"MIR Spring Funny Car Classic Title to Weney" By Bill Pratt May 30 - Budds Creek, MD - Scott Weney, driving the Ken Sheetz Motorsports Firebird, totally dominated a fine field of East Coast match race funny cars at the 1998...
"MIR Spring Funny Car Classic Title to Weney" By Bill Pratt
May 30 - Budds Creek, MD - Scott Weney, driving the Ken Sheetz Motorsports Firebird, totally dominated a fine field of East Coast match race funny cars at the 1998 Maryland International Raceway "Spring Funny Car Classic." Weney, who had the field covered by a third of a second, used his uncanny driving ability and pure power to run away from the rest of the field. In addition to the funny cars, Royce Miller's Frantic Four classes added spice as the region's best Pro Mod and Top Dragster-type cars ran heads-up, four car qualified fields. Al and Rich Hanna were on hand with their Jet funny cars, and Danny O'Day had his wheelstander in the house for some wheels up action. To top it all off, the famous Green Monster moniker returned to the nation's drag strips, but on a jet-powered ATV!
The funnies ran Chicago Style: two rounds of racing with the two quickest cars returning for the final. Round one kicked off with an interesting time run by Tommy Gray in his 1953 Corvette Pro Mod, soon to be outfitted in its Undertaker paint job. Time runs and experimentation all day paid off for Tommy as the primer black 'Vette rewarded him with his first full pass of the year -- 6.568 at 211.86 mph.
The plastic fantastics were up next with Mike Preslar's newly rebodied Snapback Powders Ford Probe lining up against veteran Leroy Dewdney in his Olds Cutlass. Both cars have seen the 6.0s, but Dewdney showed off his knowledge of MIR's track surface a with a 6.27, 223 mph, straight as an arrow, pass as Preslar got out of shape and crossed the centerline. The next pair featured Bobby Baucom's North Carolina Trans Am up against MIR's favorite racer, Bunny Burkett. The IHRA regular and the lady locked up in the night's best match. Baucom jumped first, with Burkett right on his tail. The two were locked together all the way down the strip until Baucom nipped Bunny in the lights for a 6.302, 217.39 mph to 6.313, 222.00-mph squeaker.
The next pair was a real battle of the generations, with a 30-year veteran of East Coast drag wars taking on the newest member of the flopper set. Carnie Fryfogle lined up the Irvine Access Floors Firebird against young Billy Gibson. Gibson, shoeing the G&H Jewelers '97 Camaro, is a complete rookie to funny car racing, but has made waves over the past few years in Pro Stock and Pro Mod. At the green, Gibson got totally out of shape, but kept his foot planted in a seemingly futile pursuit of the fleeing Firebird. Fryfogle's mount began to slow, however, as Gibson's Chevy slalomed down the track after him. The crowd went nuts when Gibson let the win light with a 6.910, 214.11 mph decision over Carnie's 7.30 at 190 mph.
The final match of the round looked to be a serious showdown. Scott Weney slammed the always-tough Sheetz Racing Firebird down the MIR quarter with a patented 1000-foot burnout (followed by a 50-mph backup to the staring line!) In the other lane was Sam Leland, a driver who really has come into his own this year, hitting some 5.90s in IHRA competition. Weney displayed the difference between a driver who has run "some" 5.90s and a driver who LIVES in the 5-second zone! As Leland's Mason Dixon Raider shook hard to a 10.92 shut off, Weney rocketed down the strip to a jaw-dropping, early shut off 5.99 at 218.97 mph! The crowd was totally not ready for this and erupted in a roar!
Two funny car test runs were up next. First, Brian Weis, the younger brother of alky funny car star Scott Weis, made his full license pass in the number two Sherwin Williams Mustang. Running a blown alky motor (the team's primary racer has converted to injected nitro), Brian laid down 6.739 at 205.35 mph (after an earlier shut off 6.85 at 168 pass) to show he has what it takes. Scott Weney is having a blast with the number one SW car. He reports he still has no idea what the car wants in the way of tuning, and it already has gone 5.90s at 238 mph! Once Brian becomes comfortable in the number two car, the brothers will do a limited tour of exhibition match races in addition to following the IHRA tour.
The other time run had Bobby Martindale laying down a super 6.104 at 225.15 mph in the Mad-Dash Dodge Avenger. The interesting thing about this run is that although Martindale was not part of the show, his ET would turn out to be the second best of the night, and would have placed in the final with Weney!
