When the rain started falling Sunday afternoon in the drought-plagued Washington area, you could forgive Tom Cable and some of his fellow drag racers if they were less than excited.

The rain forced the cancellation of the final day of racing in the Computech/Bill Mitchell Shootouts at Maryland International Raceway in Budds Creek, and Cable--along with 22 other Super Pro racers--saw his chance at a big payday halted.

It was the second time this year that rain washed out the final day of the shootouts. In June, 38 drivers split the final day's prize money.

The winner of Sunday's Super Pro series stood to win $10,000, the biggest check in a weekend of good prize money. The winning payout Friday and Saturday was $5,000, although by custom the purse is voluntarily split by the winner with several of the last remaining challengers.

Dennis King, of North Beach, won Friday's final by defeating Pat Estevez, of White Plains; Steve Fisher, of Smithsburg, defeated Joe Moholland, of Woodbridge, Va., in Saturday's final.

Cable, of Waldorf, was doubly hurt by Sunday's rainout. Even if he hadn't won the $10,000 purse, he still was in the running for the $2,000 that went to the weekend's overall points winner. By rule, the winners of the three daily purses are not eligible for the latter prize money.

And Cable thought he stood a good chance. He was driving a dragster that a friend, Russ Farmer, of Burlington, N.C., had loaned him for the weekend.

"It's a really nice car," Cable said on Monday, "one of the best cars I've ever ridden in."

Jeff Buckner, of Fredericksburg, Va., ended up winning the $2,000 with 140 points. Cable had 130 points. Three other racers--John DiSalvatore, of Potomac, Md.; Gary Cramer, of Lovettsville, Va.; and Donny Urban, of Falls Church, Va.--were tied for third, but all were still alive when racing ended Sunday. Buckner also was still racing.

Cable wasn't happy to see such an opportunity wasted. He doesn't own his own dragster, and is saving up to buy his own so that he can travel to other stops on the nation's drag racing circuit. The money from this weekend would have gone a long way toward his goal.

"There's a lot of money out there," said Cable, who has already been to stops in New Jersey and Michigan. The 36-year-old, who has been drag racing at MIR for about 20 years, said he likes to travel and race against different people.

"With the right car combination, there's no reason you can't win at least $100,000 [a year]," he said. "Let's just say it's something I'd like to give a shot."

Cable won one leg of the Computech/Bill Mitchell Shootouts in 1997, when he also finished No. 2 in the overall MIR points standings. He placed third last year, but this year isn't competing in the point standings because his car owner sold the vehicle two months into the season. Cable had been using a loaner in previous years.

"I've been real lucky that people let me drive my cars," said Cable, who runs his own commercial sign-making business. "I mean, Russ lives in Burlington, N.C., and he sent the car up to me. For people to do that, you have to feel lucky."

Having said that, Cable returns to the subject of the dragster he used this weekend.

"Especially for cars of that quality," Cable said. "That was a real top-of-the-line car."

CAPTION: Drag racer Steve Tyler lines up for the start of a race Sunday, during the Computech/Bill Mitchell Shootouts. Rainfall prevented the final day of racing from being completed--the second time this year that rain canceled racing before the $10,000 Sunday purse could be awarded.

CAPTION: With drag racer Stacy Johnson preparing to begin his Super Pro ET Series drag race at Maryland International Raceway, a crew member takes a final look at Johnson's car.