Canidae F/C Driver Bartone Bounces Back From Disaster With Semifinal Round Finish In Texas BAYTOWN, TX 3/30/08 "I think I can breathe now," said Canidae All Natural Pet Foods Funny Car team owner Jim Dunn after his driver, Floridian Tony ...
Canidae F/C Driver Bartone Bounces Back From Disaster With Semifinal Round Finish In Texas
BAYTOWN, TX 3/30/08 "I think I can breathe now," said Canidae All Natural Pet Foods Funny Car team owner Jim Dunn after his driver, Floridian Tony Bartone, wheeled the team's Chevrolet to a semifinal round finish at the NHRA O'Reilly Spring Nationals at Houston Raceway Park this afternoon. Just 15 days ago Dunn watched helplessly as his car did a wheelstand during qualifying for NHRA Gatornationals in Florida, and then broke the steering when it returned to earth. With Bartone "along for the ride," as he put it later, the car impacted both concrete guardwalls, and was too severely damaged to continue in competition.
The team promptly left the track and returned to their shop in Southern California, where Steve Plueger assisted them in speedily making the necessary repairs. Then it was back on the road to Houston for this weekend's race.
"When we had our crash in Florida there was nothing I could do," Bartone recalled. "I was pulling on the brakes as hard as I could, but the car had built up a lot of momentum by then, and without any steering I felt kind of foolish whipping the wheel back and forth with nothing happening.
"When we got here I was determined to put our best foot forward," he added. "Big Jim Dunn's been racing for more than 50 years, and I know how much pride he takes in the appearance and performance of this car, so no matter what, I wanted him to proud of our efforts this weekend. I think he was."
Following what amounted to little more than a half-track checkout run to make sure the car was in perfect condition, Bartone came back in the second session to rip off a 4.839 second elapsed time at slightly more than 305 MPH, which vaulted him to the Number 2 position in the 16-car field.
"We talked things over Saturday morning," said Dunn, "and decided we'd be better off skipping the third and fourth qualifying session because it was a lot warmer, and we didn't think anyone could approach what we'd run Friday night." Dunn, an acknowledged master at identifying track and atmospheric conditions, proved prescient in his estimate, as no other driver approached Bartone's numbers on Saturday.
In the first round of eliminations on Sunday Bartone's years of experience in both nitromethane and alcohol-fueled Funny Cars proved to be the difference-maker in his race against rookie Bob Tasca III. With both cars smoking their tires due to lost traction, Bartone recovered first for an uncharacteristic six second victory. "It wasn't pretty," he acknowledged, "but the Canidae Chevy's going to the second round, and that's what counts."
In the second round Bartone met and defeated Tommy Johnson, Jr. with a better 5.071/287.05 MPH effort after the Canidae Funny Car got slightly out of the groove at the top end of the track.
In the semifinal round Bartone had a superior Reaction Time against Ashley Force, but that's when the Canidae All Natural Pet Foods team's luck ran out, as the WileyX Eyewear/Speedway Illustrated Chevy smoked the tires, ending their day.
"After what this team went through in the last few weeks," said team owner Dunn following the race, "I'm proud of our performances. We might not have been the quickest car in Houston, but Tony did a great job behind the wheel, and all of our guys worked hard, and that's all you can ask for.
"I think this weekend demonstrated that we're going to be in the thick of things for the rest of the year, and right now, that's important."