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With Shelly Howard’s tragic accident at Tulsa [Okla.], is it
time for wheelie bars to be mandatory on Top Fuel and Top Alcohol dragsters?

LaHaie: Under the circumstances, I can’t imagine one wanting to run without a wheelie bar. I was against them until I ran one on Larry’s (Dixon) car. I came over here in 1999 and it was already on the car. Does it help prevent a blow over? I don’t think so. These cars go so fast and when the front end is up in the air, the car will catapult off the wheelie bar. Our dragster has gotten up pretty high at times. Larry [Dixon] is competent enough to save it. Not all drivers can do that. It happens so quick, that not all drivers can react in time. It’s something that there’s really no way to test.

What are your thoughts on the policy of slowing down the fuel cars?

LaHaie: They haven’t slowed them down. They’ve brought them into check. Schumacher ran 335 at Houston, and we see Funny Cars running 4.60s in the 330-mph range. Show me where it’s slowed down?

Editor's note - Since the MSD device became mandatory at Gainesville this year no Funny Car has approached the 4.60’s and no dragster has run quicker than 4.49.

How long do you plan on being involved in drag racing?

LaHaie: As long as my health is ok and I’m enjoying it, I’ll be around. Snake and I joke about wheeling each other to the starting line in wheelchairs.

Do you damage more parts on 85-percent nitromethane?

LaHaie: No doubt that we see more damage. On 85-percent, you have to do unnatural things to the engine to make more horsepower. You’re putting more pressure on the pistons, connecting rods, wrist pins, etc. You run the supercharger faster. You have to build
a combination around 85-percent. The fuel might cost less, but it’s supposed to cost less because you’re only running 85-percent, but that doesn’t curtail the cost of the parts damage.

Can you tune the perfect run?

LaHaie: The perfect run? It isn’t just the tuning. It has to be the perfect track, the perfect track temperature and the track has to be prepared right. It’s density, altitude and humidity and other factors that all have to fall in line. I don’t know if you could ever get all of those factors to line up. You could fire the best run in history and go back and look at the data and see that there was 83 grains of water in the air, and maybe if it was 50 or 55 grains that you could have done even better. There’s always room for improvement or at least speculation for making a better run.

You and Larry Dixon have won 29 races together since you joined Don Prudhomme Racing late in the 1999 season. Why has the duo been so successful?

LaHaie: It’s not just the two of us. It’s Don Prudhomme Racing. Snake made a decision to put myself and Larry Dixon together. We still had to figure out a crew. I wanted to bring Donnie Bender because we had worked together at Kalittas. We kept some of the crew that was already here and it all gelled and worked well. It’s a team effort. It isn’t just Larry and myself. It’s the combination of how we race the car, how we prepare the car, how the crew services the car, that’s a big deal. It isn’t just ho hum, all aspects of the team are very important to having a successful team. 


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