Top Alcohol Dragster race coverage is now here

Top Alcohol Funny Car race coverage is here


All TAD PR stories are here.

All TAFC PR stories are here.


Lawrence surprises in TAD, Payne sweeps TAFC at Woodburn

by Todd Veney/Pro Sportsman Association

At the Les Schwab Challenge Western Regional event at Woodburn Dragstrip, Gregg Lawrence came from the last spot in the field to take down championship contenders Joey Severance and Chris Demke for Top Alcohol Dragster honors, and all-time great Jay Payne outlasted a top-flight field of Top Alcohol Funny Cars for his second victory of the season and passed idle Frank Manzo for second place in the national standings.
Lawrence upset Severance, the two-time defending event champion and pre-race favorite, in the opening round with a steady 5.55. Severance, a co-owner of the track, shook the tires off the starting line and slowed to an 8.57 after the chutes deployed. Lawrence soloed in the semifinals and met Demke, who set the track record (5.32) in qualifying, in the final.
Demke, who ran a 5.33 in the first round and a 5.35 in a semifinal win over Megan McKernan, coasted to a 17.96 after a wire to the six-shooter became disconnected when the car rattled the tires in low gear. Lawrence, who got quicker and quicker in every round, scooped up the win with his best run of the weekend, 5.53.
"I saw his nose out there for a split second, and then he was gone," Lawrence said. "Like Bob Frey always says, that's why they don't run these things on paper. I expected to run a 5.40-something - that's what we were running last year, and we probably could have done it again. But it wasn't going to run a 5.30, so why go up in smoke trying? If Chris ran what he'd been running, there's nothing we could have done. But if he stumbled, a 6.0 would have been enough anyway. We had a long time to sit there and think about it, but we left things pretty much alone, and it all worked out."
It was Lawrence's third divisional/regional victory and his first in nine years. All three have come at Woodburn, his home track. Lawrence, who lives just 15 minutes from Woodburn in Salem, Ore., defeated Darren Nicholson in the 2002 final and Severance in 2003.
"This meant so much more to me and my team than it probably would have to Demke or Severance," Lawrence said. "Those guys are so good and have won so many times, it would have been just another win for them. Who knows how many more races they'll both will win before this year is over, but to us, this weekend meant everything."
Alcohol Funny Car distilled to a fitting final between the drivers who tied for No. 1 in qualifying with matching 5.661s: Steve Gasparrelli, who got the top spot on the basis of his faster speed, 259.59 mph to 255.31, and Payne.
Low e.t. was reestablished three times in eliminations, first by Brian Hough, who ran a 5.63 to beat Jason Rupert's 5.79 in the opening round. Payne followed two pair later with a track-record 5.61 in a come-from-behind win over Sean Bellemeur, who was out first with a .004 reaction time.
Payne outdid himself in the semifinals with Woodburn's first 5.50, a 5.599 opposite Hough's game 5.65. Gasparrelli, who won the Mission event in his most recent regional appearance, defeated Shane Westerfield in the other semi, 5.67 to 5.73, and anything close to that would have been enough to win the final, where both drivers made their worst runs all weekend.
After leaving almost simultaneously with .060 lights, Payne got the best of a wild race, 5.76 to 5.80, leading by a full tenth at the 330-foot mark but by just four-hundredths at the stripe. Payne, who had raced just once since he edged Gasparrelli in the Houston final, has reached at least the semifinals in every outing this year and now trails leader Tony Bartone by just 20 points in the national standings.




Canadian Mercier and Laurie are winners at Lebanon Valley Division 1 event

Mercier wins TA/D; Lourie takes TA/FC for the 2nd straight year
by Todd Veney/Pro Sportsman Association

