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By Chris Martin
Photos by Ron Lewis and Jeff Burk

Hopes were soaring as Burk and Martin headed for Indianapolis. Sadly, what goes up, must come down.

We at pride ourselves in being professional journalists: We get paid for what we do. Well, so much for poor taste. Labor Day Weekend was highlighted for drag racing fans by the Mac Tools U.S. Nationals at Indianapolis Raceway Park in Indiana.

Rather than give you a who-beat-whom and some racer or crew chief quotes on the why and wherefore, we thought we'd concentrate on aspects of the race you may have not tuned in on. Sort of a soft, white underbelly of the U.S. Nationals, if you will. Here's Jeffie's and my take on the race to end all races -- and in my case, that's an apt description, at least for out here in Hoosierville. You'll get the idea as you crack into your first Cadbury egg of misinformation and malice. . . .

Burk and Martin leave O'Fallon, Mo. for Indy about 8:30 a.m. Thursday of the race. The cell phone's kerplunk at 10:30 a.m. Frantic attempt at a charge-up reveals useless cigarette lighters. Humphrey Bogart dying of the nicotine shakes. God, it's just us and the torture of Midwest radio. If this is going to set the tenor for the whole weekend, it's time to release the Dobermans from the van.

It's evident that the weather is going to be an improvement from when I was last cruising the Illinois countryside and headed for Indy. It's not humid -- big ass victory.

We hit the track around 2:30 p.m. and retired to the Texas-based Bill Harden & Mickey Winters hospitality center on the oval adjoining the racetrack. After a 4 1/2-hour lunch, we watch the pros. We blow off Pro Stock, but are in the top end aluminum for the nitro cars. Third pair produces the first four-second run by a "flopper," John Lawson's 4.994/299.86 in his Mark Oswald-tuned Mac Tools Firebird.

A 4.994 on the boards. I guess they added the thousandth of a second last year, but I was completely unaware of it. These things do qualify by the thousandth of a second. What a pleasant surprise.


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