Las Vegas: Cory McClenathan preview

Two semifinal appearances propel McClenathan to top five in points after three races LAS VEGAS, April 1, 2002 - No April Fools joke here. Cory McClenathan, from Anaheim, Calif., holds down the fifth spot in the NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series...

Two semifinal appearances propel McClenathan to top five in points after three races

LAS VEGAS, April 1, 2002 - No April Fools joke here. Cory McClenathan, from Anaheim, Calif., holds down the fifth spot in the NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series point chase after three races.

McClenathan, behind the wheel of the Henkelman & Baca Top Fuel Dragster, will try to add to his point total this weekend at the NHRA SummitRacing.com Nationals at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway when professional qualifying gets underway on Friday.

Currently, McClenathan has 182 points, just one point behind fourth and 46 points out of second. Larry Dixon, with three final rounds in three races and two wins, leads the Top Fuel point standings with 333 points.

Joining Henkelman & Baca Motorsports just one week prior to the 2002 season-opening K&N Filters Winternationals in Pomona, Calif., McClenathan surprised the racing community by advancing to the semifinal round before losing to Kenny Bernstein, the 2001 Top Fuel point champion.

Moving to Phoenix and the Checker Schuck's Kragen Nationals, the thirty-nine-year-old driver lost in the first round. He then rebounded in Gainesville, Fla., at the Mac Tools Gatornationals, advancing to the semifinals before losing once again to Kenny Bernstein.

"I'm really happy with the way things have gone thus far this season," said McClenathan, who sat out all but one race on the 2001 schedule due to lack of a ride or sponsorship. "All we wanted to do was to come out and try to qualify at the first few races.

"We not only qualified but went some rounds. I'm ecstatic with that. I think the biggest thing is that we've been consistent and we haven't made a lot of mistakes. That's kind of showing right now."

Regarding the key to winning the championship, McClenathan says, " Consistency is the main key to winning the championship, you don't necessarily have to win every race Look at Tony Schumacher in 1999, he won only one race. The key was he didn't have many first round losses, only three I believe. They were on top of their game.

"Look at the last few times we finished second. For some reason we would have a great season going and no problems, then toward the end of the season we'd have three or four first round losses and a few silly things like that. That opened the door for someone else to win the championship. We put ourselves in that position. We weren't staying consistent.

"Don't get me wrong, winning is great. If you can win nine times in 12 final rounds like (Gary) Scelzi did in 2000 or eight times in 12 like Bernstein did last year, you've had one great year. But it still comes back to consistency. You can't lose in the first round. It takes consistency to win that many races. It takes consistency to win championships."

McClenathan contributes his current run of consistency to crew chief Wes Cerny. "Right now people are working hard to figure out this Goodyear tire. The new Goodyears have thrown a lot of curves at teams. It seems it's a whole lot different in the heat than in the cooler weather. It's causing some teams fits but Wes has kind of got it figured out right now. Hopefully, we can carry that momentum to Las Vegas," said McClenathan.

On his last visit to The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, which occurred in 2000, McClenathan qualified third and advanced to the semifinals before exiting the event.

"The (Las Vegas) track is really good," said McClenathan. "Wes (Cerny) has some good records from the Vegas track. We did get to run together, Wes and I did, our last year with Gibbs in 2000. So hopefully, we can apply some of that past information and data this time.

"This car has been reacting really good to the changes that Wes has been making. We're hoping the track is really good and the weather is in our favor -- not too warm.

"I'll tell you one thing. The NHRA Safety Safari has been doing a great job with their tracks this year and last. They're preparing each track with the same compounds to insure good traction. Instead of a one lane race track, we now have two good grooves at virtually every track we race on. That in itself will help us at Las Vegas.

"We'd like to qualify in the top half of the field, go some rounds, add to our point total and keep our momentum going," concluded McClenathan.

-cmr-

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About this article
Series NHRA
Drivers Larry Dixon , Kenny Bernstein , Tony Schumacher , Cory McClenathan