JOLIET, Ill. (June 3) — There was no shortage of drama during Sunday’s eliminations at the 21st annual JEGS Route 66 NHRA Nationals and Scott Palmer and the CatSpot Organic Cat Litter Top Fuel dragster team were right in the mix at Route 66 Raceway.
Palmer and crew posted a first-round upset against the higher-qualified car of T.J. Zizzo and then had all the FOX TV cameras on them one round later in a commotion-filled tilt between Palmer and his good friend Clay Millican.
“I don’t know if we’ve ever been in a race like that one but it sure was fun,” Palmer said. “The mad thrash at the starting line was exciting, the run itself was exciting, the race was super close, I mean other than being on the wrong end of the excitement as far as getting the win light, it was cool.
“I got out at the top end and thought, ‘Hey, I’m sorry we lost but that was fun.’ Me and Clay are just a couple of hillbillies from the Midwest out there racing each other on the big stage and we have a good time. You know, it’s unfortunate one of us had to lose.”
All the hubbub was a result of some miscommunication with the NHRA crew as word from the top end came down that the track was successfully being cleared from the previous pairing of racecars and that it was okay for Palmer and Millican to fire-up their engines. Both teams followed orders but soon after performing their burnouts, backing up, and moving towards the starting line, the signal was given for the cars to be shutoff.
The problem was that Doug Kalitta’s dragster, which had won the previous race, was locked-up and stuck on the track near the top-end turnoff. For safety’s sake, Palmer and Millican had to wait for the crew to completely clear the racetrack. To shut off a nitro car, the crew has to unhook the fuel line and let the motor run out of nitro.
After a three-minute wait, and with all the fuel lines back in place, the duo was ordered to re-fire their engines and run the race. Just as Palmer had done in the first round when he beat Zizzo with a 3.781 at 322.58 mph to Zizzo’s 3.807 at 322.04 mph, Palmer got the jump on the starting line and was leading the way down the strip. Unfortunately, this time his car puffed the rear tires and lost all of its momentum, allowing a laboring Millican by for the win, 3.960 at 254.95 mph to Palmer’s 4.122 at 266.58 mph.
“Did the wait hurt us?” Palmer said. “It could have but that’s not the reason we lost. Actually, both cars had issues and after getting a (three-tenths of a second) jump at the line, that was a round we could have won, but we unexpectedly lost traction down there. I pedaled it and she was coming back but the teeth came off the belt and we were done.
“I’m still pretty happy because we learned a lot this weekend. We won a round, gained some points and got back in the top 10, which was the primary goal this race. We’ll just keep working.”
As for championship tuner Jason McCulloch, who joined the crew on a trial basis this weekend to assist crew chief Benny Patterson, he has been retained and will continue forward with the team.
“Benny’s here from Australia on a visa and it’s about up so he has to leave the country soon,” Palmer said. “Unless we can find a girl to marry him. We’re definitely taking applications and we’re not very picky. Just in case, we have Jason standing by. In all seriousness, Jason fit in great and will be a huge asset moving forward. But I’m not kidding about getting Benny married off.”