Memphis: David Baca Friday summary

Baca King of the Hill after first day of qualifying MILLINGTON, Tenn. (September 19, 2003) -- The good news is that for the first time in several races no rain was forecast for the 16th NHRA O'Reilly Mid-South Nationals presented by Pennzoil...

Baca King of the Hill after first day of qualifying

MILLINGTON, Tenn. (September 19, 2003) -- The good news is that for the first time in several races no rain was forecast for the 16th NHRA O'Reilly Mid-South Nationals presented by Pennzoil and Friday's qualifying, while sometimes cloudy, was just that - rain free.

David Baca, driver of the Henkelman & Baca Motorsports/American Racing/Waterloo Tool Storage/Skill Clean Top Fuel dragster, used the dry Memphis Motorsports Park track to record a track record elapsed time (E.T.) of 4.533 seconds, good for No. 1 when the first day of qualifying came to an end.

Reviving the dance he started at Infineon Raceway in August, Baca, from Brentwood, Calif., danced a little jig following the record run.

"Some shout, some throw their fist in the air, the dance is my way of showing emotion when I do something good," said Baca. "We accomplished something good tonight and at least for a short period of time we are 'King of the Hill' and nobody can take that away."

Baca happiness was somewhat overshadowed by a spectacular crash to fellow competitor Tony Schumacher. Running just a few pair behind Baca's American Racing/Waterloo Tool Storage dragster, Schumacher, who had established a track record E.T. in the first qualifying session, was nearing the finish line in his U.S. Army car when it started bouncing, flew airborne, broke in half and went sliding down the track.

Schumacher escaped from the wreckage under his own power and will return to action today in a back-up car after NHRA medical officials determined that he only sustained a minor knee injury and the normal bumps and bruises that accompany a major accident. The accident, at a speed of over 300 mph, is a tribute to the safety standards that all built into all NHRA approved racecars.

In a post-race interview, Baca had the following to say regarding Schumacher's accident, "We were watching the remaining drivers to see if our numbers would hold up for the top spot, when Tony (Schumacher), running in the last pair, had his problems. I'm glad to hear he's all right and came out under his own power. We all battle each other on the track, but off the track we are family."

Thus far in his rookie season, Baca has qualified for all 17 events (through Indy) on the NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series, qualifying in the top half of the Top Fuel field of 16 in 11 of the 17 events contested so far this season. At the last completed race, the Mac Tools U.S. Nationals in Indianapolis, he captured his first No. 1 qualifying position of his career.

Additionally, Baca was runner-up at Sonoma and reached the semifinals at Gainesville, Las Vegas and Atlanta and currently is sixth in the NHRA POWERade Top Fuel point standings, just nine points out of the top five. His rookie season performance has been right there with the veterans, running a career best elapsed time of 4.499 seconds and a career best speed of 326.32 mph on the quarter-mile track at Indianapolis Raceway Park.

With two qualifying sessions remaining tomorrow, Baca will be trying to hold the top spot and collect his second No. 1 position of his rookie season.

"It's going to be hard to hold onto No. 1," said Baca, "but I feel I have the best in crew chief Johnny West and he is backed by the best crew in the business. We'll do our best tomorrow and then go to battle for the Top Fuel title on Sunday. "

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Series NHRA
Drivers Tony Schumacher , David Baca