The 1st Annual Funny Car Nationals, September 10th - 12th 2004 ----Gateway International Raceway
Presented by Teen Arrive Alive
Story and photos by Mark King

 

Friday September 10th

The First Annual Funny Car Nationals started out on a clear warm day. With over 40 cars pre entered, it was shaping up to be a weekend to remember, especially for a fan of the 70s Funny Cars such as myself. After cruising the pits and checking out all the "Plastic Fantastic's" on the property, the call went out for a Test n Tune round at 5 pm. This round wasn't included in the schedule of events for the weekend, but it gave a few teams a chance to get out on the track before the first round of qualifying to get some much needed data and track time. Mike Adams was the first one out and proceeded to set the benchmark for the VRA Blown Nitro Floppers with a beautiful 6.26 @ over 220 mph. Ed Schwartz of Team Estrus, in their beautiful red Vega VRA Blown Nitro Funny Car made a shut down pass. Richard Hartman in the "Running Wild" Mustang Classic Funny Car also made a shakedown maiden pass to about 800 ft after getting loose. In the Blown Alcohol Class, Rick Lawrence with his "Minnesota Maniac" Cuda , Rick Wilson with his "UFO" Classic Funny car, and Bob Gibson in his "Hang em High" Mustang Classic Funny Car were among those to make shakedown passes. All in all, for an unscheduled Test n Tune round, I found the quality of the cars to be very good.

8:00 PM - 1st Round Qualifying - The evening started off with an Exhibition Pass by Bob Riggle in the famed "Hemi Under Glass" Wheelstander. This will be Bob Riggles final appearance at Gateway International Raceway due to his impending retirement. As always Bob Riggle put on a great show for the fans. Next up was Steve Timoszyk in his beautifully restored Prock and Howell "F Troop" Willy's.

The first Classic Funny Car Class to run is the Injected Nitro Class (unfortunately only one car showed for this class). "Wild" Willie Johnson in his "No Money, No Funny" Nova Flopper did a long smoky burnout, followed by a "dry hop"! Imagine that, a "dry hop" from a funny car. Unheard of in today's corporate funny car world. Willie Johnson tagged the wall about 200 ft down the track and aborted the rest of his run.

Next up is the Blown Alcohol Class. Mike Kurz in his Dodge Flopper makes a nice pass with a 7.51. Joe Jacono in Bob Rosetty's "Rollin Stoned" Cuda is on and off the throttle and finally gives up and coasts through the lights with a 12.13. Rick Stambaugh in his "Generation Racing" Corvette, and Rick Frederick in his Studebaker Flopper pulled in next. Frederick shut off with a mechanical problem. Stambaugh with a hard launch and made a respectable pass with a 7.49. Rick Wilson in his "UFO" Flopper makes a nice pass with a 7.17. Steve Hill makes one of the more memorable burnouts of the weekend in his one and only trip to the line. This burnout eventually leads to Steve Hill winning the Draglist.com Burnout Award in the Blown Alcohol Rank. Steve is driving a convertible Classic Flopper. He runs a 7.88 and damages his blower in the process ending his weekend. Tracy Klingerman in his "Fuelish" Classic Flopper makes a respectable pass with a 7.49. Christian Gerber in Denny Salzwimmer's "Rubber City Thunder" Flopper shuts off with a mechanical problem in the other lane. Lou Sgro in his Tribute to D.A. Santucci "Black Magic" Demon Flopper sets the standard for the class this evening with a beautiful 6.92 and in the other lane, Rick Lawrence in his "Minnesota Maniac" Flopper runs a 7.26.

