Rain and strange crashes plagued the NHRA Full Throttle event at Firebird Raceway near Phoenix, Arizona over the weekend. The weather reduced Saturday?s activities to only one round of qualifying for the professional classes. And the day was also prolonged by several long oil-downs and the crash of Vinnie Deceglie?s Pro Stock Dodge.
Deceglie?s crash was nearly identical to the Friday crash of Gordie Rivera in his Pro Stock qualifying attempt. The two crashes were both in exactly the same place in the left lane. Experts blamed the crashes on a combination of poor track conditions and a nearly complete lack of down force typical of Pro Stocks.
During the first round of Sunday?s Pro Stock eliminations several cars were seen to be more than a little skittish in the suspect left lane. In a TV interview, veteran driver Greg Anderson even said that he was ?scared? of the left lane.
Blaming the weather for a ?. . . lack of adequate traction.?, officials decided to postpone the remaining three rounds of Pro Stock eliminations until the circuit arrives in Gainesville, Florida in two weeks.
Although it was never stated, I can?t help but feel that the driver?s may have gotten together and refused to compete any further.
Another bizarre and, sadly, tragic accident happened in the first round of Top Fuel eliminations. Soon after leaving the line, Antron Brown?s car experienced severe tire shake which apparently sheared the studs on the left rear wheel sending Brown careening into and nearly over the crash wall. Brown was shaken up but fine. Unfortunately, the errant wheel and tire entered the crowd and injured a female fan who later died in a local Phoenix hospital.
NHRA officials issued the following statement:
? ?. NHRA is investigating the incident. The entire NHRA community is deeply saddened by today?s incident and sends its thoughts and prayers to the woman?s family and friends.?
To put a fittingly sad cap on the day, rain caused the two final rounds of Top Fuel and Funny Car to be postponed until today, Monday, Feburary 22nd.
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There?s an old saying in racing that it?s better to lucky than good. What it doesn?t say is how much better it is if you can be both. Jimmy Johnson was both lucky and good on Sunday at the Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California.
With 20 laps to go in the 250 lap race, Johnson pitted for gas a split second before the yellow came out for a spin by Brad Keselowski. As he exited the pits, Johnson crossed the scoring line just a half car length ahead of then leader Jeff Burton who was still on the track. Had Burton been going any faster or Johnson in the pits any longer, the 48 would?ve been a lap down.
The win was Johnson?s first of the year, the 48th of his career, and was a nice way to come back after his dismal finish one week earlier in Daytona.
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Auto Club Speedway continues to have a difficult time attracting a crowd. The farther you got away from the center of the stands, the more empty seats there were. The extreme ends were mostly barren. The track has a reported 91,200 seats. The official crowd estimate was 55,000.
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