At the Lucas Oil Series Eastern Regional at Lebanon Valley Dragway in scenic upstate New York, Canadian Dan Mercier won Top Alcohol Dragster on Rich McPhillips' foul and Eric Lourie ran steady 5.70s on a tricky surface to claim the Top Alcohol Funny Car title.
Mercier and McPhillips, the top two qualifiers, had run within hundredths of a second of each other throughout eliminations until the final, where McPhillips took off too soon for a -.248 foul while Mercier scored with his slowest run of the day, 5.51. "I saw him so far out in front of me, and I said to myself, 'Impossible," because I knew that I had a good reaction time," said Mercier, of LaPrairie, Quebec. "I heard yelling over the radio, but I couldn't tell for sure what they were saying, so I just stayed on it to the end, just to be sure."
It was Mercier's first final-round appearance in exactly a year, since he had virtually the same e.t. and same reaction time that won this year's final in a close 5.52-5.51 holeshot loss to Dan Page here last year. Mercier was within three-thousandths of a second of both his reaction time and his e.t. from the 2011 final, but it proved irrelevant when McPhillips, who qualified No. 1 with the only run all weekend in the 5.30s, lurched off the line too soon.
Mercier, who won on the Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series tour for the eighth time in his career, established low e.t. of all three rounds. He had a two-hundredths edge on McPhillips both in round one (5.41 to 5.43) and in the semifinals, where he beat Karen Stalba, 5.49 to 5.81. "It was nice to win again Lebanon Valley," he said. "It was here where I won my first race ever [over Art Gallant in 2004]."
Racing at the same track where he earned his Top Alcohol Funny Car license, Lourie stopped Wayne Morris in the final with the second-quickest run of the weekend, 5.73. "That's our third final in a row here, and each one was better than the last one," said Lourie, who ran consistent 5.70s in all three rounds. "We were runner-up here two years ago, won the final last year on a single, and won this one in a real race."
Lourie beat Todd Veney in round one, 5.77 to 5.80, and got around No. 1 qualifier D.J. Cox in the semifinals in what would have been a rematch of the 2011 final had Cox been able to appear in that race. Cox had a slight early lead but slowed to a 5.94 at just 207 mph while Lourie advanced with a 5.79.
Morris backpedaled to a 6.13 in the first round to upset Dan Pomponio, who shut off to an 8.48, and ran a 5.93 in the semi's in another upset win over Paul Gill, who shook hard and skated all over the track on a losing 6-flat. In the opening round of eliminations, Gill set low e.t. of the meet with a 5.70 win over John Anderika, who red-lighted.


June 23, 2012

Tulsa is dominated by the Whiteley's

Whiteleys double up again in Tulsa
by Todd Veney/Pro Sportsman Association

In a performance even more impressive than their sweep of the Las Vegas race earlier this year, the husband-and-wife team of Jim and Annie Whiteley ran the table at the Lucas Oil Series regional event at Tulsa Raceway Park. This time, both ran low e.t. in the final, Jim a 5.34 for the Top Alcohol Dragster title and Annie a 5.67 for the win in Top Alcohol Funny Car.
Jim, who already was in a commanding position for the national championship in Top Alcohol Dragster, scored for the fifth time in seven starts this year and completed a perfect regional season with his third victory, stopping Randy Meyer in the final. Meyer, who edged him for the No. 1 qualifying spot, went up in smoke not far off the line and coasted to a 7.21 at 137 mph.
"Randy's car has been running well wherever he goes - I don't care what the conditions have been," Whiteley said. "I'm trying not to think too much about the championship at this point. Our goal was to win this race, and we did it." He had low e.t. of all three rounds of eliminations, beginning with a 5.38 against Mark Taliaferro. A 5.342 in the semifinals eliminated Texas driver James Thompson and stood for low e.t. until his even quicker 5.340 against Meyer in the final.
From the top end, Whiteley watched as his wife got the best of returning veteran Mike Bell in a close Top Alcohol Funny Car final, 5.67 to 5.75. "I was standing down there all by myself, and I have to say, I really enjoyed it," he said. "That was her first night run, and she got the job done."
Whiteley (5.78 over Scott McVey), Bell (5.77 over Bryan Brown), No. 1 qualifier Mark Billington (5.76 over Lance Van Hauen), and former Division 5 champ Kirk Williams (5.75 over Billy Davis) won the first round with remarkably similar runs. In the semi's, Whiteley defeated Williams, who won the Denver regional last weekend, in one of the best races of the weekend, 5.73 to 5.80. Bell, now driving for 15-time division champion Vern Moats, took the green and idled off the line in the other semi when Billington, who had low e.t. of the meet until the final, was unable to appear.
In the final, both drivers made their quickest and fastest runs of the weekend, and Whiteley prevailed with low e.t. of the meet, 5.67, opposite Bell's right-there 5.75. "I think people are really going to be impressed when they see the numbers that car runs before the year is over," Jim said. "She's really got a hot rod right now. The Strasburg family is doing a phenomenal job, and [crew chief] Roger [Bateman] has a lot of really good ideas. The more time Roger has to think about it, the better the car's going to run."


June 16, 2012

Denver Top Alcohol results

Whiteley Wins 5th in a Row, Williams Back On Top
by Todd Veney/Pro Sportsman Association

