ROCKINGHAM, NC. - Like the Phoenix of Egyptian methodology, Bruce Litton expects to rise from the ashes to fly again. The Phoenix consumed itself in fire, rose renewed from the ashes to start another long life. Litton expects to do the...
ROCKINGHAM, NC. - Like the Phoenix of Egyptian methodology, Bruce Litton expects to rise from the ashes to fly again. The Phoenix consumed itself in fire, rose renewed from the ashes to start another long life.
Litton expects to do the same with his drag-racing career in 2001. The fire that consumed his race shop and museum in mid-January was no myth, but the Indianapolis-based top-fuel driver expects to overcome this adversity in his quest for the IHRA championship, which barely eluded him last year.
"We lost everything," Litton says. "We lost last year's car, which was refurbished as a backup car. We built a brand new car, and we lost that along with the semi-truck and trailer, the tools and parts. So we basically lost everything. Now we have built another new car and will be going with only one car this season.
"It has set us back tremendous, but what we've done is that we've put together enough parts and built another truck and stuff like that. It's enough to get by with. It would have been easy to say we didn't have enough to race with if it weren't for my guys."
The other thing the fire did was to prevent Litton from competing in the NHRA's season-opening western tour stops to gain track time before the IHRA launches its season at the Holley Springs Nationals in Rockingham, N.C., from March 30-April 1.
He seemed to have overcome missing those two races and did salvage some of his spring training during the Mac Tools NHRA Gatornationals in Gainesville, Fla., this past weekend. He qualified 13th before the rains came on Sunday to postpone final eliminations.
Litton has to be impressed with his new dragster. He spent the weekend ranked among the top 16 qualifiers and saved his best for the fourth and final pass on Saturday night, covering the Gainesville Raceway quarter-mile in an elapsed time of 4.764 seconds at 311.56 mph. He thinks his Wix Filters dragster could have performed better under a different game plan.
"We were running our IHRA setups so we can get as much data as we can (for Rockingham)," Litton points out. "(The difference is) the NHRA spins the blower much faster than the IHRA. In the IHRA, you have a 25 percent overdrive limit. We're running the IHRA overdrive because we have to get data from the new car. We're trying to learn as much as we can as fast as we can."
Litton adds, "I'm really pleased with what we've done this weekend at Gainesville. We couldn't have asked for any better. We basically made four full passes and each time, other than one pass, we got faster. We're learning, and it's going to take time to learn the setup for the car.
Houston will be next for Litton's spring training as he will continue to compile data on his new dragster.
All this testing is geared toward his run for the IHRA Top Fuel title. Last year he had a championship-type season when he put the Wix Filters dragster into five of the 11 top-fuel finals. He won in four of those races, but had to settle for third place for the second straight year. Litton fell 26 points shy of Paul Romine when the 2000 season came to a close in Rockingham.
"The top four cars (in the points) made the semi-finals, and we lost it there when I smoked the tires," says Litton, who qualified third with a pass of 4.72 seconds at 318 mph. "I let (points runner-up) Clay Millican around me and also let Paul Romine go around me. It was the closest race in IHRA history."
As for this year's title chase, Litton expects the same drivers to be breathing fire as he seeks to break that third-place hex.
"We've got to be consistent. That's our game plan," Litton says. You don't necessarily have to be the fastest because consistency will win races. I'm going to use the same game plan as I had last year.
"By the grace of God, we can overcome these challenges. We're going to do the best we can. That's all you can ask."
With his resolve, Litton should fly like the Phoenix.