For the second race in a row the AMA/Prostar U.S. Drag Racing Championship series was hampered by rain and while the opening event, the MRE Nationals in Gainesville, was postponed after only one round of qualifying the Atlanta date was run through midway in eliminations. Persistent sprinkles kept interrupting elimination rounds on Sunday until the event was officially postponed at 5:00 PM.
Remaining eliminations will be run off at the next event, the Spring Nationals at Virginia Motorsports Park, May 3-4.
The Atlanta event was renamed the MTC Elmer Trett Nationals in memory of the late Top Fuel racer who lost his life in a racing accident in 1996. Trett's widow Jackie was on hand with Trett's "Mountain Magic" machine and made a memorial lap, towing the bike with son-in-law, five time Top Fuel champ Tony Lang on the seat.
In racing action it was business as usual in Top Fuel as four-time champion Larry "Spiderman" McBride was the top performer of the event. McBride qualified on the pole with a 6.10 at 220 mph as Ron Webb was number two at 6.22/212. Tommy Smith joins McBride and Webb in the semifinals.
In the Orient Express Funnybike class Marc Oliver took the top qualifying position in his first event with the new Pro-1 aftermarket Suzuki-style case. Oliver ran a 6.91 at 193 closely followed by Travis Davis with a 6.92 at 193. Former Champion Robert Giard ran the hot lap for the class with a blistering 6.68 at 204 mph in the first round of eliminations.
Big news came in the Fast by Gast Pro Mod series as Ryan Schnitz, debuting the Muzzys Kawasaki turbocharged ZX-12, took the pole in a field dominated by nitrous injected Suzuki GS engines. Schnitz ran a 6.83 at 196 to edge out Charlie Farrar on the C&W nitrous Kawasaki KZ at 6.89 seconds.
Schnitz went out in the first round of eliminations when the bike bogged and stalled just off the line. "This is a whole new deal," said bike owner Rob Muzzy. "It's a very fine line to tune the clutch and we have no baseline because no one has ever run a bike like this. We made a call and just went in the wrong direction." The quick bikes of the first round of eliminations were Farrar (6.87) and the McKinney Motorsports Suzuki of Steve Drake (6.86).
NHRA players made their presence known in the Lectron Pro Stock Series as Geno Scali took the Team Trim-Tex TL1000 to the pole with a 7.07/190 to edge out the 7.14/185 by Prostar regular Paul "Fast by" Gast. Gast fired back with the low e.t. of eliminations with a 7.09/188. With the rescheduled eliminations being set to run on the same date as the NHRA Atlanta event the field will be thinned out considerably. Three of the six riders left in competition, (Scali, Fred Collis and Steve Johnson) run the full NHRA schedule.
The Kawasaki Formula Superbike Class saw a new look for a familiar bike. Last season Jim Carroll recorded Prostar's first-ever perfect season (qualifying number one and winning every event) on the Team Kawasaki ZX-12 built by Coby Adams and Chip Ellis. This season Ellis will be campaigning the freshly painted bike himself and look to pick up where Carroll left off - being the bike to beat. Ellis took the pole with an 8.00/167 followed by Phill Davis on the water-cooled Suzuki Dragbike.com Project Bike with an 8.36/159. Davis made his presence known by running the quick lap of eliminations with an 8.18/160 to rate the edge over the 8.21 Ellis ran in his first-round victory. Chris Harvey will join Ellis and Davis in the semifinals when eliminations continue.
With Ryan Schnitz moving on from the Zero Gravity 600 SuperSport action, the class he dominated for the last two years is now wide open. Chip Hunter, one of the strongest competitors over the last to seasons, took the early lead on the charge to the now-vacant #1 plate running a 9.93 at 135 mph on the Team Green Kawasaki 2003 ZX-6R. Following Hunter in qualifying in the nine-second zone were Keith Thompson and Chad Millholland, both on Kawasaki's.
Hunter received a new 2003 model ZX-6RR this season but has yet to enter it in 600 SuperSport competition. "The bike is totally new and right now getting the parts and track time are the main issues," said Hunter. "We just received the EFI box a week ago. I have been working with Fox on the suspension but with the weather like it has been we have just not been able to test like we want to. I just don't want to bring the new bike out until we can win races with it. It shouldn't be long."
600 SuperSport got two rounds of eliminations in before the rain postponement. Hunter is the quick bike of the remaining five, which include Thompson, Millholland and the young Richard Gadson, cousin of Rickey. Rounding out the Kawasaki-filled field is the Orient Express Yamaha R1 of number 2 plateholder Eddie Krawiec.
Last season the big story in the Yamaha Hot Rod Cruiser class was the disqualification of points leader Rick McWaters who was found to have a illegally modified cylinder head on his Terry Reed-prepared Harley Davidson. McWaters and Reed served their three-month suspension and - seemingly to prove a point - took the top qualifying position on a (presumably) class-legal machine. McWaters ran a 9.93 at 133 mph to lead the Orient Express Yamaha Warrior of Scott Pitas who turned in a 10.01 at 131. Orient Express teammate Eddie Krawiec joins Pitas and McWaters in the semifinals. Defending champion Mark Underwood and Patrick Racing teammate Michael Ray went out in the quarterfinals with mechanical difficulties.