The Jim Dunn-owned Canidae team originally planned to run a special blue paint scheme on their car here in Indy, but unfortunately, the body wasn't quite ready in time for the Big Go. The body is a brand-new one, and though a lot of work has been done on it, there was still some to do on the adjustable wicker on the back of it, so the body is still at Murf McKinney's shop being worked on. The team did have the new car out for display at the Indianapolis Colts-Cincinatti Bengals game on Thursday night, representing major sponsor Lucas Oil as part of a big display that also included Morgan Lucas' Top Fueler and Larry Morgan's Pro Stock Mustang. But the car immediately went back to McKinney's after that. The team will run the special scheme at some point this year, but they have not yet determined when that will be.
Greg Stanfield ran his first complete DRCE-3 engine for the first time this weekend, and the Nitro Fish Gear Pro Stock Pontiac responded with a solid No. 6 qualifying performance of 6.584, 209.14 mph. This is the first time that Stanfield has qualified in the top half of the field for the first time since the Atlanta race in May.
“We’ve been running the -3 heads with the -2 block previously, and we tested the full -3 combination right before Indy," said Stanfield. "It didn’t run very fast then, but we made some changes to both the front and rear suspension since then, and the car really picked up. Apparently, our suspension has been off for quite some time, and that’s the reason for our recent sub-par performances.
"I just have this one -3 engine now, but now that I know the combination works, I’ll build a back-up engine. I have all the parts at our shop, and I should have it together in about three weeks.”
At its most basic point, the Mac Tools U.S. Nationals is a series of mechanical challenges. Team versus team. Team versus the track. Team versus the parts.
And, this year, Man vs. Door.
You can get yourself into trouble in a lot of ways at a race as big as the U.S. Nationals. You can get run over in the pits. You can misquote a racer or blow a big story. You can walk into the wrong restroom. Or you can get yourself locked into a tower suite.
I know. It happened to me.
This is my story.
It was late Sunday and all of my NHRA.com work was largely done. I stepped out onto the back deck of the Parks Tower for a little fresh air and some stress relief, then figured I'd climb up to the fourth floor and see what was going on in the National DRAGSTER suite that so grandly overlooks the track. (Honestly, we only have the suite because no one else was scheduled for it.)
I peeked in the window and it was empty. Advertising Manager Jeff Morton was done entertaining clients and had already closed up shop for the day. I tried the handle, and the latch half opened. I twisted a little bit harder and it opened fully. Suite!! I mean, sweet! I walked in, grabbed a Vitamin Water from the cooler, watched a few pairs of Alcohol Funny Car, and then was ready to head back to work. I twisted the handle on the door and it turned. Unfortunately, nothing inside the rest of the doorhandle mechanism did. The knob spun and spun with no affect on the latch. I was locked in our own suite.
Panic began to set in. No, I wasn't worried about surviving; there was a plate of six brownies still on the table and a cooler full of drinks. The real panic was having to face the embarrassment of calling someone for help.
"Uh, hello. This is Phil Burgess. Oh, I’m fine, but … y'see … um … I … um … am kind of in a jam."
I'd never live that down with my fellow staffers. There are legendary stories of staff miscues from decades past that still echo in our hallways and are dredged up each year to much amusement, and I'll be darned if I was going to end up as a new one.
The thinking man's toolbox: A ballpoint pen and a set of brownie tongs.
Fortunately for the fate of the entire Mac Tools U.S. Nationals, I'm no one-trick pony. I have skills beyond my mastery of the written world. You see, before landing here at National DRAGSTER 28 years ago, I worked facility maintenance at a large wheelchair factory, so door locks are something with which I having a passing familiarity.
The good news was that the lock was one of those KwikSet jobs; relatively simple if you can get into them. . and this would have been a snap if I had a screwdriver in my pocket but – and here comes the bad news – I had neglected to pack one for my trip.