Jim Whiteley won Top Alcohol Dragster for the fifth year in a row at the Western Regional event at Bandimere Speedway, and former Division 5 champion Kirk Williams overcame quicker cars with unerring consistency to score in Top Alcohol Funny Car.
With his fourth win in his last five outings, Whiteley has tied early season points leader Chris Demke atop the national Top Alcohol Dragster standings - and he's done it in two fewer starts. The Grand Junction, Colo., driver dominated this one from start to finish, qualifying No. 1 with a 5.47 and running more than a tenth quicker on his slowest run all weekend than any other driver did on his best.
"I tried to make sure I saw a little more of the bulb than usual before I left," said Whiteley, whose only loss in the last five races came on a -.001 red-light in the Topeka semi's. "It's actually kind of hard to slow yourself down just a little bit on the Tree without slowing down a lot. We've had a decent advantage on the field a time or two over the years, especially here, but never this much."
Whiteley qualified No. 1 with a 5.47 - two-tenths ahead of eventual runner-up Edwin Schmeeckle's 5.67. He cruised through eliminations with a 5.52 on his first-round single, a 5.54 against Greg Hunter, who went off the end of the track in the semifinals, and a 5.56 in the final against Edwin Schmeeckle, who did his job with a .051 reaction time but fell back with a 5.77.
"I just tried to not let anything get to me and not do anything wrong," said Whiteley, who also beat Schmeeckle in the final round of this event in 2008 and 2009, the years he finished second in the national standings. "You're not going to have a tenth on the field like this very often, so when you do, you can't afford to let it get away from you."
Williams, who dominated Division 5 in 2010, winning five events for a perfect season, qualified No. 3 this time with a 5.89 - well behind Las Vegas regional winner Annie Whiteley's 5.74 and national points leader Tony Bartone's 5.76. "It really knocks the wind out of your sails when you see people running that much better than you are," Williams said, "but this just goes to show that consistency outweighs everything. You won't always win with consistency, but you can win a lot. The track just couldn't take those 5.70 runs, and eventually, it came to us."
Williams struggled with the conditions just like everyone else at the mile-high facility, where the corrected altitude was just short of 10,000 feet, but his team, led by brother Chris Williams and Justin Jacobsen, made three runs within a hundredth of a second of one another in eliminations, a 5.90, 5.91, and 5.91 - all at 242 mph. Williams took out veteran Lance Van Hauen in the opening round with a 5.90 and ran a 5.91 in the semifinals against Mike Bell, who was making his first start in 15-time Division 5 champion Vern Moats' car.
"It smoked the tires on that one, and I don't mean 'hazed' the tires; I mean smoke was pouring off them at about 60 feet," Williams said. "I don't know why, but it cleared up, and the car took off. I still can't believe it made it."
The final against Gainesville regional winner Kris Hool, who also was running steady 5.90s, ended early when Hool red-lighted with a -.042 reaction time. "I saw his car when the yellows came down and thought, 'Man, I just got Tree'd,' but then I saw my win-light on at the top end and knew he red-lighted," Williams said. "There was a pretty good crowd on hand, and I wanted to give them a good show, so I stayed in it."

May 22, 2012

by Todd Veney/Pro Sportsman Association

Former U.S. Nationals winner Ken Perry claimed Top Alcohol Dragster and two-time Division 3 champ Chris Foster took Top Alcohol Funny Car at the B'laster Cavalcade of Stars presented by Budweiser at Summit Motorsports Park in Norwalk, Ohio, Race 2 of the North Central regional series.
Perry came from behind in the final to nip veteran Marty Thacker, who had a .017 reaction time, 5.38 to 5.48. The Canadian driver was the class of the field throughout eliminations, running low e.t. of all three rounds, a 5.42 and back-to-back 5.38s.
"The car's been working really well all year and it's not hurting itself at all," said Perry, who was runner-up at the North Central regional opener three weeks ago in Indianapolis. "I changed just about everything in the engine, and it's happy right now. This should be our second win; we should have won Indy, too." Jared Dreher beat Perry in the Indy final but lost the rematch in the first round of this event, 5.42 to 5.56.
Thacker, who left on everybody he raced by at least half a tenth, had the early lead in the final but fell short by 25-thousandths of a second - about half a car length. "We knew we had more car and should win, and I didn't want to get stupid and red-light because I've already had one this year," Perry said. "You shouldn't have to worry about another blown-alcohol car driving around you, but I drove it out the back door just to be sure."
In qualifying, which was run in front of a turn-away crowd, five-time Top Alcohol Dragster world champ Bill Reichert was the quickest in each of the first two sessions and left with low e.t., 5.28. He smoked the tires in a first-round loss to Jerry Powell.
Foster was as consistent in Top Alcohol Funny Car as Perry was in Top Alcohol Dragster, establishing low e.t. of all three rounds of eliminations and the last two rounds of qualifying. Fred Hagen Jr., who dominated the Norwalk national event last year, ruled the early going with a 5.53, which was low e.t. by almost a full tenth.
Hagen broke on the burnout in the semifinals against John Anderika and Foster won a close one over Brian Harvanek in the other semifinal matchup, 5.72 to 5.76, to clinch his spot on the Jegs Allstars team. "Making the Allstars team is like winning another division championship," he said. "We always ran a few races in Division 4 and Division 5 and never enough in Division 3 to do it until now."
Foster's crew chief, Will Hanna, was carted off to the hospital before the first qualifying session when a Dzus button run over by an A/Fuel Dragster on a burnout became embedded in his leg. He was taken away in an ambulance but returned for what turned out to be Foster's seventh career Lucas Oil Series win, including three in both 2009 and 2011, the years they won Division 3 titles.
In the final, in the best race of the day, Foster slipped past Anderika to win by less than a foot, 5.74 to 5.75. Anderika moved first by a hundredth of a second, and the cars were never separated by more than six-thousandths at any point on the track. It was Anderika's fifth runner-up - one a year every year since 2008: Cecil County in 2008, Richmond in 2009, Atco in 2010, and Cecil County again in 2011.
"I never saw him, but it must have been tight down there," said Foster, who scored at Norwalk for the second year in a row. "I was over against the wall just about the whole way down the track. It kind of walked out of the groove, and I was worried that if I yanked it back over, he'd get past me. It was just a great weekend overall. Saturday, they had to close the gates and start turning people away, and it was wall-to-wall people in the pits and in the stands. We need somebody like Bader's running all of these events."


