Columbus: Cory McClenathan finals summary

The blue beer car ends McClenathan's day at Pontiac Excitement Nationals; Henkelman & Baca Motorsports team rebounds and puts McClenathan in quarterfinals. HEBRON, Ohio, June 16, 2002 -- It's Father's Day but Cory McClenathan's thoughts were on...

The blue beer car ends McClenathan's day at Pontiac Excitement Nationals; Henkelman & Baca Motorsports team rebounds and puts McClenathan in quarterfinals.

HEBRON, Ohio, June 16, 2002 -- It's Father's Day but Cory McClenathan's thoughts were on the opening round as final eliminations got underway today at National Trail Raceway, home of the 38th annual NHRA Pontiac Excitement Nationals presented by Summit Racing.

In yesterday's final qualifying session, McClenathan, from Anaheim, Calif., driver of the Henkelman & Baca Motorsports Top Fuel Dragster, suffered a severe engine explosion as he approached the shut down area at the end of the National Trail Raceway quarter-mile. This created a late night thrash to insure that car would meet the bell for Sunday's eliminations. As time for first round was approaching, the Henkelman & Baca Motorsports Team was still preparing the car for an opening round match up with Rhonda Hartman-Smith, from Williamston, S.C.

Team owner and partner David Baca explained the probable cause of the engine malfunction. "It's a chicken and egg thing," said Baca. "We broke a rod and a piston, but we don't know which happened first. Right now all we want to do is to give Cory a car that is safe and capable of winning when we take to the track. "

All the thrashing rebuilding the engine, replacing electrical and air lines and fine tuning the Henkelman & Baca Centennial Batteries Dragster paid off. Against Hartman-Smith, McClenathan drove straight down Broadway in what might be termed an "uneventful" run.

Hartman-Smith was away first at the light, but McClenathan had gobbled her up by the 330-foot mark running the second quickest elapsed time (E.T.) of the round. This brings McClenathan, third in the NHRA Powerade point standings, face-to-face with current point leader Larry Dixon. McClenathan's pass of 4.711 seconds to 4.807 seconds for Dixon gave McClenathan lane choice in round two.

Dixon turned up the wick in the second round. Dixon left first and crossed the finish line strip first. McClenathan followed Dixon across the finish line in 4.730 seconds at 306.53 mph. Dixon, in the Miller Lite Dragster owner by Don Prudhomme, recorded a winning E.T. of 4.653 seconds at a speed of 302.21 mph.

"Enough can't be said for the job this Henkelman & Baca Team did after the engine let go in the final qualifying session yesterday. As I said at that time, we have a professional team and they will get the job done. Well, they did. They put a car under me that ran the second quickest time in the first round. Against the blue beer car, we just came up short. Larry Dixon and his crew chief Dick LaHaie are the best in the business right now. But don't count this Henkelman & Baca Team out. They showed this weekend what they are made of and what they can do," said McClenathan. "We're here for the long haul."

Dixon and company showed why they are the best in the business right now. In the semifinals, Dixon turned back Tony Schumacher helping McClenathan hold on to third spot in the NHRA Powerade point standings. In the process, Dixon advanced to his 10th final round of the 2002 season, then won over Doug Herbert.

Had Schumacher won the match up with Dixon, he would have vaulted pass McClenathan in the point chase. As it stands though, McClenathan will remain in third, 5 points ahead of Schumacher in fourth.

The win by Dixon, his seventh of the year, padded his point lead over the remainder of the Top Fuel field. The Indianapolis driver now sits atop the Top Fuel point standing with 1142 points. He is followed in second by Kenny Bernstein who now has 883 points, 259 points behind first. As noted McClenathan is third with 706 points, 436 behind the leader. Schumacher holds down fourth with 701 points, 441 out of first. Rounding out the top five is Doug Kalitta who weighs in with 580 points, 562 behind Dixon.

Winners of the other professional classes are as follows: Funny Car -- Ron Capps; Pro Stock (car) -- Greg Anderson; and Pro Stock Motorcycle -- Craig Treble.

As the NHRA POWERade® Drag Racing Series approaches the midpoint of the 2002 season, McClenathan and the Henkelman & Baca Motorsports Centennial Batteries Top Fuel Dragster now move to the St. Louis area for the NHRA Sears Craftsman National. The event will unfold June 27-30 at Gateway International Raceway in Madison, Ill, just across the Mississippi River from St. Louis.


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Series NHRA
Drivers Doug Herbert , Larry Dixon , Kenny Bernstein , Ron Capps , Rhonda Hartman-Smith , Tony Schumacher , Doug Kalitta , Greg Anderson , David Baca , Craig Treble , Cory McClenathan , Don Prudhomme , Dick LaHaie
Teams Williams