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NHRA: McClenathan Ready to End Mid-Season Slump

15 July 1998

MORRISON, Colo. -- Cory McClenathan started the 1998 NHRA Winston Drag Racing Series season in exactly the same fashion that he ended the 1997 season: winning races. However, a mid-season dry spell has forced the McDonald's team to regroup and reload for the circuit's final 12 events.

McClenathan, 35, of Anaheim, Calif., has suffered early round losses at the last three events, cutting what once was a sizeable Winston championship lead to a mere 20 point advantage over Joe Amato. Defending Winston champion Gary Scelzi and former champion Kenny Bernstein have rebounded from slow starts to move well within striking distance and make the chase a four-way battle.

McClenathan hopes to put his McDonald's dragster back on the winning track and put some distance between himself and the strong group of Winston championship challengers at the 20th annual Mopar Parts Mile-High Nationals, July 16-19 at scenic Bandimere Speedway. McClenathan is the defending Top Fuel winner at the $1.5 million race, the 12th of 22 events in the $30-million NHRA Winston Drag Racing Series.

"We need to get back to what got us into first place," said McClenathan. "We fell off at the last three races and as a result, a comfortable points lead has become a very slim points lead. There's still a half a season to go, so we're not too worried yet."

Last season McClenathan experienced one of the greatest runs in NHRA Top Fuel history, by becoming the second driver to win the complete 'West Coast Swing', races in consecutive weeks at Denver, Sonoma, Calif., and Seattle. Last year during his run the team was extremely consistent. During the last few races this season finding that type of consistency has been the problem.

"It's the little things that have hurt our consistency," McClenathan said. "It's time to get back in the groove. We definitely have all the ingredients to contend for a championship. Hopefully, we'll get back into that groove at Denver. We really started to come on there last year, and maybe we can duplicate that streak again this year."

He attributes several minor changes to the team's race day combination as the contributing factor to his recent slump.

"Progress-wise we're a little bit behind the eight-ball so to speak," he said. "We changed the combination on the motor a few weeks back and we haven't gotten a handle on it yet. First, it was smoking the tires and we tried to remedy that in a certain area. We changed the fuel system around and we're still trying to get a handle on that."

During his seven-year career, McClenathan has finished runner-up in the Winston standings on three occasions. He hopes this season he can hang on and place his name among drag racing's best in the history books.

"Nobody wants to win the Winston championship more than I do," McClenathan said. "I feel like I need to win a championship, not for anybody else, but just to prove to myself that I can do it."