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Parks, Grubnic zip to track records

Top fuel dragsters key racing action

WHITE CITY

-- In the span of a little more than five seconds, two track records were broken at the Southern Oregon Dragway on Tuesday night.

Randy Parks, of Lombard, Ill., snapped the miles-per-hour mark and David Grubnic, of Ennis, Mont., broke the elapsed time standard during Top Fuel Tuesday.

As a crowd of about 4,000 looked on, the top fuel dragsters set the records during one glorious run down the 1/4-mile track. Parks reached 279.24 mph, while Grubnic was timed in 5:04 seconds. Despite a slightly slower top speed, 274.28 mph, Grubnic was credited with the victory. Parks' elapsed time was 5.12.

You don't see that everyday -- two records on one run, Parks said.

The old records of 278 mph and 5.08 seconds were set by Gary Densham in 1995.

The track was hot from the sun early in the evening, bringing oil to the surface and making it unstable. But Parks and Grubnic made their record run a few minutes after the sun had disappeared from the horizon.

Grubnic, a native Australian, was happy to get the ET record but happier to to put on a good show.

The record was a bonus -- it was icing on the cake, he said.

Grubnic possibly would have nailed the speed record as well but let off the throttle just before the finish line. His computer showed him going 278 mph late in his run.

One of the goals here is to not tear up your equipment, Grubnic explained. We've got a national event this weekend.

Grubnic and Parks are between NHRA national stops in Kent, Wash., and Sonoma, Calif. Parks is ranked 13th in the NHRA top fuel dragster point standings.

While Grubnic and Parks made history, neither driver was able to surpass the coveted 300 mph barrier. No driver in Oregon has ever reached the milestone.

Promoter John Skinner offered a $5,000 bonus for anyone who could hit the mark.

It didn't happen tonight, but I think it can happen at this track, Parks said. The front end of the track is the most important. You need to hit 240 or 250 during the first 1/8-mile, and that part of the track was fine.

Parks reached 318 mph with a 4.64 ET at the NHRA stop in Dallas early this year.

Meanwhile, Cristin Powell failed in her bid to obtain her NHRA funny car license.

The 20-year-old from Portland, who is one of just five women to win a NHRA top fuel dragster event, is switching over to funny cars. As part of her qualifying, she needed to hit 270 mph with 5.5 ET Tuesday night, but the best she could manage in two runs was 236 mph and a 6.06 ET.

Powell was driving a Firebird owned by Dell Worsham, who drove the car to the funny car title in Kent last weekend.

I just to want to try something different and maybe blaze a little trail since no woman has ever won a (national) funny car event, said Powell, who graduated from Jesuit High in Portland and is attending college at Linfield in McMinnville. And funny cars are more challenging. They can get sideways more easily; you've got to be ready to lift off the throttle.

Powell became interested in drag racing after attending an event with her father, Casey, when she was 14. Two years later she attended the Frank Hawley Drag Racing School in Gainesville, Fla., and acquired her license.

She drove super comps for several months before graduating to the federal module dragster class, where she set national records for miles per hour (264) and elapsed time (5.44 seconds).

It was quite overwhelming the first time I went down the track, said Powell, who has gone as fast as 311 mph. It took some getting used to. Your body just isn't used to accelerating that quickly.

But Powell overcame her anxiety and blossomed into a national caliber driver.

The rush you get when you slam that pedal down is something you don't get anywhere else, Powell said. And I've met a lot of good people wherever I've raced. The fans have been so supportive.

Powell is quick to credit Shirley Muldowney for making her entry into the sport non-controversial. Muldowney was the first female funny car driver and won several national events in the 1970s and '80s.

Powell lost to Muldowney in a match race two years ago.

I've got all the respect in the world for Shirley, Powell said. She's a true pioneer of drag racing.

Powell still takes flak from a small percentage of drivers and fans, however.

No one ever said, `Hey, you're a girl and you suck,' but the stereotype that women can't drive as well as men is still out there, she said. But I think I've earned some respect.

Powell has had to juggle her college classes to fit in racing during the winter and spring months. She's majoring in psychology.

I've had to skip a lot of Friday classes but the professors have been supportive, she said. As long as I get the work done they don't care.

Top fuel dragsters Dave Grubnic, foreground, and Randy Parks scream across the track as the sun sets at the Southern Oregon Dragway. - Photo by Bob Pennell