DINWIDDIE, Va. - The Chamber of Commerce for Dinwiddie, Virginia couldn't have ordered better conditions for the opening day of the CompetitionPlus.com Spring Open presented by LIZZARD Racing Engines. Temperatures have settled into the upper ...
DINWIDDIE, Va. - The Chamber of Commerce for Dinwiddie, Virginia couldn't have ordered better conditions for the opening day of the CompetitionPlus.com Spring Open presented by LIZZARD Racing Engines. Temperatures have settled into the upper sixty-degree range and they are expected to surpass that mark on Friday. Upon first inspection of the pit area at Virginia Motorsports Park, there appear to be more entries present than in last year's running, and many teams are still en route.
While the cars are hitting the track, there are quite a few stories unfolding in the pit area. The heavily publicized trout of IHRA Pro Stock World Champion Gene Wilson for the Team Mopar camp earlier this week had all eyes focused on the Charlie Hunt team. Also making the trek to Dinwiddie was former two-time IHRA World Champion Billy Huff. The rumors have Wilson bolting for the Mopar camp and Huff as his potential replacement. That's not exactly the case. As of now, nothing has been announced in the Mopar camp, and until then Wilson is still the driver and Huff acknowledged that. Huff pointed out that he is merely trying to catch up for lost seat time. The Louisville, KY-based veteran hasn't competed in the Pro Stock ranks in nearly five years.
Regardless of who ends up driving, they'll be driving in style. The same Mercury Cougar that Wilson drove to the 2001 title is sporting a new look paint scheme with the name "Bad Cat" on the side.
Speaking of new looks, none could be any more different than Mike Ashley's Pro Modified operation. The New York-based mortgage banker has abandoned his trademark nitrous-injected combination and the very beautiful 1963 Corvette that he ran last year has been replaced with a sinister-looking 1953 Studebaker, complete with a Tom Anderson-prepared supercharged engine from Jan-Cen Racing Engines. The one thing that remains constant is the Gotham City theme, which has become his trademark identity over the years.
The new looks for Hunt and Ashley are the products of two up-and-coming painters. The Cougar is the handiwork of Travis Raleigh, while the tandem of Mark Brown and Mark Adams created the masterpiece on Ashley's ride.
Returning to action in the Funny Car ranks was Canadian Rob Atchinson. Atchinson made his first run since an accident derailed his racing effort in Norwalk last season.
The Pro Modifieds were working on their short runs during the first day. Probably the most talked about effort was Ashley's first run in a blower car that netted a 1.00 sixty-footer. After a hard launch, the Studebaker drifted to the left, but Ashley deftly pedaled the car and still reeled off a 4.11 before clicking it early. A spectator probably summed it up the best by saying in amazement, "That boy drove that car like he stole it." For the record, that was the quickest short run that he'd ever made.
Lost in the shuffle of the quick Pro Stock runs was the opening shot delivered by Ron Miller. Miller was the first of the Pro Stocks to make a complete run and he cranked out a 6.59 in the second run on his brand new Rick Jones-built Cavalier.
If the home team always rules supreme, then the CompetitionPlus.com-sponsored flopper of John Vouros had the locals smiling. The IHRA Rookie of the Year made the quickest lap among the Funny Cars with a 5.841, 234.57. On his two previous runs, the new look machine rattled the tires and once simultaneously smoked the tires. The new graphics on the machine could be worth a tenth when it is all said and done. If not, a Best Appearing Award could be on the horizon.