BRADENTON, Fla. – The ROUSH® drag racing team traveled down to Bradenton (Fla.) Motorsports Park this past weekend for the kickoff of the NMRA’s eleventh season. The weather was beautiful, the stands were packed, and the three racers on the ROUSH® Drag Racing Team got the season started in their respective classes.
As has been her forte over the past couple of seasons, Susan Roush-McClenaghan kicked off her season in fine style. Running her modular-powered, ROUSH Competition Engines-built ’01 Mustang, Roush-McClenaghan qualified fourth out of 22 cars, just behind teammate Donnie Bowles in the ROUSH® Modular Muscle class. The team had spent a day at South Georgia Motorsports Park in Valdosta testing the car prior to arriving in Florida, and Susan has been honing her driving skills and working on consistency, which paid off during qualifying.
Roush-McClenaghan faced off in the first round against Ontario, Canada’s John Brooks, and ran right on her dial – a 10.357 on a 10.35, with a .051 reaction time, to move on to the second round. There she faced off against Modular Muscle heavy-hitter Derek Kernodle, and used those driving skills to take another round win. Her .028 reaction time gave her a huge advantage right out of the gate, and then she ran closer to her dial, sealing up the win. The third round brought Roush-McClenaghan an easy win over class champion Tom Motycka when he redlit, but Roush-McClenaghan used the free pass to see how the car would run as the weather conditions were changing. A 10.353 on a 10.35 dial-in set her up for round four against another one of the Modular Muscle players, Jeff Stafford. Roush-McClenaghan continued her consistency with a sharp .021 reaction time and 10.41 on a 10.35 dial, while Stafford broke out and sent Roush-McClenaghan on to the final round.
In the finals, Roush-McClenaghan raced against fellow Michigan resident Paul Svinicki, an incredibly consistent racer in his own right. Unfortunately for Susan, she reacted just a bit too quickly, lighting the red bulb and ending her weekend as the class runner-up.
"I am disappointed with how the final round went, but the team has grown so much, and I’ve been working so hard to improve my skills. We’re very happy with how the weekend turned out, and by making it to the finals, we’re positioning ourselves well for the rest of the season," Susan explained.
Donnie Bowles also competes in the ROUSH® Modular Muscle class along with Roush-McClenaghan, and his .006 reaction time during qualifying placed him in the third position. He ran well during eliminations, taking out Ohio’s Steve Gauman in the first round and Reggie Burnette Sr. in round two. Unfortunately for Donnie, he came up against event winner Paul Svinicki in round three. Both racers broke out, but Donnie broke out worse, running a 9.75 on a 9.87 dial-in, and took the loss this time around. His quarterfinal finish is a good start to the 2009 season.
It was a difficult task, and included a lot of overtime in the shop, but the 1972 Ford Maverick that Don Bowles purchased on January 2 as a rolling shell showed up in Bradenton completely revamped and ready to do battle in the Hot Street class. The car was constructed completely at the ROUSH fabrication facility in Livonia, Mich., and features a ROUSH® Competition Engines-built 398 cubic inch class-legal engine. Dubbed "Coal Digger VII," it’s the seventh iteration of Don’s drag cars, and is covered in his trademark yellow hue.
The team tested the car in Georgia, came to Florida, and qualified fifth with an 8.88 at more than 150 mph, no small feat for a brand new car. While he’s just a bit off the pace as far as elapsed times go, with further testing and seat time, those performances will improve. Don went out in the first round on Sunday against Timothy Eichhorn, but the team was very pleased with the result of the first race out with the car. Don and engine builder Ben Mens of ROUSH® Competition Engines feel that he’ll be a major player in Hot Street as the season wears on.
The team carries sponsorship from 3M, Valvoline, Mickey Thompson and ROUSH®. The next event on the NMRA schedule will take place May 15-17, 2009 at Atco Raceway in Atco, N.J.