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Sunday Sportsman final rounds
Top Alcohol Dragster -- Joey Severance, 5.439, 261.52 def. Megan McKernan, 5.533, 258.22.
Severance got his second career National event win over first time finalist Megan McKernan in the Jerry Darian tuned A/Fuel car. Event favorite Chris Demke lost in the semi finals to McKernan when his car lost power just after the hit.
A broken blower belt was the cause. Severance got to the final with a close semi final against Cody Perkins. as both drivers were within a hun in ET, 5.38 to 5.39, that and a .015 holeshot gave a .025 edge to the NW driver.
Top Alcohol Funny Car -- Alexis De Joria, Chevy Monte Carlo, 5.611, 260.26 def. Brian Hough, Ford Mustang, 5.648, 253.99.
Alexis De Joria finally got her long awaited TAFC event win in her third final try, as she defeated local favorite Brian Hough. Hough got a slight holeshot but the lady driver got by the veteran driver by 600 feet and held on for a .017 victory. De Joria is only the second female driver to get a win in the tough TAFC class. The first was Bunny Burkett.
Competition Eliminator -- Mike McKeigue, Dodge Stratus, 7.392, 184.57 def. Casey Plaizier, Chevy Cavalier, 8.191, 164.43.
Super Stock -- Jody Lang, Chevy Malibu, 11.139, 87.78 def. Rick McKinney, Olds Cutlass, 12.054, 87.41.
Stock Eliminator -- Jody Lang, Chevy Malibu Wagon, 13.302, 77.22 def. Joe Sorensen, Chevy Camaro, foul.
Super Comp -- Brad Plourd, Dragster, 8.913, 160.65 def. Ken Mostowich, Chevy Cavalier, 8.918, 168.79.
Super Gas -- Kevin Kleineweber, Chevy Lumina, 9.899, 162.33 def. Mike Ferderer, Pontiac Grand Am, 9.885, 169.36.
Super Street -- Allen Macham, Chevy Nova, 10.929, 133.43 def. Justin Sibley, Chevy Camaro, 10.932, 129.98.
The Saturday Report
Nothing to see here folks; just move along... literally. The weather started the day in the same manner as Friday, with very cloudy skies, and a light misting rain, and again, the start of qualifying was held up for a short time. Just enough time to cause a scheduling problem and that translated into the cancellation - not postponement - but just outright canning of the final qualifying sessions for Top Alcohol and Comp eliminator.
One factor in this decision had to be the reality that no one was going to miss qualifying for eliminations, as none of the three categories had full or overflowing fields. Still... with one less chance to work on tuneups or work the bugs out, or simply get more seat time, it's got to have some impact on the racers. Worst of all was the effect on the Top Alcohol Dragsters as with just eight cars in the pits, their first round is Sunday, meaning that they get to spend all day today doing..... absolutely nothing.
5:00 PM update
After some rather lengthy delays for even more track prep and "testing" of the surface by the Super Stocks, the Top Alcohol Funny Cars finally got to start their first round at 4:30 pm. With nothing to do all day except for this session, it's been a long day for these guys. With three Canadian cars in the first round, hopes for a north of the border winner were fairly high but it didn't start well with John Evanchuk breaking the trans on his burnout in the first pairing. After being pushed back to the starting line and limping into stage, he idled down track to lose to Doug Gordon's 5.70 - 254 pass.
Track conditions were obviously improved from yesterday as nearly every car (save Evanchuk's) down the track went quicker and faster than their qualifying numbers. Brian Hough took the third match of the round in an all-Northwest battle as he easily outran Jeff Ashwell, albeit at a slightly slower 5.67 pace than his 5.64 qualifier. When the low qualifying Roger Bateman "YNot Racing" car came out for his single (due to the short field), the horsepower that car is generating turned into some serious shake and shimmies and slowed him by two tenths to a so-so 5.78 lap.
From that point, proceedings started going off the rails somewhat, as Shane Westerfield redlighted in the next match, then watched in disbelief as John Lombardo proceeded to veer out of the groove and take out not one, not two, but three timing cones in a row starting at half track. Despite the distrations of flying foam and an out-of-control car in the other lane, Westefield dipped into the fifties, carding a best of the round (so far) 5.59 at 255. Oh, and it was a career best e.t. for him too.
Another weird race followed, with Jim Peters not staging in time, Steve Gasparelli spending a long time staring at the green light before leaving, then running a decent 5.71 - 255.97. Another Northwest car fell in the second to last pair of the session as Clint Thompson started smoking on the top end and slowed to a 5.85 to fall to Sean Bellemeur's 5.76 pass. Finally the round ended with Alexis De Joria moving to the second round and setting top speed of the meet at 260.11 mph, coupled with a 5.65 e.t. to dispatch a redlighting - by a bunch (-.276) Ken Webster.