May 1, 2012

Indy Divisional (regional results)

Jared Dreher made the two best runs of his career to overcome a top-flight Top Alcohol Dragster field at the cold, rainy Midwest Regional opener at Lucas Oil Raceway, and veteran Frank Manzo struggled with the conditions but ultimately prevailed in Top Alcohol Funny Car.
"That's my first win in five years," said Dreher, who last scored in Valdosta, Ga., in early 2007. In the final against Canadian Ken Perry, who had run back-to-back 5.3s, Dreher shut off to a 5.55 at just 223 mph when Perry's engine banged in a flash of flame not far off the line. "I didn't see him and didn't hear him, so when the car started to nose over toward the top end, I clicked it," Dreher said. Perry coasted silently across the stripe 13 seconds later at 21 mph.
On his first qualifying attempt and first run anywhere all year, Dreher clocked a 5.37 - seven-hundredths of a second quicker than he'd ever run in his career - for the No. 3 spot in the field. "I knew it had to be something good by the way it felt when the clutch was locking up through the middle of the track," said Dreher, who thanked sponsors Speedco and Gerardot Performance Products. "But I didn't know it was that good." His VP Racing Fuels A/Fuel Dragster ran an even better 5.33 in the semifinals to take out Paul Fishburn, who also established a career-best over the weekend.
"The .33 kind of validated the .37 and showed us that we really did it," Dreher said." He got the only break he would need in round one when five-time world champ Bill Reichert smoked the tires at the hit. It couldn't have come at a better time; Dreher's chutes popped 2.1 seconds into the run, holding him to a 7.79 at just 87 mph.
Manzo didn't need any breaks, leading Top Alcohol Funny Car qualifying by about a tenth and a half with a 5.53, but to him, it wasn't a particularly dominating performance. In the final, he ran just a 5.75, but it was enough against Brian Harvanek, who lost traction immediately and slowed to a 16.34 at 47 mph.
"It shook hard on that one, and I had to pedal it a couple of times," Manzo said. "I was shaking all weekend, actually, but in the other rounds I caught it sooner. I got myself in trouble that time and should have gotten beat."
Harvanek red-lighted in first round but was reinstated when Charlotte national event winner Andy Bohl was disqualified for brushing a half-track cone. In round two, he made his best run of the weekend, 5.75, to beat defending Division 3 champ Chris Foster, who shut off. Manzo pedaled to a 5.67 in the first round against Rick Cortino and ran low e.t. of eliminations, 5.58, against Cassie Simonton in the semifinals.
"I worked all weekend to take power out of the car," Manzo said. "The air was astronomical, 700 feet - good enough to run 5.30s. It looked fine, and the dragsters ran great on it, but it didn't work for me. That's nothing new, though. My car's been shaking all year. I shook at Gainesville, shook at Charlotte, and shook here. Something's wrong, and I can't put my finger on what it is. I wish I could say that I was just experimenting all weekend, but I wasn't. This thing was running a lot better at this time last year than it is now."

April 24, 2012

PSA feature on photographer David Smith. (by Todd Veney)

For 15 years, David Smith was one of thousands of faceless fans walking the pits and packing the stands at drag strips all across the eastern U.S. Then Top Alcohol Dragster racer Shelly Howard befriended him, and before he knew it, Smith went from being a superfan to being "family" to everyone in the alcohol ranks and half the people in the Sportsman pits.
Smith, a 40-year-old machinist from Vernon, N.J., is the kind of guy who works 80 hours a week so he can get time off and spend his own money to photograph races in Gainesville, Charlotte, Chicago, and even all the way out in Topeka, Dallas, and Houston. "The alcohol classes were always my favorites, I guess because the racers always seemed like regular working-class people like me," says Smith, who counts drivers Troy Buff, Alan Bradshaw, and Lee Callaway among his closest racing friends. "I've stood there talking to pro racers for 45 minutes, and the next day, they don't even recognize you. You meet an alcohol racer from halfway across the country, and when you're back at the same race a year later, they remember you."

