It was a dry 108 degrees Fahrenheit in Dallas (actually refreshingly cool in our experience) as the NHRA tour hit town for the Auto Trader Magazines Texas Nationals. Mercifully, it was a night race and happily, there was plenty of action.
Lisa Kubo hit the strip running as she debuted her Saturn Motorsports/APC ION with an impressive 8.92 at 162 mph right off the trailer. While this was a long-awaited pass, the car was just barely ready to do battle. In fact, the team didn't have time to dyno tune it before shipping it from its Indianapolis, Ind., home base. The tuning regime consisted of a program Gary Kubo and Bob Norwood concocted for the old Honda Civic. The makeshift dyno was the quarter-mile slab of pavement at Texas Motorplex.
"The plan was to launch the car and see if it went straight," says Lisa. "It went straight, so I kept grabbing gears and an 8 popped up on the board. It was a great feeling for me and the crew."
In a subsequent qualifying effort, the Pro FWD Saturn ION suffered a familiar fate for Fortin tranny cars-linkage problems. The linkage must be precisely aligned to properly engage the forks and work the gears. They seem to be very susceptible to chassis flex. It's believed this is why Christian Rado's car will shift fine on the dyno but, under the load of the track, experience shifting problems.
As the day came to an end and we downed the last of our $5 lemonades, we noticed Team Mopar's Shaun Carlson and Robert Miller under the ION helping sort the box. That import camaraderie is still burning strong-Lisa was in Shaun's first round on Saturday. Shaun broke by the 60-foot mark because of Fortin transmission gremlins. Lisa eased off and hit the traps at only 134 mph, but still posted an 8.95.
The other exciting first-round action in Pro FWD centered on Team Bergenholtz. Ed Bergenholtz qualified the Boost Mobile Mazda 6 in the second spot with a promising 8.86 at 160 mph. Dr. Charles Madrid, mad scientist of all things Honda, was at the controls of the original Team Bergenholtz CRX and the cars were matched in the first round. The Good Doctor strapped a .196 light on Bergenholtz (.295). The Mazda was quicker by a blink of the eye, at 8.709 to 8.769. The victory went to the underdog Madrid by .0390, a bit less than a fender. Top qualifier Nelson Hoyos and the Bothwell Motorsports/GM Racing Cavalier (8.47 in qualifying) had a single but still dropped an 8.53 on the field.
Round two paired Hoyos and Kubo. Kubo continued the ION's quick evolution with an 8.81 at a super-fast 171 mph, but Hoyos had his game face on, posting an 8.48. Dr. Charles putt-putted his Bye run to set up the final. Hoyos ran a slower 8.67, but Dr. Charles also slowed and we saw something fly off the car and he got squirrelly at the traps. Hoyos has a real stranglehold on the class championship as the series heads to Portland.
In Turbo Magazine Hot Rod, the other Bothwell Motorsports/GM Racing entry, Marty Ladwig's, was also atop the points race but it was a much closer pace. Hometown hero Kenny Tran grabbed the pole position and valuable points after the first round of qualifying (8.96). But in the third heat, Ladwig answered with an 8.86.
Kenny's first-round opponent was none other than Mike Crawford and the Mopar Neon. These two cars have tangled on more than one occasion and always delivered lively racing.