I had a ballpoint pen. That's it. So I channeled my inner MacGyver. I used the ballpoint to depress the little spring-loaded button that holds the knob on, and it pulled right off. OK, that was the easy part. Now just two screws stood between me and freedom. Now what? Then I looked at the brownies. Next to the plate was a set of tongs, with triangle heads and a point, albeit rounded. If these had been regular screws, I would have been set. I could use the tongs to twist the screws; of course, they were Phillips-head screws. How appropriate. Philip screwed by Phillips screws.
I tested them for tightness. One was actually a little loose, but I couldn't get it to turn with my fingers. I jammed one end of the tong head into the middle, pushed hard, and turned … maybe, just maybe. It turned. Just a little, but it turned. Ten minutes later, both screws were out. I removed the backing plate and now all I had to do was push the rest of the lock out through the front of the door and reached inside the door hole and pull on the latch. Whew.
If only it were that easy. The knob spun freely but was caught up inside the door's hollow core, preventing me from shoving it out the other side. I wedged the tongs under the little t-shaped part of the latch that normally connects to the inside of the knob, but couldn't pull it far enough to unlatch the door. Curses! Foiled again.
It took a few more minutes of twisting the knob into just the right place and shoving it as far inside the door as possible to gain the millimeters I needed, but I finally got it done and the latch clicked open with a satisfying snick.
Free at last, thank Garlits I'm free at last.
I snatched victory from the jaws of defeat, so that, "OMG, do you remember when Phil got locked in the suite; that was soooo funny" will now go into the annals of ND Indy fame as "How cool is he?" At least that's how I see it.
I develop a greater appreciation for National Lampoon’s Vacation as time goes on. Its style of humor was ahead of its time, and it starred Chevy Chase at the zenith of his career. It’s something everyone can relate to as well. We make fun of how foolish the main character is on the road, but who hasn’t had a Clark W. Griswold moment? Everyone knows what it’s like to feel foolish or at the height of frustration in an unfamiliar setting. I live a majority of my life in those states.
When I went to Australia three years ago with my friends Ron August and Mike DelGiorgio, the first thing we encountered when leaving the airport in Brisbane was two consecutive roundabouts (traffic circles) during a busy time of the day. Not being used to driving on the left side of the road anyway, Mike had the misfortune of driving the rental car during this scary and confusing ordeal. It reminded him immediately of European Vacation when Clark Griswold got his family stuck in a traffic circle in London and pointed out Big Ben (the clock tower, not the quarterback) each time it came into view.
The sequels that followed – National Lampoon’s European Vacation, National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation, and Vegas Vacation – didn’t quite measure up to the original, but they all had their moments. I don’t think I’ve ever been to Las Vegas without hearing a reference to Nick Papagiorgio regarding someone who isn’t (or doesn’t appear to be) old enough to gamble.
Like this movie, I appreciate the Mac Tools U.S. Nationals presented by Lucas Oil a little more each time. Allow me to present the happenings of the day in quotes from the aforementioned flick.
I don't give a frog's ass who went through what. We need money! Hey, Russ, wanna look through Aunt Edna's purse?
Though financially uncertain at times this season, Pro Stock Motorcycle rookie LE Tonglet has not only continued to show up, but he has continued to excel. He broke a motor in Brainerd and was doubtful about this event, but he managed to get it fixed and qualify no. 2 with a career-best 6.84.
We're 10 hours from [expletive] fun park and you want to bail out. Well I'll tell you something, this is no longer a vacation; it's a quest. It's a quest for fun. I'm gonna have fun and you're gonna have fun.
Andrew Hines has been asserting his will on the Pro Stock Motorcycle field. He dominated qualifying, set a provisional national e.t. record, and set the track speed record. Combined with the way he has been riding, Drew looks nearly unstoppable.
When I was a boy, just about every summer we'd take a vacation. And you know, in 18 years, we never had fun.
