Epping: Series Friday notebook

TWO'S COMPANY, THREE'S ONE HECK OF A RACE TEAM Multi-car teams have always been the way to go in the highly competitive world of motorsports. From oval racing to drag racing and everything in between, multi-car teams have always had an advantage...

TWO'S COMPANY, THREE'S ONE HECK OF A RACE TEAM
Multi-car teams have always been the way to go in the highly competitive world of motorsports.

From oval racing to drag racing and everything in between, multi-car teams have always had an advantage on the field thanks to information and part sharing and that is exactly the impact that team owner Mitch King had hoped for when he started up a multi-car team a few years ago.

Beginning with a two car operation three seasons ago, King has had a ton of success in a very short amount of time. Over the past two seasons King and company have recorded seven wins and a Top fuel World Championship coming in 2008.

This season King is once again having a banner year as rookie driver Del Cox Jr. finds himself second in points with three wins and King is fourth, making it to his first career final round back in July.

But while Cox tries to give Mitch King Motorsports its second consecutive IHRA World Championship and King tries for his first career top-five finish, the big story this weekend doesn't surround either driver's championship hopes.

The real story this weekend is the debut of King's third car, completing a dream that even King didn't think would ever come to life.

"It is not something that we planned," King explained. "We just decided to get a third car and we picked up this brand new dragster 10 days before Indy and we debuted it there. It just kind of happened."

King debuted the new dragster at the U.S. Nationals last weekend at O'Reilly Raceway Park in Indianapolis with rookie Ron August behind the wheel. With the dragster fresh off the lot, August hopped in the car and got his license a few days before the event and then made his Top Fuel debut at one of the biggest drag races in the world last weekend.

"We took Ron to the test session at Indy and he ran some solid numbers in Del's car and we got his license and took him to Indy and put him in the new car," King said. "This thing is brand new and we are very excited about the opportunities that this opens up for our team."

Despite not making the field, August was able to pick up valuable seat time and now the 40-year-old from northern California will try to qualify for his first event this weekend at the Amalie Oil North American Nationals.

"He wanted some seat time and we were able to bring him over here. I am sure we are going to see a lot more of him this year," King said.

Ironically, the new ride was actually purchased for King and the original plan had August driving King's aptly named "Slinky" dragster. Instead, King will have to wait one more race before he gets to make his first pass in his all-new dragster.

"The car was actually built for me. It is my very first new car and I haven't got to drive it yet," King said. "We are looking to give Ron some seat time, but I am looking forward to getting behind the wheel. It is one bad machine."

If all goes as planned, King will finally get a chance to compete in his new dragster in two weeks at the IHRA President's Cup Nationals in Maryland. He will give up his current ride to Rob Bruce who will be the next driver to compete in a Mitch King backed dragster.

Right now, however, King has only one thing on his mind -- keeping Cox in the hunt for the title and helping August learn the ropes.

"We have got a brand new crank in Del's car and we hope to keep Del out front and in contention for this championship," King said. "Right now my car is the experiment. We have been stealing parts off of 'Slinky' to put in the new car, but we will get it put back together and hopefully get all three cars in the show."

If he can do that, King has the potential to put three cars in the eight-car field giving Mitch King Motorsports quite an advantage over the field.

ONE BAD WEEK

For the first three weeks in July, Pro Modified driver Ed Hoover was riding the high of his life.

With two straight wins at national events in Edmonton and Grand Bend, Hoover rocketed to the top of the Pro Mod point standings ahead of defending champion Kenny Lang and looked poised to pull away in the chase of his first career championship.

Then July came to an end.

The Northern Nationals started innocently enough, with Hoover wrapping up one of the most successful months of his career third on the qualifying charts entering Sunday's final eliminations, but with a new month came a few new challenges for Hoover and his team.

Hoover began the new month with a win over Harold Martin in the opening round, but his win streak of nine straight round wins dating back to the Sooner Nationals in June abruptly came to an end at the hands of Ike Maier.

"I headed toward the wall for some unknown reason. I say I was lined up wrong and my crew said I wasn't. Either way it drove over to the wall and I had to slap the gas and just got beat," Hoover said.

In the meantime rival Kenny Lang picked up his second win of the year and was able to erase any hint of a lead Hoover once had in jumping ahead by 56 points over Hoover.

"He went on and won the race and that took me right out of the lead and put him in a really good position," Hoover said. "I have to try to either beat him early or win them all."

Now Hoover travels to New England Dragway looking to get back on track and put himself back in championship contention with just three races remaining on the schedule.

"We have to capitalize on the next three races. We really need to win the last three races," Hoover said. "As impossible as that sounds to win three in a row in Pro Mod, that is what we need to do, especially with the way Lang and his crew are performing.

"He doesn't seem to have any bad luck like Ed Hoover does."

While Hoover was clearly disappointed to see all of his hard work disappear in just one race, if there is only one thing you can count on it is that Hoover will be right in the thick of the title hunt the rest of the season.

"We will try our best to fight for it. We have 12 rounds of racing left giving us a short time to do a whole lot," Hoover said. "The car is competitive enough to win races and I just have to try to do my best to get it done."

MAKING HIS MOVE

The reigning IHRA Pro Stock World Champion and defending winner of the Amalie Oil North American Nationals is currently sitting third in the Elite Motorsports Pro Stock point standings.

And with three races left to decide the '09 Championship, Pete Berner knows that now is the time to make his move.

While it may look like he's been quietly sitting back, awaiting his chance at the North American Nationals, that's not necessarily the case. Berner has actually been going non-stop over the past month, preparing for the championship battle.

"We've done some extensive testing with our new motor and have seen some very positive results," explains Berner. "We haven't quite found its perfect sweet spot, but we're already seeing better results than with some of our previous motors. We're going to run it here this weekend and see how it likes the cool New England weather.

"Knowing its potential I'm really excited to see what it can do here. With the good conditions, I know everyone will be posting numbers better than we've seen in a while. We could potentially see records fall, and I'd like to be the one to do it."

Berner, who won this event last year, is looking to repeat and keep front runners Frank Gugliotta and John Montecalvo from gaining any points.

"Frankie and Monte have both won this event before as well. They've been running good all year and have given the rest of us a challenge. But I also know that we've got what it takes to win here this weekend and that's what we're looking to do," Berner said. "We need to gain some points on Frankie and Monte to stay in this battle, and with just three races left, my team and I are going to be giving it all we've got. I like a good chase -- it makes for fun racing.

"This year is heating up to be a good one and the North American Nationals will be pivotal in the final points outcome. We're ready to give it all we've got."

-credit: ihra

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Series Drag
Drivers John Montecalvo , Ed Hoover , Mitch King , Harold Martin , Ron August , Kenny Lang , Frank Gugliotta