Next up is the Blown Nitro Class. The Outlaw Class and the VRA Legal Nitro Class are being run together this evening. Greg Jacobsmeyer in his "Westport Dodge" Challenger Flopper ran a 6.97. Eric Martin in his "Wildfire" Satellite Flopper shut off with a mechanical problem. Richard Hartman in his brand new "Running Wild" Mustang Flopper was off on a good pass till about 300 ft and then lifted the blower. This proved to be the end of the weekend for Virgil Hartman, his son Richard, and John "Bode" Smith. They didn't have the parts available to fix the car. Mike Adams in his "Salorr Portable Scooters" Corvette Flopper ran into a malfunction as well. The car shut off at the end of the burnout due to a malfunction in the magneto. Dale Pulde set the standard for the class this evening behind the wheel of Dan Horan's "Dan's Electric" Mustang Flopper with a 6.25. Dale Pulde was filling in for Dan Horan in the cockpit this weekend due to an illness in the family. Jeff "Mr. Pammy" Utterback in Jeff Gaynor's "Hard Times" Cuda Flopper made a very respectable pass with a 6.46. Mike Savage in Jim Broome's "Heatwave" Flopper also made a nice pass with a 6.57, but broke the crank in the process which ended his weekend prematurely. Ed Schwartz in the "Estrus" Vega Flopper made a shakedown pass of 8.81. He made his pass on the throttle stop, as the Team is still working on their tune up. Randy Walls in his "Super Nova" made a very respectable pass in his big block chevy powered Flopper of 6.60. Frank Jonkman in his "NitroMare" Mustang Flopper also donated to the Nitro Gods this evening when he huffed the blower and launched the body off the car at about 300 ft. This put a premature end to Frank Jonkmans weekend after towing in from Canada. Steve Nichols in the "Mill Road Boys" Camaro Flopper experienced some problems on his pass. He ran a 7.47. The car seemed to be struggling quite a bit going down the track. Troy Martin in his beautifully restored "Chi Town Hustler" Flopper attempted a shakedown pass and was shutoff after the burnout with an oil leak. This ended the competition for the evening for the Classic Floppers at about 11:30 pm.

(I apologize for the lack of MPH and the lack of ET to the thousandths. These were the only results available this evening)

Saturday September 11

Injected Alcohol Results Round 2
Contestant
Reaction Time
ET
MPH
Willie Johnson
.546
8.696
153.26

5:00 PM - Round 2 Qualifying - "Wild" Willie Johnson has turned into a crowd pleaser. This guy is a true showman and knows how to please the fans. His burnouts and dry hops are definitely crowd favorite. It is truly a shame that nobody else showed up in the Injected Alcohol Class to challenge for the title. It definitely would have made the show much better.

Blown Alcohol Results Round 2
Contestant
Reaction Time ET
MPH
Rick Wilson
.463
7.501 189.52

Rick Wilson in his "UFO" Flopper launched hard, but seemed to start laboring as he went down track. Still a respectable pass. Bob Gibson sold his car here this weekend and made a shakedown pass that was an early shutdown. There was no timing information on the car for this pass and at this time it is unknown who bought the operation or who was driving.

Tracy Klingerman
.191 7.476 177.86
Rick Stambaugh .140 7.229 184.50

Tracy Klingerman in his "Fuelish" Flopper also left hard but seemed to be a bit underpowered. Still a respectable time. Tracy Klingerman also hurt some pistons on this run and ended his weekend prematurely. Rick Stambaugh in his "Generation Racing" Flopper with a much quicker pass and speed.

Mike Boisvert
.229 7.847 174.98
Rick Frederick .358 7.815 174.37

Chris Gerber in the "Rubber City Thunder" Flopper got a little crossed up and lifted. Mike Kurz in his beautifully flamed Flopper with a nice pass right down the middle of the track.

Chris Gerber
.185 13.081 69.98
Mike Kurz .474 7.600 179.25

Chris Gerber in the "Rubber City Thunder" Flopper got a little crossed up and lifted. Mike Kurz in his beautifully flamed Flopper with a nice pass right down the middle of the track.

Mike Verbais
.668 25.664 48.07
Lou Sgro .367 7.336 195.11

Mike Verbais hit the loud pedal and his Flopper lurched and then just idled down the track. Lou Sgro in his Demon Flopper with a nice pass. He launched wheels up and motored on through the quartermile with the fastest mph of the session so far.

Rick Lawrence
.141 7.886 195.56
Joe Jacono .238 7.391 184.62

Rick Lawrence in his "Minnesota Maniac" Flopper launched hard with the wheels up and made a pass which looked much quicker than the ET shows. Rick also took over top spot in MPH with that pass for the session. "Joltin" Joe Jacono in Bob Rosetty's "Rollin Stoned" Flopper also launched hard and made a very nice pass right down the groove. After last night when he came very close to kissing the wall, Bob Rosetty and Joe Jacono have to be very pleased with that pass.

The field is now set for the 4 car showdown next round. Lou "Action Man" Sgro will be up against Rick Wilson for the Championship. Rick Lawrence and Rick Stambaugh will be racing for third place in the class.

 

Outlaw Blown Nitro Results Round 2
Eric Martin
.582 7.337 186.05
Greg Jacobsmeyer .357 6.897 204.17

Eric Martin in his "Wildfire" Satellite Flopper makes his first pass of the weekend. He shut it down early and coasted through the finish line. Greg Jacobsmeyer made another nice pass.

