Scores NHRR Threepeat
Tough Loss in Round One of CHRR
CA - October 6-8, 2006: The 15th edition of the NHRA California
Hot Rod Reunion lived up to its star billing - record crowds,
huge car counts and to say the least, exciting racing. Considering
this is one of the two premier nostalgia drag racing events in
the country, teams come here loaded for bear with one thought
in mind - winning. The High Speed Motorsports team had a dual
win in mind when they rolled through the gates on Thursday. Foremost
was their unfinished business - the final round of the rain shortened
National Hot Rod Reunion in Bowling Green, KY against Adam Sorokin.
This was set to happen amid the second qualifying session.
As it turned
out, part one of their goal came to fruition as Bellemeur took
out Soroking for the 2006 NHRR Top Fuel title - his third in
a row... but the overall plan unraveled early. The HSMS team
fell victim to drag racing fate - or a full moon. Take your pick.
In this sport regardless of how carefully you prepare, how knowledgeable
you are or how badly you want to win more often than not the
unexpected will bite you in the tail. The last thing the team
expected was exactly what happened Saturday night. Below is the
good, the bad and the ugly....
and full story below.
With the first qualifying session schedule for 3
p.m. Friday the crew had most of the day to make sure all their
ducks were in a row. The mood was light and confident.
Roger McMartin gets
a spare short block ready for duty.
Friday - 1st
Prior to the first session
co-crew chief Troy Green paid close attention to what the competition
Crew Chief Brett Johansen
and Rian Konno give the track surface the shoe test.
Bellemeur gets focused while Brett Johansen, Tom
Shelar and Rian Konno get ready to fire the car.
Bellemeur got his first shot at the track at 3:45
p.m. on Friday. He was in the next to last pair of the session
and had some very stout numbers to shoot at. He was paired with
another young gun - second generation driver, Brett Harris.
The back up procedure never changes. Walt Stevens
out front and Roger McMartin with his eyes on the engine.
During qualifying reaction
times don't matter - you are racing the clock to get a spot in
the show. Nonetheless, good drivers use the sessions to sharpen
their starting line reflexes.
Bellemeur had a flawless launch.
Even though it was qualifying,
this was a great drag race.
This was a beauty. Bellemeur
carded a very nice 5.868 at 254.74. This would ultimately land
Sean in the # 6 qualifying spot. Harris stopped the clocks
at a slower 5.915 but with the top speed of the event - 260.19.
Everyone thought this
was setting the stage for a record setting second session. That
would prove to be the wrong assumption.
Following session one,
Dale Singh goes over the qualifying list.
HSMS fashion statement?
Old time engine wizard
Steve Montrelli stopped by to visit with Roger McMartin.
The car is fired up
to make sure all is good for Saturday.
Saturday - 2nd
Fast forward 24 hours
to the second and last qualifying session. But for Bellemeur
and the HSMS team this was much more than a qualifying run -
it was the long awaited Top Fuel final held over from the NHRR
For Bellemeur the race got off to an ominous start
when there was a problem with the throttle stop and the car didn't
even turn a tire on the burn-out. The concern was amplified by
the fact that Sorokin, after just one session. was currently
sitting in the # 1 qualifying spot with a 5.806 at 255.39.
After backing up the non-burnout the lack of throttle
was weighing on the entire crews minds.
With the collective
tension - crews and fans - built as both cars staged - the whole
deal unraveled in the blink of an eye.
Sorokin's ride blew
the tires at the hit and it appeared, with his clean launch,
that Bellemeur would have a cake walk to the trophy and $5,000
But this was a drag race
and you never let your breath out until the win light come on.
Although Sorokin smoked the tires at the hit he was able to recover
while Bellemeur was smoking his tires down track. The end result
was stunning. Bellemeur did get the win but Sorokin went by him
like a freight train in the lights. Wrap your brain around these
numbers - 6.838 at just 172.84 for the win and 7.070 at a stunning
246.71 to the loser.
Bellemeur's pulse rate
is off the charts when he realizes he won this one by a much
slimmer margin than the ET's would indicate. However - a win
is a win and this one was although not pretty, was very sweet.
The HSMS team heads
up track to pick up Sean as the NHRA Safety Safari tend to Sorokin's
oil down in the right lane.
We did it!
