McClenathan's old ride was the most sought-after seat in drag racing since the Al-Anabi team was formed in late 2008 and Alan Johnson had his choice of drivers. Cory Mac won three races last year, could have won at least two more with a little luck, and made the quickest run in the two-and-half-year history of 1,000-foot competition, 3.752sec. (The official NHRA record entering this season was still 3.771 because McClenathan didn't make another run within one percent of it at that event, as required by NHRA rules, but no one doubts its validity.)
“This is the best car I could possibly be in,” Massey says. “The whole Don Schumacher Racing camp, with all these cars and the endless amount of parts and manpower and tuning capability, is the place to be.”
After just 11 test runs, there was no point in continuing. Massey was knocking the Tree down run after run, and the car was within a fraction of a second of the e.t. record and less than 1mph from the speed mark.
“As far I was concerned, I was ready to race right then,” Massey says. “The only problem was that I wasn't completely comfortable. I drove the car exactly the way Cory had it. I'm a little taller than him, so I was kind of scrunched up in there and my knees were hitting the dash. We had a new seat poured when we got back to Indy, and I was good to go.”
A month later, Massey and his six DSR teammates – Top Fuel drivers Antron Brown and Tony Schumacher, and Funny Car drivers Ron Capps, Matt Hagan, Jack Beckman and Johnny Gray – joined other top teams back at PBIR for a giant preseason test. Massey, Brown and Schumacher all eclipsed the existing national record; all three ran 3.76s.
The best part: Massey's worst reaction times in 25 total runs in December and January was .071, which is a better-than-average light for all but the quickest leavers in Top Fuel. Yet to him, it was unacceptable.
“I guess .070s and .080s aren't bad, but that doesn't cut it,” says a guy who averaged a .049. “Even if I have a .060 light, I'm not real happy about it. You've got to be in the .040s or, at least, the low .050s to really be doing your job. Todd and Phil haven't put any pressure on me; I put it on myself. I mean, that's what I'm here for, right? They kept telling me, ‘Just do what you do. We'll do the rest and win races'.”
Of course, the team's goals extend beyond mere event titles. They've already won races, and so has Massey.
“With Snake's car in '09, my goal was to win a race or two and finish in the top 5 in points,” Massey says. “I was just getting started then; it was my first year in Top Fuel. Every team says its goal is to win the championship, but we really can, and I'm talking this year. I just want to make sure I do my job every time – every time – and have good reaction times and keep the car in the groove.
“That's what it really comes down to: doing the same thing over and over and over. As a driver, you know in the back of your mind that you're in a final or in a big round, and you might think about it prior to getting in the car. But once that motor fires up, you go right back into automatic mode. The way I look at it, with everything we have at DSR, how can we lose?”
• For the full version of this feature article, plus much more, check out the April 2011 issue of RACER magazine. CLICK HERE to subscribe.