BRISTOL, Tenn. (June 17) – CatSpot Organic Cat Litter Top Fuel dragster driver Scott Palmer enjoyed a stellar weekend in the Fitzgerald USA NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals at Bristol Dragway, qualifying a season-best No. 4 and racing to the semifinals Sunday during a hot, difficult day of eliminations.
Palmer’s CatSpot Racing teammate Dom Lagana bowed out in the first round, but both teams improved their hot-weather tune-ups during the weekend.
“Great weekend,” Palmer said. “For sure, a strong weekend for us. Everybody’s learning how to run well in these hot conditions and certainly we learned a lot more this weekend – a lot. What we figured out here is going to help us for another five or six more races because they’re all going to be hot like this.”
After winning in the first and second round, Palmer had a shot at racing to his second final round of the season. But a close race against Mike Salinas was lost when Palmer started to haze his tires down track, allowing Salinas to squeak by for the win.
Palmer, who made 4.0-second passes in the first two rounds, slowed to a run of 4.356 seconds at 211.89 mph to fall to Salinas’ 4.042-second run at 301.07 mph.
“We had to try some things,” Palmer said. “Yesterday, we got to test some things because we ran well and qualified high enough Friday, and look what it did. First round, it goes straight down the track. Second round, it goes straight down. We kept working on it and made the motor better and happier but we just made a tad too power and smoked the tires (in the semis). It spun the tires way down there, so that is a way easier fix than if you spin the tires right off the line. We will continue to improve.”
Palmer and Salinas were close throughout their semifinal race until Palmer faded late.
“I couldn’t tell much of a difference except on the time slips,” Palmer said. “We have a little competition with Mike. Neither one of us has been stellar on the lights here lately. Even though I didn’t have a great light, I had a little bit better light than him but he beat me to the line. Me and Mike are good friends and I always wish him the best.”
Lagana qualified No. 7 with his part-time CatSpot team, but luck wasn’t on his side on race day. His reaction time wasn’t what he wanted, and then his engine put a hole out midway through the run. Trailing No. 10 qualifier Pat Dakin at that point, Lagana elected to shut the engine off and coast to a pass of 4.107 seconds at 272.12 mph.
Dakin made a clean pass of 4.015 at 307.30 mph to get the win light.
“Our normal hot setup really wasn’t working as well during qualifying,” Lagana said. “We only ran okay (Friday) night, so we literally went back to our match-race books and came up with a good game plan for Saturday that worked very well. We just didn’t have enough load on it today and it put a cylinder out 1.9 seconds into the run. I saw him ahead of us and knew we couldn’t catch him so I just shut it off to avoid any damage.
“Everything responded perfectly, like we wanted it to. If we would have had another run we could have said we need a little more clutch load in this area of the run and prevent the cylinder from dropping but we just got behind the eight-ball like a lot of the others did in this heat. I was late on the Tree too. I thought I had a better light than that.
“We were trying to run 3.95 or so but it’s all good. I’m glad we qualified in the top half of the field and I know we’ll be better next weekend.”
Palmer and Lagana return to action Friday at the Summit Racing Equipment NHRA Nationals at Summit Racing Equipment Motorsports Park in Norwalk, Ohio.
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