Good friends off the
track, Adam congratulates Sean before they even get their helmets
Being a member of the
NHRA Safety Safari at Pomona, Bellemeur gets a big hug from one
of his peers.
It was no surprise that
Sean got hugs and high fives from the RB Entertainment - Champion
Speed Shop crew for the win. They are a class act an one would
not expect anything less.
Team HSMS finally gets
to the top end and the looks on their faces say it all.
A very special moment
when Nancy, Sean's Mom, shows unbridled pride for her one and
HSMS CEO Dale Singh was busy calling the teams supporters
with the big news.
Back to the pits to get ready for round one of eliminations
Back to the pits to get ready for round one that
Top Fuel Qualifying
1. Adam Sorokin
- 5.806 @ 255.39
2. Jason Richey - 5.833 @ 259.81
3. Brad Thompson - 5.849 @ 222.93
4. Shannon Stewart - 5.867 @ 249.44
5. Denver Schutz - 5.867 @ 247.45
6. Sean Bellemeur - 5.868 @ 254.74
7. Brett Harris - 5.895 @ 259.51
8. Mendy Fry - 5.928 @ 242.13
Mason - 5.935 @ 241.48
10. Howard Haight - 5.945 @ 256.84
11. Jack Harris - 5.953 @ 230.71
12. Jim Murphy - 5.961 @ 230.47
13. John Shoemaker - 5.962 @ 253.02
14. Mark Malde - 5.970 @ 244.03
15. Pete Kaiser - 6.022 @ 248.13
16. Rick McGee - 6.054 @ 229.47
Saturday: Round One of Eliminations
17. Bill Dunlap
- 6.069 @ 224.04
18. Brendan Murry - 6.333 @ 194.72
19. Paul Jones - 6.425 @ 218.87
20. Rick White - 6.464 @ 218.34
21. Dan Rusk - 6.706 @ 167.16
22. Ron Maroney - 6.777 @ 200.13
In round one of eliminations
Bellemeur was paired with Jack Harris in the Rodeck Racing entry.
Sean had lane choice and under normal circumstances the HSMS
team would be feeling somewhat confident. However, the four pairs
of cars that ran before them had already broadcasted that this
was anything but a "normal" round of Top Fuel. It was,
in a word, ugly and about to get worse. If you don't believe
that weird things happen on the cusp of a full moon - you should
have been here.
After several mishaps
and delays, Bellemeur finally got to run at 7:45 p.m. This would
not be significant had the session not started a 6:45 p.m.
The burnout and backup
At the hit all was good
- Bellemeur was out on Harris by a tenth (0.078 to a 0.197).
All was fine until the
900' mark when the HSMS car got out of the groove and made an
abrupt move to the right. At 200 MPH this is not a good thing.
In the blink of an eye Sean was into Jack's lane and going sideways.
One could read the Plaza Hotel logo on the nose from the starting
line - it looked very bad. Incredibly Bellemeur got the car back
into his lane and avoided what appeared to be a sure roll over.
Come to find out it was a combination of quick reflexes and the
right canard wing keeping the car from going over. Between spinning
the tires and getting a cockpit full of clutch dust Sean was
"hunting" on the top end and this time it almost bit
him. Full moon.
Crossing the center line
erased any chance Bellemeur had of winning so Harris got a gift
9.196 at a mere 91.75 MPH win. For the record, Bellemeur went
thought the lights on two wheels at a 7.038 at 131.46. There
would be no double NHRA reunion wins this year.
In spite of their near
disastrous loss the night before, the HSMS team were center stage
during the pre-race ceremonies Sunday morning when they were
awarded the 7 foot tall trophy for winning the 2006 National
Hot Rod Reunion. Here Dave McClelland interviews Sean Bellemeur.
Representing the NHRA
Wally Parks Motorsports Museum, Greg Sharp awards the trophy.
Sean Bellemeur, Dale
Singh and Tom Shelar.
The team stayed around for the remainder
of the race on Sunday but did leave a parting shot in the way
of the team BBQ that finally became a liability no longer deserving
a trip home in the trailer. Signed by Sean Bellemeur and named
AA/Fuel Grill it was last seen in the pits of Formosa. Maybe
it will still be there when they return for the Goodguys Finals
November 3-5, 2006.