by Cole Coonce Los Angeles, CA-- February 16, 2000--Silly Season is finally over in the South City section of San Francisco. Champion Speed Shop, the ...
by Cole Coonce
Los Angeles, CA-- February 16, 2000--Silly Season is finally over in the South City section of San Francisco. Champion Speed Shop, the #5 seed on the Nitronic Research AA/Fuel Dragster List, have finally announced a replacement for their self-exiled cockpit cowboy, "Swingin' Sammy" Hale, aka "Sammy the Crank." His replacement is Rance McDaniel, a venerable nitro-huffing journeyman from Fresno, CA.
Although he has shoed a variety of Chevy-powered fuelers in the past, among the notable being the "Valley Fever" entries in the mid 1970s, this will be McDaniel's first go round with a volatile small block Bowtie at his feet in the fore position of the cockpit, coursing and percolating with the fickle nectar of nitromethane...
McDaniel has earned plaudits from the drag strip cognoscenti during his "Senior's Tour", capturing Top Fuel Eliminator at the NHRA's Winston Finals in 1993, and subsequently shoeing the same Dan Olson-tuned dragster to runner-up of '94 Winternationals.
In an interview conducted via e-mail, Champion benefactor and co-tuner Bob McLennan elaborated on their approach for this year's front engined fueler wars and why Rance is their guy:
NITRONIC RESEARCH: What does Rance McDaniel bring to the team?
McLENNAN: Experience, Big Show networking. We seemed to hit it off the first time we meet. He is a no nonsense guy. The first thing he said to me was "Bob, I am going to tell you what I think; you don't have to listen but I am going to tell ya'!" All tolled, we have had lunch twice, talked on the phone a few times and he has sat in the car once. I think we both felt, OK, that is enough, let's get it on the track and find out. He has a great desire to win, which is very important to us.
NR: How hard was it to replace Hale? And were you surprised when he left the team?
McLENNAN: My arrangement with Sammy was on a year to year basis. At the end of last year I gave him a call to talk about our plans for the next race and the following year. My assumption was he was going to continue, but my heart knew it was time. The year was a tough one for us. We had some tremendous highs and some real lows, (all regarding the car's performance). I think Sammy still can--and maybe still will--drive a Front Engine Top Fuel Car in the future.
But for now, he felt that he has a few professional and personal things he wants to take care of and it was time for him to step down. He still wants that Chevy to absolutely dominate the Top Fuel Class. We will never replace Sammy but an era has been completed. We now have a new driver and we will move forward.
NR: What are your goals for the Year 2000?
McLENNAN: I do not anticipate any great qualifying times this year. Our goal is to be consistent. We will try to qualify on the top half of the grid each race, then in eliminations tune the car to 6.0s every pass, unless we need to go quicker. Based on last year, we may need to go quicker pretty often. We have brought back the combination with very few bells and whistles; it is a pretty straightforward deal. It is the first year that we are setting our sites on the Goodguys crown. We have never gone into a season looking for a particular championship before, (this year) we plan on getting after it.
In related news, Nitronic Research has learned that the Mastercam AA/FD team, whom have also been the subject of much rumor mongering after the sudden departure of "Wild Bill" Alexander from the cockpit last summer, are doing a meet and greet this weekend at Famoso Raceway with their new choice for cockpit management. Pending completion of some shake down runs, the team won't release the true identity of their new driver, but they have coughed up a his *nom de shoe*, Buck Carbon. (Shades of Floyd Lippencott, Jr.!)
Whether Buck Carbon's true identity will be announced after this weekend's test and tune remains a mystery.