Lee Fights Off Early Qualifying Troubles, Advances to Pro Stock Semi-Finals Epping, NH - Kingsport, Tennessee's Tom Lee had a sinking feeling in the pit of his stomach after Friday's first two qualifying sessions for the IHRA's 6th Annual Amalie...
Lee Fights Off Early Qualifying Troubles, Advances to Pro Stock Semi-Finals
Epping, NH - Kingsport, Tennessee's Tom Lee had a sinking feeling in the pit of his stomach after Friday's first two qualifying sessions for the IHRA's 6th Annual Amalie Oil Northern nationals in Epping, New Hampshire the veteran driver missed the setup in the first session, shook the tires, got sideways and coasted through the lights. The second session yielded an equally non-productive result, as Lee's ride shook again, causing him to abandon the attempt.
In a fight to maintain his hold on second spot in the Sunoco Race Fuels Pro Stock points standings, he knew he'd have to get the Charlie Taylor-owned Mustang cleanly and quickly down the New England Dragway track in one or both of his final opportunities in order to improve on his tenuous 15th position in the provisional field.
Saturday proved to be a much better day for the Ford team, with a 6.724 in the third session allowing Lee to leapfrog into the number nine spot. Working from the improved baseline, Lee was finally able to make a pass more representative of his season-long performance, his stout 6.647at 210.34 good enough for third spot overall.
With the "A" tune-up finally dialed in, Lee went out on Sunday, and proceeded to cut a swath through the assembled field, cutting good lights, and running consistent 6.6 passes en route to wins over John Bartunek and Brian Gahm.
Advancing to the semi-finals, Lee found himself up against the Chevy Cavalier of rival John Montecalvo, who was having a big weekend himself. After an extended staging battle, Montecalvo moved in first, followed quickly by Lee. As the amber flashed, the Cavalier moved out first, 0.473 to 0.492, and held off a determined Lee to take the win by 0.034 seconds, 6.649 at 209.39 to 6.660 210.14
When the dust settled, points leader Gene Wilson had added to his win skein, and his points lead, by capturing his sixth victory in eight outings this year. But Lee still holds onto the number two position, and with a 115-point bulge over third place driver Ron Miller, and just three events left on the 2001 Summit Drag Racing schedule, he's determined to fight to the finish.
"It's been a tough year for all of us with Gene running so strong," Lee commented. "He's just had everything go his way, and it happens like that sometime. But it's also a real challenge to maintain such a pace, and we'll be ready to jump in if he stumbles. Racing luck has a way of turning on you when you least expect it, we all know that. I'm not wishing anybody bad luck, but anything can happen. As long as there are still races to win, we'll never quit thinking that we can get the job done."
For more information on Tom Lee, check out his website at www.tomleeracing.com, or log into drag racing's largest Internet magazine at www.competitionplus.com.