LAS VEGAS, March 31, 2001 - With the completion of two events on the 14-event NHRA Pro Stock Truck schedule, drivers Jeff Gracia and Mike Corvo Jr. have successfully battled their way into the top 10 of the Winston points standings, living up...
LAS VEGAS, March 31, 2001 - With the completion of two events on the 14-event NHRA Pro Stock Truck schedule, drivers Jeff Gracia and Mike Corvo Jr. have successfully battled their way into the top 10 of the Winston points standings, living up to the professional-grade image of their GMC Sonomas. Now with the tour's next stop looming next weekend at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, John Lingenfelter would like to cash in on some of the action.
"We're disappointed on where we are, but we've managed to make big gains in our engine program," said Lingenfelter. "In turn it's caused us some chassis problems where we're having trouble getting that power to the ground. We've been working hard these past few weeks on trying to improve that and I think in Las Vegas we may be able to turn the corner."
With his base of operations in Decatur, Ind., Lingenfelter's credentials as both a driver and engine builder are well known. He spent many years honing his talent as a successful Sportsman racer in which he won 13 national events in Competition Eliminator. In 1987, Lingenfelter built the twin-turbo engine for the Callaway Sledgehammer Corvette which he drove to a top speed of 254 mph at the 7.5-mile high-speed oval test facility in Bellefontaine, Ohio.
Lingenfelter was selected to run exhibition passes in the newly created NHRA Pro Stock Truck category in 1997. In the series' inaugural season in '98, he captured the No. 1 qualifying position at three events, advanced to four final rounds, won the Autolite Nationals in Sonoma, Calif., and finished second in the Winston points standings behind Larry Kopp.
Last year Lingenfelter's program experienced a resurgence from its 12th-place showing in '99 after qualifying in the top half of the field at six events. He was second at Atlanta, third at St. Louis and fourth at Indianapolis. After struggling during time trials here at last year's event, raceday saw Lingenfelter advancing all the way to round three before falling to Randy Daniels. His year-long effort was good for 10th-place in the Pro Stock Truck standings.
"We were pleased with the top-10 finish, but disappointed at the same time since we felt we should have run better," said Lingenfelter. "The performance at the end of the year on the Summit Racing Sonoma picked up quite a bit from where we were at the start of the season and we got a lot better handle on the truck itself. One of the big things that hurt us was not qualifying at Memphis. When you have only 14 races to accumulate points, every round counts."
During the off-season, Lingenfelter implemented an extensive testing program on the Summit Racing Sonoma aimed at reestablishing his team as a top-five contender. He's hoping that the weeks that follow will justify his confidence.
"We had a clutch problem in Gainesville that contributed to our not qualifying there," explained Lingenfelter. "We stayed and tested and got that resolved. Then we were having some trouble with our tires as far as growing more than we expected them to, but we were able to get that figured out as well. We ran strong in Houston but decided to stay over there to try and resolve some chassis issues.
"We're happy that the engine shows good power and that we've improved in that area, but we need to get even quicker. I mean the 7.39 elapsed time by Greg (Stanfield) at Houston was pretty amazing."
As the season heats up over the next few months Lingenfelter knows that his program will have to improve to keep pace with the ever-growing competitiveness of the Pro Stock Truck class.
"Everyone in this class is really dedicated to the sport," said Lingenfelter. "The development from race to race of every team has just been phenomenal. Every race we're surprised with someone that has picked up. The power level between the competing engine programs is actually closer than you think, looking at the performance itself. Now most of the gains are coming from improvements and adjustments to the chassis.
"One thing that will help us more is once it gets warmer in the northern latitudes, we'll be able to test more. The teams that are based in warmer climates get an advantage to test a lot more over the winter. In about another month we'll be able to test more and that will help us a lot. After Las Vegas we should have a lot more time to resolve a lot of the issues we have right now. We're really happy with the Summit Racing GMC Sonoma right now overall, we just have some small things we need to get worked out."
"Las Vegas is completely different from about anything else we run on," added Lingenfelter. "The air is a lot thinner and the altitude is higher so we're down on power there. It's a one-of-a-kind race but similar in many ways to Bristol. It'll be an interesting race and our goal is to run well for Summit Racing and GMC. We're optimistic to say the least."
- Jeff Romack