The Prestone/FRAM team qualified second in last weekend's NHRA season-opener and then recorded consistent times of 3.782, 3.776, 3.745 and 3.750 seconds during Sunday's elimination rounds. Massey needed the record run to get past DSR teammate Tony Schumacher in the semifinals and needed another stout run against teammate Antron Brown in the final.
Courtesy: NHRA Media Relations
Phoenix, AZ-Spencer Massey circled the date for his return to Firebird International Raceway the day he left the track near Phoenix last fall.
It was Oct. 14 and one of the most disappointing in the 29-year-old Top Fuel racer's young career at Don Schumacher Racing.
That was Saturday, and instead of getting ready for the following day's championship rounds, Spencer and his Prestone/FRAM team were packing up after failing to qualify for the 20th of 22 events of the 2011 NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series.
Led by crew chiefs Phil Shuler and Todd Okuhara, the team rallied to a runner-up finish in the next race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, keeping the team's hope of a world championship alive. At the NHRA Finals two weeks later the dream ended when the team lost in the semifinals round to eventual champion Del Worsham.
"After our finish last year - coming in second place, coming up just a little short - it makes you that much more hungry, that much more motivated, to want to win a championship," Massey said. "We've always wanted to win; I've always wanted to win. This winter we all sat around and focused, acted like it was not an off-season.
"We put that new race car together. We went out and tested. The car ran very well. We came here and it shows. It shows that these guys know what it takes to get a car down the racetrack," he said.
Massey and his focused Prestone/FRAM team vented last year's frustration at the next opportunity and started 2012 in a dominating fashion last weekend at Auto Club Raceway in Pomona, Calif., when it set the NHRA speed record (328.62 mph) and recorded the second quickest run (3.745 seconds) ever to win the NHRA Winternationals. It was Massey's seventh NHRA pro title.
The Prestone/FRAM team qualified second then recorded consistent times of 3.782, 3.776, 3.745 and 3.750 seconds during Sunday's elimination rounds. Massey needed the record run to get past DSR teammate Tony Schumacher in the semifinals and needed another stout run against teammate Antron Brown in the final.
"It's awesome to start like this and have the No. 1 spot going into Phoenix. This is my life dream, and we're living it," Massey said.
"Coming off this win, we have the momentum. It'd be awesome to go back to back. We have a target on our backs. I'd love to have the bulls-eye on my back all year long," he said.
The stellar effort in the semifinals was a testament to the experience of Okuhara and Shuler.
"It shows that they know what it takes to get the car down the racetrack," Massey said. "After the second round, we didn't have any computer data, and Phil and Todd tuned that thing like it was a Top Fuel car in 1968. They looked at the plugs, looked at the bearings, and it went 3.74 at 328 mph.
"They're very smart and knowledgeable, and it shows."
It also helped that it took Schumacher a little longer to get ready at the starting line.
Massey explained, "We sat up there a little bit longer in the staging beams, waiting for Tony to turn on the pre-stage light. We sat there, burning about two gallons more (of nitromethane). That's about 18 pounds less on the front end where the fuel tank is. I knew I was going to be light on the front end, and I knew it was going to run a little bit better."
And the FRAM/Prestone dragster certainly did.
It also wasn't carrying the bitter memories of the team's last visit to Phoenix.