The day-and-a-half wait was worth it for Top Fuel driver Cory McClenathan and Funny Car driver Jack Beckman, who picked up victories Monday at the weather-delayed NHRA Arizona Nationals.
Racing was scheduled to resume with the Top Fuel and Funny Car final rounds at 10 a.m. local time Monday morning (Noon ET), but heavy rains moved through the area forcing another lengthy delay; the final rounds were run at approximately 3 p.m. local time.
McClenathan and Doug Kalitta entered the Top Fuel final with 31 career wins apiece – tied for sixth all-time in Top Fuel -- and it was McClenathan and the FRAM dragster team breaking the tie with his 3.183-second pass at 316.67 to Kalitta's 4.736 at 219.67 in the Technicoat dragster.
"The FRAM dragster has become a bracket car," McClenathan said. "(Crew chiefs) Todd (Okuhara) and Phil (Shuler) have got the car running well enough that we know whoever we're racing has to step up to beat us. Getting our car in stride this early is a big deal for us."
McClenathan (201 points), whose 32 wins make him the winningest Top Fuel driver in NHRA history to have never won an NHRA Full Throttle Series championship, exits Phoenix in first place with a five-point lead over Kalitta (196).
"We lost in Pomona because we didn't take Doug Kalitta seriously when we raced him in the semis. This time, (the FRAM crew) obviously took him seriously to run a 3.81, 316 on what was really a green track after the rain. After the run, I told Doug, 'We weren't taking you lightly,' and he said, "We were throwing the whole trailer at it.' I expect that out of (car owner) Connie Kalitta."
In Funny Car, Beckman stymied John Force's attempt to win back-to-back races to open the 2010 season when he powered his Valvoline/MTS Dodge Charger R/T to a 4.121 at 301.13 to easily speed past Force's Castrol GTX High-Mileage Ford Mustang, which slowed to a 6.316 at 106.24.
"We've had a lot of luck against John Force and I don't care what you say, John Force is still the man in nitro Funny Car," said Beckman, who improved his head-to-head record vs. Force to 10-6.
Still, the 14-time champ (Force) will retain his spot atop the standings as he heads to the third of 23 races in the NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series, the Tire Kingdom NHRA Gatornationals (March 11-14), with a 37-point lead over Beckman (224 to 187).
"The fan in me is so happy to see (John Force) back in top form but the racer in me was glad they weren't perfect against us in the final," Beckman said.
The Pro Stock class completed only one round Sunday and the final three rounds were rescheduled for March 12-13 in Gainesville during the Gatornationals.
Among the more intriguing matchups when racing resumes will be defending NHRA Full Throttle Series champion Mike Edwards and the Penhall/Interstate Batteries team against three-time champion Greg Anderson and the Summit Racing team – a rematch of the season-opening final round won by Edwards.