Pomona II: Cory McClenathan eliminations summary

McClenathan wins first of 2002 and 27th of his career. POMONA, Calif. -- Cory McClenathan, from Anaheim, Calif., driver of the Henkelman & Baca Berryman B-12 Chemtooler Top Fuel Dragster, took home the "Wally", named after NHRA founder Wally...

McClenathan wins first of 2002 and 27th of his career.

POMONA, Calif. -- Cory McClenathan, from Anaheim, Calif., driver of the Henkelman & Baca Berryman B-12 Chemtooler Top Fuel Dragster, took home the "Wally", named after NHRA founder Wally Parks, emblematic of winning the 38th annual NHRA Automobile Club of Southern California Finals. It was McClenathan's 27th career win and first in 2002. But there were times this weekend that it looked like no one would be running here today.

Rain was the only thing on the track during the time scheduled for Friday's and Saturday's qualifying sessions for this season-final event, leaving all professional competitors with only one opportunity to make the field of the elite-16 that took to the Pomona Raceway quarter-mile for today's eliminations.

With the field set by Thursday's one and only qualifying session and, for some in the top 10 in points, by the NHRA rulebook, McClenathan met head-on with John Smith, the husband of Top Fuel driver Rhonda Hartman-Smith, in the opening stanza. McClenathan qualified fourth by virtue of his 4.615 second pass on Thursday, while Smith qualified 13th.

McClenathan, fifth in the NHRA POWERade point standings entering this event and needing a semifinal or final round finish to have an opportunity at advancing to either the third or fourth spot in the final point standings, began his quest by winning the opening round when Smith red-lighted. Saving parts and pieces, after smoking the tires, McClenathan shut it down when he saw the red light and coasted to the finish line.

His quarterfinal opponent was the other half of the Hartman-Smith family, Rhonda Hartman-Smith, who won over McClenathan's teammate David Baca in the first round when mechanical problems forced Baca to shut off prior to running.

Blazing the quarter-mile in 4.636 seconds, McClenathan made it two for two against the Hartman-Smith family today, driving away from Rhonda in round two. Cory Mac has now won five of six match ups against John Smith and six of eight against Rhonda Hartman-Smith in 2002. Next up for the Henkelman & Baca team was Andrew Cowin, one of two Australian Top Fuel drivers in today's eliminations. Cowin defeated Doug Kalitta in the quarterfinals.

With his first holeshot win of the year, McClenathan turned back the hard charging Cowin in the semifinals. Reaction time (the time between the green light and leaving the starting lane) was the difference. It was a reaction time of .487 seconds for McClenathan against .524 seconds for Cowin. The difference at the finish line was .010 seconds in favor of McClenathan.

This set up a final round between McClenathan and Yuichi Oyama. It was Cory Mac's 42nd final round and the first for Oyama, a native of Japan. The pair have met once before (in the Mac Tools U.S. Nationals in Indy) with McClenathan taking the victory in that one.

Make that two wins for Cory Mac against Yuichi Oyama and the 27th of his career as McClenathan turned back Oyama. Again it was a holeshot win. He won this event back in 1992 and he did it again 10 years later.

"You have no idea how this win feels," said McClenathan immediately following the victory. "The crew did a great job, we had a great time. Berryman Products coming on board made this whole thing different. Turned our year around. I have to thank them first and foremost. David (Baca) and Rick (Henkelman) thanks for giving me a chance to drive this awesome car this year. A special to my daughter Courtney, my wife Amy and all the good people. It was awesome doing this in front of the hometown fans."

"This win couldn't have come at a better time," said teammate and team owner/partner David Baca. "This (Henkelman and Baca) team has worked hard all year. What a team! What a driver! We're going to get this program funded for next year."

The win moved McClenathan into a tie with Doug Kalitta for fourth in the final 2002 NHRA POWERade Top Fuel point standings. Due to tie-breaking rules, McClenathan will have to settle for fifth as Kalitta holds a two to one win advantage in head-to-head competition this season. Cory Mac and Kalitta have 1425 points each, just three points behind third place Tony Schumacher, who ended the season with 1428. Larry Dixon and Kenny Bernstein finished one and two respectively.

-h&bm-

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Series NHRA
Drivers Larry Dixon , Rhonda Hartman-Smith , Tony Schumacher , Doug Kalitta , Andrew Cowin , David Baca , Cory McClenathan , Cory Mac