HOUSTON, Tex. (April 28, 2014) – Houston is historically a battle for Texas racer Chris McGaha. This time around wasn't much easier, but McGaha certainly made steps towards mastering the tricky conditions and trying to shake the odd vibe that has somewhat haunted him in previous years. At this season's 27th annual O'Reilly Auto Parts NHRA SpringNationals at Royal Purple Raceway, McGaha qualified for the event and made one of the quickest passes in the opening round.
McGaha's qualifying passes consisted of a 6.619-second at 210.80 mph run; 6.599, 211.26; 6.612, 209.95; and 6.610, 210.64 that set up as the No. 10 man in the lineup of 16.
"If you look at the past, qualifying has been tough for us in Houston, so really, we're just glad we made it in," admitted McGaha. "The only reason we qualified last year was because there were 16 cars, or else we probably wouldn't have made it. This year we got in the No. 10 spot, so yes, we were relieved.
"I felt like we had enough power coming here, but qualifying 10th didn't show that. We changed engines before the last qualifying session because we thought it might have been [hurt], and we picked up some but not a lot. Normally you change engines and 'boom,' you see it. But there is no way that both of these engines are hurt, so we've got a few things to figure out."
On raceday, McGaha drew Jason Line as a first-round opponent, a driver whom he had never before met on raceday and one that he respectfully wished to get the best of.
Unfortunately for McGaha, the reaction time recorded was well behind that of Line, and although McGaha had the faster car with his Harlow Sammons Racing Chevrolet Camaro, the victory went to his opponent, 6.626 to 6.611 at 210.60 mph.
For McGaha, although qualifying was a battle and he didn't go as far as he had hoped on raceday, coming to Houston was of benefit.
"Every step counts," he said. "By coming here, this actually helped us see that we may be forming some patterns that we need to change course on. Atlanta is coming up here in a few weeks and that will give us another opportunity to see if the patterns are really forming like we think they are. For now, we're going to go home, go back to the shop, and look through the data. We might go test some before the next race, but we'll see. If we are making mistakes, we need to identify it so we don't keep making them again and again."
Overall, the native of Odessa, Tex., had a full and enjoyable weekend that included consulting and cheering on two sportsman entries that had his fingerprints all over them. McGaha's Stock COPO Camaro was driven by old friend and bracket racer George McMillan, and Don Alexander drove a D/Dragster in Comp Eliminator with a unique V-6 engine built by McGaha and a manual transmission that shifts like a Pro Stock car but with a button on the steering wheel.
Notably, McMillan wheeled the black COPO to a 9.491 during eliminations, the quickest the car had ever run and the first time the car had been in the 9.4-range.
"No matter what, you always have a good weekend when you get to race in Texas," said McGaha. "We always like racing in our home state, and we just want to thank all of our family and friends for coming out to support us. We had a great time, and we're looking forward to the Dallas race this fall when we can all get together again. Hopefully with a better outcome."
Qualifying position: No. 10
First Round: Jason Line (6.626, 209.69 mph) def. MCGAHA (6.611, 211.60 mph)
FRIDAY: 6.619 sec., 210.80 mph, (Session 1); 6.599 sec., 211.26 mph, (Session 2);
SATURDAY: 6.612 sec., 209.95 mph (Session 3); 6.610 sec., 210.64mph, (Session 4)
(Unofficial, after Houston, 6th of 24 events)
Pro Stock driver (wins), points
1. Erica Enders-Stevens (2), 554
2. Allen Johnson (2), 477
3. Jason Line (1), 437
4. Vincent Nobile, 414
5. Shane Gray, 390
6. Dave Connolly, 366
7. Jeg Coughlin V. Gaines, 344
8. Jeg Coughlin, 340
9. CHRIS McGAHA, 290
10. Jimmy Alund (1), 282

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Kelly Wade