Joliet II: David Baca Saturday summary

Baca No. 5 at Route 66 Raceway JOLIET, Ill. (September 27, 2003) -- Since the beginning of September, rain has become a regular participant at NHRA national events and this event was no exception. Continuing true to form, rain showers ...

Baca No. 5 at Route 66 Raceway

JOLIET, Ill. (September 27, 2003) -- Since the beginning of September, rain has become a regular participant at NHRA national events and this event was no exception. Continuing true to form, rain showers and thunderstorms caused a cancellation of both sessions of Friday's qualifying for the NHRA Carquest Auto Parts Nationals.

Yesterday's cancellation leaves professional competitors two qualifying sessions today to make the top 16 cars that will race for the event title in their respective category. David Baca, driver of the Henkelman & Baca Motorsports/American Racing/Waterloo Tool Storage/Skill Clean Top Fuel dragster, discussed the stress factor of having only two runs to make the field.

"It doesn't put any stress on me, I'm just the lucky guy that tries to get it from A to B," said Baca. "Also, the crew guys just do their normal job. It's old hat to them and we've got as good as any crew in the business. The real stress, if there is any, is on my crew chief Johnny West. Johnny has to decide how aggressive he wants to be in the first session. It's toughest on him. He's the one who decides if we go for it, then how aggressive or how conservative."

Added West, "The biggest stress comes when you don't get in the field during the first of the two sessions left. Therefore, in the first session today we want to conservative enough to get into the field, hopefully in the top half of the field. We won't be thinking No. 1, we'll be somewhat conservative."

In the first session, West did what he set out to do. The crew did their part. Baca did his part running a 4.508 second pass, good for the No. 3 spot with one qualifying session remaining. In that first session, Doug Kalitta ran the quickest elapsed time in the 50-plus years of NHRA record keeping when he blazed the Route 66 quarter-mile in 4.428 seconds.

In the final session, being safely in the field, West could test things the he would not have been able to do if the team hadn't run as well as they did in the opening session. While Baca's final pass didn't improve his elapsed time, two teams were able to do better than the time Baca recorded in Saturday's first qualify session and Baca will begin eliminations from the No. 5 qualifying position.

"We ran well today," said Rick Henkelman, Baca's partner in Henkelman & Baca Motorsports. "We might have got a little greedy in that second round but the fact is we had to try some new things. Today we tested tires, while trying to run mid-40s at the same time. It's a very small window you have to bring both those things together. We have perfect conditions here and that made it possible for us to do this testing today. Some might say we wasted a run, but we learned what we set out to do and that will benefit us somewhere in the future. Now we return to our game plan for eliminations tomorrow."

Baca will square off against Rhonda Hartman-Smith, who qualified 12th with a run of 4.614 seconds at 308.21 mph, in the opening round of tomorrow's eliminations. This is a rematch of last Monday's opening round of eliminations in Memphis, one in which Baca took the win light.

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Series NHRA
Drivers Rhonda Hartman-Smith , David Baca