Fuller and Dunlap Dodge a Bullet



by Cole Coonce, NR Mojo Wire

2/12/00, Tucson, AZ--In the movies, when two gunfighters draw their six irons in the Arizona desert the weather is always balmy, but a cold drag strip chilled by a frigid crosswind and overcast skies did not dampen the intensity of the first showdown for position on the NR AA/Fuel Dragster List, enacted between the front-engined Top Fuel dragsters of Lee Jennings and Mike Fuller Motorsports during qualifying at Pro Nitro's "Desert Thunder Nationals."

Fuller, #4 on the List, threw down the gauntlet in the staging lanes and heated up the day's proceedings as his driver, Bill "the Heartbreaker" Dunlap, dodged a bullet while claiming the #3 spot, heretofore held by Lee Jennings and his California Trucking front-engined Top Fuel dragster.

Other development was the outtasite performance of Butch Blair and his "Fugowie" AA/FD, as he lit up the scoreboards with a pole position 6.23 at 229 mph, numbers which stood for Low ET and Top Speed (stats rewarded by the List) and enabled Blair to catapult from below the radar and into the #8 spot.

Here's how the challenge went down: Jennings cut a holeshot and got out a car length on Dunlap, but got sideways just past half track, bearing right and striking the 1000' timing cone. "I clicked it off because he got the cone and came over to my lane," is how Dunlap described the run from his vista. "I think I was gaining on him but at the 1000' ft. mark I had to click it." Jennings caromed back into his lane and nearly hits the guardrail while getting to the big end first with a 6.53 in dramatic fashion, a number that was merely academic as his poaching into Dunlap's lane resulted in disqualification.

Indeed, by virtue of the "first or worst" laws of drag racing, Dunlap advanced to the #3 position on the list, despite trailing Jennings with a 6.83. In acknowledging the fortuitous nature of his accomplishment, and in reference to the performance of his dragster, Dunlap demurred that, "She was a little lazy."

Dunlap was gracious and philosophical about his advance on the List: "A win is a win," he surmised. "It was kind of ugly, but we'll take it."

Jennings, meanwhile, focused on the r&d aspect of the run, particularly in reference to his team's decision to jettison the dragster's canard wings. "We were not positive--and we still aren't--they were having a positive downforce effect," he rhapsodized. "It's too early to tell, but on marginal tracks where they should help the most, we have not seen an advantage to them." In fact, "They definitely aren't needed to half track, we just proved that. "

It was sort of deja vu all over again for Bill Dunlap, who had some anxious moments while driving a Top Gas car for Dick Oswald in the mid-60s and racing for position on the now defunct Drag News List, upon which the NR List is loosely modeled. "I can remember how I won on the Drag News Gas Eliminator list against Aragone and Gregg," Bill reminisced. "They fouled and come across and darn near run into the back of me. They got up on two wheels and come behind me, fortunately I didn't see it."

After being informed that there only two cars, WW2 and Gotelli Speed Shop, ahead of the Mike Fuller entry on the list, Dunlap exclaimed that "We'd like to nail one of those guys--(in fact) both of 'em."

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