MCCLENATHAN LANDS IN THE SEMIFINALS IN VEGAS LAS VEGAS (Nov. 1, 2009) - Cory McClenathan and the FRAM Tough Guard Top Fuel team marched stoutly through the field during eliminations at the ninth annual NHRA Las Vegas Nationals at The Strip at...
MCCLENATHAN LANDS IN THE SEMIFINALS IN VEGAS
LAS VEGAS (Nov. 1, 2009) - Cory McClenathan and the FRAM Tough Guard Top Fuel team marched stoutly through the field during eliminations at the ninth annual NHRA Las Vegas Nationals at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway before being halted in the semifinals by Larry Dixon.
McClenathan disposed of David Grubnic in the opening round with a 3.865-second pass at 316.75 mph, then improved in the second round to dismiss his Don Schumacher Racing teammate and points leader Tony Schumacher with a 3.860/316.67 to Schumacher's 3.868/318.84.
With the utmost confidence in his team and his car, he faced second-in-points Larry Dixon in the semifinal with a chance to eliminate his and his teammate's fiercest competitor in the Countdown to 1 playoffs. But, a setting sun causing glare on the starting lights became a factor as McClenathan took off behind Dixon with a .150 reaction time to Dixon's .073 (.000 is perfect) and, despite a strong run down the 1000-foot track, he lost the contest posting a quicker pass of 3.844/316.38 to Dixon's 3.845/314.61.
Dixon went on to be eliminated by Spencer Massey in the final round, which tightened up the points rankings with one race remaining in the season. Schumacher held onto the lead by one point over Dixon, and McClenathan is 48 markers behind the top spot in third.
"It had to be the glare," said a disappointed McClenathan, who'd been battling the flu all weekend. "It's ridiculous because as a driver you're either late, get beat on a holeshot, or you don't, and I did.
"We had a great opportunity to win. We ran great. Phil and Todd (crew chiefs Shuler and Okuhara) did their jobs, the rest of the FRAM team did their jobs, but the driver just flat let them down.
"I couldn't see where Larry was, I couldn't see if he was staged. By the time I finally said, Forget it, I have to look at my side and concentrate on that, it was too late. The lights were coming down, I hit the gas. I knew I was late the whole time, knew we were trailing. All of a sudden I started seeing that we were catching him, but it was too late.
"We had a good hot rod. It's going to bring all the drama down to Pomona. I could have made it a lot easier on the Army team (Tony Schumacher), I could have made it a lot easier on the FRAM team today by going up there and doing my job, and it just didn't happen, for the all the wrong reasons, especially when you mean to do all the right things.
"Considering I got here and ended up with the flu, not to mention not wanting to get in the race car when you feel this bad, and not being able to enjoy Vegas while (fiancee) Debi had to take care of me every single day, I guess we did OK.
"I started feeling better today and for a while we had everything going our way. We'll just have to take it to Pomona, erase what happened in the past, and deal with the future."
Next up is the 45th annual Auto Club Nationals in Pomona, Calif., Nov. 12-15.