INDIANAPOLIS (Sept. 2) — Scott Palmer decided to play it safe Sunday and not participate in either of the final two qualifying sessions for the 64th annual Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals. After posting a huge 3.791 at 327.90 mph Friday night and knowing it was too hot to improve on that mark, he kept his CatSpot Organic Cat Litter Top Fuel dragster in the pits. But that didn’t stop him from thrilling the fans.
“There was nothing to gain and a lot to lose so we just decided not to run today,” Palmer said. “But this is the U.S. Nationals, the biggest race of the year, and we’ve had a mob of people waiting all day at our pit to hear us whack the throttle so we fired the car up any way and gave them two whacks. They were going nuts afterwards.”
Palmer’s “throttle whacks” have become legendary amongst NHRA fans. The old-school move helps weld the multi-disc clutch package together and the huge blast from the engine is a very loud thrill for anyone in the vicinity. However, most teams don’t whack the throttle any more, performing a less exciting “grunt” maneuver instead.
“I tell the story a lot, and it’s the truth, Tommy Thompson (owner of CatSpot) decided to sponsor us because he liked the way we always have fun,” Palmer said. “What’s more fun then firing up the fans with a throttle whack? Yes we’re in the middle of an intense fight to get in the playoffs but we’re still gonna have fun.”
The CatSpot group entered the weekend barely leading a three-team fight for the final two spots in the Countdown to the Championship, with Palmer, Mike Salinas and Richie Crampton separated by just nine points. Salinas already made up a couple points by qualifying No. 1 and Crampton kept himself alive despite qualifying 15th overall.
“I was going over the numbers and it just didn’t make sense to run today knowing we had no chance to improve on the 3.79 with the track as hot as it was,” Palmer said. “At the same time, we could have gone out there and had an issue and oiled down the track and that (loss of points) would have dropped us from ninth place to 11th and completely out of the playoff field. That would have made race day way more stressful than it already is going to be.
“I called Tommy and I told him I wasn’t gonna run today for those reasons. I told him you pay us to run for championships and if we screwed everything up and missed the playoff field altogether then we wouldn’t have a shot at winning it all. He told me he was behind us 100 percent, whatever we decided to do, and to go have fun. I challenge anyone in the world of racing to find a better sponsor than I have.”
Soaking up every minute of his very first Indy experience, Palmer’s CatSpot Organic Cat Litter teammate, Rickey House, gladly used all five qualifying runs afforded to the Top Fuel Harley class, earning the No. 4 starting position with a best of 6.287 at 221.02 mph, which he posted Saturday afternoon.
“Being this is our first Indy race ever I wanted to get as much data as I could on the track,” House said. “We’re pretty happy. I had good runs in both lanes and we were real excited about the 6.28. I think we have a good plan for tomorrow.
“This is the last race of the year for the Top Fuel Harley’s so this race day is the only thing left for us to do. I’d surely love to win this for Tommy Thompson and everyone at his companies for all the support they’ve given us.”