POMONA, Calif. (Nov. 11) — After posting a career-best pass of 3.726 seconds at 326.95 mph during qualifying for Sunday’s 54th annual Auto Club NHRA Finals, Scott Palmer was dreaming big heading into race day. Unfortunately, his first-round opponent was eight-time world champion Tony Schumacher, who ran his best pass of the meet and the quickest and fastest pass of race day to squash Palmer’s hopes.
“Running like we did yesterday does two things,” Palmer said. “It forces whoever you are racing to try extra hard because they know you have a super-fast car, so they either pull off a pass like Tony just did, or it goes the other way and they smoke the tires like (No. 1 qualifier) Leah Pritchett did because they’re trying too hard. Tony could have just as easily done that but credit to him, they kept it together.”
After similar launches, Palmer and Schumacher stayed side-by-side for a moment before the Army car began inching away from Palmer’s CatSpot Organic Cat Litter Top Fuel dragster. At the top end, Schumacher took the win with a 3.694 at 332.34 mph to Palmer’s 3.736 at 327.27 mph.
“You make your own luck out here,” Palmer said. “Unfortunately, sometimes when you make your own luck, you make the other guy go quicker. If we hadn’t run the 3.72 yesterday, they probably would have taken the safe route and run a 3.72-3.73 this morning but they couldn’t do that because we ran the same as they did yesterday.
“All we wanted was to be a competitive car out here and we’re definitely competitive now. That 3.726 yesterday was a career best and our first time running below a 3.75. We need to make sure we know how to do that every race.”
To that end, Palmer and crew will use the first part of the off-season to switch to a brand-new chassis, which will help tremendously in their future plans.
“Think about it, these teams out here don’t get new chassis just to spend money,” Palmer said. “We’ve front-halved and back-halved this car at the Lucas shop but at this point it has over 150 runs on it. That’s a lot of runs for a Top Fuel car that’s running 3.70s. That’s a lot of runs for any full-time team.
“We thought about bringing the new car out at Indy but we are trying to get our clutch program going and our tune up set so we decided not to add another variable until the end of the year. If we get this lined out we know we will have a better car next year. New chassis are better than old ones.”
And Palmer will continue to have the support of good friend Tommy Thompson, who owns CatSpot Organic Cat Litter and Magic Dry 100% Organic Multi-Purpose Absorbent.
“None of this happens without Tommy Thompson,” Palmer said. “And next year you will see a bigger presence of Magic Dry on this car. We’ve got some great good deals working for them. CatSpot will still be on the car but next year we will be the Magic Dry car and we want to represent them well and be more competitive.”
Palmer’s teammate at Tommy Thompson Motorsports, Shane Conway, reached the quarterfinals of Top Alcohol Dragster in his Magic Dry Absorbent rail before losing to James Stevens.
In Round 1, Conway beat veteran Duane Shields with a 5.322 at 267.06 mph, his quickest pass of the event. However, his dragster slowed to an off-pace 5.814 at 259.76 mph against Stevens, who ran a beatable but victorious 5.384 at 275.90 mph.
“It’s been a fun year, a good year and we feel pretty good for next season,” Conway said. “I needed seat time and we raced enough for me to get comfortable in the car. I’m already ready for next year to start.
“We had a great hit in Round 1 but when we went up for the second round the track was 75 degrees, just perfect. They drug and sprayed the track right in front of us and the surface was way better than we needed it to be. We got a little behind the track conditions and didn’t put enough into the tune up.
“My thanks to everyone at Magic Dry. I hope we made them proud this year and we’ll definitely be ready for more in 2019.”