Smith, the official photographer for the Pro Sportsman Association, an organization dedicated to promoting Top Alcohol Dragster and Funny Car racing, has since branched out to other sportsman categories. "I was friends with [Super Gas racer] Mike Sawyer, and I'd always shoot his car and his dad's car and anybody else who made a run until they went down the track. Now, I know a bunch of those guys and shoot them, too. When you go to a Lucas Oil Series race, you're seeing the drivers who are going to be the stars of the future, and my favorite pros are all former sportsman racers - Spencer Massey, Hillary Will, and Steve Torrence."
"You can't say enough good things about David," says many-time national event champion Mike Kosky, who's been racing Top Alcohol Dragsters since the 1970s, when they were part of Pro Comp. "He's done more good for more people in the alcohol ranks than any driver or tuner or crew guy out there."
Smith's first race was the Summernationals in 1986, the year "Big Daddy" Don Garlits had his infamous blowover in Saturday qualifying. Smith was 15 and went with his dad. Now, it's nothing for him to work all day, pile into his car, and take off for a track hundreds or even thousands of miles away. He shoots from the wall and sometimes from the stands for downtrack action but is best known for his work in the pits, where hard-working mechanics who otherwise would toil in anonymity get what little glory they'll ever receive through is photography.
"David's an asset to the sport," says Jackie Fricke, who drives Joe Cantrell's JC Auto Glass Top Alcohol Dragster. "He does what he does just because he loves drag racing, and he's brought so much enjoyment to so many people. He captures the human element of racing, the behind-the-scenes drama of the sport that you don't see anywhere else."
"Most people think I take pictures for a living because whenever they see me I've got a camera hanging around my neck," says Smith, who doesn't claim to be an expert on par with the veteran photojournalists who line the walls at tracks on the NHRA Full Throttle tour. He's completely self-taught. "Nobody ever showed me how to take pictures. Whatever I've learned is from trial and error, and I've never taken any courses - I don't have the time."
Smith drives from 15,000 to 20,000 miles a year to shoot eight or nine national events, all the Eastern regional events, and the Midwest regionals in Norwalk, Chicago, and Indy. "I probably like Reading the best - at least when the weather is nice - and who wouldn't like going to a race at Charlotte?" he says.
About the only alcohol racers not on a first-name basis with the soft-spoken guy from New Jersey are those from the West Coast. He's only been to Pomona once, and he's never been to Sonoma, Seattle, Phoenix, or Las Vegas for one simple reason: He doesn't fly. Ever. "I saw a couple of planes crash at airshows when I was a kid, and there's no way I'm ever getting on one," he says. "I've already worn out one car driving to races, and I'm half way to wearing out another one. I don't mind, though. Some of my best friends in the world are at the race track - not just the drivers but the crew guys and family members, too. The people out here have become my second family."

Note: (David got his start shooting National events on the starting Line with SpeedZone Magazine 10 years ago. He was avaluable member of our shooting staff and we wish him all the success he deserves. Top Alcohol is certaining his domain. Ed)

April 23, 2012

Shields, Veney Win Eastern Regional Opener at Richmond (by Todd Veney)

At the Eastern Region opener at Virginia Motorsports Park, reigning Top Alcohol Dragster world champ Duane Shields put a disastrous start to his title defense behind him, outlasting a giant field for his first victory of the season. In Top Alcohol Funny Car, Todd Veney drove Jay Blake's Permatex/Follow A Dream Impala to a close final-round win over D.J. Cox, 5.66 to 5.69.
Shields, who had gone up in smoke right off the line in the first round in each of his four previous starts this year, qualified No. 3 and ran down Jackie Fricke and Mike Kosky in the preliminary rounds and Rich McPhillips, who had dominated all weekend, in the final.
"The car has run well at every track we've been to this year - just not in eliminations," Shields said. "It's kind of hard to tune the thing when it only goes five feet, but we got it calmed down this weekend and finally got a win."
Fricke, who won a national event at this track as a Super Comp driver, got the jump in round one, but Shields ran her down, 5.40 to 5.47. In the semi's, Kosky, who closed 2011 with his first national event win since 1999, was off like a shot and seemingly had the race in hand when his fuel tank ruptured and Shields slipped past him, 5.41/268 to 5.61/253.
"I saw him almost all the way," Shields said. "My car usually makes a charge at the top end, but I was already thinking, 'I don't know about this…' because he was so far out there. Then he just disappeared and I shot by him."
The final was over early when McPhillips, who ran slower on his worst qualifying run (5.33) than any other driver did on his best, went up in smoke a few hundred feet off the line. After qualifying No. 1 with a 5.31, McPhillips had low e.t. of the opening round with a 5.37 against two-time Division 1 champ John Finke and low e.t. of the semifinals with a 5.34 opposite Doug Foley's close 5.39. He slipped to a 6.98 in the final while Shields streaked to a 5.38, his quickest run of eliminations.

