The Nitro Thunder Race Cars....
Construction of the first car
began in the Spring on 1997 at Neil & Parks Racing (Burlingame,
KA). It was based on photos of the current Nostalgia fuelers
from the 1997 March Meet - especially noting rollcage designs,
engine placements and bodies. With his previous experience with
front engine dragsters, Frank Parks designed and built the chassis
with some unique ideas including placing the engine further back
that the west coast cars at the time. Once completed the chassis
was fitted with a full magnesium body, largely done by 13 year
old Scott Franks. Although the car itself was completed in September
of 1997, the engine Harris ordered from Stirling Motor Service
had not arrived as promised. So, in order to make the CHRR in
October, Jack purchased a complete engine from Dan Horan Jr.
After a two-week thrash, the first Nitro Thunder was ready to
go (less paint) and it was off to Bakersfield. Frank Parks shook
the card down and Harris and crew were once again hooked on nitro
During the winter of 1997-1998,
Dale Emery was hired as crew chief. While the car was being painted
(by Harris) its signature red and lettered, Emery completely
revamped the engine and fuel system. By February Nitro Thunder
was ready for battle. With Parks still in the seat the car won
its first time out at Norwalk, Ohio beating Bill Dunlap in the
final. Good car - good tuner equals instant success. After another
stellar performance at Indy, Parks gave up the seat to return
to his business and Harris jumped in qualifying for every race
they entered in 1998 and early 1999 capped with a stout 6.04
at the March Meet. Their first win came at the 1999 Boise "Nights
of Fire" meet setting both ends of the track record in the
The latter half of 1999 saw Brett Harris getting
his license in Nitro Thunder and displacing dad in the seat.
All was good until the last race of the year at Tucson when after
a first round win over Dunlap & Fuller, Brett got sideways
in the lights barrel rolling the car six times. Brett escaped
unscathed but the car was a total loss. Grasping the "get
back on the horse theory", Harris ordered a new car from
Neil & Parks that featured a body completely done by Scott
Parks with the tutoring from the master himself, Tom Hanna. However,
Nitro Thunder II had a very auspicious beginning. Team Harris'
bad luck was not yet behind them. On the trip home from Kansas,
the entire rig slid off the road in a Nebraska snow storm and the trailer, with new
race car, ended up on top of the truck trapping Jack, Brett and
Bob for over an hour. A cel phone call to 911 saved the day and
maybe their lives.
After repairing the race car
and rig, their bad luck was behind them and 2000 turned out to
be a very good season in spite of the fact Dale Emery had left
the crew to work for Jim Cullen. Lyle and Scott Mason tuned Harris
to seven straight final round appearances including wins at Pomona,
Boise and the CHRR at Bakersfield. Throw in a runner-up and new
VRA record (6.01) at Indy and a 5.95 at Las Vegas (split win)
and yes, 2000 was a very good year.
2001 started out where 2000 ended
- winning. It was back to Bakersfield for the first race of the season, the Goodguys VRA March
Meet which is considered a major event. Harris not only won the
meet but set low ET (5.99) and top speed (244 MPH) as well. As
sweet as Nitro Thunders's March Meet win was, the highlight of
2001 was their Top Fuel win at the NHRA 50th Anniversary Nationals
in Pomona. The final pitted Harris and Rance McDaniel in the
Champion Speed Shop fueler and they were the very last cars down
the track followed by a spectacular fireworks show and TV interviews.
The season also included three straight match race wins that
included another record - a 6.18 at Bradamier and a Pro Nitro
win at Las Vegas with another ET record (6.10 @ 233).
Team Harris (The Sheriff and
his Posse) didn't miss a lick over the winter and opened this
season (2002) with another Goodguys VRA March Meet win! With
Brett Harris new tune-up, the Nitro Thunder car surely continue
to be one of the most competitive (and feared) Nostalgia Top
Fuel dragsters in the country. Stay tuned for more of the Nitro
Sheriff's Wild Ride!