Las Vegas II: David Baca debut preview

Henkelman & Baca Motorsports: David Baca to make Top Fuel debut at Las Vegas. LAS VEGAS  --  Second generation drag racer David Baca, from Brentwood, Calif., in the San Francisco Bay area, who earned his Top Fuel license just prior to this ...

Las Vegas II: David Baca debut preview

Henkelman & Baca Motorsports: David Baca to make Top Fuel debut at Las Vegas.

LAS VEGAS  --  Second generation drag racer David Baca, from Brentwood, Calif., in the San Francisco Bay area, who earned his Top Fuel license just prior to this year's Mac Tools U.S. Nationals in Indy, will make his professional competition debut at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway this weekend.  His first qualifying pass is scheduled for Friday afternoon.

"As the son of a drag racer, it was a natural progression that I gravitated to the sport also," reflected Baca on his introduction to drag racing.  "I was raised in the 60's and '70's on the race tracks of California.  I went from the womb to the cradle to the stroller to the track.  I was out there in the old days with my dad (Dennis Baca) racing with Don Garlits and the other drivers that made the sport what it is today.  Drag racing got into my blood at an early age.

"Dad won Top Fuel at Indy in 1977, I believe it was.  It was quite an experience.  He was always one of those drivers that wanted to claim the track or world record.  He always wanted to turn the wick up.  After we parked dad's car in '81, I then went into business.  My dad told me, 'If you want one of these things (a race car), you're going to have to go earn it yourself.'  Well, to make a long story as short as possible, I did just that."

The younger Baca started a flooring business in the Bay Area of California and, once it became successful, took his turn at establishing a drag racing career.

"My father made me go to work and I've got to thank him for that," said David Baca.  "On one hand, I could have been a little mad at him because he didn't just put me in a ride like some of my other buddies, but I feel I'm a better person today because I feel he taught me right.  Now moving on to my racing career.

"In '86 or '87, there abouts, I decided to put a hot rod together and go racing.  The alcohol car was the first thing I ever drove.  It was pretty aggressive; it took me a while to adjust.  It was a learning curve.  We ran that and did quite well.  In 1994, I took a break from the demands of racing to focus on raising a young family and to continue to grow my flooring business."

It was in the late '80 that Baca began his longtime friendship with Rick Henkelman.  The pair developed a friendly rivalry in the Top Alcohol Funny Car class.  When Baca ended his self-imposed hiatus in 1999, he formed an alliance with Ray Strasser with the duo fielding and advancing the technology of the A-Fuel Dragster in Top Alcohol Dragster (TAD).

Baca, 43, racing an A-Fuel Dragster was the first TAD driver to record a pass in the 5.2-second range and, until recently, had recorded the quickest run in TAD with a pass of 5.220 seconds at the 2001 Winternationals in Pomona, Calif.  He also put his mark on the NHRA speed record books.  Baca currently holds the NHRA TAD national speed record at 274.44 mph, which he set at Phoenix in early 2001.

The union with Henkelman began at the end of 2001, Henkelman and Baca began exploring the opportunities of fielding a Top Fuel Dragster.  In 2002, this became a reality with the formation of Henkelman & Baca Motorsports.  One week prior to the 2002 K&N Filters Winternationals, the pair hired veteran Top Fuel Driver Cory McClenathan.  Currently entering the NHRA AC-Delco Las Vegas Nationals, McClenathan is fifth in the POWERade point standings.

Now it's Baca turn.  He will race the final two races in a second Henkelman & Baca Motorsports Top Fuel Dragster.

"I think every racer out here has the dream to race at the top level -- Top Fuel," said Baca.  "It's just a natural progression in my drag racing career.  It's taken me a little longer than others but hopefully, we're here to stay.  Our goals call for us to be a force in this class for a long time to come.

"It has been tough to sit out this year, but from a business decision it was the right thing to do.  It has allowed me to work on our marketing plans for next year and years down the road.  It was a conscious decision to stay focused on the business side of the operation for the first year.  I'm pleased that we could give Cory (McClenathan) the opportunity to return to the driver's seat this year but it was our plan from the inception for me to take over the ride in 2003.  In fact, the plan called for us to run two cars for 2003 and beyond, provided we could find the financial backing.

"Right now it has been challenging at best.  We haven't overcome those challenges, meaning no major deal yet.  It's not over.  We're still working hard.  We still have a few irons in the fire.  Hopefully, a couple of them will come together so we can have one, if not two race car teams.

"I know there is a lot of mixed emotions out there with the Cory Mac fan base.  I want to say this: we want Cory to stay.  If the stars line up and all things happen, I believe he wants to stay here too.    As I said earlier, this was pre planned from the beginning.  We really want to keep Cory out here.

"If Cory leaves, either because we don't have the sponsors to support two cars or because he feels it is in his best interest to be somewhere else, then we wish him well.  Cory and I have been friends for a long time and I personally feel that our friendship will continue to endure long after both of us stop racing.  But for now, this is what we do -- we race.  Give me time.  Hopefully, you'll enjoy me as much as you do Cory.

"The reason we're bring out the second car here at Vegas is to prepare for next year and to give me as much seat time as possible.  It also will allow us to pick up Bud Shootout points should we qualify at Pomona and while we know it will be difficult, we have every intention of doing just that (qualifying) at both Vegas and Pomona.  Then, as I have repeated and repeated, hopefully, next year this team will be a two car team."

David Baca has been married for 18 years to Michele and the couple has two children, a daughter Alexandra and a son David, Jr.


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