Sight-seeing around St. Louis is going to have to wait for Scott Palmer and crew after the championship hopeful’s race day in Reading, Pa., ended with several shredded body panels flying off his CatSpot Organic Cat Litter Top Fuel dragster. So instead of touring the famous Arch, the team will be parked in Indianapolis awaiting a brand-new set of body pieces.

“We run a MLR chassis so we’re already at their shop in Indy getting a new body fitted,” Palmer said. “Richie Crampton (MLR fabricator and fellow Top Fuel driver) and his guys are working overtime to help us and we can’t thank them enough. That’s the drag racing way; we all help each other out.

“When you lose as many panels as we did you really just have to replace them all because if you try to patch an older body with a new body, you’re going to have problems. This is all custom-made stuff so you can’t really go to the store and get body panels. Either way, we’ll be ready for St. Louis, even if we don’t get much sleep.”

Palmer’s pit stop at the body shop is a result of a thrilling side-by-side quarterfinal race against multi-time champ Tony Schumacher Sunday in which Palmer’s body panels started peeling off when he was traveling at more than 300 mph. He even had his vision and controls blocked for a moment when one of the errant panels covered the cockpit.

“It was pretty crazy,” Palmer said. “I was trying to keep the car straight by looking out the side at the wall and at the same time push this big piece of carbon fiber out of the way,” Palmer said. “And I was still racing Tony because I knew we were close. I wanted to win regardless of what was happening to my car.

“Right now, we have a great race car. Great. It’s as good as it’s ever been. It does exactly what you want it to do. If you change something, it changes. We basically ran exactly the same as (Schumacher’s) U.S. Army car. You are talking about a big-time car and we ran that close even with our car coming apart. He ended up beating us by three thousandths of a second but we proved we are in the hunt and can win rounds.”

Although Palmer’s prep for this weekend’s seventh annual AAA Insurance NHRA Midwest Nationals at Gateway Motorsports Park is different than what he expected, he’s still bullish on his chances.

“We know we are making better decisions, good decisions,” said Palmer, who moved up a spot in the playoff rankings by passing reigning champ Brittany Force. “We’re going to do something.

“It’ll be a thrash this week. Keep in mind we have to park in St. Louis on Wednesday but luckily it’s only 3 1/2 hours from here. We’ll service stuff while they mount the body then go straight to St. Louis and race.”