A nice simple repeat win would suit Fuller just fine READING, Pa. (Sept. 12) -- For all the quarter-mile success Valvoline Top Fuel driver "Hot Rod" Fuller has experienced in 20-plus year of competition, his proudest moment came at Maple Grove...
A nice simple repeat win would suit Fuller just fine
READING, Pa. (Sept. 12) -- For all the quarter-mile success Valvoline Top Fuel driver "Hot Rod" Fuller has experienced in 20-plus year of competition, his proudest moment came at Maple Grove Raceway, the site of this weekend's Toyo Tires NHRA Nationals.
A second-year pro, Fuller already has three Top Fuel trophies in six finals. In two decades of sportsman racing he won 13 nationals events and so many divisional titles he lost count. He was even named Super Gas Driver of the Decade for the 1990s. But it was a gut-check weekend in Eastern Pennsylvania that he says that defines his career.
"In 1999, I decided for the first time to come race in the Northeast," Fuller said from his Las Vegas home. "I drove to Maple Grove with my Super Gas car and my Super Comp dragster in my little trailer and I was ready to roll. We got pitted Wednesday night and I set everything up and then went to my hotel over in Lancaster."
Having been landlocked his entire life -- he grew up in Rogers, Ark. -- Fuller paid little attention to the news reports about Hurricane Floyd, a massive Category 4 storm system that was weaving a devastating path up the East Coast.
"Early Thursday morning I get a call in my room from the NHRA," Fuller said. "I'm thinking, 'This can't be good,' because no one even knew where I was staying. They had called my dad and tracked me down. They said the Hurricane hit the track and my trailer was totally flooded out. I was floored."
Fuller rushed to the track and found his trailer at the top of the staging lanes. A tow truck driver had hitched it up and rescued it from further damage.
"It didn't look like anything had happened," Fuller said. "But then I opened the doors and water just gushed out. Everything inside was ruined. My computer, all the equipment I had, everything. And both racecars had been submerged. Everything was cooked."
Fuller spent an hour or so inventorying the damage before calling home with the bad news. His father took the call and told his son to come on home so they could begin rebuilding his career.
"I told dad, 'You know what, I came here to race and I'm gonna race,' "Fuller said. "I told him to overnight all the stuff I had in the shop and I started stripping the cars. The electronics were ruined so I had to start from scratch. It was like a challenge to see if I could do it."
Fuller worked for two days straight, missing all of the qualifying rounds as he rebuilt his cars and purged the engines of water. He managed to get his Super Gas ride together just in time for Round 1 of eliminations Saturday morning. The Super Comp dragster didn't make the cut.
Remarkably, the extraordinary solo effort paid off and Fuller marched through the seven rounds of eliminations and took the most unlikely victory of his career.
"The photo of the cover of National Dragster showed water still dripping out of the chassis," Fuller said. "To overcome what I did is probably my proudest achievement in this sport. The odds were certainly against me even racing but I just set my mind to it and got it done. The fact I ended up winning was just phenomenal.
"I'd love to come back this year and get another Reading trophy. Hopefully, with a lot less drama then I had that time. We certainly have the car to win it all. Now we need to get it done, just like I did after Floyd."