Maybe using the “past” would help the “future”

Maybe using the "past"
would help the "future"

For over 20 years I have tried to come up with a plan that would help the sport I have a real passion for, drag racing. I am talking about all aspects of drag racing. Local tracks that can barely hold 100 entries and have grandstands that might seat 250 people are just as important to me as the huge well-groomed facilities like Summit Raceway Park in Norwalk, OH.

The reason I have always felt this way is because you have to have a foundation for the sport or grassroots-level support so the larger facilities and events have something to feed off of as the sport grows. That isn't just for drag racing by the way, look at baseball with local Little League teams; some might have a matching T-shirt for a uniform while others may have full-fledged uniforms and well-detailed ball parks. Does that mean the 10-year-old player who crushes a home run in Podunk, IA, is less of a player than the 10-year-old who hits one out of the park in a fancy stadium with the same distance to the outfield walls? No, there is no difference. They grow up, get better and move to the high school teams. Then a few will be good enough to make it to the college teams and even fewer will see themselves playing in the nicest baseball parks in the world in the Major Leagues.

The same type of atmosphere exists for drag racing. If a local racer in a rusted out Camaro on some bumpy track on Podunk, IA, cuts a perfect 0.000 reaction time on the Christmas tree and has a dead-on his dial-in run, it is no different than the guy who cut the 0.000 reaction time in his new Jerry Haas Top Sportsman Camaro and nails his dial-in exactly. The ONLY DIFFERENCE is how much money each of them spent to accomplish the same result.

This is why I think we can use the past to help the future. Instead of always thinking that going faster, spending more money and racing at bigger and bigger events is the only way to progress in the sport of drag racing, maybe we should take a step back and think about it.

You have to ask yourself a few tough questions:

1. Do you race because you like the competition and the fun?

2. Do you race to see how fast you can go and it doesn't really matter what it costs?

3. Do you race because you want to have the nicest equipment and cost is not important?

4. If a track had very little prep and low-horsepower cars dominated, would you change to a combination that could win or be competitive or go somewhere else (that is if there is another track to choose from)?

5. What if all local and even bigger divisional tracks quit spending thousands of dollars on track prep, lowered entry fees 50% and kept the purses the same? Interested? Guaranteed that track owners would like to try it.

So what I am saying is this: Maybe we all need to step back, take a serious look at what we are doing, spending and accomplishing. I know some people don't care about the cost as they just want to win and if that means a $60,000 swing-arm dragster is what it takes, so be it. Others have quit because they are smart enough to see that if they don't have tens of thousands of dollars to spend their chances to win are slim.

STEP BACK...TAKE A BREATH I am in that process. We have slowed the Olds Cutlass down with ignition timing and it is as good as any dragster right now. I also have ended the problem with hot, slippery tracks (I think!) and we are competitive in a tough bracket (S/Pro) with a car that is about three seconds slower than the fastest cars (dragsters).

The "Project 10-for-10 Firebird" will be coming back to life next month. It is my attempt to build a car that can compete and win in S/Pro, Pro and Sportsman for under 10,000 dollars. I think we have a plan to make it happen and you can read about it in DRO as well as our newest magazine, www.ETdragracing.com.

So now you have "stuff" to think about. If you are an old guy like me, maybe it's time to just start watching...but for me, it's time to change my plan and go back a little and put my race program into a better place so it is less expensive to win. That's my plan and I am going to give it a shot.

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NHRA sportsman classes at Norwalk, Ohio

Upsets Aplenty!

Words by Eric Lotz and Todd Veney Photos by Richard Muir

At the wide-open Summit Racing Equipment NHRA Nationals held July 4-7 in Norwalk, Ohio, Dave Hirata broke through for his first national event victory in 13 years and Kris Hool earned his second career title.

Seven of the eight semifinalists in Top Alcohol Dragster and Top Alcohol Funny Car – everyone but superstar Frank Manzo – had combined for one NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series national event win since the turn of the century. Hirata, who last scored at the rain-delayed Englishtown race in September 2000, won Top Alcohol Dragster with an 18-second pass when No. 1 qualifier Ray Martin red-lighted in the final, and Hool ran a consistent 5.65 to take out Fred Tigges in Top Alcohol Funny Car.

 

Dave Hirata (near lane) gets the TAD win over Ray Martin.

