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Reading PA 2012

Reading PA 2012

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Published by Phillip Gary Smith

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Published by: Phillip Gary Smith on May 02, 2013
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05/02/2013

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Media Matters: Reading Races Monopolize RecordsSpace No. 5 on a Monopoly board—Reading Railroad—comes from thetrain borrowing its name from this largest city hosting the nearby Auto-Plus NHRA Nationals. The conditions here are historically conducive to ElapsedTime and speed records; this year’s event pounded those records like a penny flattened by a passing train. The event is of such importance for teams in the Countdown to theChampionship, plus those getting their revenge on as spoilers, that theweight of the race creates an ingredient for spectacular television: pressure.Producing one of the top qualifying shows of the year, the ESPN team foundthe balance of both pressure and records producing a special program in itsintensity and downright fun television.First, even Mother Nature felt pressure as a weather trough kept temps cooland clouds boiling, a perfect prescription for sizzling performances. Weather also doused the Sunday eliminations with a rain delay for the completion of finals until Monday’s special one-hour show at 10:00 p.m.Lead announcer, Paul Page, set the stage with “pressure is mounting.” The program took viewers through several pits, finding comments like theArmy’s Tony Shumacher (“Always get better in pressure”), Pro Stock’sGreg Anderson, then veteran Warren Johnson keeping his contrarian“professor” designation with “I’ve never seen an increase or decrease (in pressure); really, there is no difference.”Commentator Mike Dunn, back in his chair after a week gone, pointed outRon Capps’ Charger, not yet in the show with the eliminations down to onelast try, “must be feeling the pressure.” The NAPA team’s prescription for winning the championship—chugging along with at least two rounds in eachof the Countdown events—found that mission in peril unless they make thegrade with a spot in the show.
 
Capps called his upcoming last qualifying pass “A key run . . . we need to back it down a lot. We don’t know what’s wrong. (Crew Chief Ron Tobler)is in a crisis.”The cameras showed that in Tobler’s face until Page verified what viewershad just seen—“There it is!”—Capps in with the No. 8 slot.“Probably found a little issue that got fixed,” surmised Dunn.Thus the Marquee Matchup was anointed with Capps vs. Jeff Arend’s DHLToyota “since Arend has been down the track in every round,” calculatedDunn.Exciting television followed as Capps spun off the line, looking every bitlike a loser, but Arend developed his own problems further down the track.Capps hooked up (Dunn noted, “He can drive!”) for the lap win.“Ron Capps comes back,” Page stated. “He really fought for it.” For that, hereceived the Aaron’s Lucky Dog of the Race award.A bigger issue remains for the Napa team: a face-to-face race with teammateand new National Record holder (“Both ends!” exclaimed Dunn), Jack Beckman with his Valvoline Battery Extender Charger.The brackets railroaded these two on a quarterfinals collision course.Momentum seems to have swung his way as Beckman ran an opener of 3.986 ET, the only one in the class to break the four-second mark. Dunnnoted, “Amazing, as it was burning itself up.”Page answered, “He’s riding the magic carpet” as the two are virtually tiedin points totals.
 
Spencer Massey’s two big qualifying-round explosions in the Fram dragster,the night session and then the third, earned major story status in the broadcast. “Massey blows it up big time!” Dunn shouted, noting he lost five points due to an oil down, putting him 23-points or two laps behind TopFuel points leader, Antron Brown.Massey waxed philosophically on the “biggest explosions I’ve ever had.Obviously have concerns . . . It’s nitro; there’s going to be fire, explosions.We were trying to go low.”He got his unintended wish in the opening race against Khalid Albalooshi’sAl-Anabi Dragster, “We start the day with a major upset,” as Page called it.Up-in-smoke, Massey’s weekend and his chase for the Countdown seemsover, finding him about as low as he can go.Highlight reels were filling up quickly at Maple Grove as Page added,“Come to Maple Grove and get entertainment.” None were more satisfying than the two Kalitta dragsters—Doug Kalitta’sMAC Tools ride and David Grubnic’s Optima Batteries—running personal bests and a tie for the quickest pass. Grubnic added, “Connie’s beensneaking up on it” as Dunn pointed out “We know Kalitta’s not shy; (he)stood on it and it stuck.”Senior reporter Gary Gerould pointed out, “Connie’s doing a happy-dance!”“Staman,” Lewis Bloom added, “Connie Kalitta went to his last final here in1996.”The shocking opening rounds continued when Grubnic’s Kalitta entry wasstartled, grappling with an up-in-smoke problem while Ike Maier’s LaporteRacing dragster pedaled further down the track for the win.“Connie Kalitta is pretty disappointed,” added Page, but it’s “the role of aspoiler” like Maier to derail their race.Gerould, interviewing the surprised Maier, pointed out this telling sticker onthe dragster’s side: “Driver carries no cash: Drag Racing took it all.”

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