Danny O'Day came out next and laid down an incredible half-track smoky burnout. Under Royce Miller's orders, the announcers did not mention the true nature of the car. Looking like a regular funny car, O'Day's Controlled? Insanity T-Bird backed up and prepared for what most in the crowd thought would be another low six-second assault. Looks of surprise overtook kids and adults alike as O'Day put it up on the rear two wheels and kept it that way all the way down the track for a 9.10, 140 mph spark thrower!
And now for something REALLY different: Mike West of Alliance, Ohio, brought out the latest incarnation of a drag racing vehicle to wear the venerable Arfons family "Green Monster" name -- a jet powered All Terrain Vehicle! Using an engine from a jet-powered helicopter, this thing seems little more than four wheels hooked to a big jet tube with an ATV quad body and handlebars hooked to the top! The show is restricted to eighth mile runs, clearly because this thing would get totally airborne (or sideways) over the full quarter! West took the nasty little beast to a 6.673, 120-mph blast in the eighth.
Next up were the Frantic Four doorslammers. Now in their sophomore year, Royce Miller's brainchild provides heads up, first-to-the-finish line racing for local Pro Mod and Top sportsman type cars and huge thrills for the crowd. Six doorslammers showed up for their second and final qualifying shot. Based on an earlier qualifying round, the Frantic Four field went like this: 1. Bob Bailey's nitrous '86 Monte Carlo, 7.082, 196.33; 2. 1997 Frantic Four Track Champ Frank Snellings, Jr's. non-nitrous '96 Lumina, 7.221, 191.92; 3. Wayne Bishop's Lam's Lumber Pro Stock '97 Camaro, 7.268, 190.86; and MIR Super Pro racer Mark Pullen, stepping up with a new '97 Monte Carlo at 8.73, 181.06. On the outside were the first man in the doorslammer sixes, Tommy Howes , whose bad, blown Camaro got WAY out of shape on a 14 second pass and Rod Saboury. Saboury had the twin distinction of having the biggest motor in the place at 813 cubic inches and the ability to drive his car out the gate if he wanted to (it is completely street legal)!
First up was a battle of Baltimore area cars, as Bob Bailey and Rick Everley faced off. Everley, who has the distinction of having beaten Ronnie Sox in an MIR USSC race, bumped out Mark Pullen and put his Low ET Racing Trans Am onto the bubble with a 7.640, 165.66 mph pass. Not pretty, but effective. Of course, he was a train length behind Bailey, who went 7.086 at 195 mph to display bracket-like, 7.0-second consistency! Bishop and Howes were up next. Most felt that Howes, who probably has more passes down the MIR 1320 than all the other Frantic Four racers combined, would click off a patented 6.60 pass to easily make the show. Howes did make it in, but with an uncharacteristic 7.333, 192.99-mph pass that bumped Everley and held off Bishop's close 7.424, 181.57 challenge.
Up next were '97 series champ Snellings and newcomer Pullen. Snellings seemed an obvious bet to win the qualifying match. After all, he proved to be the most consistent door car last year, winning the series over quicker blown and nitrous-assisted competitors. Pullen, on the other hand, had a drop-dead gorgeous new car with all the potential in the world, but had never been out of the eights. After that set up, dear readers, you have to know what's coming next: while Snellings slowed to a rare shut off, young Mark Pullen dropped a second and a half off his first round ET to blow Howes out of the show with an incredible 7.280 at 195.53 mph! What a time to run your career best ET! His crew was absolutely turning somersaults on the line. And the crowd about joined them.
Pullen couldn't relax, however. Up next were a pair of quick Corvettes: Johnny Heard's cool "Predator" '59 Top Sportsman machine and Rod Saboury's '53 Pro Streeter. While Heard's best times have been in the 7.70s, Saboury EXISTS in the 7.20 zone in NMCA competition and looked to have a good shot at taking Pullen out. Pullen's anxiety didn't last long, however. Heard broke on the line. Saboury popped and crackled down the track, the victim of continuing electronics problems.
Frantic Four Dragsters came up next for their final qualifying shot. The first qualifying round had produced only two ETs, but they were good ones. Larry Plummer's awesome 632 inch nitrous-injected Super Eliminator car slammed a great 6.664 at 204.82 mph to take the pole. Todd Connick, who has teamed up with Paul Harris and the "Yankee Doodle Too" this year, went 6.897 at 194.02 in the blown 388 inch Chevy Top Dragster. Last year's track champs, the Parlett Bros., uncharacteristically blew the block out of their blown Chevy Top Dragster and had to put it all back on the trailer.