"It really left hard that time," Shields said. "I dropped a cylinder pretty early in the run and still ran a .38. McPhillips had been running so well all weekend that when I felt it drop that cylinder I was sure he was going to come around me, but he never did."
Seventeen drivers attempted to qualify, and several "name" drivers missed the cut, including Chase Copeland, Dan Page, and 2011 Division 1 champion Karen Stalba, who broke behind the line on her final qualifying attempt.

In Top Alcohol Funny Car, Veney qualified No. 1 and set low e.t. and top speed with a 5.60 at 258.07 mph. "It's great to win a race this early in the season," he said. "I really owe Jay, tuner Tommy Howell, and our whole team for having this car set up perfectly all weekend. We overcame some problems and won some close ones - especially the semi's and the final. Eric Lourie and I always seem to have good races, and D.J. is someone I have a lot of respect for. He's really a good driver - most people just don't know about him yet."
Cox ran a strong 5.66 on his only qualifying run, which was his first run anywhere all year. He took out the automatic-transmission-equipped car of Wayne Morris in round one, 5.72 to 5.78, and recent Charlotte runner-up Dan Pomponio in the semifinals, 5.70 to 5.75, and left first in every round.

March 26, 2012

Las Vegas I Regoinal wrap-up (by Todd Veney / Bob Johnson Photography)

In just her fourth start in a Top Alcohol Funny Car, rookie Annie Whitely got her first win, upsetting heavily favored Tony Bartone in the Las Vegas regional final, 5.67 to 5.78. Whiteley's husband Jim and Chris Demke were charging for the finish line side by side in the Top Alcohol Dragster final, but something blew through the lights in Demke's lane, giving him a bogus 4.92 e.t. and nullifying the race, which will be re-run next weekend.

Bartone wheeled Rick Jackson's Center Pointe Mustang to low e.t. of both qualifying sessions (5.59 and 5.62) and low e.t of both preliminary rounds of eliminations, but he lost traction in the final and slowed by more than a tenth. "I didn't know I'd won," Whiteley said. "I try to just concentrate on staying in my lane and getting stopped, and my eyes never wander. I didn't see him, but I never look."

Whiteley's Roger Bateman-tuned car was the picture of consistency all weekend; she qualified No. 3 with a 5.68 and ran back-to-back 5.68s in the early rounds and a 5.67 in the final for the breakthrough win. "There was a spot on the track that we couldn't get through when we were testing before the race, and the same thing happened in the first qualifying session," Whiteley said. "We only had one more shot to get in, so Roger did something to settle the car down, and it made it right down through there. We were thrilled just to make the field - there were 16 cars trying to qualify - and we were ecstatic to get by the first round. That was my first round-win, and when we went up for the semi's, Roger told me 'OK, now you're playing with the big boys.' "

Each of the other three drivers left in contention - Steve Gasparrelli, Jay Payne, and Bartone - has double-digit national event victories and has finished in the top two in the national standings. Bartone took out Gasparrelli with a 5.60 and Whiteley edged Payne, 5.68 to 5.69, for the biggest win of her young career to that point.

In the Top Alcohol Dragster final, Demke's Peen Rite dragster had a slight lead at the 1,000-foot mark, but the outcome was too close to call, so a rerun is scheduled to be held in conjunction with qualifying for the national event at Las Vegas this weekend.

"I saw my win-light come on," Demke said. "Jim and I rolled around the corner, he came over to congratulate me, and I was just wrapping up my parachutes when somebody came up on a scooter and asked both of us who we thought had won. I said, 'I did - I never saw him.' But Jim never saw me either. It was close."

Going into the final, Whiteley appeared to have the advantage. He qualified No. 1 with a 5.30 and ran a 5.31 to eliminate James Butler in round one and a 5.32 against Don St. Arnaud in the semi's. Demke, who has swept both national events so far this year, was right behind Whiteley, qualifying No. 2 with a 5.35 and defeating Garrett Bateman and Joey Severance with times of 5.32 and 5.35, respectively.

Whiteley and Demke left almost simultaneously in the final, with Demke in the lead, .030 to .040, and then both drivers went into shake in low gear and slowed to their worst runs all day. "All the numbers to the 1,000-foot mark were accurate," Demke said, "and for me to lose, I would have had to have had an .854 split from the 1,000-foot mark to the finish line, and I don't think it did. I thought the motor might have hurt itself right at the end, but looking at the G-meter after the run, it didn't. Jim ran a 5.40 and, looking at our computer, I think I ran about a 5.39, so I should have gotten there first by 15- to 20-thousandths of a second. The computer doesn't lie, but rules are rules. I don't expect NHRA to use what's on my computer to declare me the winner, so we'll just have to try again next weekend."




