Rain puts brakes on Four-Wide Nationals

March, 28, 2010

CONCORD, N.C. -- Four-wide or two-wide, drag racing doesn't work in the rain.

Final judgment of the inaugural Four-Wide Nationals will have to wait until Monday. The first four-wide racing event in NHRA history made it halfway through the semifinals Sunday before rain halted the show at zMax Dragway.

For racing fans, tomorrow is Big Monday. All three major events -- Sprint Cup, IndyCar and the NHRA -- were rained out, but the NHRA was the only one that got some racing action in before the deluge came.

The Top Fuel and Funny Car final four are set for eight seconds of racing Monday starting at 11 a.m. ET.

Pro Stock and Pro Stock Motorcycles still have to run the semifinals, which will start after the nitro cars finish. The stockers will have 75 minutes afterward before racing the finals in those two categories.

So what did we see? Exhilarating? Confusing? Unusual? Sensory overload? Breathtaking? Surprising?

Yes. It was all those things, almost more than a person could take in and absorb at one time.

For now, the grade is incomplete, but I'm giving the new format a big thumbs-up.

Through three days of racing, with more to come Monday, fans have seen a little bit of everything, from car bodies exploding off two Funny Cars on the same pass to four Top Fuel dragsters crossing the finish line at more than 300 mph only inches apart.

One opening-round Funny Car pass Sunday had 14-time champion John Force and Jack Beckman advance by edging Bob Tasca and Tony Pedregon by a car length.

The Top Fuel final Monday is Cory McClenathan, Doug Kalitta, Antron Brown and Doug Herbert, the big surprise of that quad.

"This is huge," Herbert said. "I only have one full-time guy on my crew. I have a bunch of my buddies from NASCAR teams helping us."

The Funny Car final includes Force and his daughter, Ashley Force Hood, along with Ron Capps and Matt Hagan, one of the guys whose car exploded Saturday.

The exhilarating part? That was true on almost every pass.

Look at it like this: Four nitro cars blasting down the track at the same time is about 30,000 horsepower. An entire 43-car field in a Sprint Cup race is about 34,000 horsepower.

But the newness of the four-wide deal was confusing for some drivers and fans. The additional lights on the Christmas Tree threw some drivers for a loop, especially in Pro Stock.

Split times for two cars on each scoreboard were hard to understand for fans and competitors. Just trying to figure out who advanced and who didn't took some work when the cars actually finished four-wide.

But what a sight it was -- the sound, the fumes and a virtual earthquake of power and speed bombarding the senses.

It was unusual on many levels. One example: Funny Car driver Tim Wilkerson became the first driver in history to lose on two holeshots.

"How about that," Wilkerson said. "We outran everyone [on elapsed time] and came in third. Try to do that again."

Force had a career-best speed of 313.29 mph in the semifinal when he smoked the other guys with a .041-second reaction time. Not bad for a 60-year-old man.

More surprises came when seven-time Top Fuel champ Tony Schumacher failed to finish in the top two in his semifinal.

"We had such a good car, so I clearly didn't expect that outcome," Schumacher said. "For some reason, I was a little distracted at the starting line and ended up deep-staging, which ultimately cut into our elapsed time."

Fans saw a little bit of everything before the rain arrived Sunday, enough that some may want to call in sick Monday to see the rest of the show.

Terry Blount

ESPN Staff Writer



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