The 2011 NHRA Finals winner, Scott McClay, is typical of the racers who populate one of NHRA’s few remaining old school classes, Competition Eliminator. More often than not the racers that make up that unique NHRA division march to the beat of their own drum and are damn proud of it. In my opinion, they are drag racing’s eccentric geniuses.
In many of NHRA’s racing eliminators a racer who wants to be competitive can— if they want to and have the cash—buy an off-the- shelf package of engine and race car that will make them instantly competitive. That scenario applies to the nitro classes, Pro Stock, Stock/Super Stock and the .90 index classes, but not so much in the Comp, Super Stock and Stock Eliminator classes.
Because of the wide variety of cars and drivetrains that populate Comp it is very difficult for the non-professional racers to win an NHRA division race, much less a national event. So, when one of the diehard Comp racers wins a national event it is a very big deal. Scott McClay raced in the class for more than 30 years beginning with a front-motored C/ED and graduating to his current state-of-the art, rear-motored digger without ever going to a final round prior to his 2011 Finals Comp Eliminator win at the iconic Pomona, California, Fairplex track just a few days after his 60th birthday.
How big of deal was this win for McClay? His quote in a National Dragster story about his win says it all, “It was clearly an act of God.”
In getting his first NHRA national event victory in a 32-year career McClay beat an all-star field of 32 Competition Eliminator racers, trailing the likes of Bo Butner, 2011 Comp World Champ Lou Ficco (whom he crushed with a .00 reaction time) and multi-time national event winner Doug Lambeck in the finals.
The fact that McClay got his win driving his nearly decade-old, Mike Bos-built dragster powered by a carbureted 304-ci version of a Mopar SB 358-ci NASCAR engine and backed by one of his own custom-built three-speed TH-200 turbo transmissions to the win made the win much more special.
Until just recently, the soft-spoken, self-deprecating McClay divided his time between being an engineer on NASA’s space shuttles, the manufacturer of a unique GM TH-200 automatic tranny that is used by many premier Stock, Super Stock and Competition Eliminator competitors, and as a Comp Eliminator racer.
Now that the space shuttle program has ended and he’s retired from that job, McClay will be able to devote himself full time to building racing transmissions and accessories, and winning a second national event. After all, as the new old saying goes, “Life begins at 60,” so Scott McClay may just be peaking as a Comp Eliminator racer.
Text by Jeff Burk
Photos by James Drew and Courtesy Scott McClay