Bristol: Cory McClenathan finals summary

Eliminations: Cory McClenathan Qualified No. 4: 4.609 seconds at 313.66 mph Round ...

Eliminations: Cory McClenathan
Qualified No. 4: 4.609 seconds at 313.66 mph
Round #1: Cory Mac (4.745/307.23) def. Scott Weis (5.045/256.41)
Round #2 (Quarter-Finals): Cory Mac (4.858/292.46) def. Rhonda Hartman-Smith (4.927/276.58)
Round #3 (Semifinals): Cory Mac (4.725/316.52) lost to Larry Dixon (4.582/323.19)

McClenathan makes semifinal for fifth time in six events; moves to third in points.

BRISTOL, Tenn. -- After a short rain delay, eliminations got underway today for the NHRA Mac Tools Thunder Valley Nationals, the sixth of 23 events on the 2002 NHRA POWERade® Drag Racing Series.

For the first time in their careers, Cory McClenathan, from Anaheim, Calif., driver of the Henkelman & Baca Motorsports Top Fuel Dragster, met Scott Weis, from Ashland Va. McClenathan had qualified #4, while Weis finished in the 13th position.

McClenathan's driving got him through the first round. About 600 feet or so, the Henkelman & Baca Motorsports Top Fuel Dragster veered toward the center line. McClenathan never missed a beat and drove the dragster back and crossed the finish line ahead of Weis. Weis was never a factor in today's race.

"We've been fighting a dropping cylinder problem all weekend," recounted McClenathan on the opening round win. "Wes Cerny keeps chasing it, but it's one of those deals where it keeps doing it. We're trying some new parts and things like that. So we're fighting it a little bit.

"Then on that first run the steering got out of alignment somehow. I notice it after the burnout, when we were backing up. When the alignment is wrong the car backs up funny. It tried to flop back and forth when I was backing up. I thought we might have a problem, but didn't realize it until near half track.

"It got real squirrelly down there about half track and all the way down from there. It was a handful to drive. It definitely got my attention because it happened real quick. It darted to the left pretty good. That was different, but we won, then got it fixed and went on to the second round."

In the quarter-finals, McClenathan sent Rhonda Hartman-Smith packing for Williamston, S.C. Hartman-Smith made it a close race when McClenathan dropped a cylinder and hazed the Goodyears at half track.

Reflecting on the run against Rhonda Hartman-Smith, McClenathan said, "In the second round we dropped a cylinder again and it started smoking the tire. What it did was pick the cylinder back up and that when it started smoking the tire.

"We got by that round and decided to put some of the old parts and pieces back on the car and kind of go back to what we knew worked."

Making the semifinals for the fifth time in six races, McClenathan was matched against the current NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series Top Fuel point leader, Larry Dixon, from Indianapolis. McClenathan got a very small starting line advantage, then could only watch as the Miller Lite Dragster of Dixon streaked to the low elapsed time of the weekend for the Top Fuel class - - a 4.582 seconds at 323.19 mph. McClenathan managed a respectable 4.725 second pass at 316.52 mph, but his day was done until next weekend

"In the semis it stayed on all eight but that wasn't nearly enough for Larry Dixon and crew," said a dejected McClenathan. "You always want to win. I feel great that we went to the semis again. I'm more than happy to go around Tony (Schumacher) in the point chase and pick up some points on (Kenny) Bernstein. It would have been nice to beat Larry Dixon and slow down his surge. The bottom line is that car's tough to beat. Larry and Dick LaHaie are doing a great job.

"So we just pick up our heads and go to the next race," concluded McClenathan. "We knew we were behind the eight ball when you're trying different stuff and we got caught up in it. I think we'll be okay in Atlanta though."

After a two hour rain delay, the second of the day, the finals were run in all classes. In the Top Fuel final Larry Dixon defeated Darrell Russell. It was Dixon's fifth final round in six races. He now has four wins. Whit Bazemore took top honors in Funny Car when he defeated Gary Densham and "The Professor," Warren Johnson, turned back Ron Krisher in Pro Stock

With Tony Schumacher going out in the opening round, McClenathan moved into third in the Top Fuel NHRA POWERade point standings. He now has 430 points. After a quarter-final loss, Kenny Bernstein remained in second with 478 points. Tony Schumacher dropped to fourth with 407 points. Doug Kalitta rounds out the top five with 328 points.

It's back-to-back weekends for the NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series. The next event for Cory McClenathan and the Henkelman & Baca Motorsports Top Fuel Dragster will be the Summit Racing Equipment Southern Nationals presented by Pontiac at Atlanta Dragway in Commerce, Ga., about 40 miles northeast of Atlanta. The event is scheduled for May 2-5, with professional qualifying starting on Friday, May 3.

Prior to the event, on Wednesday, May 1, the Henkelman & Baca Motorsports Top Fuel Dragster will be on display and McClenathan will be signing autographs from 12 noon until 1 p.m. at Hardee's, 611 Jesse Jewel Parkway, Gainesville, Ga.


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About this article
Series NHRA
Drivers Larry Dixon , Kenny Bernstein , Warren Johnson , Scott Weis , Whit Bazemore , Rhonda Hartman-Smith , Tony Schumacher , Doug Kalitta , Ron Krisher , Cory McClenathan , Dick LaHaie , Cory Mac
Teams Williams