Norwalk: Laurie Cannister preview

Cannister expects a comfortable ride At World Nationals NORWALK, Ohio-When Laurie Cannister begins qualifying Thursday for the IHRA's 24th annual Mopar Parts World Nationals presented by Ethanol, her Funny Car will be a lot more comfortable.

Cannister expects a comfortable ride At World Nationals

NORWALK, Ohio-When Laurie Cannister begins qualifying Thursday for the IHRA's 24th annual Mopar Parts World Nationals presented by Ethanol, her Funny Car will be a lot more comfortable. She'll be a lot safer, too.

Cannister is one of four drivers testing a prototype air seat pad that keeps drivers from being tossed violently in their cars during severe tire shakes. The others helping in the R&D for the David Clark Company are Clay Millican, Scotty Cannon and Gary Scelzi.

The seat pad is designed with air bladders in them and can be place in different spots, according to the needs and build of the driver.

"Like for me, there is one at my lower back, one on each side and one at the top of my back, and it gets blown up after you're strapped in," Cannister says. "(Company representative) Dennis (Heilmann) pumps up each bladder until it feels comfortable without squeezing me too hard."

Cannister discovered the seat pads while comparing notes with Millican, who already was using the device. She told him how she was being jerked out of her seat when pulling the parachute despite being tightly strapped in. She also mentioned blurred vision caused by tireshake.

Millican thought Cannister would be a good candidate to test the seat and contacted Heilmann on her behalf.

The Clinton, Pa., resident considers the benefit to be twofold-safety and comfort, especially with the tire shakes that are associated with Funny Cars.

"The safety part is when I pull my chute it doesn't pull me out of my seat because the side airbags hold onto to my rib cage. The other thing is that it takes up the space between my back and seat so it gives your lower back a lot of support for any kind of movement in the car," Cannister adds. "It lessens the blow to your body. Some of the tireshake that I encounter causes your eyes to get blurry, and you can't negotiate what you're doing.

"In New York (Leicester race) when I tried the seat, I had tireshake twice that I didn't realize it happened. My crew saw it with their eyes, but I was able to drive and concentrate on what I was doing instead of having my brains shaking out and vision blurred."

While the device still is in the experimental stage, she thinks the seat will become widely used and wouldn't be surprised if it some form of this pad is accepted other sanction groups like NASCAR.

"It will do a lot of good for all these cars that experience a lot of G-force," Cannister says.

The new air pad seat should enable Cannister to see what she's doing a lot better during the Mopar World Nationals, while trying to build on her recent successes as a first-year Funny Car driver. The former Pro Outlaw champ reached her first finals during the last IHRA stop in Stanton, Mich. She also had advanced to the semifinals in two of her three previous races and has failed to qualify just once, the season opener.

"We didn't expect to be this far, in fifth place (in points)," says Cannister, who feels she's ahead of her preseason projections. "Our objective when we started was to qualify. Once we qualified, our objective was to go rounds, one round at a time. We're above our expectations in how we're doing."

She places a lot of the credit on her crew for its improvement in judging the tracks, the weather conditions and making the car go down the track.

A lot of it is Cannister, too, as she has adapted quickly in the switch from Pro Outlaw to Funny Car. The big difference has been the ways the cars handle.

"Driving a dragster or pro outlaw car is more of a finesse type of driving," Cannister points out. "You don't steer them, you guide them more. In a Funny Car because the wheelbase is so much shorter, you have to really steer them. You have to grab it like you're wrestling it."

Cannister has desire to do well for two reasons. First, it's the biggest IHRA race of the season and secondly, it's close to home.

"We really want to win this," Cannister says. "I won it once in pro outlaw (1999), and we're going to give it everything we have. And we have all the stuff fixed we hurt in Stanton."

In Stanton, the main engine suffered in qualifying when a couple of main caps were cracked, and in the final round, three rods came out of the side of the engine.

Now that the car is fixed, Cannister is ready to put on her biggest show in her short funny-car career.

"It's the home track for the IHRA, and they draw the biggest crowds with seating for 25,000 or 30,000," Cannister. "The Funny Cars will be on Speedvision."

Cannister hopes a good showing before a TV audience will help her land a major sponsor. She also wants to do well for her associate sponsors such as Ron Wolf, CompetitionPlus.com Internet Magazine and Flat Out Race Gaskets for being able to make it to Norwalk.

For the latest on Cannister and the other stars of the IHRA tour, log on to the Internet's largest drag-racing e-zine at www.competitionplus.com.

-CP-

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Series Drag
Drivers Laurie Cannister , Clay Millican , Gary Scelzi , Scotty Cannon , David Clark