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Larry McBride Season Review
By Jack Korpela
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Larry McBride capped off yet another impressive season in the Top Fuel category in 2002. With much hard work and essential help from his family and teammates, McBride was able to win six out of the eight the Prostar races, while qualifying number one at every event. Due to the team's excelling performances McBride was able to capture his third straight AMA/Prostar championship, and forth of his illustrious career.

McBride and company started out strong in the 2002 season with a blast of 6.50 at 220 mph, during their first and only pass at the rain-postponed MRE Sunshine Nationals, in Gainesville, FL. Team McBride confidently traveled to the Star Nationals, in Atlanta, GA, one month later, to settle their unfinished business. After chopping his way through the elimination ladder on Friday, McBribe lobbied to use the first pass on Saturday for Star Nationals qualifying and the second pass for the Gainesville final against Tommy Smith. McBride was granted approval to his proposal by AMA/Prostar staff, but regretted the suggestion in retrospect.

McBride clicked-off a brilliant 6.09 at 241 mph on his first pass of the day, but could only muster up an off-pace 7.44, to a vulnerable Tommy Smith's 7.29 in the Gainesville final. McBride stated, "I shot myself in the foot in Atlanta when I chose not to run the Gainesville final in the morning. That was the first race we were using a Mickey Thompson tire and we were still learning to use it. We didn't have the right set-up and I started to drift towards the centerline. I would have liked to finish the race at Gainesville because it's a much nicer track, but hey everybody else had the same track as I did so I can't complain."

The one comforting aspect of having a bad day at a two-race event is that each new day is a chance for redemption. The team was able to shake off Saturday's misfortune and dominated the field on Sunday, surpassing the late Elmer Trett's speed record in the process. McBride defeated long-time nemesis Ron Webb in the final with a 6.23 to Webb's threatening 6.25. By the end of the weekend the team was able to completely block out the Gainesville loss.

"We felt great after the weekend in Atlanta," said McBride. "You can't go into a race worrying about the previous one. We knew what we wrong did against Tommy. We just put it behind us and moved on, no excuses. It was an awesome feeling to break Elmer's record at the place that he called his home track. I think that's the way he would have wanted it."

After running on his mentor Elmer Trett's home track, McBride would get an opportunity to race on his home turf at the Spring Nationals, in Richmond, VA. McBride picked up right where he left off in Atlanta by posting the quickest and fastest runs in the sport's history. Unfortunately, due to some late-night dew on the track McBride would once have to wait to the next event finish the race after posting consecutive lap-times of 6.00 at 237 mph, 5.89 at 230 mph and 5.92 at 243 mph.

McBride said, "Richmond was such a great weekend. It was so incredible to go out there and run three back-to-back 6.00, 5.89, and 5.92 passes. It's so hard to explain how much that weekend meant to me. The best part was coming up the return road, after we broke the record, and seeing all the fans jumping around and going crazy. It was so great to do it at home, I was in shock."

The next stop on the AMA/Prostar tour landed Team McBride at The Norris Motorsports Cyclefest, home of the IHRA, in Norwalk, OH. McBride had a double date with Chris Hand, who he defeated in the Richmond final on Friday, and the Norwalk final on Sunday. McBride was running hard at Norwalk, despite a short shutdown area. "When we got to the Norwalk, I went out to measure the shutdown," said McBride. "After I got to the end I said, 'Oh my god, we will never stop here!' It was a great facility but the shutdown had me worried. We were able to adjust by clicking off the throttle early and after winning twice, the weekend turned out to be just another chapter in the storybook season."

McBride's hot streak continued as he convincingly won the Pingel Thunder Nationals at Indy and the Orient Express US Nationals in Atco, New Jersey. McBride defeated Chris Hand in each of the final rounds, making their head-to-head season record 4-0, in favor of the McBride. McBride stated, "I kid with Chris all the time, he is one of my best buddies - until we pull up to the starting line. When he is in other lane I want to beat him anyway I can and I know he wants to do the same to me. We had a great time at Atco. Since me and Chris were the only two bikes that showed up, we were more interested in who one the burnout contest."

McBride clinched the championship with a win over Ron Webb in the final of the Fall Nationals, in Montogmery, Alabama. McBride posted a 6.69 to Webb's 7.67 with both of the bikes smoking the tires. The McBride gang did a great job adapting to a track that everyone else was arguing about.

"I don't understand why everyone was complaining," McBride said. "The track really wasn't that bad. The only thing that bothered me was the bump at 330 ft and the guardrails in the shutdown. Other than that I was happy, I was able to run 6-0s on it all weekend. The Top Fuel guys didn't complain but everybody came to us asking us to complain. People don't realize that your competition has to race on the same track as you do."

The final race of the season brought the team back to where they started the year nine months before. McBride looked strong as usual during Friday and Saturday qualifying as he attempted to run Gainesville Raceway's first ever 5-second motorcycle pass. McBride fell just short of his goal with a swift 6.05, which was good enough for the pole position against the gung-ho 7-bike field. McBride enjoyed a first round bye, but dropped a cylinder and struggled to get down the track with a 7.60 at 158 mph. The team scurried back to the pits to swap motors, fearing they may have hurt a bullet. Unfortunately the team was not aware that the problem was as simple as an unplugged wire. After a frantic motor change, the team wheeled the bike up to the starting line to take on Norbert Kutzera, of Steinberg, Germany. McBride's bike, still only running on three cylinders, improved to a 7.05 at 206 mph, but would not be enough to overcome Kutzera's 6.37 at 219 mph.

"I think that weekend was just a reality check from the man upstairs," said McBride. "He was trying to see just how strong we are. After running the 6.05 we felt very confident going into Sunday. We made a mistake; we had an unplugged wire. It was just a little thing that was very disappointing, but at the same time I was extremely happy for Ron Webb and Big Carl for winning the event."

Although the team finished the year on a low point, they consider the season a tremendous success, and rightfully so. "We had a storybook season," said McBride. "You have to keep a level head when things don't go your way. You can't be a champion every time you go out there, all you can do is act like a champion."

McBride thanked his talented crew, Kathie McBride, Steve McBride, Roland Stewart, and Daine Harris. The team now optimistically looks to the future as they gear up for another AMA/Prostar season. McBride proclaimed, "Oh yea, there is more in her. I think we will be able to run 5.80s and 5.90s at lower speeds this year. I like the direction the class is going, we are getting a lot of newcomers and the guys that have been around are stepping up. We gave 110% last year, this season we will have to give 120%."


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