There's a reason the blues have made an indelible mark on Memphis, and it probably has something to do with all the rain the city gets. For PRO racers expecting to put the heat into the track, it took five days-from Friday through Tuesday-to eventually decide the event.
While several class championships remained undecided coming into this final race of the PRO series, none were quite as memorable as the battle for the Vortech Xtreme Street crown between Tony Orts and Bob Curran. Orts' '68 Firebird had been setting the pace through the year, but at Maple Grove, mechanical failures led to a dismal finish (though Bob Curran couldn't capitalize at that event either). Coming into Memphis, it would come down to a shootout between these two for the title.
Orts' woes continued when on Friday and Saturday he had engine problems. The rain gave him time to reassemble his wounded racer for Monday, but his luck didn't hold. The engine failed on the starting line for the first round of qualifying, which took him out of the hunt-the rain delay left only enough time for one qualifying attempt before class eliminations.
But this did not put Curran directly into the championship seat. He still had to get by late-year charger Cameron Coble and his '69 big-block Nova. Curran decided to qualify deeper in the field to take on Coble earlier, which took place in the second round. Coble left on Curran but bobbled mid-track, putting him out of the groove. Curran's charging Corvette got past Coble with a record-setting 8.27/165-mph pass. Curran went on to take the race and also set the Xtreme Street e.t. record based on two back-to-back 8.22s in the last two rounds. The records, the win, and defeating Coble early combined to earn Curran the '04 Vortech Xtreme Street championship.
While this was how most of the eliminators were decided, the rain played a part in two major class decisions. In Denso Pro Street, it came down to Brian Robbins in his large-by-huge supercharged '72 Olds Cutlass and Tim O'Hare wheeling his red, blown '69 Camaro. Since neither could afford to stay until Tuesday to decide the outcome on the track, and O'Hare had already accumulated enough points to take the Pro Street title, Robbins was declared the winner with O'Hare the runner up.
The Nitto Tire Super Street class resolved the issue in a similar fashion with the final coming down to Dan Miller and Alan Dudley. Since neither could afford the time to stay to settle the question on the track, Dan Miller got the nod in an agreement between the two drivers. By virtue of advancing to the final, Miller also earned enough points to win the points championship over Dudley. These were the only two categories that were decided off the racing surface.
PRO also created a special Outlaw Drag Radial race for the Memphis event, which paid $5,000 to win. Almost 30 cars entered, but by the time the rain-delayed first round began on Monday, only 15 cars remained to compete. During eliminations, the throttle stuck on John Gotera's Mustang, causing him to hit the wall in the opposite lane. The car caught fire and was a total loss, but John was not injured. This was the only major incident of the race. West Coat racer Rick Head went on to win the event by posting a blazingly quick 7.76/181-mph pass to take the cash.
By the time you read this, PRO will have already crowned the winners of each class at an awards ceremony held at the Performance Racing Industry show in Indianapolis in December. There are bound to be some changes for next year and then the season will begin again, no doubt in sunny Florida early in '05. Mark your calendar now.