It may have felt like a long time coming, but even Mother Nature couldn't stop Kevin McClelland from charging his way to the Super Gas winner's circle during the Eighth annual NHRA Pacific SPORTSnationals at The Strip at Las Vegas. Between the wind, the rain and even dust storms, McClelland wheeled his 1927 K&N Ford Davis Roadster to the victory, his first NHRA win at the Nevada track.
Kevin McClelland wheeled his 1927 K&N Ford Davis Roadster to the victory, his first NHRA win at The Strip at Las Vegas.
Kevin McClelland and his 1927 Ford Davis Roadster plan to race NHRA national, divisional and big money bracket races in 2014.
"That place has been a thorn in my side," said McClelland of the Vegas track. "Racing out in the desert, the weather changes so much. You'll look at the conditions and your weather station and you'll make assumptions and you can still miss it by two or three hundredths. In the past, I would be going along in eliminations and get to third or fourth round and just miss the quickly changing weather."
"I did win one race there running a car that belonged to a friend of mine." He continued. "It was a race around Thanksgiving, where they run the bracket finals, and that was back in 2011."
Sporting a 524 ci BBC between the frame rails, McClelland, who is the Director of OEM Business for K&N Engineering, has a long history with his 1927 Ford Roadster.
"I've had the car since 2001," he pointed out. "Don Davis saw the car at the Vegas Spring Fling earlier this year and said it was probably the second or third car that he ever built. It was his house car and the one that he did all the development work on and refining the different things on back in the 90's when he built these cars. I completely rebuilt the car about three years ago. I took it all the way down to the bare frame, magnafluxed all the welds, re-powdercoated it and updated it with a new Racepak and more."
Coming into the Pacific SPORTSnationals, McClelland was still searching for his first win at the Vegas track and with the every-changing weather conditions, he knew it was going to be a tough one.
"The first couple of rounds we were dealing with a huge tailwind, to the point of four to eight hundredths performance gain," he explained. "I made it past first round and then second, I had to run Vince Campa and he has a very fast roadster. I was .003 on the tree and he was .012 and then third round I had to run Jerry Denton, but that didn't happen right away."
McClelland and Denton were under the tower to be the next pair of Super Gas to pull out, but a quick rain shower went through and officials sent everyone back to their pit area to wait it out.
"When they called us back up, we still didn't get to make the run," he said. "We were all suited up and ready to pull out and all of a sudden a windstorm hits. It completely covered the track with dirt and to the point that Mike Rice stopped the racing, of course and about thirty minutes later, called all the drivers up for a meeting."
Officials gave drivers several options to complete the remaining rounds during some of the upcoming events on the NHRA tour, but for McClelland and his tight schedule, he really hoped to wait it out and get the event in.
"Working SEMA for K&N, I didn't have the time available to be there for the points meet," he explained. "I'm like, I want to race today and is there any way we can just wait this out a little bit. He sent us off to go discuss everything within our classes and within a half hour, the weather was back to normal Vegas conditions."
Officials had been working the track during this time and McClelland took note that it looked like they should be able to resume racing. "I went to Rice and said hey, this looks like we can get back at it, what are we doing standing around. He called the tower and within fifteen minutes, we were back at it."
Again, drivers were faced with the dilemma of exactly how to dial their cars after the lengthy amount of time and changes since their last lap down the track and it wasn't going to settle down anytime soon.
"The barometer changed tremendously between third round on and just between fourth and fifth round, the DA (density altitude) dropped almost a thousand feet, and that happened within thirty minutes," he noted.
McClelland outdrove Jerry Denton in round three by forcing him to take more stripe than he wanted and came out on the good side of a double breakout. That would send him on to face Jesse Serna in round four, who would go red and allow McClelland to run it out on his way to the semifinal round.
"For some reason when it gets dark at Las Vegas, my lights go away and I just wasn't brave enough to pull more delay out," he said of his reaction times in the later rounds.
By the time the semifinal round rolled along, McClelland was blow away by how fast everyone was running and it made for an interesting lap with John Ross. Ross, way late on the tree with his .050 to McClelland's .026, just didn't have the room to back off from the throttle. McClelland did a great job at the stripe, taking only the slightest of margins [.008] and again came out on the right side of a huge double breakout.
Now, it was on to the final where he would face Pete Bothe.
"The last person I wanted to see in the final was Pete," admitted K&N's McClelland. "He's a fixture in this area and based on his lamps [reaction times], on paper he had me whopped. Luckily, at that point I didn't know what his rounds had been before the final. I just went up there and raced him like I normally would. I was basically on a 10.048 [10.05 Super Gas adjusted index], if I would have run it out."
With only .003 separating the pair as they sailed past the tree, McClelland dumped to a dead-on 10.055 to Bothe's under the index 10.040. The spilt second decision parlayed into a first Las Vegas NHRA victory for McClelland.
"I ran him down as far as I felt I could," he said. "I only scrubbed off five to six mph."
The NHRA National Event win was the fourth for McClelland and his first in thirteen years.
"I don't get the opportunity to race much on the national and divisional level due to my work schedule," he pointed out. "I bracket race a lot, but I just don't get the chance to run many of the other events."
Like McClelland, so many who work for K&N Engineering are involved in competing in some form of motorsports. "Racing here at K&N is synonymous, circle track racers, road racers and of course, many of us are drag racers. Being able to work with and race with Steve Williams and his commitment to NHRA racing, K&N is such a welcome place to work, especially with being able to go out and participate and use so many of the K&N products."
Air, oil and more, if it goes into the power plant on McClelland's national event winning ride, a K&N product filters it.
The win meant so much to McClelland and he was quick to thank the people who were a part of his efforts. "First I want to thank Steve Williams, for all of his support and everything that he does. I want to thank Charlie Allen and of course my son Daniel, who was there racing but because everything ran late, had to leave to catch a flight to Detroit the next morning. Huge thanks to my wife Lisa, Kyle Seipel and Greg Ventura."
The NHRA Super Gas national event win at Las Vegas capped off the 2013 season for McClelland and for 2014 he hopes to maintain the same type of schedule that he has enjoyed over the last several years with a good mix of NHRA national, divisional and big money bracket races on the horizon.