One round of eliminations over, seven cars eliminated, eight left, including the lone Canadian hopeful Roger Bateman. And he doesn't have lane choice over Doug Gordon in the second round. Other matchups see Alexis de Joria with choice over Bellemeur, Brian Hough over Steve Gasparelli and Shane Westerfield over Keeter Ray.
Following hot in the tire tracks of the funny cars, Comp Eliminator kicked off their first round with the awesome turbo thunderbird of Mark Wolfe running hard to half track on a bye run, then coasting across the stripe with a mid 7-second time. Two pairs into the round, the very hard-charging A/Altered (think 23 T-bucket with a Pro Stock engine) of Alan Ellis thundered to a winning 6.60 at only 178 mph for an easy, and index-saving win.
Then the match that was just patently unfair, but dictated by the sportsman ladder, pitted two of the best Canadian cars in this first round, with Jirka Kaplan's blown altered matched against Rob Harrison's J/Altered. Harrison's so-so runs continued as he cranked out a solid, but unspectacular 7.79 with a good light, only to fall by a full car length to Kaplan's early shutoff 6.54 - 168 mph bracket-like win.
In the very next race, another Canuck fell as Langley's Bob Marshall redlighted away his chances, while one pair later, Fort St. John's Mike McKeigue got lucky as his VERY late (.282!) light coupled with a run that was only four tenths under the index was still enough to catch Dennis Myers' offpace effort at the finish line. As the round continued, the defending division champion, Aaron Strong, had his troubled weekend brought to an abrupt halt as he couldn't run far enough the index to hold off Matt Hartford's dragster.
Another dragster advanced too - which in itself is getting to be a bit of a rarity in the eliminator these days - as Pat Byron's C/Dragster took out Alberta's Dale Giroux and his B/Altered. One more Canadian car advanced as Casey Plazier, a member of the giant Ace Manufacturing team, took out Steve Graham and in the final race of the round, pro sportsman racer Dan Fletcher dispatched a redlighting Terry Spargo and his very fast A/Altered Production.
After all the waiting, it was over far too quickly for half the racers, but at least they got a chance to get on the track today, unlike the unfortunate inmates in the Top Alcohol Dragster corral. Maybe tomorrow, eh?
9:00 PM update
The Friday Report
Not much to add to the first impressions posted on the Pro page for this event. It's still cool and cloudy as it approaches 11:00 am, but cars are running, and running well, and we're less than two hours from the first qualifying session for the alcohol cars. Several have warmed up already and more are preparing to do so shortly. As I write this I can see the first Comp eliminator cars coming into the lanes right outside my window on the world. Time to get moving and start finding out what is going to make this race happen.
First time around the pits confirmed that the total entries in Top Alcohol were as advertised: 15 floppers, but only EIGHT dragsters. Eight cars.... it's hard to believe that a race that used to regularly attract more than 20 entries, and waaay back when it was an affordable class named Pro Comp, nearly 30 cars showed on occasion. Oh how far (down) we have come. But why?
First and foremost, it's the economy, and that giant elephant in the room is stepping on any possibility of people earning more money to go racing and simultaneously dictating price increases in areas that affect racers the most: the cost of fuel to get to the races, the cost of airfare to fly in crew, increases in food prices and lodging costs. And it just goes on from there. The cost of mandated safety updates in the past few years have pushed more than one team to the competitive brink, but the cost of traveling to the races has put them over the edge in many cases.
The pain is being felt acutely even at the divisional level, with less than full fields at the majority of Lucas Oil series races this season. While the funny cars are keeping their heads above water to a greater extent, the dragsters are simply staying home, or even worse, selling out and getting on with their lives. Teams that had been around forever are simply not there anymore.
Brandon Johnson for instance, is nowhere to be seen; Bucky Austin has moved into Nostalgia Nitro Funny Car and even Doug Hegge in the northwest is not to be found at the track. The list could go on and on but it's time to move away from the negatives and focus on the positive aspects we found in our trip through the pits.
First stop in the pits was at the Cody Perkins 801 Racing compound, where we got to see his new paint scheme and finally see the totally unique injector that has always been hiding underneath a humungous carbon fibre scoop. It's truly a work of art. All the billet aluminum parts on the car were machined while he was attending the University of Utah, and the injector was his doctoral project in mechanical engineering. Incredible!
After hitting the financial wall due to breakage on every run at the Las Vegas national event at the beginning of April, Perkins was able to garner some sponsorship help from the 801 Racing folks - makers of a fuel additive that increases horsepower in gasoline and diesel engines - through his connection with Clean Boost Oils. They went to lunch together, put a deal in place, and at the first event with the new colours on the car, Cody won his first national event at Topeka in May.
The influx of funding provided a new blower (their current one was six years old), more reliable valvetrain parts and the fresh equipment pushed the car from the 5.50's back into the 5.30's, and the winners circle. Now it's time for them to run at an almost sea-level track and see what the car can really do. With the short field this weekend, Perkins could be a darkhorse pick to win the race.
