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Bellemeur Splits Rain Canceled Final - Sets Both Ends of Track Record
Runs 5.86 at 251 mph

 


Bowling Green, KY - June 16-18, 2006: As good as it was, the 4th annual National Hot Rod Reunion didn't exactly go as planned for the racers, fans and staff in general or for High Speed Motorsports Plaza Hotel - SilverThin dragster in particular. For the first time in its short history, the NHRR had two severe rain storms come through on Saturday and Sunday afternoons forcing the cancellation of the final qualifying sessions and final rounds of eliminations where Sean Bellemeur was to meet Adam Sorokin for all the marbles. This denied Bellemeur, who won here in 2004 and 2005 the chance for a threepeat. Instead both teams split the winner and runner-up money and will actially run the final 2100 miles from Kentucky at the 15th California Hot Rod Reunion in October.

Backing up, the weekend started on Wednesday with the maximum number of entries allowed (500 race cars and 1500 "rods") beginning to fill every square inch of the historic and impeccably maintained Beech Bend Park pits and surrounding properties. After being rained out for the third time this season the weekend before (Goodguys Indy), the HSMS team was really looking forward to sunshine and a full weekend of racing. Qualifying started on Friday which was sunny and hot setting the stage for what was suppose to be a dry weekend.

Saturday dawned sunny and hot allowing the second qualifying session to go off as scheduled. But by 4:00 p.m. some classic mid-west storm clouds rolled in and everything was put on hold. When it was obvious that the track could not be dried out in time to continue qualifying, Bellemeur and team were denied a chance to take the poll and had to settle for the # 2 spot with a 6.031 at 251.44 (first leg of a new track speed record). The elimination ladder was made up of the two sessions that were completed. Sunday two rounds were completed until more rain halted the show for good.

Photos and full story below.

 


 


High Speed Motorsports Inc. CEO, Dale Singh.

 


Over the last three seasons Dale Singh and Tom Shelar have worked very hard to formulated the best team possible to field the best car possible. The results are becoming obvious to all and one of the many keys to the teams success is unity. At every race, before the engine is ever fired for the first time, the team groups together for a pep talk and solemn reminder that they are there to win ... nothing else is acceptable.

 

 

 


 


Can you read a hydrometer? That's the percentage this car runs.

 


After the team meeting the car is fueled by Bert Toulette and Walt Stevens.

 


Primed by Troy Green, started by Tom Shelar.

 


After the engine is started Tom and Troy check the magneto timing at idle.

 


Adjustments are made from information from the data computer.

 


As the air fills with the pungent fumes of nitro the large crowd that always gathers backs up.

 

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All is good - the engine is warm, set and now shut down.

 


After the warm up the team had some time to relax.

 


 

Friday - 1st Qualifying Session

 


With Bellemeur in the car the crew waits for the signal to fire the engine.

 


Since the 2005 event the entire track surface had been replaced and was still a bit "green" on Friday. Tune ups were made accordingly. Bellemeur does his first burnout of the weekend.

 

 


Walt Stevens guides Sean back while Roger McMartin checks for anything abnormal on the engine.

 


Bellemeur was paired up the Randy Bridges in the Hendricks Motorsports car.

 


With a tune up fit to the track conditions the car left hard and carded a 6.035 at 250.04 (quickest and fastest run of the session). It should be noted that the tune up call was made by Assistant Crew Chief Troy Green as Crewchief Bret Johansen hadn't arrived yet. Nice call Troy.

 


After the run Green and McMartin diagnose the engine.

 


 

Saturday - 2nd Qualifying Session

 


Saturday afternoon the car was prepared and warmed for the second session of qualifying. The schedule called for one session at 3 p.m. and a third session at 7:30 p.m.

 

 


Waiting for the call to suit up. The weather on Saturday was hot but overcast and humid which called for a tune up change from Friday.

 


Nice four shot burnout sequence by Warren Merriman.

 

 

 

 

 


As Bellemeur completes his burnout one can't help but notice how prominent the teams major sponsors are on the car. The Plaza Hotel in Las Vegas and SilverThin Bearings are getting great exposure - especially backing a winner.

 

 

 

 


In the second session Bellemeur was paired with fellow Californian Brendan Murry. Again Bellemeur left hard and stopped the clocks with another 6.031 but faster with a 251.44 (first leg of a new track record).

 

 


However, they now had the data to put a five second tune up in the car for the night session... which never came.

 

 


3:30 p.m. The crew picks up Sean and the car at the top end of the track.

 

 

 


4:00 p.m. This is one of those "a picture is worth 1000 words".

 


All the crew could do was laugh it off and get ready for eliminations on Sunday.

