Cory McClenathan’s quest for his first victory in two years Sunday ended with a broken engine in the finals of the Pontiac Performance Nationals at National Trail Raceway. And it prevented a storybook finish for the special Carrier Boyz Racing JEG’S Mail Order/Prestone/FRAM Boost Top Fuel team.

McClenathan continued to rebound from the violent crash that destroyed his race car three weeks ago at Bristol, Tenn. He qualified the one-off yellow dragster fourth (4.523 seconds at 329.50 mph) and defeated Doug Herbert, Top Fuel points leader Melanie Troxel and David Grubnic en route to his title showdown with Brandon Bernstein.

The race was close until McClenathan’s engine expired with a boom and he coasted across the finish line in 5.784 seconds at 147.47 mph as Bernstein won with a 4.531 at 329.58 mph.

“I think we would’ve given them a close race if we’d been able to complete the run,” said the disappointed veteran driver. “It was good to race Brandon in the final because we are good friends. And I will also say that it felt good to be back out there driving and racing all day again. It felt good to go rounds.

“Something happened in the motor. (Crew chief) Wes Cerny was looking at it to find out what caused it to come apart.”

Although the start of the race was delayed two hours by rain, it didn’t hamper the Carrier Boyz team. McClenathan opened with a 4.555-second run at 328.94 mph in stopping Herbert’s 5.036 at 197.86. The driver also known as Cory Mac put his throttle-pedaling skills to use against Troxel, getting to the finish line first in a tire-smoking 5.019 at 302.48. And then he drove into the title round by defeating Grubnic with a 4.546 at 328.64 to a 4.50 at 312.42.

The new chassis, meanwhile, continued to show promise. “We have 14 runs on it now and we’re ready for more,” McClenathan said.

He was able to push his way into ninth place in NHRA POWERade Series standings with 386 points.

“Thanks again to Jeg Coughlin Sr. and sons Jeg Jr., Troy, Mike and John and all of their family, friends and employees and the people at Honeywell and FRAM who approved our flying JEG’S colors this weekend.“

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