Joliet II: Fan favorite Cannon seeking first win

JOILET, Ill. - Funny Car driver Scotty Cannon and his radical mohawk haircut made quite an impression in 1999 when he first began to compete in the NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series. Not only did the hard-working and dedicated former Pro Mod champ...

JOILET, Ill. - Funny Car driver Scotty Cannon and his radical mohawk haircut made quite an impression in 1999 when he first began to compete in the NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series. Not only did the hard-working and dedicated former Pro Mod champ become an instant favorite with the fans, he immediately challenged perennial series champion John Force to a lucrative match race to prove he was a serious contender.

Although the match race never materialized, Cannon went on to win the 1999 NHRA Rookie of the Year, finishing 11th in the final standings. In 2000 Cannon seemed to be heading in the right direction with one runner-up finish, a winning record in elimination rounds, and a career-best sixth place finish in the final standings. However, in 2001, the Oakley Racing team experienced some problems. They posted two DNQs (did not qualify), suffered 16 first round losses, and managed to win only six rounds of competition all year for a 12th place finish at the end of the season.

Following the conclusion of the 2001 season, Cannon joined forces with Chicago resident Don Schumacher and Schumacher Racing.

The outspoken Lyman, S.C. resident will try and give his Chicago-based team owner a win at his home track when competes in the second annual Craftsman 75th Anniversary Nationals presented by Racing Champions, Sept. 26-29, at the spectacular Route 66 Raceway. The $2 million race is the 20th of 23 events in the $50 million NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series.

"We've been knocking and knocking at the door and we need to open it soon," said Cannon. "We're running out of races and it's time to push forward and be aggressive. It's not the time to hold back. We have the talent and resources to get into winner's circle, we just haven't put all of the pieces together on the same weekend.

"We've had the performance to win. But we just haven't gotten the right break at the right time. Whit went through the same thing and then all of a sudden everything started to click and he won two straight races. That's encouraging for us because our combinations our similar and I truly feel we also have the talent to put a string of wins together."

The addition of Cannon gave Schumacher Racing a formidable two-car Funny Car team with Cannon and Whit Bazemore, who finished second in the 2001 standings to Force, plus the U.S. Army Top Fuel dragster driven by Don's son, Tony.

"We just need time because I think we have the right program," said Cannon. "The key is someone like Don Schumacher stepping up to the plate and putting the whole program together. To me, that was the key to this whole deal. Outside of having our big sponsors, the key has been Don having the guts to invest this kind of money and good sponsors. He has got a lot of good people in this program."

The partnership started off slow, but now both teams are firmly among the Top 10 as Cannon seems to be approaching his first career win on the NHRA tour. He has two runner-up finishes on the season, including one at Route 66 Raceway in June. His other final round appearance was a heartbreaking loss to Force at St. Louis. As Force lost traction almost instantly, Cannon made a clean pass but was disqualified for leaving the starting line before the green light activated.

"No excuses, I messed up," said Cannon, following the loss at St. Louis. "The guys were supportive of me afterwards and I can't tell you how much that meant to me. They knew I was trying with all of my heart. This is a team that sticks together through thick and thin."

With this season's championship realistically out of reach, Cannon will continue to pursue that first win and hopefully use the knowledge from a two-car team to eventually score the NHRA POWERade championship.

"I didn't plan (on being on a two-car team)," said Cannon. "I wasn't aiming for this. But after three years of learning the business and the ropes, I've learned that the direction that this sport has taken us in has led us to create two and three-car teams. If you want to run for a championship, it is a no-brainer. You are going to have to do it with a two or three-car team. That is just my opinion."

-nhra-

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Series NHRA
Drivers Whit Bazemore , John Force , Scotty Cannon , Don Schumacher