Houston: Joe Fuentes wrap up

BAYTOWN, Texas - Federal Mogul Dragster driver Joe Fuentes was just one step away from his first national event win at this past weekend's O'Reilly Nationals presented by Pennzoil at Houston Raceway Park. Fuentes, in his first full season on...

BAYTOWN, Texas - Federal Mogul Dragster driver Joe Fuentes was just one step away from his first national event win at this past weekend's O'Reilly Nationals presented by Pennzoil at Houston Raceway Park. Fuentes, in his first full season on competition, worked his way to the finals where he had to face defending four time World Champion Rick Santos. The race was over at the start, as Fuentes redlighted by .003 of a second, handing the win to Santos.

Fuentes, from just outside of Austin, Texas, qualified his Ora Vasquez tuned Blown Alcohol Dragster eighth with an elapsed time of 5.506 seconds at 257.09 mph. In round one, he took out fellow Texan Lee Callaway with a 5.459 at 257.92 mph. After advancing on Saturday, Fuentes was faced with the task of racing No. 1 qualifier Bruce Bowler in round two. Fuentes took the holeshot off the line and never looked back on his way to a 5.446 at 252.92 mph. In the semifinals, Fuentes defeated defending Division 4 Champion Jay Meyer with a career best 5.385 at 260.01 mph.

Going into the finals, Fuentes had won nine out of his last ten rounds. Santos had a slight performance advantage throughout the race, running a 5.34 in the semifinals, and as quick as a 5.32 in round two. Fuentes took a swing at the tree and redlighted with a .397 reaction time to Santos' .488. The J& D Racing B/AD stayed ahead of Santos the whole way as Fuentes recorded a 5.439 at 257.63 mph to Santos' 5.357 at 261.83 mph. If Fuentes would have cut a .406 light or better, he would have beat Santos on a holeshot.

"We figured out a few things this weekend," said Fuentes. "Ora put it all together, and between him and Tony Rosillo, my crew chief, we got it into the 5.30's like we knew we could. I knew I had to take a shot at Santos because he was running so good. I just wish I would have been a little later. The crew, Mike Young, Dale Zellenger and Jaime Garcia did great all weekend. They gave me a great car to drive."

With the runner up finish in Houston, Fuentes has been in the final round at the last three races he has attended. Next weekend, the J&D Racing team will go into the fourth race in the Division 4 series in Memphis, Tenn. Fuentes hopes to keep his final round streak alive with another win on the Divisional level. Going into the race, he is tied for second place with Shelly Howard, and trails Troy Buff by a mere 11 points. Fuentes hopes to erase that lead and take the points lead.

"We think we can win in Memphis," stated Fuentes. "We didn't really think about the points much when we started the year, but since we are doing well in points now, I think we can win the Division. We're going to go after it no matter what it takes."

Television coverage of the Federal Mogul classes from the O'Reilly Nationals will air at 1-2 p.m. (EST) on Wednesday, April 4.

www.JoeFuentesRacing.com

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Series NHRA
Drivers Rick Santos , Shelly Howard , Troy Buff