Alcohol Dragster race coverage is now here
Alcohol Funny Car race coverage is here
TAD PR stories are here.
All TAFC PR stories
surprises in TAD, Payne sweeps TAFC at Woodburn
by Todd Veney/Pro Sportsman Association
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
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
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.
Mercier and Laurie are winners at Lebanon Valley Division 1 event
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
is dominated by the Whiteley's
double up again in Tulsa
by Todd Veney/Pro Sportsman Association
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
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
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."
Top Alcohol results
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
WIN NORWALK IN FRONT OF PACKED HOUSE
by Todd Veney/Pro Sportsman Association
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."
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
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
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
DREHER, MANZO OUTLAST
THE ELEMENTS AT INDY REGIONAL
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.
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.
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.
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.
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."
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.
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."
feature on photographer David Smith.
(by Todd Veney)
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."
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."
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."
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.
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."
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.
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."
(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)
Shields, Veney Win
Eastern Regional Opener at Richmond (by Todd Veney)
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.
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."
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.
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.
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
Vegas I Regoinal wrap-up (by Todd Veney / Bob Johnson Photography)
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."
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.' "
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.
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
"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.
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."
Division 7 Top Alcohol results
Region race #1
Todd Veney (PSA)
CHANDLER, Ariz. --
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.
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."
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.
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.
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.
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."
from the Gainesville regional.
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
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.
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."
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.
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.
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
for the Regional events and season ending payout.
for each Regional event (per event)
(up to 2)
one (up to 4)
ending payout per region
per region $42,000. Total for all four regions $168,000
Division 4, 5 and 6 have
completed Jegs Allstar qualifying For the Allstar event in Chicago.
are the remaining qualifying events for Division 1, 2, 3, and 7
Virginia Motorsports Park Richmond, Va.April 20-21
Auto-Plus Raceway at Gainesville, Gainesville, Fla. Feb. 17-19
Lucas Oil Raceway at Indianapolis, Indianapolis, Ind. April 27-29
Summit Racing Equipment Motorsports Park Norwalk, Ohio May 18-20
Firebird International Raceway Phoenix, Ariz. Feb. 25-26
Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway Las Vegas, Nev. March 23-25
Sportsman Association hires Todd Veney
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.
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 NHRAs 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 Blakes Permatex/Follow A Dream Top Alcohol Funny Car and finished seventh
in the national standings the past two years.
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."
President Will Hanna feels the new association has the right man for the job.
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, its hard to go
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. Im 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.
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
The PSA hopes to have their website, www.prosportsmanassociation.com up and running
within the next few weeks.
Todd Veney/Pro Sportsman Association
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