Demke Locks Up NHRA TAD Title, Race Now is for Second Place

(David Smith photo)

Demke Locks Up NHRA TAD Title, Race Now is for Second Place

Chris Demke, the NHRA Top Alcohol Dragster champion, was a multi-time championship runner-up who finally won it all with an unbelievable second-half run. Like TAFC champion Steve Harker, Demke swept Charlotte and Reading in one unforgettable weekend, walking away with three Wallys and turning the 2014 points race into a race for second place.

Demke, who finished second to Bill Reichert in the 2010 standings and to nemesis Jim Whiteley in 2012 and 2013, won a career-high nine races in 2014 – five national events and four regionals. He began the season with a barrage of 5.20s in a Winternationals rout, was gone by the second round at the next five in a row, then raced just once in a three-month span from March to June as rival Joey Severance took control of the class.

(Richard Muir photo)

Everything changed June 22 at the West regional at Yellowstone Dragstrip in Acton, Mont., when Demke outran Severance, who had lane choice, in the final. Over the next 11 races, Demke's Adam Rhoades-tuned dragster reached nine finals, won eight (including the big one, the U.S. Nationals), and went four-for-four in regional competition, scoring at Acton, Columbus, Seattle, and Topeka to win the West Region championship in a landslide. He won 35 of 38 rounds aboard Jerry Maddern's Peen Rite dragster and his overall season win-loss record was 43-8 after the Reading double, which included the quickest run of his career (5.217) and the fastest run of any blown-alcohol driver's career (277.94 mph).

Severance, son of '70s Pro Comp great Joe Severance, enjoyed an otherwise outstanding season, winning two regional events in three finals and two national events in three finals, including one over Demke at Seattle that seemed crucial at the time. He took the early season lead and was the midseason title favorite after scoring back to back to back at the Phoenix regional, Las Vegas regional, and Las Vegas national.