Contributed by Ted Yerzyk

“Hot Rod” Fuller

Like most competitive sports, drag racing has questions and unknowns that cannot be explained. How has Tony Schumacher managed to win five of the last seven national events in Indy? How did Larry Dixon win five straight Father’s Day races at two vastly different facilities? No one, including the racers themselves, really knows why.Without trying to explain the phenomenon, Top Fuel upstart Rod Fuller is hoping to continue building on his current streak at Firebird International Raceway in the
Phoenix suburb of
Chandler, Ariz. The 16-time NHRA national event winner — who has won three times as a pro and 13 times in the sportsman ranks — is looking for a third straight win in the Valley of the Sun at next weekend’s 23rd annual Checker Schuck’s Kragen NHRA Nationals.

Fuller earned his second career Top Fuel “Wally” last February when he played headline spoiler by knocking off Melanie Troxel in the final round just moments after her husband Tommy Johnson Jr. bested John Force in the Funny Car final.

That victory made it two-in-a-row for Fuller, who drove his Super Gas car through seven round wins of competition for the class trophy at the 2004 race. The 9.90 category wasn’t contested in 2005 and Fuller’s David Powers-owned team skipped
Phoenix outright during a limited, 15-race 2005 campaign.

“I want to pick up where we left off and make it 15 straight rounds at
Phoenix,” Fuller said. “I’m really confident. There’s not a race I don’t think we can’t win. It’s not cockiness; it’s confidence in our team’s ability. We ran a career-best E.T. and qualified second in the quickest field in history at
Pomona, so I like our chances at
Phoenix. Rob (Flynn, crew chief) is doing a great job for us and I have a good track history at Firebird.”

Entering the 2006 NHRA season, Fuller was an afterthought in the 4.5-second category. However, the single-car team quickly proved they were not only contenders, but one of the elite team’s in the Top Fuel division by winning the second race of the year. The budding Top Fuel star didn’t stop there, also ruining another front-page story after eclipsing Larry Dixon in the final round at Englishtown as the two-time champ was looking for an amazing sixth straight Father’s Day title. The Valvoline-backed team advanced to four more final rounds in ’06, including the Top Fuel Shootout at
Las Vegas.

Fuller has three Top Fuel wins, including last year’s CSK Nationals.

“We wanted to let everyone know that we were championship contenders,” Fuller said. “A lot of people thought, yeah right. And in the second race out, we won the race and were second in the points. I think it opened some eyes. It was exciting to start my first full season in Top Fuel with a win early on.“I like playing spoiler. I was sitting in the car and I could hear them over the PA system talking about the husband-and-wife win. I went there to win the race and I enjoy the underdog role. It was a big win for me.”

Fuller has left those demons in the desert dust and proved his worthiness as one of the premier drivers in the class. Now in his second full season as a Top Fuel racer, the veteran of NHRA’s sportsmen ranks — Fuller also has won races in Stock, Super Comp and Super Gas — hasn’t forgot his roots. During the final 2007 test season at
Las Vegas, Fuller jumped in Justine Jeffrey’s immaculate new Super Comp rail for a few shakedown runs. Just a week later, she raced that same Super Comp dragster to a runner-up finish at the Winternationals.

“Last year, I was the defending Super Gas champion and my old Super Gas car was in the program, so fans were bringing the program over for me to sign,” Fuller said. “That was really neat. Us sportsmen guys dig that stuff. I’m still close with a lot of the sportsmen racers. I like to remember my roots.”

Entering next weekend’s CSK Nationals in third position following a semifinal effort at the ’07 season opener, Fuller’s group looks like one of the team’s to beat at Firebird. The
Las Vegas resident clocked three 4.4-second laps in qualifying at
Pomona, including a personal-best 4.481-second blast to qualify second in the quickest Top Fuel field in history.

If the former soccer All American can rack up another four win lights at Firebird it may cause the drag racing world to stop and ponder Fuller’s exceptional
Phoenix feats.