Early Exit for Toliver at Season-Ending NHRA Finals POMONA, Calif., November 16, 2009 - Jerry Toliver had the unique distinction of being the first racer to face the newly crowned 2009 NHRA Full Throttle Funny Car champ in eliminations when he...
Early Exit for Toliver at Season-Ending NHRA Finals
POMONA, Calif., November 16, 2009 - Jerry Toliver had the unique distinction of being the first racer to face the newly crowned 2009 NHRA Full Throttle Funny Car champ in eliminations when he and Robert Hight squared off in the first round at this weekend's 45th annual Auto Club of Southern California NHRA Finals, and the Compton, Calif., native was hoping he could be the first to beat the new champ, too, driving the CANIDAE/Lucas Oil/WileyX Chevy in front of a hometown crowd at Pomona Raceway.
Both drivers left the starting line with near-identical reaction times but both lost traction just past the 400-foot mark and the pedalfest was on. Toliver pedaled once but an auto shut-off valve slowed the CANIDAE car to a losing 5.195 elapsed time at 154.35 mph as Hight pedaled to a 4.842 e.t. at 196.64 mph. Toliver had a season-best semifinal-round performance at the NHRA Fall Nationals at Dallas in September and finished 14th in the final Funny Car points standings. This was Hight's the first Funny Car championship of his career.
"We had a couple of good runs our last two qualifying sessions, so I felt pretty good coming into today," Toliver said. "I guess it wasn't meant to be. But congratulations to Robert and his team on their first championship. They really came on there at the end of the season.
"And I have to say a big thank you to Big Jim Dunn, Diane, Jon Dunn and the whole CANIDAE Racing team. It was a privilege to be driving for a Hall of Famer like Big Jim, especially in his 60th year of drag racing. That's pretty amazing, isn't it?"
The NHRA recognized driver/tuner/team owner Jim Dunn for his 60 years in drag racing prior to eliminations on Sunday.
"They just don' think I'm going to be here much longer so they pat me on the back once in awhile," Dunn said with a laugh. "No, it was pretty cool. It takes a lot to stay in the sport this long. You first have to be good enough to qualify. I hold a record of one kind. I've won a 'Wally' for the last five decades - each decade I've won at least one race. How many can say they won a 'Wally' in the 60s, 70s, 80s, 90s and this one? Not very many.
"It was very nice. This is my home track and to have it happen here at the Finals - I really enjoyed that. It makes you think that maybe they did appreciate me coming out and doing all this. Like I tell people, I do this to entertain myself and I'll keep doing this until I can't do it any longer. If my car's running good and I'm not getting excited, then I'll quit. I still get just as excited now as I did 60 years ago."
"Just as a reminder, Jim's been doing this longer than NHRA's been in existence - 60 years," said Tom Compton, NHRA president. "He's a true pioneer of the sport. (I thank him) for sixty great years and all that he's done for the sport as well."
The first stop on the 2010 NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series schedule will be the 50th annual Kragen O'Reilly NHRA Winternationals at Auto Club Raceway at Pomona on Feb. 11-14, 2010.