Author: McKenna, Kevin
Date published: April 6, 2012
After scoring his first three NHRA national event titles at Atlanta Dragway in 1990, 1991, and 2011, Mike Crutchfield finally won an "away game" when he triumphed over a large and talented field at the JEGS NHRA Cajun SPORTSnationals at No Problem Raceway Park. Though it may not have been his best work, Crutchfield wasn't about to complain following his final-round victory against good friend and fellow Alabama resident David Rampy.
"For some reason, I just never could get on the Tree this weekend," said Crutchfield. "It just seemed like it was different than some of the other tracks I've been to. I tried to adjust, but it didn't seem to make a difference. Thankfully, I had some luck. I absolutely was there to win, and you have to put yourself in a position to do it. I think I did that, but it just wasn't my best driving job, at least not on the starting line."
Although Crutchfield's reaction times may not have been awe-inspiring, he was solid at the finish line behind the wheel of his DragRaceTires.com SS/DM Pontiac, one of the quickest cars in the field. In round three, he posted an 8.97 on his 8.96 dial to stop Alvin Guillard and later survived a close double-breakout race against Bobby Dennis (see The key race).
Crutchfield missed the Tree in the final with a .068 but was still .04-second better than Rampy and won with a .01-over 8.93, stopping Rampy's 13-round winning streak.
"David is a great friend. He only lives about 65 miles from me, and we even traveled together for a brief time. I know him well, and David isn't the only one who struggles at night; I do too, and so do most of the rest of the [Super Stock and Stock] racers I know," said Crutchfield. "I missed the Tree, but he just happened to miss it a little worse than I did. For all the times you're .00 on the Tree and get beat, it's nice to get a break every now and then.
"As far as I'm concerned, [drag racing] is the hardest type of motorsport there is," Crutchfield continued. "Sometimes you kind of find yourself on cruise control, and I've found that you can't do that. You have to really be focused and just want it worse than anyone else. I've tried to do that lately, and I think that's why I've had a couple of good years."
The key race: Crutchfield was admittedly in rough shape when he left the line three-hundredths behind former Indy champ Dennis in the quarterfinals, but as is often the case in double breakouts, the driver with the slower reaction time turned on the win light. "I knew my car would be a little quicker because it was starting to get dark," said Crutchfield. "I've been to this track enough to know that I was on a breakout, so I just pushed him as hard as I could and then let him go. It was the right decision."
The runner-up: Less than a week after winning his 80th national event title at the Tire Kingdom NHRA Gatornationals presented by NAPAFilters.com, Rampy was back in another final round. Admittedly troubled by racing in the dark, he missed the Tree and watched his winning streak end after 13 consecutive rounds. He also raced in Comp, in which he posted a surprising round-one loss.
Fast facts: Dan Jacobs qualified low by wheeling his SS/F Chevy II to a (-1.113) 9.237 to lead the 77-car field. After running in the sevensecond zone several weeks before, John Clegg continued to impress in his SS/AM Pontiac with an 8.10, one of the quickest Super Stock runs of all time.
Did you know: In addition to four national event wins, Crutchfield has an impressive record at NHRA Lucas Oil Series Drag Racing divisional events, including 14 victories in 24 final rounds since 1989.
Quotable: "This was the end of a string of five races in six weeks, and when it was over, I just wanted to rest, but now, after winning, I'm ready to get back out there again."
Best packages: 1. James Hanig (Houston), .007/11.150 (11.05 dial) round three; 2. Dave Layer (Dayton, Ohio), .014/10.020 (10.02 dial) round two; 3. Guillard (Desterhand, La.), .015/9.712 (9.71 dial) round two.