Looking more like a nitro Funny Car following a fiery engine explosion, Casey Stemper’s 2011 Suzuki flashed across the finish line at Virginia Motorsports Park trailing a long plume of flames as Stemper scored his second win of the year, with each coming at the expense of championship-contending rival Eric McKinney.
“Eric was running real good all day, so I knew it was going to be a real tough race right from the start,” said Stemper after running the identical 4.034 elapsed time in the final that he qualified number one with ahead of McKinney’s 4.067-seconds effort.
“I was a little ahead when I started seeing flames where my head gasket was starting to fail and I could see Eric was coming up on my left side, but my dad and all the people who were helping us tune had already told me, ‘We don’t care if you burn it to the ground, just win this race,’ so there was no way I was going to let off.”
The fire was out by the time Stemper rolled to a stop at the top-end turnoff, with no obvious damage to the externals of the bike.
“We have to go through the engine now anyway, so I’m pretty sure no one’s going to complain,” he added with a laugh.
Stemper, from Upper Marlboro, MD, was a model of consistency in eliminations, running a trio of 4.04 passes in defeating TT Jones, former back-to-back class champion Billy Vose and veteran rider Paul Gast to reach the final round. Hamersville, OH’s McKinney, meanwhile, put together runs of 4.124, 4.080 and 4.083, respectively, in downing Monte Campbell, 2009 champ Scott Gray and Canadian Terry Schweigert in his first appearance on the ADRL tour this year.
McKinney got the jump with a sizable .051 holeshot, but Stemper quickly reeled him in and raced to the win at an off-the-pace 164.77 mph compared to McKinney’s 4.106 pass at 172.92 mph.
“It was our third-straight final and our fourth of five races this year, so I really can’t be too upset,” said McKinney, winner of the two previous ADRL national events. “But Casey was really flying here this weekend, so we have some work to do before we get to (the next ADRL race in) Michigan.”
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