Author: Waldron, Steve
Date published: June 3, 2011
Mike Crutchfield has won a lot of races during his distinguished career but none more special than his victory at the Summit Racing Equipment NHRA Southern Nationals.
"James Caro, Sonny Stancil, and Lloyd Wofford are best friends of mine," said Crutchfield, who defeated Caro in the final for his third national event win and first in 20 years. "That team is a class act. I would have been just as happy had he won. Well, maybe not quite as happy, but I wound have been happy. That's what drag racing is all about. It's something I'll never forget. It's probably the best race win I've ever had."
It was Crutchfield's first national event victory since he won back-to-back titles here in 1990 and 1991, finishing a career-best fourth in points both years.
"I've concentrated more on the divisional races through the years, and I've done pretty well," said Crutchfield, a two-time Division 2 champion and former JEGS Allstars winner. "My goal is to win one divisional a year, and I've almost done that, but a national event win had eluded me for a while."
In fact, Crutchfield hasn't won a national event anywhere but at Atlanta Dragway and has been in only two other finals, in Baton Rouge, La., in 1988 and Houston in 1993.
"Atlanta has been good to me," said Crutchfield. "I've won several divisional races here, too. It's close to home. I guess you could call it my home national event track. I try to run every race here, whether it's a national or divisional. I think maybe I've missed one or two, but I race here a lot."
Crutchfield's familiarity with the racetrack may have had something to do with his win, but it was much more than that.
"I drove good, the track was good, the car was good, and everything just kind of fell into place," he said. "I just got my engine back from Garley and Randy Daniels, and they do a fantastic job. That was probably one of the main things, along with my Phoenix Race tires. They were unbelievable on this track, and that's what you've got to have to be consistent: You've got to have a good engine program, and you got to get it hooked up."
Crutchfield wasn't bad, either.
"The worst light I had was [Saturday] night when I was .033," said Crutchfield, referring to his second-round race against a red-lighting Jimmy Spell. "It was dark, and I was being conservative. We're daytime racers, and when it starts getting dark, you have to be a little more conservative."
Crutchfield cut a .014 light in round one and a .016 in round three in double-breakout victories over Glenn MacDonald and five-time national champion Peter Biondo. He then cut a .005 light in the quarterfinals against Mark Alvey, giving him a bye into the final, where he was even better, combining a .004 light with an (+.01) 8.91 to beat Caro's .072- initiated (+.01) 10.04.
"Any time you get in that situation, you want to win it bad," said Crutchfield, "and I hadn't won one in a long time."
The key race: "I ran Peter in the third round, and he's always tough," said Crutchfield. "He's consistent, and he makes very few mistakes, but I was driving good, and I felt I had a good chance to beat him. That was probably the turning point. It didn't get any easier by any means, but that gave me the confidence I needed to finish the day."
The runner-up: A three-time national event winner, most recently in Comp last year in Chicago, Caro was appearing in his fifth national event final. He won his first two national events in Stock, in Baton Rouge in 1982 and Houston in 1989, and was runner-up in his only other Super Stock final in Gainesville in 2009. Runner-up at the Division 4 race in Houston earlier this year, Caro wheeled his SS/IA '10 Challenger past Rick Twitchell, three-time Division 3 champion Chuck Gallagher, Tim Hebert, Jake Sealey, and three-time Division 2 champion and No. 1 qualifier Grant Lewis en route to the final.
Fast facts: Crutchfield is off to a pretty good start. Third in both national and Division 2 points, he reached the semifinals at the Division 2 race in Cecil, Ga.; the quarterfinals at the Division 2 race in Gainesville; and went three rounds in Charlotte. ... Last year's runner-up Slate Cummings and his father, Larry, were both victims of red-light starts, Larry in round one and Slate in round two. ... Lewis' '10 Mustang ran .962-second under the SS/AA index to pace the 47-car field.
Did you know: Crutchfield is the only three-time winner of this event in Super Stock and one of only four drivers to win it twice (Jim Boudreau, 1988 and 1992; Jeff Taylor, 1983 and 1994; and Lincoln Morehead, 2002-03).
Quotable: "I think I was more relaxed being in that situation than I would have been if I'd had Peter in the final. I probably would have been a little tenser." - Crutchfield, on racing his good friend Caro in the final.
Best packages: 1. Crutchfield (Montgomery, Ala.), .004/8.919 (8.90 dial) final; 2. Lewis (Jesup, Ga.), .007/8.788 (8.76 dial) round two; 3. Anthony Bertozzi (Ashland, Va.), .007/9.229 (9.20 dial) round one.