There are many reasons NHRA racers test the Monday after a national event. There might be new parts to examine, new drivers to license or just making sure the racecar is ready for the next event, be it one week or more down the road.
With the NHRA Toyota Nationals on The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway crowning a first-time Top Fuel champion in Steve Torrence, the dragster group was thinking ahead to either maintaining points positions or moving up, as well as testing possible new drivers.
One racer on-site looking for his license in NHRA’s 10,000-horsepower Top Fuel class was Jordan Vandergriff, son of Bob Vandergriff, whose rail is piloted by Blake Alexander, a two-time winner this season.
Matt Smith, points leader in Pro Stock Motorcycle was out testing his Victory motorcycle as he vies for a third championship, as were the Stoffer/Underdahl group that never lived up to its potential during this year’s 16-race season. Team rider Scotty Pollacheck acknowledged he doesn’t expect to be back on the grail in 2019, lacking backing.
Don Schumacher Racing practiced in the warm Las Vegas air, led by Tony Schumacher, Ron Capps, Jack Beckman and race runner-up Matt Hagan. Robert Hight, currently second in Funny Car was out trying to find the right combination for his team’s four-hour trip south to Pomona.
But truly, everyone at the track was there to see the newest hot rod on the grounds, a modern AA Fuel Altered built and driven by Tim Wilkerson Racing. Wilkerson, one of the few remaining owner/tuner/driver entities in NHRA Mello Yello professional drag racing, donated one of his spare Funny Car chassis and engines for the project while co-crew chief Richard Hartman worked to fabricate the front-engine Altered’s patriotic body – and was the driver of record.
When the car made its first – of three – Monday appearances in the right lane of the circuit used over the previous weekend, everyone within, well, a quarter-mile stopped to watch and photograph. The initial mid-morning pass by Hartman was a half-track exercise, the first pull it had ever run. Two more in the afternoon went according to plan.
The excuse for this marvelous exercise is to have a car for match-racing next year and into the future. No matter where the flag-liveried AA/FA might go, fans will certainly follow.
By Anne Proffit