Hirata was the only Top Alcohol Dragster driver still around for the semi's who'd ever won a national event before, though by that point Martin clearly was the favorite. Martin, at the wheel of Hugh Ridley's blown-alcohol dragster, had low e.t. of both qualifying sessions – matching 5.34s – and low e.t. of each of the first two rounds, back-to-back 5.39s against Canadian Jeff Veale and 2011 event winner Marty Thacker. With his second teen light in a row, Martin defeated ever-improving Robin Samsel on a semifinal holeshot, 5.47 to 5.42.  

Hirata qualified just 15th but upset the most accomplished driver in the field, five-time world champ Bill Reichert, in the first round Saturday afternoon, 5.56 to a tire-shaking 5.67. He won all three rounds Sunday at the starting line, starting with Ken Perry in round two on a holeshot and his only run all weekend that would have been quick enough to advance, 5.46 to 5.42. To reach his first final since the 2007 U.S. Nationals, Hirata won the other semifinal match with a 5.54 when rival Brandon Booher red-lighted by the smallest detectable margin, 0.001 second, nullifying a quicker 5.42.

Martin had another 0.01 light in the final – unfortunately for him, it was a -0.012, voiding his 5.50 and handing the win to Hirata, who collected his first Wally since the 2000 season, when he won three times (Atlanta, St. Louis, and Englishtown) and appeared in five finals.

Hool qualified No. 3, behind heavy hitters Tony Bartone and Manzo, who tied for the top spot with 5.594s (Bartone won the tiebreaker on speed, 262.33 mph to 259.91), and had by far the best car all weekend. His final-round 5.65 actually was his slowest run of eliminations. Every other one was between 5.61 and 5.64, highlighted by a 5.61 semifinal win over Manzo, who was coming off low e.t. (5.57) in the previous round. Hool opened eliminations with a 5.64 against John Bojec and took a come-from-behind win over early season point’s leader Dan Pomponio in the quarterfinals, 5.62 to 5.71.

Tigges shut off to a 6.21 in the opening round against 2009 Norwalk runner-up Chris Foster, who banged the blower, and made his best run of the event, 5.65, in a second-round decision over Lance Van Hauen, who had taken out Bartone in the first round when Bartone got over the centerline.

IHRA Pro-Am at Julian, NC

Young, Smith grab pair of finals at crucial Division 9 competition

Words by Larry Crum Photos courtesy IHRA

After a rainout forced the postponement of the Summit Racing Equipment Pro-Am Tour presented by AMSOIL event at Rockingham Dragway earlier this year, racers were treated to a rare doubleheader over the June 29-30 weekend as Piedmont Dragway hosted the finale of the Rockingham competition plus its own Raiders Division race to the delight of southern race fans.

With a rare double on the line, Mark Young and Greg Smith were the two who were able to reach two finals during the busy Piedmont race weekend, with Young taking a win and runner-up in Super Stock and Smith taking a pair of runner-up finishes in Top Dragster.

Also taking wins over the weekend were Mike White (Top Sportsman), Michael White (Top Dragster), Mark Young (Super Stock), Richard Alford Jr. (Stock), Dale Harrison (Quick Rod), Brian Baker (Super Rod) and Kevin McLamb (Hot Rod) from the rained-delayed Rockingham race and Rick Whaley (Top Sportsman), David Barr (Top Dragster), Joel Warren (Super Stock), Terry Taylor (Stock), Brett Nesbitt (Quick Rod), Greg Slack (Super Rod) and Glenn Ferguson (Hot Rod) from the Piedmont competition.

Junior Dragster winners were Josh Phelps (Masters), Jason Craft (Advanced) and Wallace Wilson and Tyler Duff (Beginner).

Young survived a handful of rounds at Rockingham Dragway earlier this year before the rains came and pushed the event to later in the year, setting him up for a potential double. He then finished the job in Piedmont, taking a red-light victory over Mike Boyles and losing in a breakout on the second day to Joel Warren behind the wheel of his ’93 Mustang.

Hodges, South Carolina, native Greg Smith reached two finals as well, falling in a double-breakout to Michael White in the Rockingham final and losing by the narrowest of margins in the Piedmont final to David Barr. Barr produced a .012 reaction time with Smith just seven thousandths slower and both ran within a few tenths of their dial, with Barr taking the win by six thousandths at the line.

