Words by Mark Westfall
Photos by James Drew, Tim Marshall and Jon LeMoine
2007 IHBA World Finals
in Chandler, AZ
from Volume IX, Issue 11
The best drag boats in North America, perfect weather, and record crowds descended on Firebird Raceway in Chandler, AZ for the 25th running of the Lucas Oil IHBA World Finals.
After three furious days of testing and qualifying rounds and an eight-boat Top Fuel field, the stage was set for final eliminations in front of a SRO crowd at Firebird Lake at Firebird International Raceway in Phoenix, AZ.
Sunday was a mirror image of the previous three days, as the record crowd enjoyed mid-80's temps and a light, cool breeze. Top Fuel Eliminations kicked off with 2005 champion Doug “the Rooster” Verstuyft taking 4.91 @ 241.80 win over Steve Carter's red light in “Disorderly Conduct”.
Next up, Ron McClellan’s “Liquid Quicker” unloaded a great 4.80 pass to trailer Rex Childers driving “Whiskey River II”. The “Hotlicks Bullet” driven by Jarrett Silvey put away Scott Thompson in Eddie Knox’s “Problem Child”.
The last race of the first round of eliminations was a story in itself. 2007 World Champion “Speed Sports Special” team owned by Lou Osman and driven by John Haas lined up against Glen Wilson and the San Francisco based “Toxic Rocket”. Hass was the favorite to win based upon the teams out of the trailer 4.73/250 pass which was good for the pole position. In the other lane opponent Glen Wilson and his team were just lucky to be there at all. A driveline malfunction on their first pass ended with the red fuel hydro on the bottom of Firebird Lake.
That was followed by a thirty-six hour, non-stop thrash to get the “Rocket” ready for Sunday’s first round. An exhausted crew put the finishing touches on Joe Cassiday’s (who himself joined the day and a half thrash) fueler just 15 minutes prior to the Top Fuel “warm up” call. Just getting the boat to the water was a great tribute to the dedication and skill of the “TR” crew, but they went one better as Wilson left right with the World Champ, and took a wild 5.22 win over cylinder dropping 5.50 for Haas and the “Speed Sports” boat.
From Bad to Worse
The Top Fuel Hydro "Toxic Rocket" owned by Joe Cassiday of San Francisco and piloted by Glen Wilson had a very long race weekend at the IHBA Coors Light Finals at Firebird Lake. The weekend began bad and got worse.
On the first qualifying run an ear on one of the boat’s twin props broke off and the resulting carnage put a major hole in the team's Ellison-designed hull under the engine and as a result put the bright red boat under the Firebird Lake waves.
The worst part is the damage was done where the drive shaft from the engine sends power to the two shafts that make up the W drive. When the team got the boat on dry land, they took everything out of the engine bay, located behind the capsule, out of the boat and took it to a shop in Chandler, AZ, and patched the cracked hull. When the job was complete, hull designer Ellison and the whole "Toxic Rocket" crew decided they weren’t happy with the fix and cut a 29-1/2-inch by 19-1/2 section back out. In a non-stop 36-hour thrash they repaired the hull once more.
The crew of eight guys, including the boat’s owner worked the rest of the day and through the night and part of the next day to get the boat ready for the first round of Top Fuel Hydro.
Sunday morning the crew was still putting the engine back in the "Toxic Rocket" and finished the job with just 30 minutes before the first round. They took it to the lake to see if the patch job would hold water before warming up the nitro-burning Hemi. The boat floated and the crew warmed it in preparation for the first round match up. They faced number one qualifier and '07 IHBA Lucas Oil TFH Champion John Haas in the Lou Osman and family's Speed Sports TFH out of St Louis tuned by multi-time IHBA champion crew chief and NHRA Hall of Famer "Famous Amos" Satterlee.
The thrash only got longer for the crew of the Rocket as Glen Wilson drove around Haas at half track and took the win light! Instead of rebuilding the engine in the pits between rounds, the crew instead installed a complete new Hemi from injector hat to the pan for the second round, which they also won.
So, it was off to the finals with yet another engine change and a final round match up with Doug Verstuyft at the wheel of the "Nitro Chicken" who has been to the final round at Phoenix the last three years. The Rocket turned into a pumpkin as the Cinderella story was over when driver Wilson, obviously working on adrenaline, jumped the throttle turning on the red light and giving Verstuyft his second win in three years at this event. That's drag racing!