The final race for positions on the 2019 Division One Bracket Finals Island Dragway team was a fitting ending to a great season. A huge difference in number of events completed from just one year ago, the hunt for the ROC seeds mostly went down to the final two weeks of competition, with a number of qualifying spots decided in this last race of the chase.
Qualifying in the top spot is difficult to do once, and yet there were repeat champs abounding this year. Andrew Bracuto did a repeat performance in Super Pro largely on the strength of a strong showing in the first half where he ran away with the field to9 finish 1000 points ahead of his closest pursuer. He did not, however, repeat his championship run in Pro. That spot was taken by Mike Franek and his Dart, who came on like a barn fire in the back half of the year and topped number two by 800 markers. Now surprisingly, Bill Hakucsa collected another Sportsman title, edging out Russ Picone by 500 although Picone began the final race with a slim lead in overall points. And Bike once again belonged to perennial favorite Barry Stephens, who seemingly makes a habit of taking this bracket and who clinched a week ago to drop last years’ Finals champ Don Hookway as number two.
Bracuto closed his season with the victory in Super when he shut down Ben Saia. Saia and his Nova bested Randy Wendtland in the quarters as Steve Spencer got by James Arata and Bracuto soloed. The Pontiac advanced to the final by beating Spencer’s Datsun and Saia got a freebie. Bracuto showed why he is so successful when he caught a .008 light against Saia and needed only an 865 and 96 mph card to overtake Saia’s 9.05 at 86 mph.
Pro eliminator was nabbed by Frank Maffiore Jr and his Nova when he hammered out a win over Craig Sonderfan, driving a borrowed Camaro after having damaged his Chevelle one week ago. In the QF, Tom Spangler gunned down Kevin Render, Sonderfan dispatched Scott Embley, Maffiore took out Matt Lisa and Brian Mullaney ran unopposed. Sonderfan used a 9.39, 135 mark to oust Mullaney’s 11.03, 120 and Maffiore moved on with a 10.78 at 106 to a red lighting 12.19 by Spangler. Maffiore jumped on the tree in the final race and was never in doubt about the outcome as he posted up a 10.66 time at 119 mph that sent Sonderfan to second best status with his 9.38, 139.76 card.
Without a single race win in the first half and only a couple in the second, Bill Hakucsa finished his run to the top in good form by taking Sportsman bracket to end his year on a high note. If there is a good time to peak it is now, going into Finals mode, where Hakucsa has been the ROC rep for most of the past ten years with the exception of 2017. Hakucsa beat Saige Embley on a double foul light decided by Trustart, Gary Coleman was better than Bob Gay and Bobby downed J9m,bop Romagna to finish the quarters. Hakucsa was guaranteed a final’s berth with a bye run ad Coleman ran his 31 Ford coupe past Pip’s Mustang, 12.71, 105 versus a red lighting 11.62, 113. Coleman committed a similar error in the final dash when he lit the bulb to throw out an on the dial 12.75 at 105.42. Hakucsa gathered in the points and money via a time slip of 11.58 ,seconds at a speed of 121.31 mph.
Don Hookway may have lost the points battle to Stephens by he took the last title of the season with his win in Bike eliminator. Stephens didn’t make it out of round one, losing for at least the third time this season to Jacob Teats. Hookway got by Jim Totaro, Jeff Meyer and Joe DiPiazza to enter the deciding race against Gary DeGrange. DeGrange won over Neil Smith, Dave Ferguson and Chris Miele. DeGrange left early with a foul start to give the victory to Hookway, 9.37 and 145.13 against a 10.21 at 127.91.
Connor Hebig was better than Steve Jepko for Consolation One honors. Hebig, in one of his earliest competitions, cranked out a 7.48 at 128 while Jepko got a little out of shape and slowed to an 8.25, 91 mph.
Consolation Two had the largest turnout of the year and perhaps ever with 25 entrants in the second chance race. Chris Cassidy waded through the field to square off with Sean Conway for what was a pretty nice payout. Cassidy picked up the bigger share as his 9.55 and 124.42 proved too much to handle and Conway broke out at 16.16, 76.76.
As a side note, it was nice to see Joel Turpin make a visit to the track where only a week prior he took a serious spill off his motorcycle in the shut down area. Joel was just release from the hospital and although he will need time to fully recover, he was able to move about and indicated he was on the mend. Good news and rooting for Joel’s complete and speedy recovery.
So that ends another season of bracket racing here at Island. It has been a year of great competition with close battles for positions on the team and top qualifying. Congratulations to all those racers who managed to secure a chance to win a divisional title and/or the ROC honors. We wish everyone a safe trip to the finals and best wishes for taking the title. And a track championship wouldn’t be a bad thing either. Enjoy the racing and the team spirit. We know our representatives are among the best in the division and are proud of how you represent out track. We’ll look for you in the winner’s circle.