5:00 PM update
We've just finished the second session of qualifying for the alcohol cars and comp has similarly completed their second and final session of the day. All three categories have just one more shot tomorrow before starting eliminations. Of course that one shot is just for tuneup purposes as everyone is already qualified. In other words, all the fields are either short, or very short, of being full.
The biggest surprises in Comp eliminator, for very different reasons, were the qualifying efforts of Mark Wolfe, Jirka Kaplan, Bob Marshall and Rob Harrison. Firstly, Wolfe showed the power that was lurking under the hood all along as he cranked out a very big 6.38 - 224.06 in his turbocharged T-Bird during the first session to lead the field with a 0.66 second under the index pass. Bob Marshall slotted into 2nd place with back-to-back runs under the national B/AA record, topped with a 6.919 at more than 198 mph.
Kaplan ran decently in his 5-second altered, but a best of 6.426, albeit more than six tenths of a second under the index, was still nearly half a second short of his proven capability. Is there more in the car tomorrow? Considering the great air and track conditions, we've got to think so. Finally, Rob Harrison seems lost in the doldrums with an early shutoff first pass, followed up by a rather ho-hum 50-under the index lap in the second session. I'm sure they're looking for much more tomorrow.
The 23-car field is mostly, as in 17 out of 23, northwest (Washington, BC and Alberta) racers and with one more qualifying session left, only five cars aren't at least four tenths of a second under their index. Turning to Top Alcohol Dragster, with only eight cars on the grounds, the urgency to lay down a good qualifying pass just isn't there and it shows in the efforts of two cars, as Blake Alexander and Ashley Bart have both failed to get down the track so far.
The one run that stands out - for all the right reasons - is the first session 5.24 - 272.56 pass by Chris Demke - the second quickest blown alcohol run in history - followed by Joey Severance with a 5.32 - 267 effort and Cody "Flash" Perkins with his very good 5.32 - 264 mph run to hold the third position. A couple of low 5.40 laps by Ray Martin and Megan McKernan round out the top runners, with James Butler holding down sixth at a so-so 5.61 to easily lead the bottom two racers, Alexander and Bart.
From the shorter, lumpier set, the top alky floppers put on a much stronger show, partly due to the increased number of racers, partly due to more competitive runs. After two sessions, the top six cars were in the 5.60's - or better - led by Calgary's Roger Bateman with his great 5.578 - 256 mph blast in the "YNot Racing" Mustang. Four more cars were in the 5.70's, including Edmonton's John Evanchuk at a competitive 5.74 - 248 mph clocking for the #9 position, while the third Canuck car in the field, Red Deer's Ken Webster ended the first day of qualifying in the #14 spot with a very early shutoff 6.50 at 141 mph.
In all, the top eleven cars were solidly in the 5's, with Sean Bellemeur in the #11 spot at a good 5.81, and only the bottom (#15) runner, John Lombardo with an 8.96, was well off the pace. Still, with a final chance to improve tomorrow before the first round of eliminations, I predict that the field will tighten considerably and all 15 cars should be solidly in the 5's before the close of qualifying.
As the first day of the 24th annual Northwest Nationals draws to a close, the sun is finally making a serious attempt at peeking through the thick cloud cover that has blanketed the facility since sunrise. The cloud has made it a comfortable day for the racers and spectators and the moderate temperatures have benefited everyone and everything; the track, the cars, and the people. We can only hope for more of the same for the balance of the weekend. That, and more great runs and great racing.
TA/D - qualifying after 2 sessions
Demke Peen-Rite-Abrasive Finishing B 5.246 272.56
TA/FC - qualifying after 2 sessions
Roger Bateman YNot Racing Mustang 5.578 256.89
Comp Eliminator - qualifying after 2 sessions
1. Mark Wolfe AA/AT 7.04 6.380 -0.660
11:00 PM update:
We got the unofficial word about the apparent slowness of Jirka Kaplan's 5-second altered in qualifying today. As Jirka related it to us this evening, he's been told that he's allowed one "free shot" in qualifying, but after that cannot go more than six tenths of a second under the index without incurring some permanent penalties. To repeat his Mission Raceway 5.97, or god forbid, go even quicker - in other words, more than ONE full second under his index - would be to invite the wrath of the Spanish Inquisition.... I mean the NHRA tech department....
But it is a sad situation when a racer in comp eliminator has to turn his race car into a high-tech, high-dollar, bracket racer. Jirka smiled when I suggested that, but his smile had a resigned quality to it, an acceptance of the reality of racing in a performance-limited category with a hint of frustration at his inability to just "let 'er rip" and go as fast as he wants or is capable of.
And that's the end of that story, for tonight at least.
2 TAD Chris Demke Sunland CA '04 URC BAE 471 PEEN-RITE/CLEANBOOST OIL
6 TAFC Sean O`Bannon Alta Loma CA '08 Monte Carlo BAE 521 MARK CHRISTOPHER AUTO
7 A/AA Alan Ellis Mapleton UT '08 Neil & Park GM 500 WESTERN QUALITY CONCRETE,
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