IHRA Pro-Am at Eagle, British Columbia

Border Bandits take wins at Eagle Motorplex

Words by Larry Crum Photos courtesy IHRA

Western Canada’s top IHRA racers were on hand June 28 for the Division 6 season opener over the weekend at the NL ‘Akapxm Eagle Motorplex in Ashcroft, British Columbia, with the usual hitters quickly rising to the top.

Four of the seven Division 6 champions from 2012 found victory lane during the two-race competition headed by double winner Mark Faul.

Faul won both Super Stock and Stock over the weekend and added a runner-up finish in Super Stock on Day 2 to give the Tacoma, Wash., native three Ironman trophies in one day. Due to rain both events were finished on Sunday.

Kelowna, British Columbia’s Mike Shannon also took home multiple trophies over the weekend with a pair of wins in Quick Rod and Super Rod on Day 2 plus a runner-up finish.

The rest of the winners from the Division 6 season opener were Pat McNally and Zak Clark (Top Sportsman), Dan Provost and Trevor Ritchie (Top Dragster), Faul and Art Congdon (Super Stock), Sean Ferguson and Faul (Stock), Mike Pople and Shannon (Quick Rod), Kirk Lanz and Shannon (Super Rod) and Jack Slinger and Warren Neitsch (Hot Rod).

Junior Dragster winners were Chevy Reeves and Ethan Ochitwa (Master), Darren Provost and Mackenna Ochitwa (Advanced) and Ryan O’Connor (Beginner).

 

Faul claimed the Super Stock win on Day 1 over Darrell Stobbe when the Abbotsford, B.C. native lit the red light by -0.434 to hand Faul the win.

 

Art Congdon

On Day 2 Faul made both finals, driving his ’95 Grand Am Super Stocker to a second final and a runner-up finish to defending division champion Art Congdon and taking the win in his ’98 Firebird in Stock over Casey Plaizier. Faul had a 0.002 light and ran an 11.620 on an 11.61 dial to give him a 0.012 package and an easy win.

NHRA LODRS Summer Showdown at Cordova, Ill.

NHRA LODRS Summer Showdown at Cordova, Ill.

Booher wins second, Brand stops Manzo

Brandon Booher ruled Top Alcohol Dragster for the second week in a row and Dale Brand won Top Alcohol Funny Car over Frank Manzo, running his lifetime win-loss record against the reigning world champ to 2-0 at the June 21-23 NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series Summer Showdown at Cordova Dragway Park.

Booher, who went the distance for the first time in his career just two weeks ago at Joliet's Route 66 Raceway, won a tight final over veteran Robin Samsel, 5.45 to 5.46, after taking an even closer semifinal win over Dave Hirata.

"Both of those guys stepped up," Booher said. "I was shooting for.40-flat or a .41 in the final, but I got a little greedy and shook and spun the tires. There he was – boom, right beside me – but the car made it through the shake without me having to pedal. I probably wrung out both gears a little more than I should have, but we got it done."

As in Joliet, Booher qualified father Aaron's AB Construction dragster in the No. 1 spot, this time with a 5.41 at 266.64 mph. He was right back in the 0.40s and mid-260s in all three rounds of eliminations, including a 5.47/264 in the opening round that eliminated returning veteran Paul Fishburn, and a 5.44 at 265 in the semi's that was just enough to hold off Hirata.

"Hirata sawed the Tree down, picked up a tenth, and almost beat us," Booher said. "We picked up in that round, too, because we weren't taking him for granted. This car has always been consistent but now it's consistently quick. It was a little stagnant the last few years, but now, instead of a car that can run 0.45 to 0.50 and a driver who can cut a light, we're running good, too. People come up against us, and it's not just 'Don't screw up and we've got this' anymore. They know we're here to play."

Samsel had his best outing to date, stopping Norwalk winner Marty Thacker, who surprisingly qualified just seventh, in the first round and 2012 Central Region champion and defending event winner Gord Gingles, who red-lighted, in the semi's. Samsel was off the mark with a solid 0.069 reaction time in the final, but Booher had it all the way with a 0.022 light and slightly better ET.

Beating Manzo will always go down as an upset, but Brand was right with the perennial world champ all weekend.