 

Final Top Fuel Qualifying
1. Roger Lechtenberg -  6.018 @ 251.44
2. Sean Bellemeur  -  6.031 @ 251.44
3. Howard Height  -  6.167 @ 236.88
4. Adam Sorokin  -  6.211 @ 213.30
5. Brendan Murry  - 6.221 @ 203.65
6. Randy Bridges  -  6.321 @ 230.80
7. Ernest McClain  -  6.377 @ 219.54
8. Dan Rusk  -  6.618 @ 186.74

 


 

Top Fuel Round One - Sunday

 


The crew buttons up the car after the 10 a.m. warm up. First round was scheduled for 11:00 a.m. but the weather forecast didn't look good for the afternoon. More thunder showers were coming - the only question was, when?

 


After the opening ceremonies it was time for Top Fuel. # 2 qualifier Bellemeur was paired with the # 7 qualifier, Ernest McClain from Smyrna, DE.

 

 


Brett Johansen makes the final adjustment before sending Bellemeur into the staging beams.

 


McClain knew he had to cut a great light and hope Bellemeur had problems to get a win. He guessed and missed by a mile catching a red light and giving an automatic win to Sean.

 


Bellemeur waited for his green and left identical to Saturday and carding a like time - 6.054 at 250.04. The five second zone was still alluding them.

 

 

 


The crew responded to the cheers from the fans.

 


 


While the crew was getting the car ready for the second round, team hospitality and travel coordinator Arlene Eliason BBQ's some lunch.

 


After an impressive 60 minute turn around time (the time it took the crew to get the car ready for the next round once it returned to their pit from the prior run) the HSMS met the call but there was no sign of their opponent, Howard Haight in Butch Blair's "Fugowie".

 


The HSMS car was moved out onto the track and there was still no sign of their opponent.

 


Everybody knew they were not only racing on the track but also racing the immanent storm. Haight and Steve Gibbs can be seen looking nervously at the staging lanes for Blair's car.

 


Just when it looked like Gibbs was going to tell Bellemeur to suit up and make a single, the Fugowie car was hurriedly towed out.

 


Girlfriend, Erin Adams helps Sean with his Hans device.

 


As he always does, Tom Shelar straps Bellemeur into the cockpit.

 


Finally both drivers were in and the burnouts went off together.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


With the burnouts complete both cars got their final tweaks and were led into the staging beams.

 

 

 


Bellemeur took a slight advantage at the start and never looked back.

 


After a very hard leave the car pinned Bellemeur in the seat for 1320 feet stopping the clocks with a 5.869 (new track record) at just 244 mph. Had the car not lost the blower belt at the 1100 foot mark the ET would have been even lower and the speed into the 253 range.

 

 


You can see even at this angle that Bellemeur had a good lead before the 330' mark.

 

 


The crew was elated and anxious to meet Adam Sorokin in the finals.

 


With rain clouds on the horizon the car was rushed back to the pits in hopes of getting turned around and have time for the final.

 

 

 

 

 


In spite of pouring rain - lightning and thunder - the team worked with their normal precision to get the car ready for a final that would never come.

 

 


With worsening weather reports coming in, the event was called at 2:45 p.m.

 


 

Call it quits you say? Not a chance. After most of the racers and fans had already left for home, Don Ewald came up with the bright idea to run the Top Fuel final anyway - using golf carts. Ewald had one cart and a camera and it took Bellemeur and Sorokin about 5 minutes to come up with another cart and full fire suits. Rain pouring down, a band of brave (or not so smart) souls made their way to the starting line to settle it here and now.

 


Erin assumed the role of backup girl for Bellemeur. One lone fan remained and was rewarded for his endurance.

 

 


Sorokin finished his burnout and moved up to stage.

 


Tom Shelar acted as the "flag starter" and both carts were off. Since the PA system was still on the guys in the tower picked up on this deal and were announcing it like a real race. Funny stuff.

 


On the top end it was was, due to the fact he added some leg pushes, a disputed win for Bellemeur.

 


Boys being boys, Sorokin won the race back by a wheel. Must be he two hand driving style.

 


Still laughing, Wally Parks Museum Curator, Greg Sharp came down to congratulate the winner.

 

 


After that the only thing left to do was eat more food. Next stop - Boise, Idaho.

 


 

PHOTO EXTRA
Great shots that have no home...

 


Prior to the 2006 HSMS Eastern Swing (Indy & Bowling Green) the guys thought it would be fun to put Sean's girlfriend, Erin in the car for a final check-out fire up at their Anaheim shop. Most would agree she looks better than Sean even with the mask.

 


Erin in car - starter hooked up - Bellemeur giggles.

 


Brett Johansen lites the engine and Erin enjoys the "ride".

 

 


Yea, that was fun. Can I do it again?

 

 


After being rained out at Indy, the team headed to Bowling Green via John Force's Indianapolis Race Headquarters where they spent Sunday night.

 


Roger McMartin, Frankie Hedge and Sean Bellemeur are dwarfed under the huge American flag outside Force's shop.

 

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