Author: Waldron, Steve
Date published: September 24, 2010
What a difference a year makes. Stripped of his class win and disqualified from the event on a technicality last year, Tim Bishop put that unfortunate episode behind him with his long-awaited first national event victory at the 56th annual Mac Tools U.S. Nationals presented by Lucas Oil.
"The motor was legal, they just couldn't read the numbers on the pistons," explained Bishop. "It's the same car and the same motor. I just took the pistons out and had them restamped."
This time around, Bishop's B/S '97 Firehawk passed with flying colors, taking a final-round victory over national points leader Brad Burton, whose -.013 red-light delivered Bishop his first national event Wally in 45 years of racing.
"I saw my win light come on, and I couldn't believe it," said the 66-year-old grain farmer from Queenstown, Md. "Winning a national event is a dream come true, and to do it at the U.S. Nationals, what more could you ask for?"
Bishop had to scramble just to make it to Indy because of some unexpected repairs following his first-round loss at the Division 1 event at Cecil County Dragway in Rising Sun, Md., two weeks earlier.
"After Cecil County, I took the transmission out and found it had a twisted input, and the two front shocks were broken," said Bishop. "I had everything out of the car except the motor and rear end just two days before we left. But once we got there, everything worked well."
Burton wasn't the only hitter Bishop faced. After easy wins over Michael Lund and Jack Zimmerman, both of whom red-lighted, Bishop beat three-time national champion Kevin Helms in a crucial heads-up race early Sunday morning. Bishop gave up nearly five-hundredths on the Tree but ran a 10.26 against Helms' 10.31 and took the stripe by a scant thousandth of a second.
"After I got by Kevin, I was the quickest car on my side of the ladder, and that's exactly how I like it," said Bishop. "I love being the faster car, and that's how it worked out. Everything just fell together."
Bishop then overcame multiple-national event winner Billy Leber's .003 reaction time in round four with a (+.02) 10.31 against Leber's (+.07) 10.84, earning him spot in Monday's quarterfinals against another multiple-event winner, Gary Emmons. Bishop had his best light of eliminations against Emmons, a .031, and took a doublebreakout win, setting up a semifinal showdown with three-time national champion and former Indy winner Dan Fletcher. Bishop was behind when he left the line against Fletcher but ran a dead-on 10.28 to edge Fletcher's (+.03) 11.18 by seven-thousandths and advance to his first national event final.
"When you take out two national champions and then in the final take out the points leader, it just doesn't get any better than that," said Bishop.
The key race: "Beating Kevin [Helms] in the third round," said Bishop. "It was really cool, and nobody had a clue what to dial. When I found out I had to run Kevin heads up, my crew chief, Jerry Ketterman, said, 'Man, that's perfect. We don't have to worry about a dial.' He Treed me pretty good, but I nipped him right at the finish line. I had a lot of confidence after that."
The runner-up: A four-time national event winner, Burton was appearing in his fifth national event final and third this year. A winner at the season opener in Pomona and most recently at his home track in Denver, the 22-year-old Colorado native also won the Division 5 race in Great Bend, Kan., and currently sits atop the national standings. The recent University of Colorado graduate won his first national event in his first final in Denver in 2008 and won in Phoenix last year, when he finished sixth in national points.
Fast facts: Bishop's previous-best national event finish was at the 1989 Keystone Nationals in Reading, where he went five rounds before losing to eventual winner Dave LeBrun. ... Reigning national champion Edmond Richardson had a .000 light in round one and a .001 in round two. His weekend ended three rounds later with a -.005 red-light. ... Fletcher was ranked 129th after qualifying but made the 128-car field as an alternate. ... Ninetime U.S. Nationals Top Fuel winner Don Garlits failed to qualify his A/SA Challenger for the second year in a row.
Did you know: Bishop is the cousin of East Coast Drag News publisher and former NHRA Division 1 photographer Dave Bishop. ... Tim Bishop grows corn, wheat, and soy beans on his 1,500-acre farm on Maryland's eastern shore. He has won the state's corn growers championship six times and placed nationally twice.
Best packages: 1. Dan Fletcher (Churchville, N.Y.), .001/11.192 (11.19) round four; 2. John Gray (Hudson, Mass.), .004/11.089 (11.08) round three; 3. Joey Wilkes (Zanesville, Ohio), .018/10.863 (10.86) round three.
Quotable: "We moved the trailer to the grassy area right behind the staging lanes Sunday night, and that worked out great. I could keep an eye on what was going on, and I didn't have to drive the car too far." - Tim Bishop ND