Healthy McClenathan Looking For Repeat in Phoenix PHOENIX (Feb. 19, 1999) -- Cory McClenathan, driver of the MBNA Top Fuel dragster, wouldn't mind borrowing a bit of Yogi Berra's "deja vu all over again" when he arrives for the Checker...
Healthy McClenathan Looking For Repeat in Phoenix PHOENIX (Feb. 19, 1999) -- Cory McClenathan, driver of the MBNA Top Fuel dragster, wouldn't mind borrowing a bit of Yogi Berra's "deja vu all over again" when he arrives for the Checker Schuck's Kragen Nationals, Feb. 26-28 at Firebird International Raceway near Phoenix.
Last year, McClenathan and his Joe Gibbs Racing Top Fuel team dominated the category on race day, setting the NHRA speed record at 322.92 mph and producing three of the quickest elapsed times en route to a victory over Jim Head in the finals. It was the first of six wins for the driver known as "Cory Mac."
"That was a great win for us," said McClenathan, who also won in Phoenix in 1994 and was runner-up in 1996. "We always seem to run strong at Firebird. We'd really like to have the same kind of results this year."
McClenathan, who has a home in Lake Havasu City, Ariz., arrives in Phoenix with a new sponsor - MBNA - and a familiar place in points -- sixth -- the same at this time last year. He lost in the second round three weeks ago at the season-opening Winternationals in Pomona, Calif. (Feb. 7) to eventual race winner Mike Dunn.
While it was an earlier exit than what he wanted, McClenathan was happy just to have the opportunity to compete. He was forced to miss the last two qualifying sessions after suffering a gastro-intestinal attack that sent him to a hospital for treatment.
"The doctor said I had a virus that was going around. They gave me fluids and I was back at the race track Saturday afternoon," McClenathan reported. "When all was said and done, I felt fortunate we did as well as we did. We only ran in one qualifying session (the first was rained out)."
McClenathan made the most of it, 4.631 seconds at 307.09 mph. He admitted he "felt really tired on race day. I didn't have any energy." Nevertheless, McClenathan displayed a lot of grit and determination in competition. He beat Doug Herbert in the first round with a 4.632-second run, then got beat in the next round with a 4.660 against Dunn's 4.561.
"I'll be fine (physically) by the time we get to Phoenix," he said. "We'll have to step up our performance and see if we can run in the mid 4.50s. The key is to do that and not hurt parts. We didn't hurt many parts at Pomona. We know Firebird has a tricky track. We ran well there during preseason testing but you never know what kind of track (surface) you'll be getting."
Last year's win in Phoenix started an impressive streak of four victories in five races that carried McClenathan into the Winston Series lead, an advantage he held until Gary Scelzi won five of the last eight events. Scelzi claimed his second straight championship and McClenathan wound up with his third runner-up finish in the last four years.
Friday and Saturday qualifying (11:30 a.m. and 3:30 p.m.) will set the fields for Sunday's 11 a.m. eliminations.