Gainesville: Cory McClenathan final report

MCCLENATHAN DRIVES FRAM DRAGSTER INTO FINAL ROUND IN GAINESVILLE GAINESVILLE, Fla. (March 15, 2009) - Cory McClenathan made a withdrawal from the luck bank today, landing in his 54th career final round and the first at the NHRA Gatornationals ...

MCCLENATHAN DRIVES FRAM DRAGSTER INTO FINAL ROUND IN GAINESVILLE

GAINESVILLE, Fla. (March 15, 2009) - Cory McClenathan made a withdrawal from the luck bank today, landing in his 54th career final round and the first at the NHRA Gatornationals despite experiencing two spectacular fireballs on the FRAM Top Fuel dragster in his quarterfinal and semifinal runs. He ended his day as runner-up to Larry Dixon.

McClenathan dismissed Michael Gunderson in the opening round with his second quickest pass of the weekend of 3.922 seconds at 308.85 mph, then beat his Don Schumacher Racing teammate Tony Schumacher in the quarterfinal with a fiery 4.270/269.62 to Schumacher's tire-smoking 4.389/236.38.

Following quick repairs by crew chiefs Todd Okuhara and Phil Shuler and the FRAM crew, McClenathan returned for the semifinal round to face Bobby Lagana Jr. Lagana struck the tires early, as McClenathan powered to the finish line until another burst of flame slowed him to a 4.342/193.29 winning pass.

After another fix-it session between rounds and without lane choice, McClenathan faced Larry Dixon in the final stanza. The pair launched with nearly identical reaction times, .091 for Dixon, .095 for "Cory Mac," but Dixon came out the victor as McClenathan struck the tires early, slowing to a 4.570/192.60. Dixon scorched the dragstrip with a 3.898/311.05 run.

"We have nothing to complain about today," said McClenathan. "As a racer you see a lot of times where somebody else had the luck. Well, today, we did well against our teammate and won the round and hurt some parts. That semifinal run was pure luck. We hurt it early and Bobby Lagana had a shot of beating us. We almost beat ourselves there, but the FRAM guys reeled in, did what they could for the final round.

"We knew the right lane could only hold so much. We knew that AJ (team owner Alan Johnson) and Dixon were going to try to run another 3.88 (-second pass). They did exactly what they said they were going to do."

McClenathan made a big move up in the point standings, into sixth place, just 81 markers short of the top spot. "We had a good weekend, we did well in points," he said. "This is really going to help us. The whole FRAM team is working really hard. All the brain trust we have here at DSR is giant for us. We appreciate all the help that everybody has given us from the Army car to (team manager) Lee Beard and everybody else who's come on board.

"This thing is going to pay off. Todd Okuhara and Phil Shuler are going to make it happen."

As for the two blow-ups, "Two completely different situations," he said. "The quarterfinal was one of just sheer 'I'm not going to get off the gas.' I pedaled it once. I knew Tony was right there, I knew we could make it to the finish line, but I knew it was going to cause some damage.

"The one in the semis was purely an ignition problem. You can only do so much when you have to replace so many things (between rounds) and something bit us in the ignition department. Fireballs in Top Fuel are nothing. When you're driving a dragster it's no big deal. The fire is behind you."

Next up is the 22nd annual NHRA Spring Nationals in Houston, Texas, March 27-29.

-credit: dsr

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Series NHRA
Drivers Larry Dixon , Tony Schumacher , Cory McClenathan , Cory Mac , Michael Gunderson , Don Schumacher