Collins Racing Ready to Turn Tables PHOENIX (Feb. 12) -- There is little question that drag racing is a fickle sport. As the 15th Annual Checker Schucks Kragen Nationals presented by Pennzoil approach on Feb. 25-28 at Firebird ...
Collins Racing Ready to Turn Tables
PHOENIX (Feb. 12) -- There is little question that drag racing is a fickle sport. As the 15th Annual Checker Schucks Kragen Nationals presented by Pennzoil approach on Feb. 25-28 at Firebird International Raceway, no team is more aware of the capricious nature of the quarter-mile battlefield than the two-car Collins Racing Pro Stock Team.
At the conclusion of the 1998 National Hot Rod Association season, Team Collins drivers Shawn Collins and Richie "The Kid" Stevens were on top of the drag racing world. At 20 years old, Stevens had just become the youngest Pro Stock driver to ever capture a national event title when he won the season-ending Winston Finals in Pomona, Calif. The feat capped a solid rookie season for the team that saw the two drivers garner an impressive top 10 finish in the points standings, a national event title and 18 elimination round wins.
To be sure, the entire Collins crew spent the NHRA's off-season excitedly awaiting the start of 1999. But as the drag racing world turned its attention to the new year, Collins Racing realized that -- if only for a race -- the pendulum of good fortune had swung the other way.
Suffering from an unforeseen bout of electronic, mechanical and chassis problems, neither driver was able to qualify for the season-opening Winternationals in early February. It's a trend the team hopes to quickly turn back in Phoenix.
"We just had a lot of problems," said Collins, the owner of the two-car team. "Richie's Valspar Refinish Pontiac had a wiring problem that was impossible to fix at the track. We have since re-wired the entire system, whether it needed it or not, to correct the problem. We will be testing it in Darlington before we get to Phoenix to make sure the problem is gone for good and, more importantly, to give Richie some peace-of-mind so he can focus on driving.
"My Firebird hasn't really worked the way we have wanted it to since I bought it. It's just an older car that I was using to get some seat time. Now I'm waiting for a brand new car but I don't think it will be ready by Phoenix. So in the meantime I'm going to test (Pennzoil driver) Mike Thomas' back-up car and hopefully run it at Phoenix. We lease engines from Mike and he has offered us the use of his back-up car until I get my new car in Gainesville.
"You occasionally have problems, but I'm not going to let it get us down. We need to stay positive and just keep racing. I guess you could say the advantage of having problems early in the season is that you can get them fixed and still have a lot of season left to redeem yourself. We will definitely be back in contention very soon. Hopefully, starting in Phoenix."