First up was Morgan. Couglin got a jump at the green (.461 reaction time to Morgan's .490), and that margin was too much for the red Avenger to make up. Morgan's best-of-the-weekend 6.933 was not enough to hold off Couglin's 6.944; the Olds took the stripe by .018 seconds-only five feet.
Meanwhile, Alderman did his burnout and got ready to stage. The driver's game on the starting line is very psychological, doing anything to take your opponent's mind off of focusing on the flash of yellow-to-green on the tree. Sometimes, this is moving in quickly and lighting both the pre-stage and stage bulbs on the tree, causing the other driver to hurry. Sometimes, it's waiting a few critical moments once that other driver has done this before going into the stage beams yourself. Often, the effort is accompanied by roaring blips of the throttle. Alderman let the Jeg's machine go in and then waited a second or two before rolling in himself. The tree came on, went green, and the Mopar Performance Avenger had indeed gotten a leap off the line, recording a .461 to .476 advantage. However, Couglin's engine made up that difference and then some, crossing the stripe with a 6.881.
Though that would end the weekend, Nickens was happy about the way things had gone. "Given the fact that we were in the worse of the two lanes for that round and how we struggled at the first two races, we have to be happy with how the weekend went. Let's face it, we lost to a quicker car here, and both of the drivers in that race did a great job. Now, it's up to us back at the engine shop to find the horsepower to get our car into that top half of the field."
Regarding the drivers, Nickens, a multi-time national event winner himself, sees them as a vital part of success in his effort.
"When Scott and Darrell go up to the starting line, they are the best at what they do. They're both proven winners, so if we do our job back here in the pits, I have complete confidence in them once they go up to the starting line."
"Moreover, they are both able to tell us what they felt in the car after the run. That's very valuable to us, and they are both knowledgeable enough about the cars that they can tell us what the car did, and the computer will confirm it. In fact, sometimes you have to make decisions based on the driver's feel more than the computer reading; that's what makes them so important to our program."
"The Hemi has a lot of potential. At Pomona, it didn't run really good, then at Phoenix, we moved up 8 or 10 spots and now, here at Gainesville, we're in the program. It shows the hard work is paying off, and as we improve on what we have, we have a real good chance of going to the top half of the field. I'm real happy with the way things are developing. It's just the process of finding out what it wants and working from there."
A Day At The Races
Before our former Art Director, Scott Stratton, made the jump from Mopar Muscle to AD of Stock Car Racing magazine, one of his last official assignments for us was a story on what it's like to be a member of a Pro Stock team during an event.
Scott, an avid drag racing fan, has been going to the races with his father since he was a kid, but he's always gone as a spectator, never a competitor. This would be his first time in the pits with tools in his hand and a car to work on.
He was made an honorary crew member on Darrell Alderman's team for the weekend. Was he the missing ingredient needed for the Dodge Boys to make the show?
Every year when I go to the races, I always go through the pits. But this was the first year I was ever able to go in the pits and talk and work with a crew, so it was exciting!
Everybody was very friendly, especially Jim Seacrest and David Nickens. I think the rest of the guys were probably just putting up with me. They weren't unfriendly, they just really had a lot on their mind, especially with the new engine program.