John Smith gets the hard luck award for the weekend. He ran a career-best 4.14 in the fourth round of qualifying but was DQed for being 10 pounds light at the scales. He couldn’t repeat the effort in the final session, so he missed the field for the first time in his brief Funny Car career.
We watch his program, we buy his toys, we go to his movies… he owes us! Doesn't he owe us, huh? He owes the Griswolds, right?
Ron Capps has been coming to the Big Go since the start of his Funny Car career and has yet to reach a final round. Starting from the no. 2 spot behind teammate Matt Hagan, he is in a good position to rectify that situation.
This is not the car I ordered. I distinctly ordered the Antarctic Blue Super Sports Wagon with C.B. and optional rally fun pack.
Terry McMillen (back-half only) and Troy Buff were looking for more out of their new pipe, but both fuelers showed potential for the future. McMillen is still in the hunt tomorrow.
It's living history, Ellen. But if you'd rather see your cousins it's okay by me. Personally, I'd rather see a pile of mud than Eddie.
Del Worsham was happy to improve his position with a 4.10 in the final session, but he’s not happy to be paired up with Ashley Force Hood in the first round. Force Hood has owned him over the past couple years.
Am I gonna eat, or am I gonna starve to death?
Tony Pedregon got into the show at the biggest race of the year on his final qualifying attempt and sat in wait while others failed to bump him out of the show. This is one race after making it into the playoffs in the final spot in Brainerd.
Dad, he bites. “Bite him back.”
Mike Edwards heard enough of how other teams have caught up to him. He jumped past provisional no. 1 qualifier Jeg Coughlin and Allen Johnson to take his 12th no. 1 position of the season.
He shouldn't even have a license to drive an automobile. He should be behind bars.
The way Larry Dixon has dominated from the no. 1 qualifying position this season has been criminal. He has a 100-percent success rate in turning pole positions into wins in 2010. Dixon will face a slew of tough competition tomorrow, though, with Cory Mac, Tony Schumacher, the Kalitta team, and others on their game.
Wow, Dad, we must have jumped that rail by, like, 50 yards.
Matt Hagan has been exceeding expectations of what the track can hold during Funny Car qualifying. His Tommy DeLago-tuned DieHard Charger has a shot at Indy immortality tomorrow.
It'll be real easy for Normie to find Aunt Edna. All he has to do is look for the buzzards.
I’m not saying it’s impossible for drivers to get back into the thick of the title chase after failing to qualify in the first race of the playoffs, but the odds are highly unlikely. David Hope has a tough road to hoe.
Oh spare me, Clark. I know your brand of family fun. Tomorrow you'll probably kill the desk clerk, hold up a McDonald’s, and drive us 1,000 miles out of the way to see the world's largest pile of mud!
I pick all the no. 1 qualifiers to win tomorrow, but that’s no fun. Here are my dark horse picks: Antron Brown, Del Worsham, Greg Stanfield, and Michael Phillips. Speaking of dark horses, Fred Hagen Jr. has been impressive in the Dark Horse Top Alcohol Funny Car, qualifying no. 2, setting top speed at 262 mph, and being a favorite tomorrow.
We're not really violent people. This is our first gun.
Bob Bode doesn’t have prior experience as a driver on a winning streak, but he wears it well. He’s made good runs throughout qualifying and will be a tough draw for 14-time world champ John Force in the first round.
Oh, it's not so bad. Eddie says after the baby comes, I can quit one of my night jobs.
This long weekend of racing is exhausting for the guys on the crews, but they are full of adrenaline as it all culminates into an exciting race day.
Everybody in the car. Boat leaves in two minutes... or perhaps you don't want to see the second largest ball of twine on the face of the earth, which is only four short hours away?
Every run at Indy has history-making potential. Pay attention tomorrow on NHRA.com and ESPN2 if you can’t see it live.
Wally World is a real place, and it is only open once a year for one winner in each NHRA category.