Meet the 2014 IHRA Sportsman Champions, Part 1 – Super Rod, Hot Rod, Top Eliminator, Modified, and Jr. Dragster

CODY BAYUS - TOP CHAMPION

Who knew the answer to more wins and more success on the racetrack was actually less time behind the wheel?

While not the most ideal of situations for an experienced racer like Cody Bayus, that is exactly the situation Bayus found himself in in 2014 with less time on the track and even fewer opportunities to collect wins. But not even a reduced schedule could keep Bayus, of the famous Willow Lake racing family out of Warren, Ohio, from spinning his season into gold with a track championship at Thompson Raceway Park followed by a victory in the Summit SuperSeries World Championship race at Memphis International Raceway to claim the IHRA Top ET championship for 2014.

"What a great season all the way around. I didn't get to race that much this year, we had a lot going on elsewhere which forced me to put racing on the sideline, but it ended up working out really well," Bayus said. "Other years you put your heart and soul into this sport and you don't end up with half of what we came away with in Memphis. What can I say, when it is your day, it is just your day."

Bayus, representing his home track of Thompson Raceway Park, went four big rounds on championship Sunday, Oct. 12, at the IHRA Summit Racing Equipment World Finals, culminating with a showdown with another veteran racer in Shane Maddox out of Greer Dragway in North Carolina.

With an Ironman on the line, Bayus put together a nearly-flawless .014 package with a .008 reaction time and a 7.666-second pass on a 7.66 dial at 169.74 mph, good enough to hand the young racer his first IHRA championship. Maddox, in finishing runner-up, had an equally impressive .013 light with a 7.343 on a 7.33 at 178.92 mph.

"In the final, I just pretended like it was just another Saturday night at Thompson. I tried not to think about what was on the line, I didn't want to see the (prize) car, and I didn't want anything to do with what was on the line. I told myself it was just another Saturday night," Bayus said. "It was like a blur, but we put together a really good package and sealed the deal. It was a great finish to the year."

With the win, Bayus earned a lucrative prize package that includes $10,000 from Summit Racing Equipment, a brand new dragster courtesy of TNT Supercars with a Trick Flow big block Chevy engine and a Summit Racing Equipment livery designed and painted by Imagine That Customs. He also receives an Aruba vacation, a gold and silver card, championship Ironman and more, in addition to the title of world champion - a title Bayus is still learning to live with.

"To be honest, a lot of people have asked me what it means to win this thing and I still don't know how to answer them," Bayus said. "It really is overwhelming and it just means so much to win such a big race."

Bayus' other wins in Memphis included a pair of red-light starts by Jeffrey Jones and Scott Henderson in the first two rounds, two much-needed results as he and his team thrashed to overcome a sudden problem with the car entering eliminations.

"The car performed well all weekend right up to the first round when the starter took a crap when we were in the staging lanes. The starter was stuck spinning over. Thankfully for us everybody in the staging lanes, including my sister, Jacob (Elrod) all helped calm down the situation and helped get me through the round. Also lucky for us, the guy red lighted," Bayus said. "It was a tough way to start the afternoon, you already have a million things going through your head, you don't need to have issues with your car to worry about as well.

"But after that, the car ran really well. We thrashed to get it ready for second round and put together some nice runs. Nothing like putting your nerves through the ringer right off the bat."

In the semifinals, Bayus faced another close race against Robbie Smith. Smith had Bayus beat on the tree with a .005 to a .043, but Bayus ran closer to the numbers in a double-breakout victory with a 7.660 on a 7.67 to Smith's 7.597 on a 7.61. Event runner-up Maddox had wins over Amber Rose- Smith, Terry Goff and Lee Marcum III on his way to the final round.

With the win, Bayus brings a championship home to Warren, Ohio where so many have helped make his racing dreams a reality. Now he will take with him the coveted No. 1 for his brand new Summit Racing Equipment-backed dragster as he hopes to campaign a larger schedule in 2015.

"I would like to thank my mom, dad, Sara, fiancé Lindsay, my daughter Celia, my uncles Rick, John and Donnie, Bob Bloom and his family, the Slaughter family, Chris Cadle and Greg Fedak for helping me get the new car home from Memphis and all of those who support me," Bayus said. "I also want to thank Willow Lake Park, Bayus Masonry, R.D. Banks Chevrolet, Crank-n-Sleeve Shop, Minor's Performance, Master Street Engineering, Davis Race Cars, Finish Line Race Fuels, Paint by Scott Haines and Abruzzi Transmission and Converter."