Cory McClenathan Houston Preview

MCCLENATHAN SEEKS TO DEFEND HOUSTON TOP FUEL TITLE BAYTOWN, Texas -- Not only has the quicker elapsed times and extreme increase in speeds in Top Fuel surprised a lot of fans, it has a few veteran drivers shaking their heads in amazement...

MCCLENATHAN SEEKS TO DEFEND HOUSTON TOP FUEL TITLE BAYTOWN, Texas -- Not only has the quicker elapsed times and extreme increase in speeds in Top Fuel surprised a lot of fans, it has a few veteran drivers shaking their heads in amazement as well. Cory McClenathan has always thought this type of performance was possible. He has to admit, however, that he thought it was still at least a year away. As NHRA's high-performance showcase moves to Houston Raceway Park for the 12th annual O'Reilly Nationals presented by Pennzoil, April 8-11, many observers are expecting to see the first quarter-mile run quicker than 4.50 seconds and a second run that exceeds the 330 mph barrier in Top Fuel. The $1.7 million race is the fourth of 22 events in the $40 million NHRA Winston Drag Racing Series. McClenathan, the defending winner at this event, says new technology is responsible for the performance impact. The new five-disc clutch has allowed teams to generate more power throughout the quarter-mile. Some teams -- like Mike Dunn's Team Mopar, Tony Schumacher's Exide Racing and the Joe Amato's Tenneco Automotive -- have figured out the new system a little quicker than others. McClenathan's MBNA team is still putting pieces of the puzzle together. "The five-disc clutch has made a tremendous impact," McClenathan said. "We're still working with it. What most people don't realize is all the other changes that have to be made because of it. The entire combination has to be changed. We're getting a lot closer." Dunn won the season-opening Winternationals in impressive fashion, resetting the national elapsed time record to 4.503 seconds. Schumacher has surprised many of his rivals this season by running low 4.50s and posting the fastest speed in Top Fuel history at 330.23 mph at Phoenix. McClenathan, who sports a career-best elapsed time of 4.559 seconds and top speed of 322.92 mph, hopes to improve on those numbers at Houston. In fact, McClenathan recorded his best elapsed time in the final round victory over Dave Grubnic here last year. "Right now we're a little bit off what we need to be running to win," McClenathan said. "We've got to be able to run at least mid-4.50s to get it done. That's been the standard in the first three races. If you don't run 4.50s, you aren't going to get a trophy. "On the bright side, we haven't been blowing stuff up. We're keeping parts breakage to a minimum. That's real positive. We're running low 60s and keeping it together. Still, we have to step up the pace. As it stands, we need to find about five-hundredths of a second to get where we want to be." After posting second place finishes to Team Winston's Gary Scelzi the last two years, McClenathan hopes this will be the year he gets his Winston championship. "Fortunately it's still early in the season," he said. "We have to turn our focus to later in the season instead of trying to count points at this stage. However, with the competitive nature of Top Fuel these days, you can't afford to get too far behind in the championship picture. It's a real balancing act." He hopes to draw some inspiration from his win here last year to get his season jump started. "That was a great race for us last year," McClenathan said. "We were fortunate to win. We didn't have an easy race all day long. From pedaling against Jim Head in the semifinals to getting by a very tough Grubnic in the final, we had our work cut out for us. Houston's always a lot of fun. It's a fast track and I expect some big numbers this year."

Be part of something big

Write a comment
Show comments
About this article
Series NHRA
Drivers Jim Head , Mike Dunn , Tony Schumacher , Joe Amato , Gary Scelzi , Cory McClenathan