Skuza is a awingin'. (SONOMA, Calif.) -- Dean Skuza has taken advantage of NHRA's mid-summer Western marathon. With only five round victories heading into the mid-July Mopar Parts Mile-High Nationals at Bandimere Speedway in Morrison, Colo.,...
Skuza is a awingin'.
(SONOMA, Calif.) -- Dean Skuza has taken advantage of NHRA's mid-summer Western marathon. With only five round victories heading into the mid-July Mopar Parts Mile-High Nationals at Bandimere Speedway in Morrison, Colo., Skuza and the Mopar Parts Dodge Stratus R/T Nitro Funny Car have reeled off two-consecutive, semifinal-round appearances and moved firmly into the top 10 in points for the first time this season.
"You can make or break your season on the Western swing," said Skuza, speaking of the three-straight West coast races consisting of Bandimere Speedway, Pacific Raceways just outside Seattle and Infineon Raceway in Sonoma, Calif."We're on our way back. We've had two pretty good outings in a row. But more importantly, we have run much more consistently since we put on this new, lighter Dodge Stratus R/T body. It's made all the difference in the world."
Even 11-time NHRA Funny Car champion John Force hasn't stood in Skuza's way. In Denver, Skuza ran past Force in the second round of eliminations; while collecting an opening-round salvo on Force at the most recent event in Seattle. Since the 2001 season closer at Pomona (Calif.) Raceway last November, the Brecksville, Ohio resident has recorded four victories in their last five match ups. And Skuza has logged three in a row.
"When you beat John Force, it's like beating the great Ted Williams," said Skuza, who is a long-time admirer of the legendary Force."You almost feel bad about doing it. But in today's racing climate, its something that's way, way in the back of your mind. It's just too much of a business right now to be too sentimental about things like that.
"We're not intimidated by the Force team," Skuza added."We just go out there and run our own race. We try to get down the track without beating ourselves. I think that's the key. If he runs quicker than us, you go shake hands at the top end and wait until next week. It's amazing how many teams beat themselves against Force. We just don't do that."
Skuza sees the West Coast barrage as a real temperature gauge for the rest of the season.
"As a team, none of us would be surprised if we take home a top-five points finish this year," Skuza noted."This team has been working extremely hard this year and they want to win just as badly as I do. We're still underachieving, but we are definitely headed in the right direction now."
Morgan Gives Thanks. Larry Morgan is just fine-- thank you. At Pacific Raceways just outside Seattle in the most recent Lucas Oil Products NHRA Nationals, the Newark, Ohio, resident and driver of the blue Mopar Parts Dodge Neon R/T took home his best-qualifying effort of the season in the seventh slot.
It was the first time Morgan had qualified in the top half if the field since a memorable 2000 NHRA event at Memphis (Tenn.) Motorports Park. At that event, Morgan collected the third-qualifying position and became the first driver to push the new 500-cubic-inch Pro Stock Hemi engine past the 200-mph barrier.
Morgan credits much of his newfound success to NHRA Pro Stock legend Bob Glidden. Prior to the Mopar Parts Mile-High NHRA Nationals at Bandimere Speedway in Morrison, Colo., Morgan and Glidden completely overhauled Morgan's Dodge Neon R/T, making drastic changes along the way.
"Bob called me up after St. Louis and told me what was wrong with my car," Morgan said."I invited Bob and his son Rusty to come over and see if they could help me out. After we went through the car, changing everything underneath it and around the clutch area, we have come out and run pretty strong. I can't thank Bob and all the guys that came over enough for making this car run like it should again."
Earlier in the season-- at the season-opening Winternationals at Pomona (Calif.) Raceway-- Morgan loaned his back up car to Glidden in an attempt to get him qualified. Despite a failed effort, it further solidified an already wonderful relationship.
"I was the first one there to see Bob when he came out of heart surgery a couple of years back," Morgan said."He was a great champion on the track, but no one is a nicer person off it. Bob is truly a class individual and deserves much of the credit for getting my team back on track.
Burn Down King. Gene Wilson has been involved in two of the most memorable moments thus far in the 2002 POWERade Drag Racing Series season. At Old Bridge Township Raceway Park in Englishtown, N.J., Mopar Parts Pro Stock rookie Wilson dueled Mark Osborne in a 77-second burn down that brought the crowd to its feet. They roared in approval as Osborne finally staged, but fell victim to a .454 light by Wilson.
At the most recent Lucas Oil Products NHRA Nationals at Pacific Raceways, another burn down occurred. This time against former NBA power forward and Pro Stock veteran Larry Nance. In what some described as the longest starting-line duel in NHRA history; both Wilson and Nance sat motionless for two minutes an forty-five seconds while the pre-stage bulbs were lit. Neither would budge and neither would stage first. Finally, chief starter Rick Stewart, obviously agitated with the two as he repeatedly motioned them to stage, flickered dueling red lights and backed the pair off the starting line. A move that sent the large Seattle crowd into a frenzy.
A brief rain shower mid-first round delayed activity for a few minutes allowing Wilson and Nance to regain their composure and and cool off their clutches. As soon as the track dried, the duo took to the starting line again-- but with much different results. Wilson immediately lit the pre-stage bulb; then the stage bulb; giving Nance seven seconds to match his opponents intensity. It wasn't meant to be for Wilson however, as the red light flashed. It was over for Wilson.
"Sometimes you have to do what you to do to get an advantage," said Wilson, who won many an IHRA race on holeshots during his 2001 championship run."There are no hard feeling between us. We're both out here to win a race."
Wilson and his Mopar Parts Dodge Neon R/T are set to make an inaugural appearance at the newly renamed and refurbished Infineon Raceway in the wine country of Sonoma, Calif., and the Fram Autolite NHRA Nationals.
"We had a good car and good qualifying effort in Seattle," said Wilson, who recorded a 6.821-second elapsed time during the third-qualifying session to grab the eighth slot."We have resolved some of the problems we have been having. The goal is to qualify both Darrell (Alderman) and I for the next race."