THE REACTION TIME GAME (JOLIET, Ill.) -- 'Cutting a good light' off the starting line is often the difference between winning and losing in the sport of NHRA Winston Drag Racing. Heading into this weekend's Fram Route 66 NHRA Nationals, ...
THE REACTION TIME GAME
(JOLIET, Ill.) -- 'Cutting a good light' off the starting line is often the difference between winning and losing in the sport of NHRA Winston Drag Racing.
Heading into this weekend's Fram Route 66 NHRA Nationals, Dodge Motorsports and Team Mopar drivers realize the importance of mastering the starting tree.
Dean Skuza, who drives the MATCO/Mopar Nitro Funny Car, has led the class in reaction times the last three years.
"I have a little bit quicker than average reaction time," Skuza said. "A lot of it has to do with the car's tune up. Since I've been working with (crew chief) Lance (Larsen), I have really improved in that area.
"I just try to be consistent with my lights," Skuza continued. "I could cut a lot faster lights, but when you red light it's over before it starts. You don't want to put yourself in that position."
The Dodge Avenger pilot feels his reaction times are one of the few factors he can control.
"It costs more than $100,000 to get these things even a tenth (of-a-second) quicker," Skuza said. "Reaction times are free. You have to take advantage of that."
"I realize the importance of a good reaction time and I'm really hungry," Skuza added. "My guys really work their tails off. I don't know if I want to face them if I lost on a holeshot."
Skuza went on to say that obtaining a good reaction time is 99 percent mental.
"It's a case of not letting the other guy psyche you out," Skuza said.
Dodge Motorsports Pro Stock veteran Larry Morgan agrees with Skuza.
"On race day, it's real important to have a good reaction time," Morgan said. "When you take on the competition we do in Pro Stock, you need to have exceptional reaction times to win.
"I've always said you need to have the best light, regardless how fast your car is," Morgan continued. "A lot of guys with a lot of power will sometimes back off on the lights. I've never felt you should back off because it will come back to get you."
Morgan, who drives a Hemi-powered Dodge Avenger, explains his starting line approach.
"I turn the last light, which is what you go by, into a big light," Morgan said. "Every time you run, make that light your best one."
Team Mopar Dodge Avenger driver Darrell Alderman, a three-time NHRA Winston World Pro Stock Champion, is considered one of the best on the tree.
"On race day, a good percentage of the drivers winning races are the ones leaving first," Alderman explained. "With all of the great drivers and teams out there, a good reaction time is usually the difference."
Alderman, who has won 27 NHRA National Events, has always concentrated on mastering his reaction times.
"When I get to the starting line, I try to break the tree down," Alderman said. "You have to make every light count. It's important to stay focused on the objective and not get distracted by your opponent."
MORGAN'S NEW HEMI
(JOLIET, Ill.) -- Following the first two rounds of qualifying during last weekend's Castrol NHRA Nationals at the Texas Motorplex in Ennis, Dodge Motorsports driver Morgan installed his new 1,300-horsepower Hemi engine.
Larry Morgan Motorsports and Mopar's team of factory engineers and designers shipped the new powerplant, already being run by Team Mopar teammates Scott Geoffrion and Darrell Alderman, in from Ohio after months of development.
"I can't tell you how hard everybody has worked on this," said Morgan, who replaced his Dodge Wedge V-8. "We have worked closely with Mopar's engineers and designers. With their help, the new engine has progressed a lot quicker than expected."
Despite not qualifying in Texas, Morgan has high hopes for this weekend's Fram Route 66 Nationals at Route 66 Raceway.
"I think you'll start to see a difference next weekend in Chicago," Morgan commented. "Scott and Darrell have run really well with this new Hemi. This team hopes for the same."
GETTING YOUR KICKS ON ...
(JOLIET, Ill.) -- Route 66 Raceway. Those three words bring a smile to the face of Team Mopar ace Darrell Alderman. The Dodge Avenger Pro Stock driver is quite impressed with suburban Chicago's newest show places, host of this weekend's third annual Fram Route 66 NHRA Nationals.
"The Route 66 facility has to be one of, if not the, nicest tracks on the NHRA circuit," Alderman said. "The track is clean, looks beautiful and has a good surface."
Scott Geoffrion, who drives a Team Mopar Dodge Avenger, also likes the track.
"They do a great job," Geoffrion noted. "It's always nice to visit a well-kept facility. Route 66 has that reputation."
In the Nitro Funny Car ranks, MATCO/Mopar driver Dean Skuza feels his Dodge Avenger should react well to the relatively new surface.
"We have run well at Chicago in the past," said Skuza, who made to the semifinals last year. "I think we can go two more rounds and win the thing."
BARZ JOINS TEAM MOPAR
(JOLIET, Ill.) -- On Friday, WGN-TV sports anchor Mike Barz will join Nickens Brothers Racing as an honorary crewmember at Route 66 Raceway. Barz will help Dodge Avenger drivers Darrell Alderman and Scott Geoffrion attempt to qualify for this weekend's Fram Route 66 NHRA Nationals.
"I'm really looking forward to this opportunity," Barz said. "I have never done anything like this before -- it should be exciting."
Barz, who is shooting a sports feature on the Team Mopar Pro Stock operation, will receive a behind-the- scenes look at how a top-level NHRA Pro Stock team develops its game plan during race weekend.
"There is a lot of hard work and dedication that goes into one of these race teams," said co-team owner David Nickens. "I don't think people realize all of the factors playing out during a weekend."
WGN-TV is a national broadcast cable company based in Chicago. Barz hosts the station's morning sports report.
For those familiar, WGN-TV televises Chicago Cubs, Chicago White Sox and Chicago Bulls games throughout their respective Major League Baseball and National Basketball Ass'n seasons. WGN-TV was the flagship station for Hall of Fame baseball announcer Harry Caray before he died.
An airtime has yet to be announced.
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