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Ol Daze Drags 2017


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Each year, as a part of the annual anniversary weekend, Island Dragway participates in what is now known as the All Access Challenge, formerly the National Dragster Challenge competition.  While the payouts for the winners is the same as all the other races, there is something about the possibility of adding a special Wally trophy to the case, and it brings out the best of the regulars and always some new faces in the quest to add their name to the list of those who have accomplished the feat.

Sizeable fields filled the lanes, including the largest Bike eliminator in quite a while.  It was fortunate that the weather cooperated so well and there were only a few minor delays in the action due to mechanical difficulties.  In short, the race went off virtually without a hitch.

Todd Martin showed why he has been so successful in the Super Pro eliminator as he strung together five rounds of win lights to take home his trophy in the bracket.  Martin’s best light came in the opener and he was just quick enough through the rest of the action. The RED entry put away the Mustang of James Arata in the quarters and dropped into a bye run in the semis.  Robbie Boyd’s Camaro won over the dragster of Don Algieri when the latter broke the rear on the car in his first appearance of the season.  Dave Hebig, who finished number one in points last year, drove his dragster unopposed in the QF and lost a very tight race to Boyd in the SF round to send the Chevy up to the title run.  Martin’s worst light in competition popped up in the final but Boyd was having his own trouble reacting to the green go signal, and the dragster rapped out a victorious 6.31 lap at 149 mph to the losing 7.55 and 136 by Boyd.

As per usual, Pro started off with the biggest car count and it was apparent that it was going to be a grinding ordeal to win this one.  Craig Sonderfan had his Chevelle tuned up and took down Greg Myers’ Camaro to get out of the QF, along with Brian Davison besting Bill Wackermann, Kevin Render taking care of business with John Hedenburg and Lou Buxbaum running solo.  Render, who seemed capable of running in the mid ten forties round after round, beat Sonderfan to move into the final, 10.43 and 126 to a 9.79, 131.  Buxbaum the motored his Firebird past Davison 9.76 and 131 against a 10.72 at 127.  Buxbaum gave away the final dash when he went red on the tree and Render just drove through the traps at 12.70 to collect his cup.

With almost as many Street racers showing up as in Pro, this bracket, which seems to be one of the most competitive week after week, was a dog fight. Jeff Rahner lost in the opener to Bill Hakucsa, but that was not the end of his night.  Winning in the buyback race, Rahner took his Buick convertible through the rest of the field and sealed the deal against Steve Baker for the bracket win.  Baker, making a second half comeback after finishing first in the bracket in the first half, was driving like his old self, taking starting line advantages against each and every opponent, right up to his match with Baker.  Baker turned back Patty Franek in the QF and Rahner pushed Connie Wackermann under in their race in the semis.  Rahner was ready with his Skylark when the green light came on in the rubber round and the big block Chevy motored entry clocked a time of 11.53 at 111.94 mph that finished well ahead of Baker’s Camaro’s 12.01, 109.79.

Bike bracket had a little of everything, from Suzukis to Kawasakis to a Harley and a sled.  By the time the semis came along, Dave Ferguson and his Arctic Cat sled got by the Suzuki of Barry Stephens and Jeff Santini ran past Scott McGrath.  Ferguson made the final a short race when he lit the red bulb to toss out his 9.31 runner-up time as Santini grabbed the headline with a slip of 9.44 and 142.37.

In other action, Madelyn Elsea won J/D over Savannah Kinney, 8.01, 72.69 as opposed to an 8.86, 73.24.  And Greg Brinster and his SUV took down the Cobalt of Michael Franks to win the J/ST class, 9.43, 73.88 to a breakout 11.20, 61.85.  Trophy bracket was won by Casey Pirro over Adam Skippy.

The NETO circuit had its first of two days of competition and some great racing was had in these two classes.  Brian English won the Comp class when he defeated Chris Kraft.  English’s Camaro ran 8.74 at 141.19 while Kraft’s 55Chevy developed mechanical troubles.  And Steve Consentino drove his huge 62 Dodge wagon to the Nostalgia class victory, finishing off with a win against the Super Bee Dodge of Mike Kwiatek.  Consentino clocked 10.62 and 126.79 to Kwiatek’s 10.33 at 127.21.  English eventually won the King of the Hill honors when he defeated Consentino in the single elimination runoff.






The weather has been the story all season long, and this weekend brought no break from the craziness.  Starting a little early based on the forecast, an intended single time run was stretched to a pair of practice laps, and the heat and humidity played their parts in the latest dramatic comedy known as the 2017 racing season. 

