It was Saturday morning, before the third qualifying session of the Summit Racing Equipment NHRA Nationals, when Scott Palmer began channeling a little bit of Civil War naval officer David Farragut’s famed phrase: “Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead.”
After three straight first-round losses and a pair of solid but unspectacular low 3.8-second qualifying passes to kick off this weekend, he’d had enough.
In Chicago, he ran 3.82 but lost to Mike Salinas’ 3.73. In Topeka, his 3.82 was no match for Antron Brown’s 3.74. Last weekend in Bristol, Salinas blasted him again, 3.80 to 3.90. Even though he’s in 12th place, he’s just two rounds out of 10th, he’s decided that enough is enough.
“Everyone is worried about the points; I’m tired of worrying about points and the Countdown,” he said. “We don’t care about the Countdown this year. We’re trying to outrun people, not hope they mess up. We’re sick of 3.80s.
“All these other guys,” he said, his arm sweeping an arc of the rest of the pit area, “they’re trying to haul ass. We’ve been caught up in ‘Oh, we want to go to the finish line. We don’t want to mess up.’ “
So the crew put the car back to the way it was earlier in the season, where he ran 3,72 in Pomona and 3.75 in Gainesville and powered to a 3.755, the best run of the third qualifying session, and ran 3.78 in Q4.
“I said, ‘It may burn the heads off or smoke the tires, but either way it’s going to be aggressive.’ We’re not going up there to run another 3.83 or .84. I don’t want to rely on the other guy making a mistake. I’ve done it that way my whole life.
“We needed to stop being such sissies. The car was not aggressive anywhere. We’ve just been too obsessed with making sure the car goes down the track every time.”
Palmer has the complete backing of team owner Tommy Thompson, who wants to see his dragster kick some tail like his drag boats do.
“Tommy has dominated boat racing, so I told Tommy, I want to beat these guys. He doesn’t care about the points. He wants us to try to outrun these guys,” said Palmer. “He sent his friend, Freddie Rice, up to the shop with two new short blocks. He called me up and said, ‘How many motors do you have?’ and I said, ‘We’ve got plenty of motors.’ He said, ‘Well, now you’ve got two new ones; go out there and get after it.’ I said, ‘No problem.’ It’s great to have Tommy in our corner like that. He’s the best.”