First car in the pits
on Thursday - the winner on Saturday.
was just two months ago that Sean Bellemeur took his first Top
Fuel title at the Goodguys Nitro Nationals in Las Vegas. Since
then he and the Plaza Hotel - MasterCam team (with a brand new
car) are two for two including a win at the National Hot Rod
Reunion in Bowling Green, KY and their latest victory at the
7th Pomona Nitro Nationals. In a sport where three wins in a
row are rare - three wins in a row by a "rookie" with
a new car is unheard of.
For several reasons
including the warm weather and Fathers Day, the format for this
event was 2 days (Friday and Saturday) with racing from morning
'till night. The large car count and a 10 pm curfew at Pomona
forced the Goodguys to further alter the schedule and limit the
Pro classes to only two qualifying sessions - both on Friday.
The first session was held in the heat of the day on Friday afternoon.
heats up the tires in preparation for their first qualifying
to fire up for his first qualifying run. This would be the first
time that the West Coast fans would see the new car go down the
As he always does, co-owner and
ex-driver Walt Stevens backs Sean up after his burnout. The other
part of the teams back up procedure is Roger McMartin eying the
engine for any leaks or abnormalities.
Fred Farndon being pushed back, co-owner Tom Shelar brings Sean
up to the the staging beams to make a single run.
Playing it safe
in the clutch and power department, the car leaves soft and cards
a baseline 6.213 @ 229.82. This would place him in the # 7 qualifying
position at the end of the first session.
is a "working" driver as part of his responsibility
is clutch maintenance.
After every run
the cars are serviced and decisions are made for improving the
tune-up for the next pass.
"Big Show" crewman Randy Green volunteered his specialty
- checking the bottom end. Not a job everyone wants or can do
Being the only two car team currently
running Nostalgia Top Fuel, the Plaza Hotel & Casino - MasterCam
- High Speed Steel Heat Treating (now that's a mouth full) crew
is quite large. With both cars in competition some of the crew
members work on a specific car and others bounce back and forth
After all the maintenance is
done the car the crew does a "warm up" in the pits.
This is done to heat in the engine, check oil pressure, to get
baseline computer data and to make sure there are no leaks. Here
Tom Shelar hooks up the computer before firing up.
Walt Stevens has Sean check the
fuel system, clutch and reverser. It's always better to find
a problem in the pits than the race track.
The people love it when the cars
fire up in the pits and gather like flies when they hear one.
Many hard core fans stay in the Top Fuel pit area the entire
time between rounds.
The second session was scheduled
for 7 pm but did not get under way until 9 pm which was fine
with both the racers and fans as there's nothing better than
nitro at night. Bellemeur does his burnout under the lights.
Liking the night air, the car
responded and improved on its first run with a solid 6.105 @
Pulling up for the first
round: 5:00 pm - let the games begin!
Bellemeur's first round opponent
was Lee Jennings. It was not a race from the start. Sean strapped
a huge holeshot on Lee and never looked back taking the win with
a 6.181 @ 236.36. Jennings carded a sub par 6.593 at just 203.38.
Note: The new car was starting
to hike the front wheels at the hit - a good sign that the clutch
is getting dialed in.
At Pomona the return road goes
right in front of the stands and then the cars take a mini tunnel
to return to the pits. This allows the fans to see the cars closer
and cheer for their favorite teams.
Between rounds it was
business as usual for the crew.
Tom Shelar analyzes the data
collected on the previous run. This information allows the team
to tweak the tune-up and clutch settings for better performance
As the sun was setting over the
hills surrounding Pomona, the semi finals pitted Bellemeur with
the always tough Jeff Diehl in the black RB Entertainment car
of Bryan Van Dyke.
Both cars left together and in
a great side by side race Bellemeur held on for the win in the
best race of the field. Cheers went up when the electronic scoreboard
posted a 6.099 @ 243.37 for Sean while Diehl was right there
with a 6.124 @ 239.42. That was a drag race!
With a 10:00 pm curfew the Top
Fuel final went off with 20 minutes to spare. Due to the "break
rule" Bellemeur would have to race Jeff Diehl again! Although
Diehl was beaten by Sean in the semis he got back in the show
as low ET loser when Jason Richey couldn't make the call.
High fives all around...
its great when a plan comes together!
Diehl, knowing he had to get
a starting line advantage to beat the white car, took a shot
at the lights and lost. He left too early by a bunch handing
Bellemeur and the Plaza Hotel - MasterCam - High Speed Metal
Heat Treating team their third win in a row. Sean knew he had
the win but drove it to the end for the fans. His 6.061 @ 245.76
would have been tough to beat even if Diehl hadn't red lighted.
The jubilant crew heads
to the other end to retrieve Sean and the car.
At the far end Sean pulls
off his helmet gives a "I must be dreaming" look.
Co owner Tom Shelar at
the other end - no excitement here.
Dixon stopped by to congratulate Sean on the win.
It was a special
win for Sean's mom, Nancy who has been battling heath problems
of late. In fact, she recently had surgery and didn't expect
to be able to come to this event. We were all gald she could