"Gainesville this year was the only other time we've ever lined up against Frank, but we just happened to be in the other lane when he had trouble," Brand said. "I don't look at that as beating Frank Manzo. This was a little more legit."

NHRA sportsman classes at Epping, NH

NHRA sportsman classes at Epping, NH

BERTOZZI DOUBLES IN NEW ENGLAND

Anthony Bertozzi grabbed his 12th and 13th NHRA National event wins as he doubled up June 23 at the Auto-Plus NHRA New England Nationals at New England Dragway and the NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series.  Mike Sawyer also advanced to two final rounds taking the win in Super Gas.

Bertozzi (near lane), Ashland, Va., first meet up with Bob Horgan in the Stock Eliminator Final where Horgan, Tyngsboro, Mass., left early with a red-light foul start handing the first half of the double up to Bertozzi who ran it out at 10.68 seconds at 124.18 mph in his ’69 Camaro. 

He would then face off with Mark Markow, East Hartford, Conn., for the Super Stock trophy.  It was close at the start with Markow taking a slight lead but Bertozzi (near lane) was better at the finish running 9.037 seconds, 145.63 mph for the win in his ’98 Grand Am marking the 16th driver to score the double up in NHRA national event competition.

Sawyer was looking to make history of his own advancing to the finals in both Super Street and Super Gas. The Massachusetts driver paired up with Edward Brooks (near lane) in his first final with Brooks, Deer Park, N.Y., putting a 0.030-second holeshot on Sawyer which was enough to hold on for the win as he crossed the finish line in 10.933 seconds at 136.11 mph.


Ohio Crankshaft No Box Nationals at Lyons, Indiana

Ohio Crankshaft No Box Nationals at Lyons, Indiana

The Ohio Crankshaft No Box Nationals were held June 14-16 at the eighth-mile Lyons Raceway Park in Lyons, Ind.

Friday $5000 Main Event:
W: Corey Wood - Dial 6.19, R/T 0.036, ET 6.196, MPH 107.45
R/U: Rodney Finchum - 8.34, 0.031, 8.387, 79.9

Friday Merrill Downey Memorial $1,000 Race:
W: Danny Black – 6.77, 0.024, 6.790, 96.89
R/U: Chris Walters – 6.81, 0.042, 6.803, 99.01

Saturday 16 Car $1,000 Transbrake Shootout:

W: Slick Rick Baehr - 6.48, 0.020, 6.511, 100.58
R/U: Rick Shofner –5.97, 0.021, 5.969, 111.94

Mega Mopar Action at Reading, Pa.

Mega Mopar Action at Reading, Pa.

Long Gone Racing team dominates Mega Mopar at Maple Grove

The Long Gone Racing team has been coming to Maple Grove Raceway for years, taking part in bracket races as loyal members of the Sunoco Race Fuels Money Trail E.T. Series.

Some of the racers also compete in Chrysler products, which made this past weekend’s Mega Mopar Action Series the perfect event for the Long Gone racers to show their stuff.

From left: Donald Long Jr., Matt Jolley and Mark Ketterer.  (Photo courtesy Maple Grove Raceway)

There’s no doubt they left their mark as they swept the bracket classes in the Sunday, June 23, round of racing. Matt Jolley (Bracket 1), Donald Long Jr. (Bracket 2) and Mark Ketterer (Bracket 3) all brought their Mopars to PPC Lubricants Victory Lane for a happy, but crowded, celebration with crewmembers, family and friends.

Those Victory Lane celebrations capped off a busy weekend of Mega Mopar Action at The Grove, which was in its third year and continued to grow. Over 200 cars participated in racing over two days and over 150 cars took part in an adjacent car show.

Fans were thrilled with the Jersey Thunder jet dragster and were able to also browse the manufacturers’ midway, swap meet and check out the shiny cars at the show.

On the track, the head’s up Hemi Challenge brought out some of the big names in that class, while the 422 All-Stars once again entertained with their own brand of nostalgia racing.

Sunday’s racing featured a “Mopars only” format and the Long Gone racers were able to thrive.

In Bracket 1 – electronics – Jolley (Birdsboro, Pa.) took his Mopar to Victory Lane with a finals win over Walt Little (Enola, Pa.) and his 1969 Charger. His winning run was 10.832 seconds at 115.87 mph that was 0.032 over his dial-in, while Little was 0.062 over.