Rob Bruce
.256 6.201 227.27

Rob Bruce in his "Last Outlaw" Flopper makes a single here. He makes a nice pass, but in the process takes out a few cones. Still, a nice pass and mph.

This sets up a Final Round Showdown between Greg Jacobsmeyer and Rob Bruce for the Championship of the Outlaw Blown Nitro Class.

VRA Blown Nitro Results Round 2
Dale Pulde
.536 6.256 231.44
Mike Adams Broke    

Mike Adams proceeded to do his burnout and motored on down the track. His throttle stuck which kept him from making a pass. Dale Pulde in Dan Horan's Mustang Flopper once again makes a great pass. This is a great accomplishment since he was very short handed crew wise.

Randy Walls
.196 6.359 222.51
Jeff Utterback .204 6.568 217.63

Now this was just a good ol drag race. They both left the line virtually together. Randy Walls in his "Super Nova" Flopper makes it to the stripe first. This is a best ever MPH for Randy Walls in his Big Block Chevy powered Flopper. Jeff Utterback in Jeff Gaynors Flopper makes another very nice pass.

Steve Nichols
.160 7.443 194.69
Ed Schwartz .246 6.956 211.13

Steve Nichols in the "Mill Road Boys" Flopper still experiencing some problems. I am sure they wont be happy with that pass. Ed Schwartz in the "Estrus" Flopper making a nice clean pass. They are still making passes on the throttle stop working out their tune up.

This sets up our final round match ups. It will be Ed Schwartz vs Jeff Utterback for 3rd Place and Randy Walls vs Dale Pulde for the Championship.

8:00 PM - The Final Round............ As more than just the finalists made passes in this round, the finalists will be bordered in gold.

 

Injected Alcohol Results Round 3
Contestant
Reaction Time
ET
MPH
Willie Johnson
.817
8.796
152.14

Willie Johnson with another crowd pleasing pass to take the Injected Alcohol Championship

Congratulations to Willie Johnson on his Win at the First Annual Funny Car Nationals!

Blown Alcohol Final Round Results
Lou Sgro
.214
6.950
204.98
Rick Wilson
.155
7.591
187.36

Rick Wilson leaves on Lou Sgro, but Sgro has the difference made up by mid track and blows on by for the Win with a very nice pass.

Congratulations to Lou Sgro on his Win at the First Annual Funny Car Nationals

Rick Lawrence
.176
6.919
192.99
Rick Stambaugh
.158
7.215
167.66

Rick Stambaugh gets a slight edge off the line, but Rick Lawrence makes it up quickly and easily handles Rick Stambaugh to collect 3rd Place in the Blown Alcohol Class.

Mike Verbais
.344 Broke  
Rick Frederick .325 8.554 161.73

Mike Verbais broke at the hit. It has been a rough weekend for Mike Verbais. Rick Frederick is on and off the throttle for this pass.

Joe Jacono
.138 7.448 183.39
Mike Kurz .264 7.536 180.12

Joe Jacono left on Mike Kurz in a big way and never looked back. A very nice weekend for both of these racers.

Mike Boisvert
.007 13.013 64.11
Chris Gerber .265 8.026 171.08

Mike Boisvert with a killer light, but it goes for naught. Once again he experiences problems and has to shut down. Chris Gerber with a less than stellar pass as well.

Outlaw Blown Nitro Final Round Results
Rob Bruce
.131 Broke (Blower)  
Greg Jacobsmeyer
.363 7.085 178.31

Rob Bruce leaves on Greg Jacobsmeyer, but at about 400 ft, he popped the blower and sent the burst panel flying. Greg Jacobsmeyer drove around him for the win!

Congratulations to Greg Jacobsmeyer on his Win at the First Annual Funny Car Nationals!

VRA Blown Nitro Final Round Results
Randy Walls
.260 6.519 217.28
Dale Pulde
.125 6.341 226.35

Dale Pulde out of the gate first and never looks back to take the win. Randy Walls with another nice run in his Big Block Chevy powered Flopper.

Congratulations to Dale Pulde on his Win at the First Annual Funny Car Nationals!

Ed Schwartz
.697 12.519 90.16
Jeff Utterback
.224 6.680 219.65

Jeff Utterback blasts off the line first and keeps the healthy lead all the way through the quartermile. Ed Schwartz was dead late off the line and shut down shortly after.

 

Steve Nichols
.413 7.220 203.31
Mike Adams
.138 6.083 230.02

Steve Nichols was late off the tree and ran another low 7. But how about Mike Adams in the Dale Riggs tuned "Salorr Portable Scooters" Vette Flopper! He just reset the National ET Record for VRA Legal Blown Nitro Class! After the problems he suffered in Rounds 1 and 2, Mike Adams and his guys definitely redeemed themselves with this pass!

