Sixteen-year old Tommy Murray's joy at being an honorary member of a National Hot Rod Association POWERade Drag Racing Series Top Fuel team could be over.
NHRA.com reported on Friday that the driver, Mike Dunn, of the team which Murray "hung around with" at the NHRA national event at the Colonel's Brainerd International Raceway for the last few years will not return to the Gwynn/Steinbrenner Racing Yankees team this season.
Murray of Brainerd, who races a junior dragster, said in a phone interview Tuesday that his initial reaction was "bummer." when he learned of the news.
Dunn's long-time crew chief, Ken Veney, also won't return.
This isn't the first time Dunn won't race. He didn't race in 2000 because Mopar dropped its primary sponsorship of the then Jerry and Darrell Gwynn owned dragster. Jerry and Darrell, his son and a former Top Fuel racer, and Hank Steinbrenner are the present team's co-owners.
So last year at the CBIR nationals, it was a little different for Murray in the pits than from 1995 to 1999.
He said the only other team member he knew besides Dunn and Jerry was one whose duties included mixing fuel. When Mopar dropped its sponsorship after the 1999 season, most of the crew members assumed duties with NASCAR teams, said Murray.
Murray's best years for pit access were from 1995 to 1999. He was able to spend every day of the nationals with the team, sometimes helping it by cleaning rubber from the burnouts off the dragster's tow vehicle.
He gained this access after stopping in Dunn's trailer parked at a local grocery store in 1994 while promoting his sponsor La Victoria Salsa. He said he met Dunn and one of his crew members gave him a tour of the trailer. After the tour, Murray and his mother, Kim Place, wrote thank you notes to the team and dropped them off at the motel they were staying at.
Almost immediately, Jerry stopped in at Kim's workplace and gave Tommy a four-day pass to the national event at CBIR. This pass enabled Tommy access to the trailer in the pits.
A year later, Dunn won the Top Fuel final at CBIR which enabled Tommy to be in the winner's circle with the team.
"That was pretty cool," he said.
From then on, Tommy kept in contact with Dunn and Darrell e-mailing them once in a while and calling Jerry a few times during the year.
So will Tommy still stay in contact with Jerry?
"I really don't know, he replied. "I don't hardly know anybody (on the team). Last year was really different."
Murray was able to meet Dunn's replacement, Australian Andrew Cowin, last year. NHRA.com reported on Saturday that Cowin, 22, would replace Dunn.
Radar run postponed
The 29th-annual Paul Bunyan Time Trials Radar Run set for Sunday on Ernie's on Gull Lake has been cancelled.
Dave Montague, vice president of the Baxter Snowmobile Club, said the Cass County Sheriff's Office did not issue a permit for the event because of deteriorating ice conditions. The ice was checked Wednesday.
Merrifield Bay site of radar run
Jay Lindmeyer, owner of U.S. Powersports in Merrifield, has attended a few radar runs and noticed that most of the racers don't get big payouts or nice trophies.
He decided to change all that by hosting his own radar run, the inaugural North Long Lake Speed Runs Jan. 20 on Merrifield Bay, complete with 50 percent payout in each class and respectable trophies.
"We want to show these guys we can put on a good race," Lindmeyer said last week.
The event starts with a test and tune starting at 10 a.m. Jan. 19. Registration at U.S. Powersports for the radar runs ends at noon race day. The races start at 10 a.m. after the 1,000-foot track is shaved.
At 3 p.m. the track will be shaved again and the fastest speed of the day racers will pin their throttles.
Lindmeyer said that four racers who have blazed tracks at over 160 mph on their sleds powered by nitrous oxide have already called him.
Classes that can race are Stock, Improved Stock, Pro Stock, Open Mod, Vintage and Kitty Kat. Every Kitty Kat racer will receive a trophy.
As of Wednesday, Lindmyer said the event was still on.
Densham's contract renewed
NHRA.com reported Monday that Gary Densham re-signed with John Force for another season of drag racing.
Team Force also announced that Force's daughter Ashley will compete in her Super Comp dragster this drag racing season.
John places 10th
Trevor John of Crosslake piloted his Polaris to a 10th place finish in the Pro Stock final at the World Snowmobile Association's Arctic Cat Deadwood Shootout in Deadwood, S.D. last Sunday.
John, currently in seventh place in the WSA Snocross Worldwide Championship Series points standings, placed sixth twice and 12th in the qualifying rounds. He barely qualified for the final. His fourth-place finish in the last chance qualifier was the last transfer position for the final.
Blair Morgan on a Ski Doo won both the Pro Stock and Pro Open finals.
Three area racers also won at the event, which was the second round of the series. Amanda Johnson of Aitkin on her Arctic Cat won the Pro Women's final, Levi LaVallee of Longville on his Polaris won in Semi-Pro Stock and Mike Schultz of Fort Ripley won in Semi-Pro Open aboard his Polaris.
Schultz also finished fourth in Semi-Pro Stock, and third in Semi-Pro Fan. Josh Foote of Merrifield aboard an Arctic Cat also placed second in Semi-Pro Fan final.
Johnson also is the points leader, by one point, in the Pro Women's class. She is the class's reigning points champion.
LaVallee already leads the Semi-Pro Stock class by 50 points. He also is third in Semi-Pro Open points.
Foote is second in the Semi-Pro Fan points.
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