Jay Meyer's roller-coaster weekend in Chicago

Meyer's roller-coaster weekend ends in round one JOLIET, Ill. - Anytime you lose in the first round in drag racing, it's tough. NHRA Federal Mogul Dragster driver Jay Meyer's first round loss during this past weekend's NHRA Nationals at Route...

Meyer's roller-coaster weekend ends in round one

JOLIET, Ill. - Anytime you lose in the first round in drag racing, it's tough. NHRA Federal Mogul Dragster driver Jay Meyer's first round loss during this past weekend's NHRA Nationals at Route 66 Raceway just outside of Chicago was a bit tougher to swallow, however. Even with the tough loss, Meyer considers it a feat that they even made it to the track in the first place.

Meyer, from Freeport, Texas, was involved in an accident with the team's transport rig en route to the event near Memphis, Tenn., on Thursday. After initially surveying the damage, Meyer called off the trip. After a night's rest, Meyer had a change of heart, and decided to rent a semi-truck from MHC Kenworth in Memphis and try to make it to the track in time to make the final qualifying session. NHRA officials gave Meyer a 9 a.m. deadline to be at the track Saturday morning.

Meyer and team finally got on the road approximately 6 p.m. Friday evening, but experienced a blowout on the trailer which sidelined them for several more hours. Tensions built as the 9 a.m. deadline rapidly approached. Meyer's son, Bruce, decided to leave the interstate highway to take a chance on a shorter route, and rolled through the Route 66 Raceway gates at 8:55 a.m., leaving the team with 45 minutes to unload and prepare the car for the final qualifying session. With 28 cars in attendance, making the field was going to be no easy feat.

"We knew the track was going to be pretty good," said Meyer. "We had trouble getting there, and got there with only 45 minutes to spare. We serviced the car, and had a tune-up from Houston when we ran that 5.38, so we took that tune-up and threw a little more clutch at it, because we knew the track was going to be really good. It stuck, and it tried to rattle the tires a little bit at the top of low gear, so I short shifted it. It went right down the track and ran a 5.38, which is unbelievable. I was just hoping we could get into the .40's and get in the show. Running that .38 was pretty fantastic for all the stuff that went on. I don't know if we could have been any happier to win the race. That was a pretty big deal just getting there, then going out there and running that good. I really got to hand it to my crew, Stacy McLemore, Bruce, Larry Reep and Will Hanna, for getting the car ready for that run, because we were short handed as it was"

With things appearing to turn to the bright side, Meyer and his team looked forward to what was shaping up to be a good weekend for the team. Meyer's 5.382 second elapsed time off-the-trailer was a career best. In his first round matchup with northeastern runner Cliff Bozzelli, things once again turned for the worse for Meyer. The same problem that caused him to lose in the first round of the Mac Tools U.S. Nationals, the high gear shifter button sticking, caused him to lose to Bozzelli. Bozzelli stepped up over a tenth of his previous pace to run a 5.420 at 254.76 mph, to Meyer's problem-plauged 5.523 at 236.92 mph.

"I've had trouble with these shifters," stated Meyer. "I can't reach the shifters like I used to, because I really cinch down on the belts now. We have had a problem with them sticking, it wouldn't shift into high gear in Indy, so we put new shifters on it, and they were tight, so we lengthened the buttons. What we found out after we lost was I was actually side-loading the shifter, so lengthening the shifter made it even worse; it was binding up. I pushed on that high gear shifter so hard in the last run that it actually bent the shifter. The bad part is that it was on a good run, and by the numbers we had already passed him, and was on our way to a win. It's just one of those aggravating things."

Despite all the trouble getting there, and losing in the first round, Meyer is glad that he encountered these problems in Joliet, and not his next race, the Division 4 closer at Thunder Valley Motorsports Park in Noble, Okla., Oct. 12-14, which is a must-win race for Meyer to keep his National Championship hopes alive.

"The weekend wasn't a total loss," commented Meyer. "We have that big race coming up in Noble, and I think we found out what the problem is. We are going to relocate the shifters, and take the extensions off. That should end our side-loading problem. We've been fighting this problem all year long."

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