Coming off a first place finish in 2016, Dave Hebig’s year has been anything but stellar.  With so few races completed and with his absences at times when the racing actually occurred, Hebig had managed only one trip to the finals in Super Pro prior to the event and it left him with a runner-up finish.  It looked like his luck was running on the bad side as he lost his first round race, but bought back in the reappeared for a round two match.  With short fields compared to the usual turnout, Hebig took on Robbie Boyd in the semis and his quickest and fastest entry for the day ran a 6.02 at 170.92 to put the RED machine into the final as Boyd’s Camaro dropped the round at 7.61, 135.47.  Wayne Rudy drove his SBC RED mount to the other final spot when he easily won on a 6.97, 145 ticket after John Tesori fouled out his Camaro on a 6.90, 152 slip.  A .009 versus .048 RT against Rudy in the final allowed Hebig to win his first race of the season on a slowing 6.03and only 159 mph as Rudy’s 6.98, 145 mark fell short.

Rob Zetterberg has run for the trophy in Pro a couple of times with no victories to date. That changed this weekend as he moved his Monte Carlo through the field and finally sealed the deal.  Zetterberg gunned down Andy McCauley’s Mustang in the QF, 9.71, 139 to a losing 10.44, 131 and a red light.  Bill Wackermann drove his Camaro to a win light over Mike Olson, 11.03 at 120 to the Duster’s 9.84 and 135.  Mike Franek and his Dodge have struggled this year, but he had enough to take out Joe Duken’s  S-10 entry, 10.19, 128 versus a runout 9.09 and 131.  Tylor Wyker ran unopposed.  With two of the three Advanced Tree Care cars still in the hunt in the semis, Zetterberg turned aside Wackermann, 9.73 against an 11. 02 and his teammate Wyker lost to Franek when he thought he had too much finish line and pedaled a 10.48 at 125 to the winner’s 10.25, 124.  The final was almost dead even on the launch and this one was going to be close all the way to the stripe.  Franek had a .001 on the tree and actually reached the finish line first, but his ever so slightly under the dial time of 10.189 at 125 mph pushed him to second place by a mere.001 breakout.  Zetterberg cashed in his 9.71 elapsed time with a speed of 138 mph for his victory.

It has been a strange year in Street eliminator. Bill Hakucsa has made it to a final only once, and that race he lost.  His dominance in the bracket has not shown itself thus far. Steve Baker had a hot hand earlier in the year but has struggled a bit since.  This has opened the door for some other drivers to step up to the pay window.  Jeff Rahner and Ron Zang were finalists in the opener in April where Rahner prevailed.  Zang was the champ in June and moved his record to one and one.  This pair faced off again this week and it was a very short race.  Rahner had beaten Bob Gay’s Corvette in the quarters while Gary Coleman took his match with Ed Kozak when the latter fouled in his Mustang.  Zang ran solo. Zang them got his Camaro into the deciding round as Coleman’s 31 Ford Coupe slowed down after a superior light to lose at 12.87, 101 to Zang’s 14.19, 94.36.  Rahner was unopposed and was ready for Zang in the money round.  Zang pushed the tree too hard and went red to drop the race at 14.36, 93.45.  Rahner’s BBC motored Buick Skylark ragtop clocked in with an 11.67 at a top speed of 109.44.

Even though he rode in really late, Barry Stephens collected yet another Bike title, typically doing what needed to be done without actually dominating the competition.  Stephens bested Don Hookway in the SF using superior RT as Dave Ferguson rode his sled to a win over Gary DeGrange.  Ferguson cut a great .004 light in the final that looked to have Stephens all but out of contention.  As Ferguson closed at the top end he decided that he had too much win light  coming his way and lifted a bit. That was just the edge Stephens needed to hold on for the win via his 9.74, 114.27 time slip.  Ferguson  had to settle for second place with his 10.08 at 126.98.

As luck would have it, within ten minutes of the last race going off, it started to, yes, just say it, RAIN.  There are rumors circulating around the pits that some of the folks are looking up the specs for an ARK and practicing counting by twos.  Let’s hope it doesn’t come to that.  





John Graziano drove his 66 Impala ragtop entry to this year’s King of the Track award in a rain rescheduled contest.  The Brentwood NY racer has been a regular competitor over the past years and has acquitted himself well in the Super Pro division, proving he can strike from any place on the field at any time.  While perhaps not sporting as many event trophies as some of the other racers in the bracket, this full-bodied machine adorned with imitation bullet holes in the fenders can never be taken lightly. This weekend solidly secured that notion, and a lesson that will not soon be forgotten.


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