HEDGE & ALEXANDER MASTERCAM AA/FUEL DRAGSTER MARCH MEET HIGHLITES by Cole Coonce, NR LOS ANGELES, MARCH 28, 1999--Two weeks have passed since the culmination of the Goodguys 40th March Meet, and emotions are still bubbling like a fountain ...
HEDGE & ALEXANDER MASTERCAM AA/FUEL DRAGSTER MARCH MEET HIGHLITES by Cole Coonce, NR
LOS ANGELES, MARCH 28, 1999--Two weeks have passed since the culmination of the Goodguys 40th March Meet, and emotions are still bubbling like a fountain throughout the front-motored Top Fuel community as teams gear up for the 11th Nitro Nationals (nee Jim Davis Memorial Drags), May 1-2, at Sears Point Int'l Raceway.
Come the Nitro Nationals, a topic of conversation that will be on informed nitromaniacs lips will be how emotions had reached a poignant pitch during the final round of competition on Sunday, March 14th. In that heat Mastercam AA/FD owner Frank "Root Beer" Hedge and his driver, "Wild Bill" Alexander, found themselves in a unique position as contestants against the "W.W. II" machine for Top Fuel Eliminator. "It is a no-lose situation for us, " said Alexander, in reference to W.W. II defending their March Meet title days after Jim Herbert, the team's leader, had passed on from heart aneurysm. "If we win, we claim the March Meet. If we lose, we help close a story book weekend."
Win or lose, it had been charmed weekend for the Mastercam team, beginning with qualifying as Alexander posted a career best elapsed time at 6.08 (accompanied by a speed of 222 mph). Suprisingly, for all the accolades of a lifetime performance, this netted the Mastercam team the unenviable #5 position on the elimination ladder and pitted Alexander against "Swingin' Sammy" Hale and the Chevy-powered Champion Speed Shop fueler which had procured the pole position after lighting up the scoreboards during qualifying with a jaw-dropping, benchmark performance of 5.87 @ 232 mph.
But in eliminations the Champion team made a strategic mistake as they continued on its aggressive stance against Hedge & Alexander, and boiled the slicks to a losing 6.54 against Bill's superior 6.17 at an impressive 234 mph. Despite an aggresive clutch set-up, kismet continued to bless Alexander in the semi-final round of eliminations. His competition, Rick McGee in the Tedford, Hester & McGee entry, appeared en route to an easy victory as the Mastercam machine struck the tires on the launch and limped down the racetrack. At 1000' feet, however, as McGee was all alone in the end zone he struck the centerline cones and was disqualified. This transgression was an absolute kidney punch to the Tedford team, but it left "Root Beer" Hedge with the uneasy task of playing Snidely Whiplash to the W.W. II team's Dudley Dooright. . .
Despite any perceived trepidation concerning spoiling a Cinderella story, the Mastercam machine was loaded for bear in the final round. The motor was as loud, over-the-top and boisterous as it has ever sounded. The burnout was particularly deafening. As Bill pulled 'er into the beams, the blower straps caught *ON FIRE* due to a leak out of the left header bank. Starter Larry Sutton doused the flames with a fire extinguisher and motioned Bill into the beams (!); the blower straps caught on fire again and Sutton hit the extinguisher once more before giving Bill the kill sign. Sutton then wheeled around and held up one finger to Murphy. It was a touching coda to one of the most emotional weekends in drag racing as crew members gathered around Murphy and the WW II machine in a semi-circle, most of whom raised the right hand and the air and extended their index fingers. As Murphy popped the parachutes at the culmination of a 6.23, 208 victory lap, railbirds, racers and bleacher bums were openly weeping.
11th Nitro Nationals (nee Jim Davis Memorial Drags), May 1-2, 1999, Sears Point Int'l Raceway
Pro Nitro, May 15, Southwestern International Raceway, Tucson, AZ
Note: Due to a difference in opinion re the LACR's California Classic Series, the Mastercam AA/FD team, defending champions of the series, were absent last week for the first race of the 1999 series. Future appearances are predicated upon resolving fidicuary issues with LACR. Stay tuned. . .
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