Millington: Cory McClenathan preview

McClenathan must step-up the pace at the NHRA O'Reilly Nationals. MILLINGTON, Tenn. -- For Cory McClenathan, driver of the Henkelman & Baca Motorsports Centennial Batteries Top Fuel Dragster, Memphis Motorsport Park was the site of his first ...

McClenathan must step-up the pace at the NHRA O'Reilly Nationals.

MILLINGTON, Tenn. -- For Cory McClenathan, driver of the Henkelman & Baca Motorsports Centennial Batteries Top Fuel Dragster, Memphis Motorsport Park was the site of his first professional victory.

The year was 1992, McClenathan was in his second season as a professional drag racing driver. That day he defeated some big names in the sport of drag racing: Connie Kalitta in the opening round, Joe Amato in the quarterfinals and Don Prudhomme in the semifinals. This placed him in the final round against Michael Brotherton. It was the first final round of his career and as it turned out his first win.

McClenathan, now in his 12th season behind the wheel of a Top Fuel Dragster, recalls that first win, all the while staying focused on this weekend.

"The thing that I remember most about that first win and the thing that most people forget or didn't know was that we were getting ready to park the car and probably weren't going to continue on unless we got a win real soon," remembered McClenathan. "At that Memphis race (crew chief) Jimmy (Prock) tried a new fuel pump, the latest and greatest at the time, and we ran really consistent and well throughout the entire weekend and we ended up winning the race.

"You would think I would remember the competition that I defeated that day because that's a pretty good list to go through for the day, Kalitta, Amato and Prudhomme, but all I remember is going up against Darrell Gwynn's car and Michael Brotherton in the finals. We worked hard for the victory and being my first Top Fuel win I'll always remember it.

This weekend McClenathan would like to make Memphis Motorsport Park the site of his 27th win. To do so the Anaheim, Calif., driver feels he must step-up the pace.

"(Crew chief) Wes Cerny has made the call to step up our pace," said McClenathan. "He wants to start trying to run low E.T. each session. Run the car a lot harder. That's his thought for the rest of the season. He wants to go for it and try to gain points and get back in third in the POWERade point standings. In short, Wes is ready to make a statement here. That's the kind of line we're going to take from now on out it looks like. That was up to Wes Cerny; he made the call.

"I feel good about this approach. Let's run hard all the time and take a chance. It's something we've got to do. We've got nothing to lose as far as I'm concerned, " added McClenathan.

With Larry Dixon and Kenny Bernstein fighting for the top two spots in the NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series point standings, it looks like a toss up for positions three through six. Entering this weekend's NHRA O'Reilly Nationals presented by Pennzoil, McClenathan is fourth just 67 points behind Tony Schumacher in third. Others behind him are looking to make their move. Cory Mac leads fifth place Darrell Russell by five points and he is 24 points in front of sixth place Doug Kalitta. With just five races left on the 2002 NHRA schedule, to say every qualifying point and every elimination round is important is an understatement. This point battle will not be decided until they turn out the lights on the season final in Pomona, Calif.

"Others may say they are not thinking about points, but believe me they are. I know we are. This Henkelman and Baca team cannot leave a point on the table. We must step it up each and every time we are on the track beginning this weekend at the O'Reilly Nationals and not let up until all is said and done at the finals (NHRA AAA Auto Club Finals)," concluded McClenathan.

-h&bm-

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Series NHRA
Drivers Larry Dixon , Kenny Bernstein , Tony Schumacher , Joe Amato , Doug Kalitta , Cory McClenathan , Don Prudhomme , Cory Mac , Connie Kalitta