Doug Foley updated his Top Fuel license and gathered fresh data on this same racetrack during a preseason test session in late January. And what he learned was enough to help him clock a 3.878-second, 311.13-mph pass and vault him into the No. 14 slot in Sunday’s starting lineup. In his first NHRA start in almost 11 years, he’ll meet No. 3 Leah Pruett in Sunday’s first round of eliminations.
The Don Schumacher Racing-built Foley and Lewis Strutmasters.com Dragster made its 2019 debut at the NHRA Carolina Nationals at Concord, N.C., near the team’s home base. Todd Paton drove the car that weekend. Since then, his Scott Gaddy- and Jack Wyatt-led team spent months preparing for this first of 10 scheduled events this season.
In this first race for Foley since 2011, he has support from Burns Mechanical, DDP Roofing, Inc., and Red Line Synthetic Oil, in addition to Strutmasters.com.
This race serves as a reunion for Foley and partner and fellow New York native Tim Lewis, who first joined forces in 2001 and raced together off and on for nearly 20 years in IHRA and NHRA Top Fuel, as well as in the NHRA Top Alcohol Dragster class.
“Tim doesn’t plan on going to every race, so the fact that he’s going to be at our first race back is really exciting to me. It’ll be me and him back together at the first event,” Foley said. “We’re never going to be able to say it’s our first race after this.”
That’s when Foley and Lewis decided to step up to NHRA Top Fuel competition. Between 2007 and 2011, Foley raced at 40 NHRA national events, and his best starting spot was at No. 3. And Foley noticed how much more aggressive the class has become in his absence.
“It’s an enormous amount of pressure to perform well, just because the cars are at such a high level. The quality is unbelievable. Yeah, we don’t have the quantity of cars that we had before, but that doesn’t mean anything on Sunday. You still got to beat the cars that are out there, and they’re pretty darn good, Foley said.
He got some measure of assurance when he got back in the driver’s seat three weeks ago.
“When I jumped back in the car at testing for the first time in almost 10 years, it felt like 10 years ago,” Foley said. “There is a calm and a sense of peace in there. You get an opportunity to do something that a lot of people don’t get the chance to do. I’m just grateful that Tim was willing to give it another go and that we had the ability to put another team together.”
Foley said he’ll be treating this race as an extension of his preseason testing.
“We feel a tremendous amount of pressure, but at the same time, we’re being reasonable with our expectations,” Foley said. “We’re looking at the first three or four races as more of a test session as far as getting a tune-up figured out and trying to watch our parts attrition, while at the same time trying to develop relationships. The pressure is not just on the track. It’s on what we do at the shop, how the team jells together and it’s about how Guy [Pierce, whose responsibility is relationship development] and I work together to generate the funds necessary to continue increasing the performance of the team.”