Connick was up first in the second qualifying session. Facing the red, white, and blue car was the great looking "New Generation" blown altered of Rick "Surf" Stambaugh. Rick's first ever race in a fuel funny car culminated in a win over Jungle Jim Liberman (put THAT in your hats, trivia freaks!) The wild thing? This is the SAME CHASSIS! It's a 1971 Logghe, updated by S&W, with a 517-inch KB and a three speed Lenco on board. Bring on the fuel, Surf!!! Causing all kinds of confusion was the appearance in the tower of ANOTHER "Surf," a Washington, D.C., classic rock disc jockey. Connick took the qualifying match with a consistent 6.813 at 195.11 mph as Stambaugh unfortunately threw the blower belt and coasted.
Up next, Plummer rocketed to a superb 6.579 at 200.02 mph. Enjoying the view in the other lane was local Super Pro racer Sonny Hammett, whose bracket dragster went quick enough to insert himself into the field in third position at 7.526 at 177.53 mph.
Rounding out the marathon first round was a jet funny car match between the father and son team of Al and Rich Hanna. Rich Hanna's "First Strike" Firebird, history's fastest jet FC, took a decision over the latest in a long line of "Eastern Raiders," 5.890, 269.13 mph to 6.114, 263.56 mph.
A quick 90 minutes later, the funnies were back on the track for round two. It would be their last chance to try to make the final. Weney was in so far with his 5.99, and Leroy Dewdney's 6.27 qualified him. Dewdney, "The Lone Ranger," was in the first pair, his unlettered black Cutlass lining up against Carnie Fryfogle's TFX-powered Pontiac. Fryfogle's solid 6.398 at 221.78-mph run took the match, but did not get him into the final. All eyes were on Dewdney anyway -- Leroy's mount headed straight for the left wall right off the starting line, but Dewdney refused to lift. The veteran wrestled the beast all the way down the strip, just inches away from the concrete barrier. It was a 6.796-second, 199.26-mph display of pure machismo. Baucom and Preslar faced off next. Baucom prevailed in a 6.526, 180.30 mph to 6.536, 217.39 match-up that would have been great if it weren't for the .527 to .698 second difference in reaction times! Baucom won in a walk.
Bunny was up next, her magenta and black "Bunny and the Boys" Dodge Avenger always a candidate for best appearing car. Bunny spotted Mike Preslar a .511 to .669 second head start, then embarked on a search and destroy mission, blasting by the Ford at the top end, 6.306, 219.58 mph to 6.601, 198.23. With a quarter second on the field, there clearly was no reason for Scott Weney to drive the Sheetz Racing Pontiac out the back door. Somebody forgot to tell Scott, however, as he embarrassed the rest of the troops with an AWESOME 5.944-second, 234.82 mph blast STRAIGHT DOWN THE CENTER OF THE RIGHT LANE. The impact of this run just does not translate on paper. With all the other funnies shaking, spinning, and generally going this way and that, Sheetz' s candy apple red missile looked like it was on rails. His .948 second 60-foot time was pretty awesome, too. Oh, by the way, Billy Gibson was shaking his head off in the other lane, eventually limping through to an 11.82-second, 59-mph surrender.
Danny O'Day was looking for a low 9.0 pass after spinning the tires on the first round 9.10. Didn't happen, but Danny was ready for the Super Pro show with a consistent 9.15 at 138 mph wheelie that entertained the crowd. O'Day reports that he is constructing a top secret wheelstanding machine that will have the smallest frontal area of any wheelstander ever constructed. He expects easy 8.50s at 160 mph.
After Mike West lowered his own, one-run old Jet ATV track record to a 6.520 at 121.83 mph in the eighth mile (ok, so I'm kidding about recording this for a track record!), it was time for first round of Frantic Four doorslammers. Bob Bailey's massive, full-size '86 Monte lined up against Mark Pullen's bubble-like 1997 version of the same car. Night and day don't BEGIN to describe the difference. Both cars lost a bit from their qualifying runs, but Pullen lost more. His SECOND quickest run ever didn't touch his first, a still-searching 7.848 at 186.98 mph pass was no match for Bailey's otherwise vulnerable 7.314 at 181.13. Pullen and his team had a great time and did well for a bunch of guys going it alone. No high dollar advisors in that camp… good luck to 'em in the future. Snellings then stepped up and showed how he took the championship last year. While Bailey slowed two tenths, Snellings dropped a tenth to drive around a one-tenth second Wayne Bishop holeshot, 7.116, 189.71 mph to 7.847, 148.51. Tommy Howes then came up to the line to make a run for one purpose only -- pride. He did just that, as the red Suncoast Race Cars-built '90 Camaro tamed MIR with a 6.903 at 201.70 mph pass after a rather lazy 1.11-second 60-foot time.
