NORTH DINWIDDIE, Va. (June 9) – The CatSpot Organic Cat Litter Top Fuel dragsters of Scott Palmer and Dom Lagana saved the best for last, setting both drivers up well for final eliminations of the Virginia NHRA Nationals on Sunday at Virginia Motorsports Park.
Lagana made his best pass of the weekend in the final qualifying session Saturday, grabbing the No. 9 spot with a run of 3.869 seconds at 323.81 mph. Palmer had his best run in Q1, 3.891 at 309.06 mph, but his pass of 3.895 at 320.05 mph in the final session has him optimistic for Sunday.
“If you get by the first round, I do believe a 3.80-car is going to win this race tomorrow,” Palmer said. “If you get by the first round, 3.80s are going to win this race.”
Palmer faces No. 6 qualifier Steve Torrence, while Lagana – running a second CatSpot Organic Cat Litter dragster this weekend – faces No. 8 Richie Crampton.
“It’s tough, it’s a Kalitta car,” Lagana said. “The big thing will be the curve ball of the conditions of tomorrow that will really throw everybody for a loop. We need to make sure we go down the track but we don’t need to leave too much on the table. We’ll try to put a good run out there.
“It’s kinda anybody’s game out there tomorrow. It’s crazy not being at a track for 10 years, then you go and throw in the fast conditions tomorrow, but we are going to give it a try.”
NHRA returned to the Richmond area for the first time since 2009, with temperatures in the high 80s and high humidity keeping elapsed times a little slower than normal. Weather conditions should be better for eliminations.
Palmer and his CatSpot team have been aiming for consistency in their runs, but a mechanical problem in the second session likely cost him a higher qualifying spot, for Q2 presented the best weather of the weekend.
Still, Palmer and crew chief Jason McCulloch bounced back to make a solid pass in the final session.
“We were trying some different stuff in Q3,” Palmer said. “In Q2, the idler locked up so we lost that run. That hurt us because that was the run to go for it. Then, we just did what we needed to do to go down the race track today.
“We tried some drastic changes in the clutch to see if it would still go down. We were trying to run an 3.88 or 3.89, and it did, so that’s good. And it’s good for race day tomorrow. Unfortunately, that pairs us with Torrence, which is a tough draw first round.”
But after making strides in qualifying, Palmer is confident for race day.
“With the track prep the way it is, we’re learning how to work on each end of the track,” Palmer said. “We had an .831 (second) 60-foot in Q1, which is crazy – way too good. We’ve tried to make that more manageable, and we had an .850 this run (in Q4), which is more like what we’re looking for. We’ve learned some stuff – we just needed to qualify a little bit better. We will at the next one, but if we get by the first round, we’ve got a car that can win the race.”
After Friday’s qualifying sessions, Lagana and Palmer were No. 8 and 9, respectively, which would have meant they would have raced each other in the first round Sunday.
“We were keeping an eye on that,” Lagana said. “We would rather not have to run each other first round. Maybe meet up later in the day, maybe in the finals. We’ll see what happens.”
Lagana and Palmer are on opposite sides of the Top Fuel ladder, meaning they could meet in the final round.
“Tomorrow it looks like it’s going to be cool, so we’ll have to start over and see what we can pull out of the books from other tracks, but we are real happy,” Lagana said. “We will give it a shot tomorrow and see what happens.”