NHRA notebook: No chute not a drag for Head - East Valley Tribune: Sports

NHRA notebook: No chute not a drag for Head

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Posted: Monday, February 25, 2008 12:20 am | Updated: 9:18 pm, Fri Oct 7, 2011.

Forget something? Oh yeah, the parachute. Jim Head and Scott Kalitta in Funny Car second-round eliminations Sunday were both trying very hard to control their squirrelly cars swaying from one side of the track to the other at Firebird International Raceway near Chandler.

SLIDESHOW: See the action from Firebird International Raceway

Head was so busy he forgot to release the parachute. He went merrily off-roading into the Arizona desert.

“That’s what you call a driver’s race,” said Head, who advanced to the semifinals. “Lucky it’s a nice, safe race track.”

Just maybe he was trying not to do what Kalitta’s brother, Doug, did on Saturday in Top Fuel competition. His engine kept running after the race so he turned left on the road leading to the pits and mowed down a sign.

‘TRACK WHISPERER’

Tony Schumacher calls him the “track whisperer.”

Lenny Miglizzi is an expert on changing track conditions. He uses a scanner of sorts to take measurements of the track days before the race and on the starting line during events and scribbles in a notebook.

Although he’s on Schumacher’s team, he shares the data he gets with NHRA.

So, nearing Sunday’s semifinals, with some drivers convinced one lane is better than the other, what’s the deal?

“The rubber is getting a little tighter, getting more grip,” he said.

Why are more wins coming from the left side?

“That’s just a coincidence. I think you can win on either side,” he said.

“After you get on the asphalt (the right is) smoother, less porous. I think most of the concrete is smoother to the left side. It depends on what you are concerned with.”

So, either side has advantages.

A LITTLE EARLY

They’re seeing red. Wait for it … wait … wait. Dang! Pro Stock drivers Justin Humphreys and Ron Krisher jumped the starting light in their back-to-back first round eliminations.

That was good news to Jeg Coughlin and Mike Edwards, who advanced to second-round eliminations on a get-out-of- jail-free card.

EX-MATED MATCHED

Teammates are only sponsor deep. U.S. Army driver Tony Schumacher and former Army Pro Stock Motorcycle competitor Antron Brown, who moved to Top Fuel this year, ran against each other for the first time in Sunday’s first-round eliminations.

Experience was the big factor in the result. Both cars lost traction during the run, but Schumacher managed to stay on the throttle longer to win and advanced to the next round.

“That was a weird one. It’s winning ugly,” Schumacher said.

FIRST-TIME WINNER

Chandler’s Ryan Smith won his first NHRA National event in the Super Street class, driving his 1963 Falcon station wagon powered by a Chevy 406.

“It’s unbelievable,” said the 36-year-old, who has raced for 11 years. “It hasn’t sunk in. You hope to get one but when it happens, it’s awesome.”

Smith covered the quarter-mile in 10.965 seconds in the Advanced Goodyear Tire/Auto entry, beating Leroy Duran of Sun City.

Smith said his biggest previous win was the Division 7 Race of Champions.

He races about 20 times a year. He won $2,000 for Sunday’s win.

“I’m ahead right now and it’s February,” he said.

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