Long (Quakertown, Pa.) was quicker off the starting line in his ’77 Arrow to win Bracket 2 – non-electronics. He had a .005 reaction time in the final that helped greatly in defeating Phil Bretz (Lehighton, Pa.) and his ’85 Daytona. Long was 0.052 over his dial-in (11.212 at 114.81) and Bretz was 0.029, but Long got nod when Bretz had a much-slower 0.100 RT.

IHRA Pro-Am at Memphis

IHRA Pro-Am at Memphis

Dugas, Neely, Miles take double wins at Pro-Am Wild Card

Memphis International Raceway lived up to its reputation as one of the most sought-after racing destinations in the country as the famous track hosted a pair of IHRA Summit Racing Equipment Pro-Am Tour Wild Card races with great results over Father’s Day weekend.

Three drivers claimed double wins during the special two-race Wild Card format highlighted by Leslie Dugas (lead photo) who swept the Top Sportsman category, Wes Neely who doubled up in Stock Eliminator and Mark Miles who took home two wins and a runner-up finish in two different categories.

The rest of the winners from a busy Memphis weekend included Ed Smith and Matt Levatino (Top Dragster), Jimmy Hidalgo Jr. and Scott Stillings (Super Stock), Vernon Rowland (Quick Rod), John May (Super Rod) and Ricky Roe and Greg Fowler (Hot Rod). Junior Dragster winners were Kaleigh Scates and Darian Boesch (Junior Masters), Mackenzie Martin and Kenneth Hillin (Junior Advanced) and Trace Casey (Junior Beginner).

Dozens of states were represented at the Summit Racing Equipment Pro-Am Tour race at Memphis International Raceway including nine states and one Canadian province among the final round participants alone. Among the states represented in the 20 finals were Alabama, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas and West Virginia. Ontario, Canada was represented by dual-class competitor and Top Dragster winner Ed Smith.

Mark Miles

Georgia native Mark Miles got the Memphis doubleheader off to a rousing start and took home the most hardware over the course of the weekend. Miles had wins in Quick Rod and Super Rod on Day 1 of the two-day race and added a runner-up finish in Super Rod on Day 2. On the weekend Miles went 12-2 in round-by-round competition and took home three trophies.

Miles’ wins included an incredibly narrow final round victory over Jeremy Mason in Quick Rod as Miles edged his opponent by five thousandths off the line with a 0.010 light and ran an 8.906-second lap at 173.09 mph in the 8.90 class to take the win by three thousandths at the line. That win came just moments after he took an eight-thousandths margin of victory over Tommy Maedgen in the Super Rod final earlier in the day.

In IHRA’s premier doorslammer class Grandview, Texas racer Leslie Dugas swept the Top Sportsman category behind the wheel of his ’97 Olds Cutlass with a pair of narrow wins over Scooter Hampton and Marlon Goates. Dugas had reaction times of .005 and .010 in the two finals and ran near dead-on the numbers in both to take the wins.

NHRA Sportsman at Bristol, Tenn

NHRA Sportsman at Bristol, Tenn

Bertozzi and Abruzzi continue domination

Anthony Bertozzi picked up his 12th NHRA national event trophy with a big win over Dan Fletcher and Marco Abruzzi collected his 5th NHRA Wally in three weeks at this weekend’s Ford NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals at Bristol Dragway.

Bertozzi, Ashland, Va., used a 0.009-second reaction time for a holeshot win in his ’98 Grand Am running 9.172 at 141.97 to defeat Fletcher’s Camaro at 10.365, 121.55.  The win was Bertozzi’s eighth in Super Stock and 12th overall.

Warren, Ohio, racer Abruzzi continued his winning streak knocking our Ronnie Proctor in Top Sportsman for his second national event win in a row. His ’68 Camaro crossed the finish line in 6.910 seconds at 193.24 mph for the win. Proctor’s Ford Mustang turned in a 7.041 at 195.87.

Abruzzi won two weeks ago in Englishtown, N.J., and won three times at the NHRA Lucas Oil Divisional event at Route 66 Raceway last weekend, winning in Top Dragster for the Route 66 event and in both Top Dragster and Top Sportsman for the postponed event from Lucas Oil Raceway at Indianapolis that was completed at Route 66.