Seattle Memories Stoke Inner Fires of Gibbs' Pilots

Seattle memories stoke inner fires of Gibbs' pilots SEATTLE (July 21) -- Six years ago two young Top Fuel pilots rolled into the staging lights of Seattle International Raceway with the title of the Northwest Nationals on the line. One driver...

Seattle memories stoke inner fires of Gibbs' pilots

SEATTLE (July 21) -- Six years ago two young Top Fuel pilots rolled into the staging lights of Seattle International Raceway with the title of the Northwest Nationals on the line. One driver was the second-best pilot in the world, having finished the 1992 season as the Winston series runner-up. The other pilot had yet to record a single win.

"Sitting in the staging lanes I knew that he easily had me covered," the underdog said. "He'd been running great and I'd been getting lucky breaks all day. But I thought I could at least make him work for the win. I knew I'd be pushing my car to the limits."

When the National Hot Rod Association makes its annual stop July 30--Aug. 1 at S.I.R. for the Prolong Super Lubricants Northwest Nationals presented by Al's Auto Supply, those same two drivers will be pushing each other to the limits once again. The difference is that this year, the winner of that race in 1993, Tommy Johnson, and his former rival, Cory McClenathan, will be supporting each other as teammates in the Gibbs Racing camp.

Johnson, who now competes in the Funny Car class, will be looking for his first win behind the wheel of his Gumout-sponsored Interstate Batteries Pontiac Firebird. Meanwhile McClenathan, who has two wins and three runner-up finishes in Seattle, will attempt to put his Gumout-sponsored MBNA Top Fuel Dragster back into S.I.R.'s Victory Circle.

"Maybe Cory and I can pull off the double victory," Johnson said. "I know I'll be doing everything I can to win the Funny Car title and he's always contending for the Top Fuel crown. It would be great to double up.

"The day I beat him (in 1993) he gave away the race on a red light. But I didn't care because it was the first time I'd ever won in Top Fuel. This year I'd like to get my first Funny Car win in Seattle. Maybe it's my lucky track."

McClenathan, who finished as the event's runner-up last year and won the race outright in 1997, has let the memory of his 1993 second-place finish to Johnson fade. "I put up a mental block when I lose a race like that," McClenathan said. "But I'm sure Tommy will rib me about it if he gets the chance.

"My main focus is this year's race. The points race is so tight now that we're all within 100 points of the lead. The parity in this class has left the championship out there for the taking. We're doing everything we can to make a run at it. I completed a sweep of the West Coast Swing (Denver, Seattle and Sonoma races) at S.I.R. in 1997 and we did well there last year. Maybe some more of that Northwest magic will find me again this year."

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Series NHRA
Drivers Tommy Johnson , Cory McClenathan