ROCKINGHAM, NC. - Alan Pittman and the Westbrook Motorsports team are nearing the end of the 2001 IHRA Summit Racing season, and based on the bumps, bruises and scars often sported by everyone involved, included their beautiful supercharged 1941...
ROCKINGHAM, NC. - Alan Pittman and the Westbrook Motorsports team are nearing the end of the 2001 IHRA Summit Racing season, and based on the bumps, bruises and scars often sported by everyone involved, included their beautiful supercharged 1941 Willys Pro Mod machine, it's a year they hope to emerge from not just older, but also much wiser.
Heading into the 3rd Annual CARQUEST Autumn Nationals at Rockingham Dragway, race number nine on the eleven-race schedule, the Ken and Sylvia Westbrook-owned team were on an upward swing as far as their late season performance was concerned. Pittman, of Pelzer, South Carolina, jumped out to a great start early in the season, including winning the season opener at this very track. But he later fell on hard times, forced to weather a storm of mysterious electrical and mechanical difficulties at mid-season.
Finally getting a handle on the situation, the team roared back at the previous stop on the tour, the Amalie Oil North American Nationals in Epping, NH, where the swoopy red and silver Willys served notice that it was back by running a bullish 6.246 at 227.04 miles per hour to qualify third in the field. At Rockingham, Pittman came out for qualifying with a relatively competitive tune-up and laid down a 6.391 at 216.24 in the first session. His next attempt provided a slight improvement, but the 6.371 at 218.12 was still off the pace, and only good enough for the number 14 spot after the first day.
On Saturday, Pittman's early pass saw the big Willys get out of shape, forcing him to abandon the run. With just one opportunity left to jump into the top half of the field, Pittman roared to a 6.248, 216.79, nearly equaling his previous best at Epping, and landing in the number 3 spot once again.
In the elimination rounds, Pittman kept the heat on, dispatching Paul Athey and Tommy Mauney on his way to a semi-final match-up with points leader Mike Janis, who was aiming to wrap up his first championship at this race. It was a good, hard-fought race, but Janis has been on a mission all year, and once again he came out on top, his 6.321 besting Pittman's game 6.344. But it was another strong outing for the team, something they can build on for the future.
"We've been through it all this year, and I don't think any team has worked as hard as us, or struggled as much," Pittman said. "All in all, though, the pluses outweigh the minuses. This is just our second year, and I think we've been as tough as anyone to beat when we were on our game. We kept everybody in check for most of the season, in spite of our problems. We'll take everything we've learned and put it to good use the rest of the way, and come back stronger next season."