WW2 Reflects on March meet

WW2 Reflects on March meet by Cole Coonce, NR Mojo Wire Santa Rosa, CA--After a couple of days passing, it is time for the WW2 team members to process their feelings and reflect on their runner-up finish at last weekend's Goodguys 41st March ...

WW2 Reflects on March meet
by Cole Coonce, NR Mojo Wire

Santa Rosa, CA--After a couple of days passing, it is time for the WW2 team members to process their feelings and reflect on their runner-up finish at last weekend's Goodguys 41st March Meet.

This year's March Meet Top Fuel final was a rematch of the 1999 final round--"Wild Bill" Alexander in the right lane, Jim "Holy Smokes" Murphy and the WW2 machine in the left--and the stakes were pushed once again, especially when one factors in the reality that Alexander had never won a March Meet in his long and fabled career.

But although the drivers were the same, many details were different this year, however, including Alexander's team and machinery; Alexander was flying the colors and livery of John Eirich's Merced-based "Ground Zero" machine while last year he was shoeing for Frank "Root Beer" Hedge's Mastercam AA/FD. But beyond that, the most obvious difference in the final round combatants, however, was the WW2 team's state of mind...

Last year, to say the WW2 team was emotionally punchdrunk as they conquered Top Fuel at the March Meet would be an understatement. Their team leader, Jim Herbert, had passed on unexpectedly just a few days before the event and as an uncanny salutation, Murphy assumed the role of team leader and rallied the survivors to victory in one of the most inspirational charges to ever grace drag racing's history.

"That was a very emotional deal--a real tough deal," Murphy remembers. "It was like this mission we were on." In contrasting this year's race, whereupon WW2 runner-upped to Alexander in a dramatic duel that saw three lead changes, to the 1999 vintage upon which Murphy triumphed on a solo jaunt as Alexander's ride caught on fire at the starting line (twice!), Murphy said, "We certainly wanted to win, but we are more lighthearted about everything this year.

"Last year we were the crowd favorite," he explained, "it was a special deal. Even 'Root Beer' said he didn't know who to root for--and it was his car he were racing."

In this year's front-motored Top Fuel wars, the emotional dynamic has changed for WW2, and as they continue the proud tradition established by Jim Herbert, the team is slowing gaining a sense of closure over his loss while establishing their own identity. As they honorably begin to slowly shed the heartfelt sentimentality that accompanied the car at every meet it entered last year, Murphy himself began to crank up the trackside rhetoric at the March Meet.

About the fueler wars this year in general and the match with Alexander in specific, Murphy's tone was a little more strident than before: "We will be best of friends going up, but we'll want to rip their hearts out when we get to the starting line--and the feeling is mutual, I guarantee you."

Murphy expressed regret for not taking the event win, particularly after Brian Van Dyke and Cal West Labor (one of the teams' associate sponsors) doubled the March Meet Winner's Purse as well as an annual donation of the Jim Herbert Memorial Trophy, an award claimed by Murphy last year and demonstrably cherished by it current possesor, John Eirich.

So yeah, dominating the field and claiming both the dough and the trophy granted in memory of Herbert would have been quite the coup, but Murphy remained philosphical about losing the final round to Alexander, a grizzled gunslinger of a dragster driver, who claimed his first ever March Meet title ever with a timeslip that read 6.10 to 6.17.

"I told Bill he was my second choice," Murphy said, while also noting what good friends Herbert and Eirich had been.

And while praising the efforts of his entire team, including the engine work done by Ron Rapadas, Murphy felt it was worth noting that a team meeting was imminent to "sharpen our knife," a meeting called partly in reaction to a port line having worked itself loose in the final round, starving one cylinder for fuel and depriving the engine of horsepower.

"I do the fuel system," Murphy admitted sheepishly, before commenting on how well Herbert had regimented duty and delegated responsibility.

With that as a barometer, look for a more streamlined and focused sense of organization at the next event that WW2 will compete in, the Goodguys Jim Davis Nitro Nationals at Sears Point Int'l Raceway, April 15 & 16.

MORE WW2 MARCH MEET: A wheels up, set-the-controls-for-the-heart-of-the-sun duel between Murphy and #2 qualifier Butch Blair during the first round of eliminations at the March Meet reminded Murphy of something that happened at Seattle against Jerry "the King" Ruth more than a few moons ago.

Against Blair, Murphy carried the front end to the edge of prudent judgement and massaged the brake as the front end finally set itself down. His rationale for keeping the butterflies open was based on a comment from Ruth, who lost traction against Murphy and watched him almost tip one over almost thirty years.

"Ruth told me down at the shutdown area that as long as I could still the horizon I should keep my foot in it," Murphy recalled.

To keep the WW2 fueler off the precipice of a blower-type situation, the WW2 crew added additional fuel for ballast on the front end.

So: "More and fuel and keep your eyes on the horizon..." If that doesn't exemplify the state of the retro fueler scene, what does?

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