February 27, 2012

Phoenix Division 7 Top Alcohol results

Western Region race #1

by Todd Veney (PSA)

CHANDLER, Ariz. --

With a 5.37 in the final round against 2011 championship contender Joey Severance, Megan McKernan earned the first Top Alcohol Dragster victory of her young career at the Lucas Oil Series West Region opener at Firebird International Raceway in Phoenix. In Top Alcohol Funny Car, reigning Division 7 champion John Lombardo edged Jay Payne, the driver he battled for the division title all last season, in a close final, 5.64 to 5.68.

"I was a little nervous, but I knew we had a car that could win," said McKernan, driver of Jerry Darien's Truck-Lite/Davco A/Fuel Dragster. "We've had a car capable of winning since the end of last year, and I just wanted to make sure I didn't mess anything up. Jerry told me not to think of it as a final, to think of it as the fifth qualifying session, and it worked."

Severance, known for .00 lights (including two at the Winternationals), got off the mark first, but McKernan took over in the last eighth-mile, 5.37, 269 to 5.48, 261. "I noticed him moving out ahead of me somewhere around half-track, but then I blasted past him," she said. "This is a huge relief. Jerry knows I put a lot of pressure on myself and tend to over-think things. He has confidence in me and says I need to have more confidence in myself, and after this, I do."

Severance reached the final after qualifying on the bump and taking out No. 1 qualifier Chris Demke, who had run back-to-back 5.33s in qualifying, in a close race in round one, 5.43 to 5.44. McKernan eliminated Johnny Ahten in round one and singled in the semifinals when Canadian Don St. Arnaud was unable to return.

McKernan, 32, a market-research project manager for SEMA, joins a list of future Top Fuel and Funny Car national event winner who first won races driving Darien's cars: Gary Scelzi, Brandon Bernstein, Morgan Lucas, Frank Pedregon, and Melanie Troxel.

In Top Alcohol Funny Car, Lombardo's NAPA/Lucas Oil Monte Carlo and Payne's Fire Ice Mustang were locked together from the outset, tying for the qualifying lead with identical 5.615s in the opening session. Payne got the No. 1 spot on the basis of his faster speed (260.11 mph to Lombardo's 250.09) and reset low e.t. to 5.612 in a first-round win over Steve Griboski. Payne also had a slightly quicker e.t. (5.64) in his semifinal win over 2003, 2004, and 2008 Phoenix winner Doug Gordon than Lombardo did (5.65) in taking out many-time national event champ Brian Hough in that round, but Lombardo had the edge in the final.

Both drivers had their best reaction times and slowest runs of the event, and Lombardo prevailed, 5.71, 257 to 5.80, 252. It was the second year in a row that Payne was runner-up here. Last year, he qualified in one shot and put together a string of 5.50s before losing in the final to Sean O'Bannon, who drove the same car and had the same crew chief, Jeff Lirones, that Lombardo has this year.

"To me, getting to race somebody like Jay Payne in a final round is what this class is all about," said Lombardo, who won for the fifth time in his three-year career, including the 2009 national event in Dallas. "You've got Doug Gordon and Shane Westerfield and Steve Gasparrelli and Brian Hough - some of the best racers in the country - out here in the west. The depth of talent is unbelievable. But Payne, he's up there with Frank Manzo, Mickey Ferro, and Tony Bartone - the guys who are in the top five in the country year after year after year. To beat somebody like him was a real thrill."


February 20, 2012

Results from the Gainesville regional.


Wyoming's Kris Hool collected the first regional win of 2012, stopping perennial championship contender Mickey Ferro in the Top Alcohol Funny Car final at the rain-plagued Eastern Regional event in Gainesville, Fla. Top Alcohol Dragster remains undecided; rain and high winds kept Rich McPhillips and Mark Taliaferro from meeting in the final, which will be contested next month in Gainesville during qualifying for the Gatornationals.
Hool drove his and brother Kevin's Gripper Hand Cleaner Monte Carlo to a 5.71 at 253 mph to stop Ferro, the reigning Gatornationals champion, whose Ryco-sponsored entry trailed with a close 5.78 at 251 mph. "It was a great race between two of the top 10 cars in the country last year," said Hool, who scored for third time in his career, including his national event victory last season in Brainerd and a divisional win in Bradenton, Fla.

With a telepathic .002 reaction time, Hool had the lead from start to finish. "I didn't mean to cut it that close," he said. "It was totally dark when we ran the final, and everybody sees the Tree better at night. I study drivers, and Mickey's definitely one of the best leavers out there. He's usually in the .030s or .040s, so I knew I had to be on it. We both probably should have run a lot better. Last year, the track here was slippery and no one was getting down it, but this year the track was excellent. Kevin said that we definitely could have run in the .60s, but a .71 was enough to get the job done."

