Charlotte: Cory McClenathan preview

McCLENATHAN EAGER TO GET COUNTDOWN STARTED IN CONCORD CONCORD, N.C. (Sept. 16, 2009) - Cory McClenathan, fifth in the Top Fuel standings entering the first event of the six-race Countdown to 1 playoffs at this weekend's NHRA Carolina Nationals...

McCLENATHAN EAGER TO GET COUNTDOWN STARTED IN CONCORD

CONCORD, N.C. (Sept. 16, 2009) - Cory McClenathan, fifth in the Top Fuel standings entering the first event of the six-race Countdown to 1 playoffs at this weekend's NHRA Carolina Nationals at zMAX Dragway, is eager to get the contest started at arguably the most popular venue on the 2009 NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series schedule.

"Everybody keeps talking about going to the Concord race and, with the Countdown starting there, it's kind of a double whammy," said McClenathan, a semifinalist at the inaugural event here in 2008. "Everyone is so excited about going to zMAX Dragway again because it was such a great event last year. The ticket sales were unbelievable, and it was a success all the way around.

"Bruton, Marcus and the whole Smith family have built a great empire here. It's become the Mecca of drag racing. And here we are starting the Countdown and we're 60 points out.

"It's a great thing for us," added McClenathan, a 30-time national-event winner in 56 final rounds who is still seeking his first victory of the year. "I think the FRAM Tough Guard car is running better and more consistent than most cars out there, we just haven't been able to put it all together on Sunday. And among (crew chiefs) Todd Okuhara, Phil Shuler, myself and all the FRAM guys we've talked about being in the swing once it came down to the points chase.

"I think it's our time. I think it's time for us to step up and get after it. We're only three rounds out and that means if anybody in front of us falters at all we can be right there. It also means, if we falter, a few behind us can catch up to us and move us back in the points.

"We're going to approach this race like we do every single race: go in there and qualify well on Friday and go for the pole, and see what we can do on Sunday, and obviously use Saturday to set the tune-up for race day.

"The weather looks like it's going to be spotty showers off and on so I don't know if it will make it any cooler, but cloud cover always does help the race track. The track is in good shape because it's brand new, but on top of that if it's cooler and the conditions are just right it will be conducive to some great elapsed times and big mile an hour."

As for the new points system introduced for the playoffs, in which the top three qualifiers in each session earn an additional three, two and one points, "I'm not a type of guy who likes to see change like that in the middle of a season," said McClenathan, who has qualified in the top three seven times this season, "but at the same time, it might work to our advantage. We normally seem to be one of the quicker cars during the qualifying sessions, but it might hold you back from standing on the gas, so to speak, and going for it because you don't want to smoke the tires.

"The tighter the points get the more points we're going to want, so if we can go out there and qualify well each round we'll get points for it. I guess in a way it can really help us. If it had been up to me, however, I probably would have said let's start this new points system next year. It will take a few of those qualifying rounds to make a difference, but earning more points is a good thing. Some of these championships have been won or lost by just a few points."

-credit: dsr

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Series NHRA
Drivers Cory McClenathan