Rockingham: Lee sets record, runner-up finish

ROCKINGHAM, NC - Tom Lee may have gotten used to seeing his name in the IHRA's Pro Stock record books, but that doesn't mean he'll ever stop trying to rewrite it. In fact, the four-time national event winner from Kingsport, Tennessee showed up...

ROCKINGHAM, NC - Tom Lee may have gotten used to seeing his name in the IHRA's Pro Stock record books, but that doesn't mean he'll ever stop trying to rewrite it. In fact, the four-time national event winner from Kingsport, Tennessee showed up at the IHRA's season-opening 31st Annual Holley Springs Nationals with a freshly sharpened pencil in his pocket.

During pre-season testing, Lee's new Charlie Taylor-owned Mustang, tuned by Cliff Moore, the IHRA's "Wrench of the Year" last year, was a rampaging stallion right out of the gate. On the heels of a super strong performance in 2000, which included a win at last fall's event at Rockingham, Lee hit the ground running in February, and lowered the Sunoco Fuels Pro Stock mark to 6.57.

"We knew at the conclusion of last season that we had the toughest car out there, and that we were more than capable of holding our own, " said Lee at the time. "I don't think I'm sticking my neck out when I predict that we're going to be a team that will be tough to deal with this year."

Lee knows that predictions can often come back and bite you, but he was very confident when he made that statement, and after this weekend's race, he's even more so. On his first regular season run of 2001, Lee stormed to the early qualifying lead with a 6.712/206.92, and found himself in second position overall once the smoke had cleared. During the second round, he restated his promise to be tough to deal with by laying down a blazing 6.611/208.65 to reclaim the top spot after day one.

On Saturday, Lee solidified his grip on the number one position by posting runs of 6.638/207.82 and 6.604/208.71. In the elimination rounds, Lee sent Steve Speiss, John Montecalvo and Dwayne Rice to the sidelines before facing off against number 2 qualifier, holeshot artist Gene Wilson, in the final. Lee blasted to a jaw dropping 6.552 on the run, the quickest Pro Stock elapsed time ever, but he was unable to make up the starting-line jump Wilson grabbed by virtue of a .423 reaction time.

There's not much doubt that Tom Lee would rather have had the win instead of the new record, but it all adds up over the course of a long season. You just have to know that that 6.55 has gotten everyone's attention. The Ford versus GM rivalry promises to be one of the highlights of the IHRA tour this year, and Tom Lee has served notice that he intends to lead the charge to the championship in 2001.

Lee has his own website at www.tomleeracing.com.

-Brian Wood

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Series Drag
Drivers Gene Wilson , Dwayne Rice , John Montecalvo