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Scott Palmer comes within a whisper of his first final-round showing of the season

Scott Palmer comes within a whisper of his first final-round showing of the season

CHARLOTTE (April 28) -- After a problem-plagued two days of qualifying where he failed to get his Magic Dry Organic Absorbent Top Fuel dragster down the track under full power, Scott Palmer came to life when it mattered most, racing to a fifth-place finish at the 10th annual NGK Spark Plugs NHRA Four-Wide Nationals.

 Coming from the No. 10 qualifying position after mustering only a best of 4.103 seconds at 273.05 mph during three rounds of time trials, Palmer upset heavyweights Antron Brown and Brittany Force to lead his quad of racers in the opening round of eliminations with a 3.782 at 325.61 mph. Good friend and teammate Dom Lagana also advanced from the group with a second-best 3.796 at 320.51 mph.

The semifinal round of eight wasn't quite as lucky for Palmer, who was forced to shut off a bit early, crossing with a 4.279 at 217.53 mph, which was bested by both stablemate Steve Torrence (3.777 at 324.05 mph) and Terry McMillen (3.828 at 316.75 mph). Combined with the other foursome, Palmer ended up just outside the top four who raced for the trophy in fifth place on the day. 

In similar fashion, fellow Magic Dry racer Shane Conway was also able to rack-up an elimination-round win this weekend in Top Alcohol Dragster action. After qualifying 13th with an off-pace 5.630 at 243.06 mph, mainly due to weather shortening qualifying to just two rounds, Conway got past a -.058-second, red-lighting Robin Samsel with his best run of the meet, a 5.376 at 267.96 mph.

Conway then gave it back a round later when he jumped the start by -.038 seconds against eventual event winner Julie Nataas, who blasted to a 5.281 at 270.64 mph.

"It was great to get the win over Samsel because he runs a lot of races every year, usually like 10-11 national events and 4-5 regionals, so that's a very experienced team," Conway said. 

"We had some struggles this weekend, especially coming from Houston and thinking we were finally on the other side of the learning curve. We basically struggled with ignition stuff right off the bat. The whole weekend was rough, not just on the track but in the pit too. But, in spite of the struggles, we still made it to second round. We'll go home and get set for the Chicago race. With the JEGS Allstars that weekend, all the top cars are going to be there.”

Shane Conway keeps on slaying giants in his Magic Dry Top Alcohol Dragster

Shane Conway keeps on slaying giants in his Magic Dry Top Alcohol Dragster

CONCORD, N.C. (April 25) -- Third-year driver Shane Conway probably will not be a threat to the Top Alcohol Dragster world championship again this year simply because his business endeavors in Houston keep him from running a full-time schedule. But that's not to say he won't influence the outcome of the title chase, or any race he enters for that matter.

Tuned by his accomplished father, longtime NHRA standout Tom Conway, Shane has made a habit of knocking off some of the biggest names in the category in the handful of races he runs each year. That was the case two weeks ago in Houston when he stalled top-10 runner Mike Bucher in Round 1.

"Every time we run this car we are learning things,” Shane said. "We only have 12 runs on this car since the guys at Copeland Race Cars updated everything so every time we run it we find something that we like. 

"Even though we ran this chassis before with Mike (Manners) driving it and me tuning it, the fact is I don’t drive it the way he does, so it's been changed a bit. Plus, we’ve changed a lot of other stuff from when Mike owned the car so it’s a different car now."

This weekend's race marks the third of the year for the Conway clan. They've competed at one regional and one national event so far, in Dallas and Houston, respectfully.

"We just have to get some more laps on it and figure out what it wants," Shane said. "We’ve already been in the 5.20s with it and it's also been more than 275 mph so it’s definitely got the potential.

"Whenever you have a car freshened up it changes some things and that's what we're working through right now. It was nice to get the round win in Houston, especially against a top team, but we always want more. I think we can do better."

Racing at zMAX Dragway, at least from behind the wheel, will be another new experience for Shane as he continues his transition from crew chief to driver.

 

"I raced in Charlotte last year with Doug Foley," Shane said. "We also went there a couple times with Mike Manners, but this will be my first time racing Charlotte as a driver. That’s like Houston; I’d been racing in Houston since 1999 but never driven there until two weeks ago.

 

"Hopefully, we have some more success. At the very least we don't want anyone to take us for granted."

Scott Palmer preps for this weekend's Four-Wide Nationals by driving his Studebaker

Scott Palmer preps for this weekend's Four-Wide Nationals by driving his Studebaker

CONCORD, N.C. (April 25) -- Top Fuel driver Scott Palmer's preparation for this weekend's 10th annual NGK Spark Plugs NHRA Four-Wide Nationals included cruising Tulsa in his Studebaker. This comes on the heels of his interesting lead-in to the Houston race, which was highlighted by a cross-country search for mojo.

"That Studebaker is my golf game," said Palmer, a drag racing throwback that still tunes his own racecars, including the Magic Dry Organic Absorbent Top Fuel dragster he'll race in Charlotte. "Everybody else golfs to relax. That car is what makes me smile."

To be clear, Palmer's Studebaker isn't quite like the one grandpa drove. His has a Top Fuel engine poking out of the hood and he dreams of making it run the quarter-mile in less than five seconds at speeds of more than 300 mph. It's a car Palmer tinkers with on occasion and admittedly the project has gotten a tad out of control.

"It's so crazy and outrageous," Palmer said. "It doesn’t even make sense what we’ve done to that car, putting a Top Fuel motor in a door car like that. We have a great time with it, though, every time we roll it out and it gets me back to my center.

"Since we didn’t have much time off after Houston I decided to load the car up, drive to Oklahoma and make a couple of runs. We made some changes to make it more aggressive and it ended up being way too aggressive. We’ve had runs that made it further down the track but that doesn’t matter. We had a lot of fun. Like I said, it’s my golf game."

Going to Tulsa Raceway Park was a hit of the reset button for Palmer, who earned his first payday as a driver at the facility.

"In the early '90s Tulsa Raceway Park was the first place that ever gave me money to come down and show off at their Midnight Drags event. All of us from Springfield (Mo.) went to the Midnight Drags about once a month and always had a great time. That time they paid me to be there was when I first got the idea I could do this for a living and survive. At the very least it gave me hope to keep trying. 

"When you go back to where you started you remember why you race. It’s because you love it, not for anything else. It makes you realize how lucky you are to get to run at this level with NHRA too. It makes you appreciate everything that much more."

With his mind fully cleared and refocused, Palmer was able to speak on this weekend's four-wide event with optimism.

"I love the track at Charlotte and I love the four-wide thing," Palmer said. "I think it’s cool. We are ready to go and race. We have some things to show off.

"We learned a lot in Houston. Darren Mayer and his team at DMPE took our blowers and worked on them and it definitely made a big improvement. That in turn makes us need to work on our clutch program to compensate for the added power. We are just working on that now, which in the long run will make us quicker and faster."