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ORANGE COUNTY NEWSWATCH / SPECIAL REPORT: DRAG RACING

March 07, 1994|Steve Kresal

HOT DRIVERS: Orange County doesn't have its own racetrack--the closest is in Pomona--but it is nonetheless a center of interest in drag racing, the motor sport in which winners are decided in a matter of seconds over a quarter-mile track. About 1,000 of the National Hot Rod Assn.'s 78,000 national members live here, according to spokeswoman Billie West. . . . West says the county has one of the biggest concentrations in California; U.S. hotbeds are in the East and South.

CORY MAC: Yorba Linda's Cory McClenathan turned in the fastest time in the history of Top Fuel--the nitromethane-burning machines that are the NHRA's top professional attraction--in October when he covered a quarter mile in 4.762 seconds. He is also the only driver with four runs of at least 300 m.p.h. McClenathan went from owning Mac Attack racing to driving for McDonald's. "I'm very pleased the way our team has jelled," he said. "I think one of the reasons was that we . . . got to work with each other before testing."

FORCE-FED: John Force, also of Yorba Linda, is coming off one of the best seasons in the sport's history. In 1993, he won a record-setting 11 final events in his Castrol GTX Funny Car--a class in which fiberglass reproductions of street cars are placed on top of frames capable of reaching 300 m.p.h. Force was so dominant, winning five in a row, that he clinched the overall title with three races to go. . . . It was the third series title of his career; Force also won in 1990 and 1991 and was second in 1992. Said Force: "People say I'm crazy, but I'm in love with my race car."

OFF TRACK: The county once was home to one of the most popular stops on the circuit. The Orange County International Raceway, which played host to events including the Super Bowl of Drag Racing, was in Irvine along the Santa Ana Freeway near the Sand Canyon exit. It flourished for 17 years before being shut down in 1983 because of the land's value for other uses. "When I drive by where it was, I have tears in my eyes," Force said. "It was the place to be with your family and friends on Saturday night."

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