 

 

Special Awards
Best Burnout Award Blown Nitro: Mike Adams and his Salorr Corvette Funny Car
Best Burnout Award Blown Alky: Steve Hill and his Corvette Convertible Funny Car
Hard Luck Award: Frank Jonkman and his Nitromare Funny Car

Sunday - Ed Schwartz in the "Estrus" Vega Flopper came out today and ran a low 6.70. This is a great accomplishment for this team and I would like to extend my Congratulations to them.

Opinions- (Pro) - From where I stand, this event was a lot of fun. Of course, I was around back in the heyday of the 70s Floppers and remember what it was like to be there back then. I have found that the same atmosphere that existed in the pits back then has been reincarnated today. The Racers and the Teams are great folks and would give you the shirt off their back to help you out. They are very fan friendly and go out of there way to interact with the fans. Saturday night the crowd interaction with the drivers and teams was something that I do not see in this day and age with the exception of NHRA Pro Events. And the drivers and teams went out of their way to interact with the fans, which just made them that much louder. We have some great showmen in the class and they give the fans what they want and deserve. There were some great burnouts ,dry hops, and wheels up launches. The East Coast Alcohol stalwarts Lou Sgro and Joe Jacono put on a great show. But I have come to expect that from these professional showmen. Another Racer that impressed me was Rick Lawrence in his "Minnesota Maniac" Blown Alky Flopper. He was out every round, made great burnouts, wheels up launches and great passes as well. Tracy Klingerman and Christian Gerber, who shined at the recent Funny Car Reunion were a bit off the pace this weekend, but the burnouts and launches were impressive as always. There have been mutterings in the press about the lack of flames from the blown nitro class. For one thing, I was there back in the day. The header flames were only to the bottom of the windows on the floppers back in the day. The reason you saw so much flame back in the day could be, in my opinion, is the lighting that is available to the tracks today. Today's tracks are lit up like daytime at night. Back in the day, the tracks did not have nearly the lighting of today's tracks. The drivers of the day back then were driving virtually into mineshaft's. And when it is that dark, you will see the flames much more clearly. The VRA Blown Nitro Class for the most part are running period correct and performing as such, in my opinion. The crowd on Saturday was a pleasant surprise and seemed to enjoy the show immensely.

Opinions - (Con) - For a show that should have been the "Crown Jewel" of the Classic Funny Car Movement, I believe it fell short. There were far too many teams that showed up not ready to race. They came out in test mode. I am not being critical of these guys, just stating a fact. This hindered the show in my opinion. If you are bringing your car out in test mode, testing should be done separate of the show itself at different times. These shows are needed for these guys to be able to test. I just think the organization would have served the show better if the teams in test n tune mode had their own separate time slot to test. Then there are guys like Troy Martin in his "Chi Town Hustler" Flopper that came out only to show, but instead decided to try to get a couple of passes in. Troy and his guys should be commended for doing more than they originally planned to do. But here again, these test n tune runs should be held separate from the show. Also, some of the teams that damaged their cars during passes left the show early. These teams should stick around and put the car out for show, if it isn't damaged too badly. This is a show, and showmanship is the keyword here. You may not be able to race, but you can help the movement by making your car available to be show and interact with the fans. Every little bit that can be done by the racers and teams is a plus for the movement. The crowd on Friday was less than stellar. Also, the local media that was scheduled to do a story about the event pulled a no show. This is not a black mark against the promoter or the racers, just the sad state of affairs when it comes to the media.

Conclusion - Overall, it was a good show that could have been great. There are a lot of positives to build on and some areas for improvement. This is a fledgling movement that is still in its infancy and will get better with the right leadership and direction. It is a class that's time has come. With today's corporate drag racing world and the Nostalgia Top Fuel Dragster about to hit the wall with its high price racing and ET's and MPH that have nowhere to go, the Classic Funny Cars will be the next Class to be a part of. It has such an ability to outshine other drag racing classes if it is instituted in the right way. The cost of racing needs to be controlled right from the start. It cannot be allowed to become a "Millionaire Club" to participate. That will only hurt the Class and kill the car counts. I am really looking forward to watching the class as it grows and matures. Personally, I found the atmosphere and the show to be fantastic. But in reality it was a good show that needs some improvement to become a viable option to today's drag racing classes already well grounded in its fan base.

Photos courtesy Mark King 1/4 Mile photography

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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