Steve Harker is super serious about his decision to jump back in the saddle within NHRA's Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series in America. Our Canadian friend Bruce Biegler reports.
The Brisbane native, who has since the early 2000s spent a good portion of each year residing in the States has re-kindled his racing efforts for 2014, building a new state-of-the-art Top Alcohol Funny Car.
That move has set in motion a return to competition for the wily veteran after what had been about a three-year absence from the US circuit.
"My last race as a driver was back in 2010," Harker said. "Before that I had raced pretty solidly within America for about five seasons, during which we did pretty well, finishing second in national points two years in a row and winning four divisional titles."
"But after that I decided I needed to take a bit of a break. I sold my operation to Sweden's Leif Andréasson . I did take on a one year contract to tune the car for Leif and we won the FIA Championship in Europe in 2012. But the sport of drag racing has always been a big part of our family lives so I decided to get back into it and do it again - driving."
In 2013, in conjunction with highly reputed California-based chassis builder Dave Uyehara, Harker ordered in a new car (a Chevy Monte Carlo) which ultimately lead to some initial shakedown runs during the later part of last season.
"My future son-in-law John Bojec and I did all this car's finishing," Steve said. "It has the newest Brad Anderson motor production as well as the latest in electronics and fuel management."
Harker's early efforts racing this season have so far included a number of positives - the biggest of which was a rather convincing pole qualifying effort during lasy week's national event in North Carolina.
At that race, Steve ran a 5.583 (low ET of the race) at 261.98 mph for the #1 position before succumbing to a tire shake upset loss in round one of competition.
"We have the car performing well and that's inspiring - but because I haven't driven that much for a couple of years, I'm a bit rusty," he admitted. "This new car has all the latest whistles and bells and because of that there is a lot more power to work with.
"But the reality is in this class in particular, it's often 90% driver. If you drive poorly you won't get down the track. So my focus right now is on tuning up my driving and becoming consistent again."
Another major and positive development for Steve's team, which includes his wife Janelle, is the new alignment and sponsorship with Speed City Racing, which is an aspiring new business based from Cleveland, Ohio that was started by John Bojec and Steve's daughter Diana (who will be wed next month).
"John and Diana started this company about a year and a half ago," he said. "It's basically a one-stop and very diverse race car shop that builds engines and race cars and sell parts."
Harker's past history has shown that he is more then capable of contending within NHRA's Top Alcohol Funny Car category and expectations are high about that return to form.
In 2014 his team will be highly active with plans to race about twice per month through the season at select NHRA national and regional events.
Photos and words by Bruce Biegler from www.dragracecanada.com.
For more information on Steve Harker and Speed City visit: www.speedcityracing.com