FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Contact: Anthony Vestal Nov. 21, 1997 Consistency key for CARQUEST team in 1997 BRISTOL, Tenn. -- When Paul Romine recounts his 1997 IHRA Snap-on Tools World Championship winning season in Top Fuel, he has to take a ...
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Contact: Anthony Vestal Nov. 21, 1997
Consistency key for CARQUEST team in 1997
BRISTOL, Tenn. -- When Paul Romine recounts his 1997 IHRA Snap-on Tools World Championship winning season in Top Fuel, he has to take a deep breath. A breath similar to the one he inhales prior to launching his 5,000-horsepower CARQUEST Auto Parts dragster down the quarter-mile. But just like when he takes a ride in his quick dragster, all he sees is a blur.
"Hey, pinch me," says the 50-year-old Romine, a resident of Indianapolis. "We haven't had time to reflect. I think once we're able to collect our thoughts and really look back at the season, then we can say, 'Man, what a year.' But this is going to take a long time to sink in. Everything happened so quick. It's been a whirlwind season to say the least."
Romine, who challenged for the nostalgia front-engine dragster championship on the West Coast-based Good Guys Series in 1996, made a return to IHRA competition in February at Darlington, S.C. He set a new Top Fuel elapsed time mark while winning the All Pro Winter Nationals. More importantly, he set a new tone for IHRA Top Fuel competition.
No doubt, his season was one long roller coaster ride.
At Bristol's Prolong Super Lubricants Spring Nationals, Romine suffered a major set-back when his dragster lifted vertically during a semi-final round race with Bruce Litton. The resulting blowover destroyed his car. However, Romine escaped with little more than a bruised thumb.
The team had to break-in a new Murf McKinney chassis at the Raybestos Summer Nationals at Cordova, Ill.'s Dragway Park and lost in the semi-finals to Rhonda Hartman.
At Michigan's CARQUEST Northern Nationals, Romine dialed-in his new car, advanced to the final round and left the starting line too early, handing Doug Herbert his second win of the season. However, the final round appearance kicked-off a streak of final rounds that would produce winning results, at Bristol's Autumn Chase Nationals; Norwalk's immaculate World Nationals; and Darlington's season-ending Snap-on Finals. During the course of those three races he pulled away from challengers Herbert and Shirley Muldowney. "It's all been a dream come true," Romine said. "Before this season I had never won a drag race with IHRA. Winning this championship the way we did means so much."
Romine's crew worked the team's slogan to perfection in 1998: 'No drips, no leaks and no errors.'
"I think the most astounding accomplishment of the year for this team was even more impressive than the wins and the records," he said. "The most important stat is that we made laps. Except for about three times that we went to the starting line, this car completed a pass. That's the one thing you must do if you're going to win a championship. You have to get down the race track. Once you do that, everything else falls into place."
While most observers might think recovering from his spectacular crash at Bristol was the crucial point in his championship winning season, Romine says there was one other tense moment that could have been a major turning point had things not gone his way.
"Don't get me wrong, it took a lot of hours and hard work to recover from that crash," Romine said. "But the turning point in the season was at Norwalk, during the final qualifying session. Talk about pressure. The first session was rained out, and during the second session we broke a steering mechanism on the car and didn't get to make a lap. That final pass was our last shot at making that race. It was dark and the dew was falling. If the car didn't go down the track on that pass, we would have not qualified and had a major scramble on our hands with only two races remaining. Clayton told me to pedal the car at half-track and I would make it just fine. That's exactly what I did, and fortunately we made the race. The guys told me that their hearts stopped when they saw the flames go out for a millisecond. They said it seemed like an eternity."
Another very important accomplishment for Romine was winning the last race.
"Making a good showing at the Snap-on Finals really brought the year to a close in the right manner," he said. "Even though we had the championship locked up, we wanted to go out and prove that we weren't going to let up. Winning the Snap-on Finals was extremely important to this team. It gives us great momentum going into 1998."
Romine says he'll have his same crew back in 1998, with sponsorship from CARQUEST. Needless to say, he's optimistic about his chances for another successful season.
"As I've said all year long, this team gets all the credit for this Snap-on Tools World Championship," he said. "They're a great bunch of guys who really know how to tune a hot rod. Clayton, of course, is the ring-leader. He's the master-mind of the entire operation. But when this team works together as one unit, it's the best."
Romine will officially accept his 1997 IHRA Snap-on Tools Top Fuel World Championship trophy at the upcoming IHRA World Championship Banquet, Jan. 17 at the Grove Park Inn, Asheville, N.C. Banquet tickets are on sale now at the IHRA office.