Tehachapi’s Mike Brock arrived at this year’s 55th annual March Meet drag races with the goal of notching his first win at the historic gathering in his first time back in four years.
But when the smoke cleared and the smell of high octane facing fuel floated away with the wind — Brock would have to wait another year.
A runner-up in 2009, Brock said again he had a car that was capable of winning, but every year the competition gets tougher — and this year was no exception.
The four-day event started out well for Brock’s Pirate Insurance sponsored Nostalgic Eliminator III class '37 Fiat Topolino on Thursday, March 9, as he made his first qualifying pass at 9.602 seconds — just two thousands of a second slower then the 9.60 heads up index for his class — but good enough to grab the top spot.
But instead of thundering down the quarter-mile strip of concrete and asphalt at Auto Club Speedway Famoso Raceway in McFarland on Friday, a rain delay kept Brock and other teams in the pits all day.
However, nitro-burning front-engine dragsters and funny cars running at 250 miles per hour are always worth the wait, and when the storm finally passed, Brock made a first-round run of 9.63 seconds, beating his competition by three thousands of a second off the starting line.
Unlike other motor sports where running faster than expected might be a good thing, drag racing runs made faster than the index are disqualified or moved to the bottom of the bracket.
Brock’s second round run of a very quick 9.44 seconds was too fast, but since it was only a bye run it didn’t count and he was able move on to the final round.
Despite cutting a good starting light and taking the strip at the finish line, he ran too fast again in the final round, breaking out of the 9.60-second index and losing to his competition with a 9.50 second pass.
Overall, Brock ended up placing fourth out of 22 teams and came away with a shiny new No. 1 Qualifier trophy.
“I feel good about what we accomplished; we beat out 21 other teams for the top spot in qualifying,” said Brock who plans on returning to Famoso again next March. “I'm not sure we will do anything different, other than try to keep the car running at 9.60.”
He’ll have plenty of opportunity to get ready, as Brock and his team head back out Famoso Raceway the weekend of April 20 and June 8-9, before heading north to race in Sacramento in mid July.