Seeing things at night Mopar Pro Stock Drivers Gear for Something Different MADISON, Ill. (June 20, 2003) -- This year's Sears Craftsman NHRA Nationals at Gateway International Raceway has a new twist to it -- or an old twist. It's the return...
Seeing things at night
Mopar Pro Stock Drivers Gear for Something Different
MADISON, Ill. (June 20, 2003) -- This year's Sears Craftsman NHRA Nationals at Gateway International Raceway has a new twist to it -- or an old twist. It's the return of night racing to the NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series.
For the first time since 2000, the NHRA will be conducting an entire national event under the lights. But this will be the first time the series hosts a night race ending on Sunday night. Mopar Pro Stock driver Darrell Alderman is quite thrilled about the possibilities.
"I think it's going to be a lot of fun out there," said Alderman, the three-time Pro Stock World Champion. "I really like racing at night -- it's what I did before I became a professional. You cut your teeth running at small drag strips during the night. And you can sure see the light better -- that's for sure. It's especially going to help me."
Gateway International Raceway has been known as one of the hottest races on the circuit. The move to a nighttime format, for both qualifying and eliminations, will also change track conditions. One's which are traditionally inconsistent in the heat of the day.
"We normally don't change much on the car," said Mopar factory Pro Stock driver Allen Johnson -- who drove to the semifinals at the most recent event at National Trail Raceway in Hebron, Ohio. "The track is usually a lot more consistent without the sun on it. Which means we'll be able to do a few more things on the car -- and be able to establish a solid baseline much quicker."
What changes however, is how the drivers approach the starting line on race day.
"You can usually cut one to two hundredths (of a second) off your reaction time when you run at night," Johnson noted. "We'll just adjust the (clutch) linkage, so it fits the situation."
But 2002 NHRA Futures Award winner Gene Wilson has a slightly different perspective, "It's kind of scary in a way. The Christmas tree, even during the daylight hours with the sun shining, you can still go red when you let the clutch out. At nighttime, normally a driver's reaction time is much better -- usually by two to three hundredths (of a second). The background that you see behind the tree is much more defined.
"On the other hand, I think it's going to draw more spectators and it's not going to be such agony setting out in the starting lanes in a car with no air conditioner in it," Wilson continued. "I think it's going to be great for the NHRA -- I'm all for it."
QUICK NOTES FOR GATEWAY...
The Dodge Stratus R/T Pro Stock car made its first semifinal round appearance when Mopar's Allen Johnson defeated Jim Yates and Jeg Coughlin, Jr., at National Trail Raceway in Hebron, Ohio, on June 15.
Mopar factory Pro Stock drivers Allen Johnson (8th) and Darrell Alderman (10th) currently hold top-10 points positions in the POWERade championship chase. It's the latest in the season that two Mopar drivers have been in the top 10 since 1994. That year, Alderman won his third championship while teammate Scott Geoffrion finished a close second.
Allen Johnson has recorded one final-round (Pomona) and two semifinal-round appearances (Gainesville & Columbus) so far this season. Teammate Darrell Alderman has one final-round outing (Englishtown); while recording a semifinal-round appearance in the Pomona season opener.
Darrell Alderman qualified in the 11th slot for last year's Sears Craftsman NHRA Nationals -- losing in the second round to George Marnell.