American Top Fuel drag race champion, Cory McClenathan, is coming back to Australia for the continuation of the season-ending 44th annual Castrol EDGE Winternationals at Willowbank Raceway, Ipswich, from July 15 to 17.
The event, which started on Friday, June 10, was postponed on the Sunday morning (June 12) after persistent rain late Saturday afternoon, through to the Sunday.
Driving for the Sydney-based Rapisarda Racing/Titan Cranes team, McClenathan, from Brownsburg, Indiana, is currently in fifth place after the first qualifying session.
With two more qualifying sessions to be run, McClenathan is aiming to be at the top of the qualifying order, setting himself up for a tilt at Australia’s most prestigious drag race title.
“We shook the tyres hard in the first qualifying session. I was looking forward to the second session. I think we would have run a good time, but it rained just before we were to run. The rain certainly put a dampener on everything,” McClenathan said.
“After Willowbank announced the event had been postponed to July, (team owner) Santo (Rapisarda) looked at me and said ‘are you going to come back’ and I said, ‘Yes, I want to come back’.
“I have unfinished business at Willowbank. I would really like to win the Australian Winternationals. So, yes, I jumped at the chance to come back.
“I love coming to Australia and the Aussie folks are very nice. And Mr Rapisarda is a great host. I am really looking forward to coming back.”
McClenathan said while he had not previously worked with the Rapisarda Racing crew or the team’s long-term US-based tuning consultant, Glenn Mikres, he believes the team will be very competitive at the Winternationals with Mikres and Santo Rapisarda’s sons Santo Jnr and Santino.
“It generally takes some time for things to come together when working with a new team for the first time, however, I thought everything went really smoothly last month.
“Santo Jnr and Santino are very bright young men and I have known Glenn Mikres for years, but I’ve never had the chance to work with him. The whole crew are really on top of things and are doing a great job. I think we will be a very competitive the team.”
The highly credentialed McClenathan has an impressive (National Hot Rod Association) NHRA record, including winning 34 Top Fuel events from 65 final appearances and four Top Alcohol events from six finals.
McClenathan has also won the 1996 and 1999 US Nationals and has finished second in the NHRA Top Fuel championship series four times (1992, 1995, 1997 and 1998).
McClenathan finished third in last year’s (NHRA) championship and, in an ironic twist, had his chance of winning his first championship dashed when, now teammate, Mark Mariani, beat him in the first round of eliminations at the 2010 NHRA penultimate Las Vegas Nationals event.
McClenathan also looks set to drive for Rapisarda Racing US-based team at the US Nationals at Indianapolis late next month and then at selected NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series events.
Rapisarda Racing/Titan Cranes team will run two Top Fuel cars at the Winternationals. The second car will be driven by Mariani from Sydney.