well and their confidence level was high.

Although Palmer's performance was respectable - three 4.8-second runs, topped by a 4.837 at 302.14 mph - it wasn't enough to put him into the show. It took a 4.695 to make the field.

He was rebuffed but he's not retreating.

"It was a learning experience for us," the Highlandville, Mo., driver said. "We went to Houston hoping to run in the low 4.70s. It was the first time we've made four qualifying runs and it definitely helped us as a team.

"We had some problems, too. The motor pushed out a head gasket on one run and the blower belt broke at about 1100 feet on another. But we didn't tear up any parts."

The team returned to Missouri to prepare for its next schooling at the Mac Tools Thunder Valley Nationals, Friday through Sunday, at Bristol Dragway.

Palmer has a 10-race schedule planned for 2003 to gain experience and prepare for a full NHRA POWERade Series outing next year. A former Alcohol Funny Car driver, Palmer is acquainted with the sport's highs and lows. And he believes his team will begin seeing more highs as they gain more experience.

"The idea behind running 10 races this year is to learn," he commented. "You can't learn anything by watching the races on TV."

Palmer, who's receiving tuning tips from several prominent, unnamed crew chiefs/tuners, certainly has his eyes open. He watched as Doug Kalitta set the qualifying pace at Houston with the fourth-quickest time in history, 4.486 seconds, and the fastest speed, 333.91 mph, and seven other drivers put their cars in the field with 4.5-second runs.

"We are going to follow our plan of trying to run in the low 4.7s at Bristol," Palmer said. "We know we have to run consistently to improve ourselves, and that's what we want to do. We want to be doing this for a long, long time."

On the drive from his Springfield, Mo.-area home to Bristol, Palmer plans to be a good will ambassador for his sponsor. "We'll be stopping at as many O'Reilly Auto Parts stores as possible so I can say hello to the customers and employees," he said. "We also have several stops scheduled where we'll have the car on display.

"We had honorary pit crew members on our crew every day at Houston," Palmer added. "They were the top ACDelco salesmen for O'Reilly stores. O'Reilly will be doing sales contests like that around the races we run."

Palmer and the crew return to work at Bristol Friday with qualifying scheduled at 5 and 8 p.m., and 1 and 4 p.m. Saturday. Eliminations on Sunday begin at noon.

-pr-

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