Gainesville: Scotty Cannon Saturday summary

Cannon qualifies No. 16 for second straight race. GAINESVILLE, FLA. (March 15, 2003) -- With "Elite Special Forces" decaled on the side of his Funny Car representing a boot produced by his sponsor Oakley for use by the U.S. Elite Special Forces,...

Cannon qualifies No. 16 for second straight race.

GAINESVILLE, FLA. (March 15, 2003) -- With "Elite Special Forces" decaled on the side of his Funny Car representing a boot produced by his sponsor Oakley for use by the U.S. Elite Special Forces, Scotty Cannon qualified No. 16 for the second straight race in 2003 at Gainesville (Fla.) Raceway's Gatornationals,the third of 23 NHRA POWERade events this season.

Enduring a tough start to the year, a visit to the Don Schumacher Racing shops in Indianapolis between races by Cannon's Oakley team resulted in improvements in the car's engine performance, and the team was encouraged.

Cannon's first qualifying run here at 5.072/300.10 was his best of the weekend, placing him No. 11 at the time. His next three runs saw the return of the gremlins that have haunted this new team all year, and he fell to No. 16, just squeaking into the field.

All three Don Schumacher Racing Funny Cars have qualified for this year's first three races.

"In the first run, it ran OK. It went a 5.07," he said. "One of the clutch timers went off real late. The next run it was doing OK and we went out and smoked the tires. We were pretty aggressive for Friday night. First run today we had a switch that never went off, and sent the whole system off -- the clutch system, fuel system that goes under the pedal. We changed it and then in the final round another part of the same switch set the clutch off when I first stepped on the clutch; like it had all the clutch the car could ever have in it right when I left the starting line. It just jumped off the ground and smoked the tires."

Despite the glitches, the team is seeing a light at the end of the tunnel. "The good thing is," Cannon added, "is that we've been having trouble kicking the rods out and burning the mains out of it all year. Me and the team spent the whole week at the Indy shop and went over everything with a fine toothcomb. We looked over all the short blocks, the blowers, the cranks, the clearance in the motors and we found some stuff we weren't happy with that we thought was right, and we changed it, and it looks like it's made the motor where it's going to live. Unfortunately, we came here with the motor in good shape and it's living. But we smoked the tires one run, which a lot of people are having trouble with here anyway, and in two runs we just had a fluke. Something happened that we had no control over, a part braking; one valve one time and a switch the next. At least we're qualified. We're making a little headway. But nowhere near like everyone else.

"It's a little frustrating, but we're in it for the long haul. We dodged another bullet; that's all I can say. We'll just see what happens tomorrow. It's not over yet."

For the second straight race, Cannon will face No. 1 qualifier Tony Pedregon in the first round. "Somewhere down the line he's gong to have to lose. I'm not really focused on him or who I've got. I just know if I'd been 13th or 14th qualifier I wouldn't have him, but still at the same time the car wouldn't be running up to par like it should be. I thank everybody for standing behind us and we're not making excuses. It's only the third race with a whole new team; we started off with nothing."

-dsr-

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Series NHRA
Drivers Scotty Cannon , Don Schumacher