After two seasons in a Nostalgia Funny Car and a victory in the season-opening Legends Funny Car series at the Winternationals, past NHRA big-show Top Fuel star Cory McClenathan’s competitive juices are flowing and the 35-time winner is eager to see what comes next.
McClenathan parted company with Rick Akers’ team after the Legends finale at the NHRA Nevada Nationals, and immediately the phone began ringing with teams looking to utilize not only the skills and experience that the veteran wheelman brings but a bevy of marketing partners, including RevChem and Nordic Boats that have helped sustain and support him over his great career.
“This last year really got me back into that 'I Play to Win’ mindset that I had [and prominently labeled on his race-car cowls], and I’m ready to keep winning,” he said. “Of course, I'd love to get back into a big-show car, in Top Fuel or Funny Car because I feel like I still have some unfinished business there, and do that full time or maybe even part time, which would allow me to keep racing a Nostalgia Funny Car in the NHRA Hot Rod Heritage Racing Series or Legends series.
“I still feel like I have a tremendous amount to offer to the sport, and a [bit] of knowledge and experience that some teams could really use.”
After a career spent winning NHRA Wallys in alcohol- and nitro-fueled dragsters, McClenathan fulfilled a longtime dream of racing a Funny Car the last two seasons.
“I wanted to get my Funny Car feet wet in this car, and come to find out these cars are a lot more difficult to drive than I thought,” he said. “Having [veteran nitro crew chief] Glenn Mikres there helped me a lot. And I went to people like Del Worsham and Jack Beckman if I had certain questions; I've found out that you can't pedal these things like you can a Top Fuel car at all. And if you do, you better be going straight. It's a whole different deal when they shake and you're trying to get ahold of the steering wheel to put it in gear. There’s a lot happening at one time. But as soon as I started making laps in it, I kept thinking, ‘You know what, this, this could help prep me for a big-show Funny Car.’ “
McClenathan’s season in the retro-Firebird Funny Car started out amazingly well with a victory at the Winternationals, but logistics issues and other problems cropped up and they missed the next event in Bristol, and the team began suffering through internal turmoil that eventually ended with McClenathan resigning at season’s end.
" ‘At Pomona, it's like, ‘Holy crap, I think I think we got this thing figured out,’and then we were forced to sit out for five months,” he said. “Glen and I and the boys, we really thought we had a chance to chase in the championship. Bobby [Cottrell] made it look easy, but we were running numbers with them and with everybody else in Pomona, so we would have gotten nothing but better my eyes but sitting out so long definitely changes things. Between some of my mistakes and things I could have done a little bit differently and the other issues within the team, it just didn’t work out in the long run.
“I just felt it was time for me to move on and look for something else, I wouldn't mind staying in the same class. My aspirations are definitely always to be in a big-show Top Fuel or a Funny Car because I still feel I have a lot left in me to offer teams. I could even see driving for and helping one of the part-time teams while continuing to drive a Nostalgia car. I’m open to anything.
“I would still like to be part of the Heritage and Legends series to try to help them grow, and I've got a couple of things I’m already working on to help that while also making sure I keep the RevChem name out there and well represented.”