Author: Jodauga, John
Date published: November 26, 2010
Journal code: NDRG
For many years, David Tatum III has been aware that most of his best friends in drag racing, including Sherman Adcock Jr., Hugh Meeks, Gary Stinnett, David Rampy, and Ed Richardson, had won NHRA Lucas Oil world championships but that he had not. "I talk to each of these guys once or twice a week, and I always felt like the odd man out because I was the only one who hadn't won a crown," said Tatum.
After claiming the 2010 Super Gas championship ring by a substantial 87-point margin over runner-up Mike Ferderer, Tatum can say that he feels as if he's part of the club.
Tatum has raced for about 22 years but had never come close to finishing in the No. 1 spot. "I've had a few top 10 finishes, but I think the best I've done is about eighth place," he said. "This one was a long time coming. I've always felt that I could do it, but as the years began to go by, I began to wonder if it was going to happen or not. It had always been my goal to win a world championship, but I kept losing those close races that were decided by just a few thousandths of a second. I guess the difference this year is that I started to win those kinds of races. This season, it was finally my time to be in the sun."
Tatum had plenty of sunshine early in the year when he began with a quarterfinal finish at the Division 2 NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series season opener at Bradenton Motorsports Park and followed with back-to-back wins at the Atlanta Dragway Division 2 event and the JEGS NHRA Cajun SPORTSnationals. Following a third victory at the Route 66 Raceway Division 3 contest, he scored a quarterfinal finish at the NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals before winning the Beech Bend Raceway Park Division 3 race at the end of August.
With five national and five divisional showings, Tatum had a 140-point lead over second-place Ferderer. He had earned 689 points and more than 700 was his goal. "I had three races left in which I had the chance to improve, but I just couldn't get past the third or fourth round. And I was a bit disappointed that we lost the final at the U.S. Nationals as well. But we still had a pretty good lead, and we just had to wait for the rest of the races to be run to see where we would end up," said Tatum.
Tatum intentionally scheduled his races so that he would fill his quota well before the end of the year. "I didn't want to put myself in the position where I would be forced to go to the Las Vegas national and divisional events, along with the Finals at Pomona, needing points to win. I wanted to be sitting at home [in Palmetto, Ga.] when the championship would be decided."
Tatum had a brief scare when he heard that Rock Haas, the only racer who had a shot at overtaking him in the standings, decided at the last minute to attend the Division 7 Las Vegas race. But Haas needed to win out in Vegas and Pomona to pull off the feat, and his bid fell short when he lost in the first round. "I was watching the race on what I thought was live Internet coverage," said Tatum. "But before he even had crossed the finish line, I got a call from Stinnett, who told me that Haas got beat. So I guess there was some momentary delay on the Internet. Then almost immediately after that, I began getting calls from racers all over the country who were offering their congratulations. Nothing beats getting recognition from your peers, especially since they've all been there and know what it takes to win."
In 2011, Tatum will be racing, but he hasn't decided if he's going to make the all-out effort to defend his championship. "I didn't race real hard [in terms of number of events attended] in 2009, but we did this year because we knew that we had developed a real good combination by the end of the season," said Tatum. "Racing for the top spot is very taxing. It costs a lot of money and takes up a lot of your time. David Watson helped me a lot, and I know that I couldn't have done this without him. But it's still tough. I'll have to think about it over the winter. We'll be racing next year, but we just don't know how often."
Tatum plans to race in the Super classes for the foreseeable future. "Unless someone comes out of nowhere and offers me a Pro Stock ride, I'll be sticking with the Super categories," he said. "I also wouldn't mind racing in Stock or Super Stock, but I just haven't had the opportunity."
Tatum offered thanks to "God; my parents, David and Susan Tatum; David and Bess Watson; Sherman, Woody, and Michelle Adcock; Hugh Meeks; Tim Lunceford; Gary Stinnett; Donald Bowen and family; David Rampy; Ed Richardson; Barry Davis; Todd Ewing; Richard Godley; Sunshine; David Simmons; the Peek family; Don O'Neal; Ricky Martin; Jerry Pittman; and Jimmy Stahl." Of manufacturers and racing officials, Tatum acknowledged "NHRA; Lucas Oil; Faron Lubbers and all the people at Hoosier Tires; Jim Hughes and Kevin Kleineweber at Hughes Performance; Jeff and Misty Wilkerson at CBI/Wilkerson Racing Engines; Mike Gruber and Valvoline; the Coughlin family and everyone else at JEGS; Montag & Caldwell Investment Council; Luke Bogacki at ThisIsBracketRacing.com; VP Fuels; Mart Wiles with Snap-on Tools; Impact Safety; and Steve Williams and everyone else with K&N Filters."