Frantic Four Dragster opened with Larry Plummer's nitrous killer taking on Rick Stambaugh's AA/Fuel Altered (sans fuel!). Plummer took an easy win at 6.727 at 198.03 mph, but the 23-T stayed with him most of the way and made it's best run ever (on only its tenth pass in the new configuration). The altered went 7.649 at 173.43 mph. In the next match, Sonny Hammett delivered his best Super Pro leave with a great .417, but Connick was pretty good with a .442 himself. Besides, the Yankee Doodle Too had supercharged, 6.778 at 196.02 mph power that simply walked away from the carbureted car's 7.937 at 172.12 mph.
After a 6.90, 160 mph Tommy Gray shutoff (that indicated 6.50 potential), Rich Hanna made it two straight against dad, the First Strike car again taking out the 'Raider, 5.864, 269.13 mph to 6.090, 265.69 mph.
Ninety minutes later, the funnies were ready for the final. Although he had run 6.27 in the first round, Leroy Dewdney said he could not make the final round. Promoters had to go to the third decimal to decide who got to race Scott Weney. Bobby Baucom beat out Bunny Burkett by a mere .004 seconds! His first round 6.302 got the nod over her second round 6.306. Bunny's the promoter of the War on Wheels Funny Car circuit, and you won't find a fairer one (actually, as promoters go, that counts for LOOKS as well as honesty!) Consequently, Bunny was only too happy to put Baucom in the final against the handlebar-mustached hauler from Spring City, PA. It was over quickly and mercifully. Weney's 6.017 at 222.29 mph sent Baucom's 6.598 at 209.26 mph effort back to Charlotte. Weney put on a clinic, pure and simple. None of the War on Wheels cars are a slouch -- every one has 5.80s, 5.90s, or at least 6.0s on their resumes -- but Weney and the Sheetz Racing team displayed total, complete, and utter dominance.
Danny O'Day came back one more time with another entertaining run that nailed his ET prediction right on the head, a 9.032 at 130.91 pass that was just .03 off his own MIR track record.
The rabid MIR doorslammer fans definitely remained on their feet for the next match. Bob Bailey's nitrous Monte had dominated qualifying, then lost a step in the first round. Frank Snellings' "F.A.S. Racing" non-nitrous Lumina ran 7.20s in qualifying, then a good 7.11 in the first round. Could Bailey recover his 7.0s or would Snellings do what he did to the troops last year, kill them with consistency? Well, chalk one up for the big horsepower cars. Bailey recovered his poise and found the sixes for a 6.981, 196.07 mph to beat Snellings' expectedly-consistent 7.131 at 189.87.
The Frantic Four Dragster final was good, with both cars remaining incredibly consistent. Unfortunately for Todd Connick, Larry Plummer remained consistent in the 6.60s and Connick remained consistent in the 6.70s. Plummer's nitrous digger took the measure of Connick's blown small block, 6.662 at 195.31 mph to 6.794 at 196.24 mph. Both Frantic Four classes are a hoot. The fans love 'em, the racers love 'em, and you can see them ONLY at MIR 'cause Royce Miller INVENTED 'em!
Tommy Gray came back again and proved that The Undertaker is officially ready for its new paint job. The little Corvette sounded good as it hit all the shifts and nailed a great 6.523 at 209.72 mph with a 1.039 60-foot time. If you thought the last Undertaker had a wild paint job, you ain't seen nothin' yet! Get a load of the drawings if you get a chance, or better yet, wait a week or two and check out the actual car at a race or on TV. Gray designs the paint jobs himself. There something SERIOUSLY WRONG with that boy!
Sure glad it wasn't Father's Day for the jet funny car final because Rich Hanna showed Al Hanna NO MERCY whatsoever, taking three straight with a 5.848, 270.81 mph to 6.041, 266.69 mph decision. Al was a step behind Scott in ET all day long, but both cars were beautifully prepared, put on a terrific fire show, and never ran slower than 263 mph all day long. Good job as usual.
Once again, Royce and Linda Miller and Maryland International Raceway proved that Match Race drag racing is not dead. You just gotta look for it a bit! In my ten years of announcing and spectating at MIR, this was the cleanest, tightest show I've seen. The entire program finished WELL before midnight. Unreal. Great job, MIR. The next big event at MIR is the Big Rig Truck Nationals on June 6th, featuring racing categories from Big Rigs to mini pickups and literally every type of truck in between. Fans will enjoy exhibition runs by the outrageous RamJet pickup truck and Bill Golden's legendary "Little Red Wagon" wheelstander.