The last time NHRA Top Fuel drag racer Spencer Massey left Phoenix's Firebird International Raceway last year, he had a goose egg for points in the race, not having made the field. A DNQ in drag racing is something everyone has to deal with at one time or another because there are 16 spots in eliminations and sometimes a team, crew and driver just don't find the sweet spot.
That's how it was for Massey, in his second year racing the Full Throttle Drag Racing Series and first driving Don Schumacher Racing's Prestone/FRAM dragster. Massey began his career working for Don "Snake" Prudhomme, getting the kind of education that could be likened to being a drag racing Rhodes scholar - Snake taught Massey everything he needed to know about being a complete Top Fuel driver.
When Prudhomme closed his operation after the 2009 season, there was nothing available for Massey, so he cooled his heels for the year and took over the DSR seat at the 2011 Winternationals. By the time the tour got to Firebird last October, he was one of several drivers in the hunt for the season-long title. The DNQ was a setback for the then-point leader, but one remedied by a final round result at Las Vegas, the next race. As it was Massey finished as runner-up to Del Worsham, who retired after taking the title.
With the Firebird race returned to its customary role as the second contest of the 23-race NHRA season, Spencer Massey comes back to the track as the most recent winner, having earned his seventh career victory at the 2012 season-opener on the Auto Club Raceway at Pomona dragstrip.
“After the DNQ in Phoenix last year in the Countdown, it kind of killed us for the championship,” Massey recalled. “But now, coming off this win we have momentum. We have a race car that can win Phoenix. It would be awesome to go back-to-back, but now we have a big target on our back. We’re No. 1 in points and everyone is gunning for us but that’s what we want. I’d like to have that bull’s-eye on my back all year long.”
During the first race weekend of the year, Massey and his Phil Shuler and Todd Okuhara-led team were extremely consistent throughout eliminations and even set the NHRA speed record (328.62-mph) and ran the second-quickest 1000-foot time in history at 3.745-seconds en route to victory. "It's awesome to start like this and have the No. 1 spot going into Phoenix. It's a testament to my crew chiefs and shows that they know what it takes to get the car down the racetrack."
Being without computer data following his quarter-final run, the team was forced to resort to physical information on the car in order to plan for the semifinal pass that gave Massey the record. "They're very smart and knowledgeable and it shows," Massey said proudly.
Massey leads teammate Antron Brown, his opponent in the finals at the Winternationals last weekend, while Pomona's top qualifier Morgan Lucas lies third and teammate Tony Schumacher is fourth in the current standings. NHRA qualifying for the NHRA Arizona Nationals at Firebird International Raceway begins at 1:30PM Friday and continues at 4PM. Can Massey erase the bitter memories of last fall? He's got the momentum.