Denver: Cory McClenathan preview

MCCLENATHAN SEEKS THIRD TOP FUEL WIN IN DENVER INDIANAPOLIS (June 25, 2008) -- The NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series kicks off the second half of its 24-race schedule beginning with the crucial three-race Western Swing at this weekend's Mopar ...

MCCLENATHAN SEEKS THIRD TOP FUEL WIN IN DENVER

INDIANAPOLIS (June 25, 2008) -- The NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series kicks off the second half of its 24-race schedule beginning with the crucial three-race Western Swing at this weekend's Mopar Mile-High NHRA Nationals at Bandimere Speedway outside of Denver. It's a track that holds great memories for FRAM Top Fuel driver Cory McClenathan, who hopes to score a Top Fuel hat trick by putting his Don Schumacher Racing entry in the winner's circle for the third time at this track.

McClenathan advanced to the semifinals in three of the last four events on the 2008 NHRA tour, including a No. 2 qualifying effort in Norwalk two weeks ago, and the FRAM dragster is currently one of the most consistent cars on the circuit. The Indianapolis resident is looking to continue that trend at Bandimere Speedway, where he scored his first career national-event victory in Top Alcohol dragster in 1989 and has reached the Top Fuel final three times, winning in 1997 and 1998 from the No. 1 qualifying spot. Needless to say, it is a facility where Cory Mac loves to compete.

"Everybody thinks that the cars are going to go slower in the mile-high altitude, but every year we seem to prove them wrong," said McClenathan, who is No. 5 in the point standings. "The Top Fuel cars seem to run pretty good there nowadays and a lot of that is attributed to the 90-percent nitromethane rule and being able to utilize that extra few percent there. The guys are also building special engines now to run in Denver, so I think we're better set to run at higher-elevation tracks now.

"Bandimere Speedway is one of my favorite race tracks. I won the very first NHRA national event that I entered there in Top Alcohol dragster over the late Blaine Johnson. So that's something that I'll always remember and it will always be special to me, especially now that the FRAM team works closely with his brother Alan Johnson, crew chief on the U.S. Army car. It's funny how things come around full-circle because Alan was Blaine's crew chief at the time.

"I've been to the final round in Denver three times in Top Fuel, winning two of them from the No. 1 qualifying spot and those wins came with my current crew chief Mike Green. So it's almost ironic that we're going back together there in hopes of trying to win another one and trying to sweep the three-race Western Swing, which would be a tough thing for anybody to do with so much parity in the class now. Top Fuel has gotten much tougher over the years."

McClenathan is optimistic about the new ruling that will take effect this weekend which places the finish line at the 1000-ft. mark instead of the traditional 1320-ft. length that was implemented in reaction to the top-end accident which claimed the life of Funny Car driver Scott Kalitta in Englishtown, N.J., last month.

"Obviously it will give the drivers more time to slow down and our elapsed times are going to slow down drastically," McClenathan noted. "But from the engine standpoint, we're doing most of our damage between 1000 ft. and 1320 ft. so I think we're going to see the engines live longer and get better wear out of the components. I still think you're going to see good side-by-side racing and still see 300-mph-plus runs, so I don't think the fans are going to lose out on the show.

"It's going to be a little bit of a change for the drivers shutting off at 1000 ft. As long as the tracks are well marked and we can see where the 1000-ft. mark comes up it'll be interesting shutting off that much closer and shutting them off before you even get to the finish line scoreboard. I don't know how good it's going to be, but probably right now as a group it's the smartest thing we can do. At least it will make safer some of these tracks that are really not long enough. Since we can't make the tracks longer, this is the next best thing right now and I think the NHRA made a step in the right direction. If it saves one life then maybe it's the smartest thing that we can do."

McClenathan will once again be racing with a heavy heart in Denver following the death of his grandmother Dorothy Jones on July 5. "She recently had a hip replacement and died due to complications following the procedure," he said. "This is the third person who has died in my life in the last few weeks and nobody can be prepared for something like this and it's really rocked my world. She spent a lot of time with me when I was a kid and I feel very lucky to have had her in my life."

-credit: dsr

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Series NHRA
Drivers Cory McClenathan , Scott Kalitta , Cory Mac , Don Schumacher