He might have spent 11 months out of the driver’s seat of the world’s fastest accelerating vehicles, but three times Australian Top Fuel champion Phil Read doesn’t have nerves ahead of his return at this weekend’s Nitro Champs, just a pure desire to win. Read said the team aren't coming back to be cannon fodder, but to be the contenders their reputation deserves.
“It’s been 11 months since I have driven but I am looking forward to it, these last couple of years I have probably become more eager to drive than ever,” he said. “Our goal is to win. That’s the only reason we race.”
Read will be driving the Valvoline dragster nicknamed the ‘Black Mamba’, the car which took him to his three championships. The reliable chassis had been shelved, but has been upgraded to meet the latest specifications after the Jim Read Racing outfit sold its last dragster to a New Zealand team.
“We have ‘front halved’ the car to the latest US specs and it is a little bit different to what it used to be,” he said. “We’ve freshened up everything and because we haven’t done too much racing recently we have had time to regroup and go over absolutely everything.
“When we sold the last car it went with all our good gear on it, it left exactly as we raced it at the Winternationals in 2012. So we've got some new bits and pieces from the USA that (crew chief) Bruce (Read) gets to play with.”
Read will be up against a classy Nitro Champs field that includes US visitor Tommy Johnson Jr, who has the crew chief ace of Lee Beard up his sleeve.
“Tommy racing here definitely adds another challenge to win,” Read said. “After the record pass that Larry Dixon ran I can see them running into the 4.40s if the conditions are right. Lee Beard is a smart operator.
“We always aim for 4.5s when we go to race but we will see what happens. We’re going to make a half pass in the first qualifying session to make sure everything is alright with the car changes and then we will get after it and hopefully be able to claim number one qualifier.”
The Read family might be up against the challenge of one of the sport’s greatest crew chiefs, but they still have close ties with Kalitta Racing, who are currently in form in the NHRA.
“We talk to the Kalittas all the time, not only do they give us good feedback but they are really good friends,” Read said. “Hopefully we can get (Kalitta crew chief) Jim Oberhofer out here to tune us one day. With somebody beating Scott’s old record of 4.51 he has some incentive to come out now.”
Read will take on not just Johnson Jr but also currently tied points leaders Phil Lamattina and Darren Morgan, Damien Harris and Terry Sainty.
The Nitro Champs runs from May 3-5 at Sydney Dragway and features all ANDRA professional categories plus the Aeroflow Sportsman Drag Racing Championship.