SONOMA, Calif. (July 28) — For the fifth time this season, Scott Palmer has earned a top-half starting spot for his CatSpot Organic Cat Litter Top Fuel dragster. As such, Palmer will enjoy lane choice when elimination action for the 31st annual Toyota NHRA Sonoma Nationals kicks off Sunday morning at Sonoma Raceway.
Crediting co-crew chiefs Jason McCulloch and Bennie Patterson for their efforts, which produced a best pass of 3.778 at 323.35 mph, Palmer said everything went as intended during four rounds of professional qualifying, greatly easing the anxiety of race day.
“The plan for tomorrow is to not do what we did just then (in Q4), but what we did just then was part of our overall plan,” Palmer explained. “The last few races we’ve run well enough on Friday to be able to test things on Saturday, so Q4 told us what we shouldn’t try tomorrow. We already know the car will make it down in the heat because it did Friday.
“Today we were able to try new clutch discs on one run and a new blower on the other run.We tried different combinations to see if we could go quicker in the heat and so far, our first round on Friday, which was in the heat, was a good run, and I shut that run off at 700 feet. Friday night was just a continuation of that combination but I just ran it out.”
Having all this extra data is helping Palmer climb the Mello Yello points standings. He’s currently in the anchor spot for the 10-car Countdown to the Championship playoff. Being 10th overall adds urgency to each race day, and his first-round date with No. 10 qualifier Terry McMillen (3.811 at 325.92 mph) will be an important one.
“He’s another car fighting for the playoffs so yeah it’s a big match-up for us but really they all are,” Palmer said. “I’ve never had the luxury of making a good run on Friday and then having Saturday to test for race day but that’s happened a few times lately and it’s a real bonus.
“Even the runs when it looks like we didn’t make it down the track, we learned something. All day today we were racing for tomorrow. Something we probably would have tried tomorrow in the past we did in the first run today and because we tried it today instead of tomorrow, it could help us win a round or two. We are just trying to win rounds and fight for the countdown here. It’s a fight.”
Racing for Tommy Thompson for the last two seasons, Palmer is enjoying the best stretch of his lengthy career. But even though Thompson offers to buy him anything he wants or needs, he’s still somewhat cautious in his approach.
“You have to remember that Tommy is my friend first,” Palmer said. “I spend his money like it was mine, and I’m cheap. Today’s runs were a good example. We were testing stuff and I could feel early on in both runs we weren’t going to beat our 3.77 from Friday night so I shut the car off early. I could have legged it out but for what purpose? All I would have done is expose ourselves to some potential engine damage to run a 3.80-something.
“The main difference with Tommy’s support comes on race day because now we’re able to go for it on every run. We’re racing to win every round and that’s what we’re going to do tomorrow.”