The Australian influence was not just in the professional pits at the 62nd U.S Nationals – Matt Leonard and the Nitro Rat Racing team were flying the Australian flag high above the sportsman pits competing in Competition Eliminator.
Transplanted Aussie Matt Leonard made the tow from his Salt Lake City (Utah) home to the Big Go at Lucas Oil Raceway Park while his brother Warren flew in from Adelaide. During Thursday’s opening qualifying session the team made an early shut off pass to make sure the AA/AM blown altered was all in order. The second session saw Matt run a personal best of 6.731 at 201.58 to secure a spot in the field although he was well down the order in 45th place.
In Friday afternoon’s final session the team stepped it up a little more with a 6.629/204.54mph that moved Matt up to 40th in the 51 car field. He and Warren made plans to lean on it a little more for Saturday’s first round as they are matched up with Doug Engles D/D that is .656 under the index.
The plan worked with a new personal best and a win light.
“Well bloody hell, what a bunch of firsts that was,” said Matt Leonard. “First round of Comp at the US Nationals, first round win in Comp, personal best ET and MPH – 6.557 at 207.18mph – best ever reaction time, first 60ft time under one second on alcohol with a 0.996. This car is honking on down the track – we will see what else we can squeeze out of this car.
Squeeze they did with the altered clocking another PB in round two with a 6.537 at 207.66mph, but it was not enough to run down the number two qualifier in Jason Coan who qualified a monster .718 under his G/EA index.
“We gave it our best shot. We ran another personal best ET and MPH and just fell short by four hundredths,” said Leonard.
“What a race event! The crew was awesome every day, Andrew and Amy continue to cook up a feast – I am not having a problem making weight for the class. Totally stoked on how it all went down – Warren, Jane, Mike, Scott, Andrew, Amy, Natalie, Alison, Mum, Dad and of course Lisa and Gemma, I can’t thank you enough. Bloody proud of what we have achieved – time for a beer, or a dozen.”
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Photos by Keith Burgan and Nitro Rat Racing