Little Teams Need Love Too!

As the season for nostalgia drag racing is heading down the home stretch, some of the story lines have already played out. With his win at the New England Hot Rod Reunion, Tony Bartone has secured a second World Championship. This year was not as dominant as he was in 2014, due to the fact that so far he has lost … ONCE.

So much for being perfect, Tony. I say this with tongue firmly planted in cheek.

However, there is something to say for Bartone and Steve Boggs’ performance run over the past two years. It is impressive, but there is a residual effect on the rest of the Top Fuel teams. The other teams have reached down and are working harder than before to close the gap between the brothers Bartone and themselves.

This is evident with how teams such as High Speed, Champion, and Jim Murphy have stepped up their games.

One team should be considered for the “Never Say Die” award if there was such a thing, would be that of Steve Harwood and his friends from Colorado in the “Nitro Hemi”. Dusty Green is driving the car this year for Harwood.

Team Nitro Hemi started life years back as the “Nitro Thunder” owned and driven by Kaysville, Utah’s Jack Harris. Harris in the Neal and Parks dragster was the king of the mountain for many years. In addition, whether it was the elder Harris or his son Brett driving the car, this piece of pipe was the baddest hombre on the block for many years.

A few years back a lifestyle change for Harris meant that he sold his entire racing operation, and Harwood, a businessman in Colorado would purchase and take delivery of the dragster.

In 2013, Harwood showed up in Eagle, Idaho, at the Pepsi Nightfire Nationals in a small trailer with a group who used to work for Harris and not a great deal of spare parts, but had Brett Harris driving and Steve Watson tuning the car. The duo of Harris and Watson in the past had been kicking some serious tail and taking names in that exact car under the “Nitro Thunder” banner.

The team went on to shock everybody, and won the Nightfires that year.

Jimmy Young took a couple turns of the wheel in the “Nitro Hemi” with some success in 2014.

This year Dusty Green was tapped to drive the Hemi. Green has history not only in N/TF at the wheel of the “Circuit Breaker” top fuel dragster. Moreover, he is also an accomplished sprint car driver in northern California.

This year Green and Harwood have traveled to most of the races, and are currently number three in the points behind Bartone and second place Bill Dunlap in the “High Speed Motorsports Special”, shipping off to Boston and taking a runner up finish at the New England Hot Rod Reunion.

There are just a couple people on the team, so Harwood and Green are forced into doing things the old school way, and recruiting people at the track to help when it is time to turn the car around.

At the Nightfires Green had a couple of Facebook friends who also drag race and sprint car race in Idaho, and recruited them to come help service the car.

At New England, in the semifinal round it was the “Nitro Hemi” taking on High Speed and it was the Hemi taking the win. According to Green, “We were towing back and pulled into the pit area and there was Sean (Bellemeur) Donny, Kyle, and Al Renteria (from High Speed Motorsports) standing there with tools in hand. If it were not for them I don’t think we would have made the call against Bartone in the finals.”

There are certain cars that just have magic in them, and this car has that magic. When Harris had the car, it was the world-beater. It ran the first 260 mile per hour pass. It has won all the big races and the world titles.

If the team can secure some more personnel capital for the road and have the resources to run the tour again in 2016, the little team from Colorado in the small non-descript trailer will be scaring the bejeebers out of the big teams and could again be in the winner’s circle.

One other point I want to make this month. It seems as though the top fuel field is starting to turn the corner when it comes to car quality and car count. There was a full field at Boise, which is good deal. There seems to be more and more cars being built especially in the middle part of the country, based on those cars showing up for DRO Editor Jeff Burk’s Nostalgia Nitro Challenge. Four T/F cars showed up at the World Series of Drag Racing event.

If half the rumors are true about top fuel cars being built, there would be at least twenty at the Reunion. Will there be? It would be nice. Nevertheless, having a solid sixteen-car field is the first goal.

One last thing, the top fuel teams all deserve a big “atta boy” for all the hard work they have put in curtailing the amount of oil they have spilled over the past year. Whether it is through containment or changing of tune up to make the parts live, the result is still the same: less oil on the racetrack and better racing for the fans. Well done, boys! (I use that term as a gender neutral way.)