INDIANAPOLIS (Sept. 1, 1998) -- The NHRA U.S. Nationals is a special event to all drag racers because it is drag racing's largest and most prestigious event, but for lifelong Indianapolis native Paul Romine, it is more than that. This weekend,...
INDIANAPOLIS (Sept. 1, 1998) -- The NHRA U.S. Nationals is a special event to all drag racers because it is drag racing's largest and most prestigious event, but for lifelong Indianapolis native Paul Romine, it is more than that. This weekend, Romine competes at the event he has attended as a fan since he was a child.
Romine, driver of the CARQUEST Top Fuel dragster, began attending the U.S. Nationals as a fan in 1963. Other than a year he missed while in the military, Romine never missed spectating 'The Big Go' at Indianapolis Raceway Park until in the early 1980s when he felt he just couldn't go anymore because it would force him back into the sport.
"I began going to the Nationals as a fan the second time it was hosted at IRP," Romine said. "I missed it one year because of Vietnam, but other than that I went every year as a fan until the early 1980s."
Romine campaigned a limited budget Top Fuel dragster and Funny Car in the late 1970s and early 1980s at regional events, but never competed at the Nationals.
"I always dreamed of racing at Indy, but in my first stint of racing, by the time Indy came, we were usually out of money or out of parts," Romine said. "In 1982 I lost my family business to a fire and that forced me to get out of drag racing and tend to rebuilding our business. So I sold all the racing parts and went to work, trying not to pay attention to the sport because then I would want to get back involved with it."
By the mid 1990s, Romine's business, Dealers Engine Sales, located on the south side of Indianapolis, was prospering to the point where Romine felt comfortable about going back to Indy as a spectator.
"All I know is one year I had Top Eliminator seats and after that first smell of nitro, it was back in my blood and I wanted to drive again." Romine said.
Romine did not go conventional Top Fuel racing at first, but instead, teamed with nitro tuning wizard Clayton Harris to run the nostalgia Top Fuel circuit. There they were a successful combination and even set an 1/8-mile NHRA record at IRP for the class. After a year in the nostalgia ranks, in 1997 Romine and Harris switched to conventional Top Fuel and Romine finally got his chance to compete at the U.S. Nationals.
"Last season's event was special," Romine said. "My first lap down the track at the U.S. Nationals was just like a dream. It was at night, the grandstands were packed and I recorded my first 300 MPH run, a mark all Top Fuel drivers try to achieve. We went on to qualify in then the quickest Top Fuel field in NHRA history and I was one of the lucky ones who was able to race on Monday."
Romine lost in the first round to Jim Head, but achieved a lifelong dream of racing at Indy.
This season Romine, Harris, and the CARQUEST team return to Indy with a goal not just to run 'The Nationals' and qualify, the CARQUEST team would also like to go rounds on Monday and see what happens.
The CARQUEST team last competed in NHRA competition in May at the Fram Route 66 Nationals in Chicago where Romine red-lighted away a for-sure final-round birth against Kenny Bernstein, who lost an engine. Since then Romine and the CARQUEST team have competed at IHRA events where they are that series' defending Top Fuel champion. The team has also tested twice at Indianapolis Raceway Park with positive results.
"We ran a mid .70 and some .80s on shutoff passes that the earlier numbers showed the runs had the potential to be in the .60s," Romine said. "Last weekend we ran a .72 at Norwalk (an IHRA event) and that track wasn't as good as Indy will be. If everything goes according to plan, I can really see us having a good weekend."
In five NHRA Winston Drag Racing appearances this season, Romine and his Clayton Harris-led CARQUEST team has been very competitive. After crashing a new McKinney car at the Mac Tools Gatornationals, Romine rebounded at the Winston Invitational where he recorded a career-best 4.660 and earned a runner-up finish. He lost in round one at the Fram Nationals in Atlanta, but earned semi-final finishes in his last two NHRA events in Richmond and Chicago.
"I have no doubt we can be a player in NHRA as our record and performances have proved it, qualifying in the two quickest fields in NHRA history (Chicago '98 and Indy '97)," Romine said. "Indy is special to me and our team is just proud we can be a part of it. Hopefully we get a chance to be part of the show on Monday."
Professional qualifying for the 44th annual NHRA U.S. Nationals begins Friday, Sept. 4th at 7 p.m. (EST). Qualifying continues Saturday, Sept. 5th and Sunday, Sept. 6th with qualifying both days at 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. Final eliminations are scheduled to begin Monday, Sept. 7th at 11 a.m.
The Nashville Network (TNN) will broadcast the semi-final and final rounds of the NHRA U.S. Nationals Monday, Sept. 7th from 5-8 p.m. (EDT) while NHRA Today will broadcast a preview of the event Sunday, Sept. 6th at noon & 4:30 p.m. (EDT)
1997 Romine Review at Indy NHRA 43rd annual U.S. Nationals Indianapolis Raceway Park, Indianapolis, Ind. Qualified #9 4.704/ 263.46 (then the quickest Top Fuel field in NHRA history) Round 1 (lost smoking the tires while debris from Head's car trips Romine's clock, resulting in no time.) Romine .471 no time Jim Head .489 4.814 296.15