Like many other successful sportsman racers, Emporia, Kansas based driver Gary Stinnett competes in not one NHRA class, but two. Those classes are Super Stock, where he wheels his 1992 Camaro in GT/EA and Super Comp, driving a 2008 Undercover Dragster which boasts 632 cubic inch power plant between the frame rails.
Super Stock Driver Gary Stinnett
Gary Stinnett in his Super Comp Dragster
The Lucas Oil NHRA Nationals, held each year at Brainerd International Raceway, was a successful one for Stinnett in 2009 when he drove his Camaro to the winner's circle and grabbed the Wally in Super Stock.
This year, he would once again find his way to the event championship podium, only it would be in his Super Comp Dragster.
The weather during the earlier days of the event caused officials to cancel some of the scheduled qualifying sessions and time runs for various classes, Super Comp being no exception.
"It was pretty rainy, so we only ended up getting two of our time runs instead of three," Stinnett pointed out.
Air conditions were much different for competitors come first round and Stinnett was ready to make quick changes.
"First round I drew Luke Bogaki, which is never a good draw," he said. "It was really-really fast, everybody was breaking out and I'm sure he read the scoreboards the same as I did and so his game plan was to probably go down and dump me. Normally that would have worked against just about anybody else, but I'm savvy enough to know that. I dialed an honest 8.90, so when he dumped me I was able to catch the dump, sit down with him and I went 92 and he went 94."
Stinnett continued his winning ways through round two and on to round three, where he knew his next opponent was going to be a little different than most. "The problem with him is that he goes 137 MPH and I go 187. And really with a fifty mile-per-hour difference, it's really as big of a problem for him as it is for me."
"I had actually just raced him last week at a divisional event, first round and I had raced him third round at the Brainerd divisional," Stinnett continued. "As of this point, I've been fortunate enough to beat him all three times. He only went an 8.95. I got around him and lifted a little bit and ran an 8.92."
With third round, that would conclude Saturday's Super Comp eliminations and Stinnett would have to wait until Sunday morning for his next round. But he certainly wasn't just hanging out and kicking back.
"The wind was so much of a factor in the event and all its angles," he said. "I've got a nice computer in the trailer that measures wind and maps it. So I spent from about 8:45 to about 11:45 trying to make an exact science out of the angle and the amount of wind, so that way I could figure it for Sunday and I felt pretty comfortable with it."
Stinnett's scientific calculations paid dividends in round four, where he was able to get around Travis Nygaard on a double breakout win.
Next he would face Kevin Wright, who is having a nice 2010 season and heading into the event, holds down the number two spot in the NHRA Super Comp National point's standings.
"I think I added a little too much to my delay after my .006 the round before, but it still worked out," he explained. "He broke out. The wind gusted and I had my partner Dennis on the starting line with the wind meter and I would back up from the burnout and he would tell me how much wind there was and I would make a last minute adjustment. So that paid off and gave me the bye run into the final."
"For the bye run I went to the right lane. I'm not quite sure what happened with the wind or what, but I dialed for an honest 8.90 and ended up going an 8.926," he said. "So that left me a little bit concerned for the final and thinking was the left lane that much faster or was there no wind that run?"
Even though Stinnett had two different timer settings ready to go into the final, depending on which lane he would be placed in, he wouldn't have to worry about the left lane as his final round opponent, Mitchell, South Dakota's Dustin Long, placed him right back in the lane he had just run during his semi-final bye.
"The strategy here is, he had just ran the right lane and he kind of confused me because he knew I had just run the right lane, too," he said. "Now he wants to go over to the left and I thought ‘good, because if it's fast, like it was for me, you're fixin' to be fast. And that's exactly what happened."
Stinnett had just posted a perfect light during his previous round bye and decided not to take any chances and rolled a little more delay in the box.
"So in the final knew I had a better light than he did, but I also felt my car act different than it had the round before in the same lane," Stinnett explained. "When it came off the stop the round before it had chattered the tires a little and this time it didn't so I go ‘oh now I'm fast again'."
Even for an experienced racer such as Stinnett, once may be surprised how much thinking is really going on during a run in just a matter of seconds.
"There were a couple of thought processes going on," he elaborated. "I saw that when we left, I had murdered him on the tree and I can take the win light, there is no doubt in my mind that I can get around this guy and I can take the win light. But then when it comes off the stop and it's haulin', so I'm like I'm going fast, he's going fast this is going to get ugly."
"So I just decided to drive it like I felt it and got up to him and I whomped it twice and then I dropped back and gave him the stripe," he continued. "He's 83 and I'm 89."
"It really wasn't as easy as the math made it look on the scoreboards," he said. "Because of his 53 light and my 5, I was right there with him, so it didn't look like he was going an 83 to me."
Unlike last year when Stinnett took his Super Stock car to the winner's circle during this same event, when it was very late in the evening and no time to enjoy or celebrate the win, he was able to make up for that since this year the event finished much earlier in the day and he thoroughly enjoyed his NHRA National event win, number twenty-one."
Stinnett's schedule demands that not only his race cars consistently perform at peak capacity, but also the vehicles that get him there, including the dually that pulls the race trailer. Each of his vehicles are fully equipped with K&N products from oil filters to air filters and he helps test some of the new K&N scoops, as well.
With the granddaddy of the all, The NHRA U.S. Nationals just around the corner, Stinnett has a warm-up event planned just prior to it and several others planned before his 2010 season comes to a close, when he will attend the Automobile Club of Southern California NHRA Finals at Pomona.
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