Notes from Phoenix

By Susan Wade and Darr Hawthorne
Photos by Zak Hawthorne


The 2004 NHRA POWERade pre-season testing has already cost a fortune for some teams who will be vying this year for championships. There's already been a test session in Las Vegas. The Miller Lite team of Don Prudhomme spent eight days testing combinations in Houston. The Funny Cars driven by Gary Scelzi (photo) and Whit Bazemore have collectively completed numerous runs so far, and team owners are spending an estimated $11,000 to $15,000 per run -- if they don't hurt anything. -DH


While Pro Stock and Pro Mod teams met in Houston, many of the big guns in nitro racing met in Phoenix under cloudless skies to test at Charlie Allen's Firebird Raceway. However, Firebird's new surface proved to be suspect and it still should be considered very green. The top end asphalt was repaved from the concrete on, but very few cars made it down either lane on Saturday and Sunday. Numerous bouts with timing system malfunctions and track phone lines made this visit to Firebird much like opening up a
mountain cabin after a long snowy winter -- stuff just didn't work. With Ray Alley the only visible NHRA Official, Firebird was way short on track prep. Any oil downs, which were thankfully few on Saturday, resulted in a lengthy clean-up just like the old days of drag racing. A track-long oil down by a licensing Shep Ginsberg on Sunday brought an early two-hour break in the action.

While Don Schumacher was thankful in a radio interview for Charlie Allen's efforts at improving the strip's surface, his driver Gary Scelzi had already remarked, "The track is shitty, but we've got to be able to get down these shitty tracks, too. Last season we either set low ET and mile an hour or smoked the tires and we need to get this figured out to be a championship contender this season."

In the staging lanes Gary Densham's crew chief Jimmy Prock commented, "We don't learn anything on these kind of tracks, we already know how to get down 'em."

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