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Scott Palmer finding balance as he chases first Top Fuel win

Top Fuel racer remains aggressive, but thinks he’s found balance in approach
02 Jun 2019
Jacob Sundstrom, NHRA National Dragster Associate Editor
Feature
Scott Palmer

Scott Palmer started the season ripping the first 60 feet of the track to shreds. His Goodyears came back to the pits begging for relief because of how aggressively the racer ran his Magic Dry Organic Absorbent Top Fueler. Those times (around an .815 average) didn’t work. The tires smoked and spun more often than they hooked to a concrete launch pad. 

Palmer didn’t change his mindset after his initial failure. He entered the season with one goal: winning a race. He made the Countdown to the Championship in back-to-back seasons, a great accomplishment for the Missouri native, but without a win to his name. Palmer reached a final during that time, but the cautious approach that served him well (he at one point referred to himself as a “calmer Palmer”) left him frustrated. 

“We want to go for it,” said Palmer. “I’m sticking with it. I don’t care about the Countdown; I’m racing on offense. If we don’t make the Countdown, I can live with it – I’m not going to wait on someone else’s mistakes anymore. I’m trying to win instead of hoping that somebody else messes up.”

Palmer made the Countdown to the Championship in 2017 for the first time, alongside fellow independent racer Terry McMillen. The two got a boost, perhaps more of confidence than good fortune, when Troy Coughlin Jr. stepped aside from his seat at Kalitta Motorsports. That move guaranteed them spots in the Countdown, though it’s very possible they were headed there anyway. 

The Missouri native struck back in 2018, reaching a final round in Phoenix while trying to ratchet up the intensity of his program. He made the Countdown again but faltered during the Countdown. That’s what brought about this rebooted version of the racer that has been a factor on NHRA drag strips for years. 

“We tried to move everything a little further out, that’s what we’ve done now,” he said. “We’re still being aggressive in certain spots, but what we’ve done now is balance our aggressive mindset out. So, we’re trying to get more aggressive at 60 feet to get more roll at the 100-foot mark so when the clutch timers go off it’s already up and moving.”

Palmer made the stacked Top Fuel field at the Route 66 NHRA Nationals on his last qualifying pass. His 3.854-second lap only got him in the No. 16 spot and booked him a matchup with No. 1 qualifier Mike Salinas. That dragster, tuned by Alan Johnson, scored nine qualifying bonus points throughout the weekend and will be a handful for the Magic Dry team. 

Expect nothing short of aggression in the first round.