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Archive for Monday, October 4, 1993

HEARTLAND, NATIONAL RECORDS BLISTERED

October 4, 1993

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— Heartland Park and the folks from the National Hot Rod Assn. held a little bash over the weekend.

For party favors, they handed out track and national records.

By the time the last of the 90,000 guests had left the Sears Craftsman Nationals -- including 35,000 on Sunday -- all of HPT's track records had fallen. A handful of national records went down, too.

"The track's great, and the air was incredible," said Jim Epler, referring to his 300.40 mph run in the funny car class but speaking equally well for the lot. "The conditions made it possible."

Epler's performance was perhaps some measure of the record-setting nature of the event. He became the first funny car driver to break the 300-mph barrier, but he didn't win the title.

EPLER'S CAR caught fire in the quarterfinals, giving a semifinal bye to John Force, the national record-setter for elapsed time (5.035 seconds). Force, in keeping with the theme, lost to Chuck Etchells in the finals

On Friday, Etchells had become the first funny car driver to break the 5-second barrier. He made a pass at 4.987 seconds, but he doesn't get the national record because he couldn't come within 1 percent on another run.

"There will be other wins and record times are made to be broken," Etchells said. "I mean, who knows what times we'll be running in two or three years. But there will never ever be another first in the fours in Funny Car. I will always be the first guy who cracked that barrier.

"Fans came down to talk to us and they said, 'We keep hearing this thing about funny car going away. After the funny car runs, the top fuel was almost anticlimactic."

If there was a climax to the funny car races, it came when Epler broke the 300 mph barrier. Only a few top fuel dragsters, which are around 250 pounds lighter than the funny cars, had hit 300 before Sunday.

"IT'S JUST AMAZING to go 300 in a full-bodied car," Epler said. "In a funny car, that's pretty amazing. I think we ran just 280 last year. Everybody thought running 290 was a big deal."

Everybody thought the top fuel finals were a big deal. At least Scott Kalitta did.

Kalitta beat Cory McClenathan in the championship in the fastest side-by-side finals in history. McClenathan had made the quickest run ever at 4.762 seconds earlier Sunday.

In the finals, Kalitta made the fastest run ever in 308.64 mph, a full 5 mph faster than the 303.64 set by Pat Austin earlier this year. An NHRA single-event record of seven runs broke the 300 mph mark.

"I was amazed," Kalitta said. "I knew it ran fast, but not that fast. Just winning a race, finally, is great. Running 308 is just icing on the cake."

LARRY MORGAN won the pro stock title, beating David Rampy in the finals. Morgan had a final run of 7.191 seconds, 191.97 mph.

"This had to be our best win ever," Morgan said, "and I've won a lot of big races."

David Schultz won the pro stock motorcycle title with a run of 7.769 seconds, 168.06 mph in the finals, Tom Conway won top alcohol dragster (5.890 mph, 235.78 mph) and Bob Newberry won top alcohol funny car in 5.933 seconds, 233.40 mph.

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