LAS VEGAS (March 29, 2000) - The name John Lingenfelter is synonymous with success. Over the past four decades the 54-year-old Hoosier from Decatur, Ind., has proven that he has what it takes to be an accomplished competitor in both the ...
LAS VEGAS (March 29, 2000) - The name John Lingenfelter is synonymous with success. Over the past four decades the 54-year-old Hoosier from Decatur, Ind., has proven that he has what it takes to be an accomplished competitor in both the Sportsman and Professional categories of NHRA Drag Racing. This year Lingenfelter is ready to apply that experience towards elevating the Summit Racing GMC Sonoma into championship contention. Currently his sights are focused on the inaugural SummitRacing.com Nationals in Las Vegas, Nev., where he is hoping to give Sonoma its first victory ever in the Pro Stock Truck category.
Lingenfelter comes to the Sonoma Racing camp in 2000 boasting impeccable credentials as a driver and engine builder. He spent many years honing his talent as a Competition eliminator racer where he won 13 national events. In 1986, he became the first Comp driver to break into the six-second range.
At this year's season-opening Winternationals in Pomona, Calif., Lingenfelter qualified in the No. 6 position posting one of the Sonoma brands best qualifying efforts since its introduction into the Pro Stock Truck category. But after a disappointing first-round defeat at the Gatornationals in Gainesville, Fla., Lingenfelter is determined to get his program back on track for the upcoming Las Vegas event. He is 10th in the Winston point standings.
The inaugural SummitRacing.com Nationals at Las Vegas Motor Speedway on April 6 - 9 is the third race on the 14-event NHRA Pro Stock Truck tour. Television coverage of the SummitRacing.com Nationals can be seen on TNN on Sunday, April 9, beginning at 10:30 p.m. Eastern.
You have two races on the scorecard for the 2000 season. How are things going at this juncture?
"The Summit Racing Sonoma ran really good at the first race of the season at Pomona. We came off of that and went to Gainesville which ended up being a bit disappointing. We had hoped to qualify a couple of slots higher and to be in the top-half of the field. The field was the most competitive we've had for quite a while. We felt that we should have been able to run a hundredth or two quicker in qualifying, but didn't get it done. Then in the first round on Sunday, we got a good light, and the truck left good, but unfortunately we broke a transmission. So we were pretty disappointed. We feel good that we qualified in Gainesville because there were a lot of good trucks that didn't qualify. The field is really tough right now. Anyone in the Pro Stock Truck category has a chance of winning a race. The field is that competitive."
Are you ready for Las Vegas?
"Absolutely. This is a big race for us because our sponsor, Summit Racing, is the title sponsor of the inaugural event. We've been working on some engine developments to get ready for Vegas and some new transmissions with a closer gear spread. We've also been working on the chassis to get it to work better."
The inaugural Las Vegas event will obviously produce a very "green" track. Can you prepare for this?
"Normally we'd go with a softer suspension, softer springs, change first-gear ratios and put more downforce in the truck. There's a big question mark for everybody who will be racing there because no one knows what they're going to run into."
Once you get to Las Vegas, how long will it take you to get the track figured out?
"It normally takes two or three runs to get in the ballpark. The first round will be a really big question mark. We don't have any idea what to expect right now. We have some ideas, so hopefully that will be an advantage for us instead of a disadvantage."
You were a successful sportsman racer for many years. Are you ready to reach that same level of expertise in the Pro Stock Truck category?
"That's definitely our goal. We intend to. The fact that we do our own engines should eventually become an advantage, and it's slowly starting to show already. The people that have to depend on other engine builders had pretty good success the first year, but you can see that's starting to slip away. The people that have control of their engine programs are starting to dominate the field."
Do you miss racing in the Competition Eliminator class?
"It was enjoyable, but you didn't have the pressure that you have in Pro Stock Trucks. So from a fun side it was little more enjoyable, but we really like the competition in the trucks. The trucks have become, pretty quickly, much more competitive to race."
What are your thoughts on fellow GMC Sonoma teammates Rick Jones and David Spitzer?
"David had a great weekend in Gainesville. In fact, I ran against him in the first round when I broke the transmission. Both Rick and David are working real hard, and I see them having continued success throughout the rest of the year. Each one is a determined racer and a very hard worker. I see GMC being very competitive all year as well. Hopefully all of the Sonoma teams will qualify at every race. We really like the look of the truck, and as far as everything else is concerned we definitely think the potential is there. The Sonoma brand team also gives us a lot of support and we're very grateful for that. I think when the U.S. Nationals roll around you'll see all three of us battling it out for a top position."
What's the biggest obstacle that you've faced so far this year?
"Sometimes the breaks go your way, and sometimes they don't. That about sums it up right now. We've had transmission problems at two races, and we've been meticulous going through them. We magniflux everything and tear them apart every race to try to eliminate any possibility of error or defects. Yet we still had problems in Gainesville, so that's a little frustrating at the moment. The parts we've broken are not pieces that normally break. At the same time, we always feel that eventually things will balance out."
What's behind that, when you say 'you're breaking pieces that don't normally break?'
"We're really not sure. We broke a shift fork, which the manufacturer of the transmission said the last time they saw one of those break was three years ago before they made the design change. We've since replaced all our transmissions with brand new ones because the ones we were running were three years old. Even though we replaced most of the major components in them, we've updated them now to three brand new units."
What are your goals for the 2000 racing season?
"Of course we want to win the championship, but placing in the top five in Winston points would be great. With the feedback we've been getting so far, I really think that's possible."