RACERS UP TO NATIONAL DRAGSTER CHALLENGE
WALLY AND GARLITS IN THE WINNERS CIRCLE
Every year the track hosts a special bracket event sponsored by the folks at National Dragster, the in-house publication of the NHRA. And this year’s event was extra special because it fell on the anniversary weekend celebrating the 50th anniversary of Don Garlits’ record setting 201.24 mph back in 1964. The world has changed dramatically since then, but one thing remains the same, the desire to be the best of the breed in head to head competition. And so four class winners received the coveted Wally trophy, named after the founder of the NHRA Wally Parks. And as an added attraction, the Big Daddy himself was on hand to cackle his record setting Swamp Rat 6B, mingle with the fans and hand out the trophies in the winner’s circle. As if that wasn’t enough, the nostalgia circuit cars of MANDRA and NETO were on hand to add to the total package of track action.
Kicking off the list of winners was the Super Pro champ for the night, Todd Martin and his back-motored dragster. Martin got by Jason Wilson and Dave Hebig in the earlier rounds to face off with Gregg Georges’ Camaro for the award. Georges had taken out Bryan Mirsky and Mark Smith in the preliminaries and knew he had a battle on his hands if he wanted to get the best of Martin. Martin gave up the head start then cut into the lead with a better RT and flew past at the top end to score the win at 6.34 and 156.73. Georges wasn’t too far behind but dropped to second place on a sub-dial 7.75 at 131.75.
Mike Franek had to rebound from a first round loss via the buyback route to go all the way to the final in Pro. The largest class of the night was full of close races and a few upsets but Franek had a bye in the semis after gunning down Andy McCauley in the quarter final round. Final round opponent Jim Young edge past the always tough Larry Pappas and Craig Sonderfan to earn his seat at the table. I was almost as if Franek was on a mission as he cut a .004 light in the title race and then checked in with a 10.15, 124.25 against a 10.13 dial to put the win light on. Young made it close with a time of 10.73 and a speed of 119.03.
The latest pair of winners in the Street bracket managed to meet in the final this week and it was a toss-up as to whom, if anyone, had an advantage. Russ Picone and his Mustang squared off with the Nova of John Dickson to decide the issue. Picone came up after besting Bill Doczi and a solo while Dickson took the measure of Tim Irven and Frank Maffiore. Dickson was dialed in to the tree and left with a .007 to run the table for an 11.78, 112.59 victory. Picone tried hard to catch up but the effort was not successful as the Blue Oval racer ticketed an 11.56, 114.74.
Charlie Koenig came through for the Bike honors when he outlasted the Suzuki of George Bailey. Bailey pushed out Dave Ferguson and Koenig slammed Don Hookway in earlier rounds to put the Arctic Cat up against the Suzuki for the cup. Koenig overcame a slower start to stick the landing at 10.23, 124.10. Bailey backed off a little too much and lost with a 10.60, 127.63 time slip.
Iraq vet Jim Sprecher was the best in Trophy over Marianne Costa. Sprecher and his Dart won the final easily at 10.84, 114.44 when Costa fouled out her Mustang and finished with a 13.55 at 103.28.
Kevin Gnehm made a return to drag racing following a long rehabilitation following a motorcycle racing accident several years ago. Driving a Chevy pickup equipped with hand controls, Gnehm grabbed the Consolation One title by beating Robbie Boyd. Gnehm managed a .019 RT and a 9.32, 106.99 against a 9.31 handicap that put his mount through first when Boyd ran up a 9.58 at 127.46.
Consolation Two had Andrew Bracuto and his Firebird taking on the Chevelle of Scott Embley. Embley’s car had stumbled off the line in the previous round and suffered the same malady in the final that gave the easy win to Bracuto, 10.65 and 105.55 to an off pace 10.07, 135.44.
The first of a weekend full of nostalgia circuit competition kicked off for the NETO racers with Steve Consentino nailing down the Nostalgia bracket and Ron Baker coming out on top of the Comp eliminator action. Consentino, driving a huge 62 Dodge Dart wagon was on a tear all day long and staged with confidence against the 74 Cuda of Roger Wright. Leaving just six thousandths after the green light flashed on, Consentino had to touch the brake top end to win at 10.65 and 122.80. Wright, seeing he was not going to be able to catch the big wagon backed off for second place with an 11.45 at 113.24.
Baker cut some great reactions in the .4 pro tree Comp bracket and worked his way to the last dash with Chris Kraft. As in most cases in drag racing, he who gets the jump on the line gets the win light, Baker took the nod in his Chevelle and hit a 9.06 (9.00 dial) at 145.28 to annex the title. Kraft and his 55 Chevy was runner-up with an 8.63 and 159.57 time slip.
MANDRA was also on hand to do battle with cars from another era. Charles Inherst, driving his Chevy out of Dallastown Pa went to the final versus the 57 MG of Marc English from Milton Pa. In this final the better RT did not carry the day when English took a slight advantage but then travelled the quarter mile quicker than expected, breaking out to lose at 9.50, 132.50. Inherst picked up the award when he posted an 11.57 time at 117.09 mph.