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Carpenter Comes Close—Again

CHARLOTTE, NC (Apr. 29, 2010) – Just one more round win. That’s all ADRL Pro Nitrous legend Charles Carpenter (left) was looking for last Saturday night in the ADRL Hardee’s Georgia Drags VI at South Georgia Motorsports Park.
In fact, that’s all he’s needed at the first two races of the 2010 ADRL championship season to go from two second-place finishes in a row to two huge wins.
There hasn’t been a Pro Nitrous final round contested thus far in 2010 without the Charlotte, North Carolina native’s unmistakable ’55 Chevy Bel Air in one of the lanes, and while a win would be nice, Carpenter is thrilled to be going rounds and consistently going down the track.
“I really want a Minuteman trophy to go with my two Iron Eagles, but we’re getting closer and closer,” Carpenter said. “It feels good to just go rounds. We went from the cool, crisp conditions in Houston to the hot temperatures in Valdosta and ended up in the finals at both. That’s a testament to the consistency of the car and the focus and determination of everyone on our team.”
Carpenter ran a 4.014 at 187.03 mph in Friday’s second qualifying session that would end up locking him into the eighth qualifying position after rain on Saturday morning cut qualifying short.
“We made what we thought was the right call for Friday’s night session to try to move up the ladder, but it backfired on us,” Carpenter admitted. “That track gets so incredibly tight at night, and we struggled to get wheel speed off the line and ended up shaking the tires pretty hard.”
On Saturday, a rainy raceday began with one of the most stunning tragedies Carpenter has ever witnessed in his 37 years of racing with the loss of Blake Housley’s Pro Nitrous team co-owner Mike
“Mike was as nice and as humble of a man as you will ever meet,” Carpenter said. “I got to know him when our car was under construction at his good friend Terry Murphy’s shop, and we’re all deeply saddened by his passing.
“As a result of the incident, we are going to take it upon ourselves to re-examine our nitrous handling procedures and equipment, and make whatever changes we deem necessary to prevent something like this from happening again. My son and crew chief, Mike, had a nitrous bottle incident in 2008 and escaped with only minor bruising, but this tragic accident shows the true risk we take when working with pressurized nitrous bottles and we have to make sure nothing like this ever happens to anyone again. At the very least, we all owe that to Mike Walker and his family.”
Once the rain cleared and the SGMP crew had the track ready to race, Carpenter and his team hit the lanes with heavy hearts and began their journey to the finals.
Up first was fellow North Carolinian Steve Vick. Carpenter jumped out to a wide margin off the line and never looked back, taking the win with a 3.957 to Vick’s 4.004.
“That first round is so tough,” said Carpenter. “It’s your first run of the day, and there are so many unknowns. It’s easily the most nerve-racking part of the race, because once we get past that round, it seems like we get on a roll and get more and more comfortable with each round.”
Round two saw Carpenter matched up with the original builder of his ’55 Chevy, Terry Murphy. The two were out of the gate nearly even, but Carpenter’s 3.97 at almost 190 mph was too much for Murphy, who ran into nitrous problems down track.
While the thrash in John DeFlorian Jr.’s pit to repair a damaged piston before the semi-finals seemed as if it would allow Carpenter a single run to the championship round, Carpenter waited a few extra minutes behind the waterbox when he got word DeFlorian was on his way to the lanes so they could race for it instead of taking the easy way out. The end result was still in Carpenter’s favor, as Deflorian was uncharacteristically late off the starting line and his 3.996 had no chance of catching Carpenter’s 3.957.
The final round would feature a showdown between Carpenter and another veteran nitrous pilot, Mike Castellana. While Carpenter had gotten down the track consistently all day, the unreal nighttime traction of South Georgia Motorsports park bit him once again in the finals, sending his car into violent tire shake while Castellana nailed the tree with a .009 reaction time and drove to a 3.934-seconds win.
“As I said, we wanted the win badly, but going to two consecutive finals is a great accomplishment for this team,” Carpenter said. “It’s got us just 15 points out of the points lead, and if we can continue to do this all year long we’ll be right where we want to be when it comes time for the Battle for the Belts in Dallas.”
After the race, Carpenter disassembled his car once again in preparation for delivery to East Coast Refinishing where it will finally receive a new coat of paint in time for next month’s (May 21-22) ADRL US Drags at Virginia Motorsports Park.

(ADRL/Tocher photos)
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