Joliet II: Cory McClenathan eliminations summary

McClenathan advances to semifinals, drops in POWERade point standings. JOLIET, Ill. -- Even with a semifinal round appearance today at the NHRA Sears Craftsman 75th Anniversary Nationals, Cory McClenathan, driver of the Henkelman & Baca ...

McClenathan advances to semifinals, drops in POWERade point standings.

JOLIET, Ill. -- Even with a semifinal round appearance today at the NHRA Sears Craftsman 75th Anniversary Nationals, Cory McClenathan, driver of the Henkelman & Baca Centennial Batteries Top Fuel Dragster, still lost ground in the NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series point standings.

The opening round of eliminations was the proverbial "Big Round". McClenathan was matched against Tony Schumacher. Schumacher is third in the NHRA POWERade point standing, McClenathan is fourth.

McClenathan gave up a little at the starting lights but made up the difference on Schumacher by quarter-track. By half-track it was over as Schumacher's Army Dragster nosed over. With his sights on the finish line, McClenathan crossed first but not without problems. In the lights, McClenathan's engine let go in a fireball -- a replay of last week's match up against Schumacher in the NHRA O'Reilly Nationals in Memphis. The only difference this time was that McClenathan took the win light here in Chicago.

"Just as I let off the throttle it blew up," said McClenathan as he recounted his first round win over Schumacher. "It (the car) may be a little unhappy but it's going down through there. That was probably the biggest race right now that this Henkelman and Baca team can think of. We needed to beat Tony to catch up and have a chance at third place. It's between Schumacher, (Darrell) Russell, (Doug) Kalitta, and me. We want to be the one to be there."

The subsequent oil down, caused by the engine explosion, was costly for McClenathan as he not only will automatically lose lane choice but will lose 10 critical points.

It the opening round was "Big", this round was "Bigger". Next up in the quarterfinals was the POWERade point leader Larry Dixon in the blue car (the Miller Lite Dragster). Dixon did win lane choice outright as a result of a 4.59 second elapsed time in the opening round.

Lane choice wasn't a factor as McClenathan wins this one with a blast of 4.598 seconds at speed of 317.12 mph to a respectable pass of 4.638 seconds at 323.43 mph for Dixon. Dixon's loss keeps Kenny Bernstein, who lost in the opening round, in the point battle with three races remaining.

Team owner Rick Henkelman was elated at the win but said it was a team victory. "In that first round we broke everything in the car but the driver," said Henkelman. "We replaced everything in that thing. Started up perfectly. Everybody did their thing. Hats off to the whole crew. The crew did a heck of a job. A great team effort."

"We had a good car but he (Larry Dixon) definitely is the best driver out here. There's no doubt in my mind. He has come a long way. He does a good job for Snake (Don Prudhomme) but we needed this right now. This is a big deal. It kind of makes it exciting. We're getting closer to Schumacher and we put the Budweiser King and the blue and white car back in contention together again," said McClenathan, after the win by approximately six-feet over Dixon.

Another "Big" round. McClenathan moved to the semifinal round against Darrell Russell. McClenathan earned lane choice over Russell by virtue of his 4.598 second elapsed time against Dixon in the previous round.

Russell was away first at the green and was first to finish line winning on a holeshot -- an advantage at the starting line by a driver having a quicker reaction time to the starting lights than his opponent. McClenathan ran an elapsed time of 4.640 seconds to 4.651 seconds for Russell but Russell's advantage at the green light of .028 seconds made the difference. McClenathan lost by just .017 seconds.

"It's hard to say you had a bad day when you go to the semifinals, but that is what happen today," said McClenathan. "We didn't win when we had to win. The loss to Russell opened the door for a Kalitta versus Russell final round and no matter who wins, I come out of this on the short end of the stick. The only good thing, if you can count it as good, is that all three of us (McClenathan, Kalitta and Russell) made up ground on Schumacher and all three of us are grouped right together. There are still three races left and we intend to do everything we can to reclaim third before this deal (the points battle) is finished."

In the final round Kalitta was victorious over Russell and as a resulted vaulted over McClenathan and Russell into fourth in the POWERade point standings following this event. Kalitta now has 1200 points, two ahead of Russell, who stayed fifth and 15 ahead of McClenathan who dropped to sixth. From McClenathan's perspective he is now 85 points behind third place Schumacher, 15 points behind fourth place Kalitta and 13 points behind Russell in fifth.

Larry Dixon and Kenny Bernstein remained first and second respectively in the point standings and lead the remainder of the field by a large margin. Bernstein lost ground to Dixon today and now trails by 127 points.

There's some free time next weekend before McClenathan and the Henkelman & Baca Motorsports team move to the Dallas- Ft. Worth area. The 17th annual NHRA O'Reilly Fall Nationals presented by Castrol Syntec will be held October 10-13 at Billy Meyer's Texas Motorplex in Ennis, Texas.

-h&bm-

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About this article
Series NHRA
Drivers Larry Dixon , Kenny Bernstein , Tony Schumacher , Cory McClenathan , Don Prudhomme