PONTIAC NOTES & QUOTES 1998 MILE-HIGH NATIONALS SUNDAY, JULY 19, 1998 DENVER, COLORADO TOP FUEL CHAMPION Cory McClenathan (McDonaldâ€™s/Pontiac) Won his fifth race in six final rounds this year and his second consecutive Mile-High ...
PONTIAC NOTES & QUOTES 1998 MILE-HIGH NATIONALS SUNDAY, JULY 19, 1998 DENVER, COLORADO
TOP FUEL CHAMPION
Cory McClenathan (McDonald’s/Pontiac) Won his fifth race in six final rounds this year and his second consecutive Mile-High Nationals.
How does it feel to win your second race at the Mile-High Nationals?
"I don’t know what to think about this. This is just incredible. I figured in the first round against Vicky Fanning, 20 feet off the starting line it was all over for the day. Thank God she smoked the tires too, and we could pedal it to get down through there. From then on, we have no way to explain what happened there. All of a sudden, the McDonald’s Pontiac had more power than we’ve had all weekend. We even had to back it off in the second round. For some reason, things are just strange that way. Really, we didn’t change anything the rest of the day. We just stuck with the track and did what it wanted us to do. My hat goes off to my guys. They’ve worked their butts off for the last three weeks trying to get ready for this Western swing. They gave me a brand new race car and already it feels comfortable. It’s a funny thing about this drag racing stuff, no matter how many times you win, when you don’t win a few races, you wonder if you’ll ever do it again. Thank God, Thank Joe Gibbs, and all of the people at McDonald’s, Champion Spark Plugs, and Pontiac-GMC for everything."
How special is racing in Colorado to you now?
"It’s very special. It has been in the past, but the more I come here, the more special it gets. John Bandimere and everybody treats me like family when we get here. Tammy Shrader sends me a card every time I win a drag race. We have a special relationship and it’s nice to have a track owner that’s as special as John Bandimere. It pays off. I don’t think you saw an empty seat in the house all weekend. That’s a cool thing. It’s hard to come up here on the hill and win, but Mike Green has a pretty good tune-up for this place."
What’s with the Gary Scelzi tee-shirt?
"You like my Scelzi shirt? I had it on all day today. I guess Gary and I were twins. Gary is a great guy and a heckuva driver—probably one of the best I’ve seen in a long time. He’s going to be tough every time. To win that second round against Mike Dunn and the semi-finals against Gary meant a lot to me to beat those cars. It just seems like I’m having a dream and it’s all going back to last year. Everything seems the same all of a sudden. I don’t know if we can win anymore, but for right now, we won this one and I’m really happy."
Do you feel that you’re starting to dominate?
"I try not to look at that. We have a 41 point lead and that could go away in a big hurry. We have a long hard way to go yet. Amato’s right there and Scelzi’s right there. But the credit goes to my guys, they did a great job. I just wish Joe was here to see it."
How big a part in your win did the new chassis play?
"Very big. I’m afraid that our old car was a little wore out. It was like 159 rounds that the car went. That’s a lot of passes down the track. I think having a new car definitely helped us. It’s identical to the old car. There’s no difference, but I think that we all know that fresh tubing just seems to work better"
How difficult was the heat to contend with?
"It was tough. It really got to me. I said to myself, ‘Gosh I’m glad this is about over.’ It’s just one of those deals where you just have to put up with it and go round by round. Really, for the drivers, we don’t do a whole lot of work in the pits. We mix fuel, do the parachutes, stuff like that. The guys on the team are the ones who have to work hard and we had a couple who were starting to slow down in the last round. The heat just gets to you up here. Being a California boy myself, breathing’s a whole different deal. I had my oxygen bottle in the truck and I was taking hits off of that. I was ready by the time I got in the car, but that thin air can definitely get to you."
We had a little bit of cloud cover today. Did that help?
"It was very refreshing. It helped us and it helped the track. Especially in the final where it cooled off just a little bit. It’s nice to have a little cloud cover, and the little breeze we had today helps us get through the day."
Did the car feel slower to you?
"Actually the car feels really good, but that’s one thing about being up on the hill. The cars are going to be slower. That’s all there is to it. That first round of qualifying when we ran a 4.92, I got to half track and felt like shutting off because it didn’t feel like I was going anywhere. You have to remind yourself that this is the hill and you can’t run the kind of numbers you run at sea-level. We won’t really know how good this car is until we get to Sears Point."
How disappointed are you that you didn’t run 300?
"In the final, the McDonald’s Pontiac was pulling so good that I was hoping we’d be the one guy that would run 300. It just wasn’t to be. It definitely tells you what the heat did to this track and the cars too. I think we came in last year and ran 4.71 at 310. We’ll be looking forward to getting back to sea-level but I think the fans still got a good show."