In Top Alcohol Dragster, Taliaferro and McPhillips were just two of numerous drivers to run in the 5.30s. Semifinalist Sidnei Frigo never ran slower than 5.36 all weekend and barely lost to Taliaferro, the No. 1 qualifier, in the semifinals, 5.32 to 5.34. McPhillips topped former Division 1 champion Dan Mercier in the other semifinal match, 5.35 to 5.38, and killed the Tree all weekend with a .003 reaction time in the opening round and a .019 against Mercier.

Defending national champ Duane Shields is off to a frustrating start in defense of his title. After smoking the tires right off the line at the season-opening Winternationals, he did the same here opposite Frigo.

Next up on the regional schedule is this weekend's event at Firebird International Raceway in Phoenix, which is expected to draw top teams from across the western United States.

Payouts for the Regional events and season ending payout.

Payout for each Regional event (per event)

semis (up to 2)
round one (up to 4)

Season ending payout per region

3rd Place
4th Place
5th Place

Total per region $42,000. Total for all four regions $168,000


Jeg Allstars

Division 4, 5 and 6 have completed Jegs Allstar qualifying For the Allstar event in Chicago.

Below are the remaining qualifying events for Division 1, 2, 3, and 7

Division 1
Virginia Motorsports Park Richmond, Va.April 20-21

Division 2
Auto-Plus Raceway at Gainesville, Gainesville, Fla. Feb. 17-19

Division 3
Lucas Oil Raceway at Indianapolis, Indianapolis, Ind. April 27-29

Summit Racing Equipment Motorsports Park Norwalk, Ohio May 18-20

Division 7
Firebird International Raceway Phoenix, Ariz. Feb. 25-26

The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway Las Vegas, Nev. March 23-25



February 1, 2012

Pro Sportsman Association hires Todd Veney

The newly formed Pro Sportsman Association announced today the hiring of veteran racer/journalist Todd Veney to handle media and marketing duties for the 2012 season. Veney and the PSA will work to increase media exposure and fan awareness of the Top Alcohol Dragster and Funny Car categories.

Veney, son of drag racing legend Ken Veney, has an extensive résumé as not only a journalist but as an alcohol driver. He worked as an associate editor at NHRA’s National DRAGSTER from 1988 to 1999 and has free-lanced for the past 12 years. On the track, after several stints with his own car, he now drives Jay Blake’s Permatex/Follow A Dream Top Alcohol Funny Car and finished seventh in the national standings the past two years.

With the start of the racing season right around the corner, Veney is excited about starting his new job with the PSA. "This is right up my alley and something I'm really looking forward to," he said. "I've loved alcohol cars above all others since dragsters and Funny Cars still ran against each other in the 1970s in Pro Comp. I think we can really make something of this, and I look forward to working with the PSA board and with racers, tracks, and the media to give our kind of racing the coverage it deserves."

PSA President Will Hanna feels the new association has the right man for the job.

“As the board started putting this association together, naturally one of the first questions was, ‘Who do we hire?' ” stated Hanna. “Todd was everybody's first choice. He not only has the journalistic experience that we're looking for, but there probably are only a handful of people in the world who care about the Top Alcohol classes more than he does. In any kind of business, when you get someone who is not only qualified but passionate about their work, it’s hard to go wrong.

“Todd is going to get down in the trenches to get the alcohol classes media exposure on not only a national level, but on a local level in regional event markets,” Hanna continued. “There are so many racers in the alcohol classes who have a story, not to mention all the behind-the-scenes angles on the competition side. I’m not only excited as the President of the PSA, but as a life-long fan of the alcohol classes about what is in store this year.”

The Pro Sportsman Association is a non-profit organization formed to build the value and the brand of Top Alcohol racing. The PSA is primarily funded by the membership dues of racers, racing businesses and fans who have a vested interest in seeing Top Alcohol racing reach the proverbial ‘next level.’ By building the Top Alcohol classes’ value to both the tracks and to NHRA, we hope to not only maintain but increase the number of events that feature our classes as front-gate draws. By raising awareness through media and other promotions, the PSA hopes to build the Top Alcohol classes’ fan following in the long term and to help bring new teams to Top Alcohol racing.

The PSA is offering an introductory discount of $100 off ($595 per year) their yearly dues for racers and businesses that join before March 1st. After March 1st, dues will be $695 per year.

For more information on how to become involved, email Will Hanna at will.hanna@insidetopalcohol.com. The PSA hopes to have their website, www.prosportsmanassociation.com up and running within the next few weeks.

Contact: Todd Veney/Pro Sportsman Association


Top Alcohol Archives are here

For the Best TAFC drivers of all time go here

For the Top TAD drivers of all time go here

For the Top Tuners and Innovators go here

For the quickest runs in history by TAD and TAFC go here









Everything on this site is copyright © Speedzone Magazine 2003. All rights reserved. Nothing can be reproduced in any way without written consent of the publisher or the individual copyright holders of images and/or text.