In what would be a career year for most, Bill Reichert clinched a fourth straight North Central championship and at least third place in the national standings. If he stays second, it will be for a Greg Anderson-like seven years in a row, but when you're easily the driver of the decade and still not far removed from five consecutive national championships, nothing less than another one is ever enough.
"Not winning it is definitely a disappointment, but we really wanted this regional championship too," said Reichert, who now has 10 in 20 years driving a Top Alcohol Dragster. "There was a time when this one wasn't looking too likely."
With back-to-back losses in his first two regional starts, Indianapolis and Norwalk, the season got off to a wobbly start. Already out of mulligans under the new points format – best three of five regionals for national points, best five of seven for regional points – Reichert then swept the next three regionals, Maple Grove, Chicago, and Columbus, defeating Duane Shields at Maple Grove, 5.45 to 5.45, upstart Dave Heitzman at Chicago, and veteran Robin Samsel at Columbus.
"The third one, Columbus, was the one we had to have," Reichert said. "That can be a tough place to figure out, but we knew what we had to do." Comfortably ahead in the regional standings and out of races to claim nationally, Reichert's Rislone Engine Treatment team headed to Bowling Green the week before Indy for one reason: to lock up another title. For the first time in five years he didn't win, but a runner-up to East Region champ Rich McPhillips clinched the championship.
"That was one time losing the final wasn't too bad," he said. "You'd look at the track and the weather and know that you should be running .40s, but we were having a hard time running .50s. We were lucky to get out of there with a runner-up."
With 351 points – more than any Top Alcohol Dragster driver in any region – Reichert outscored Norwalk winner Ken Perry by nearly 100. Jared Dreher, who won the Indianapolis event, was third, and many-time Division 3 champs Marty Thacker and Mike Kosky finished fourth and fifth, each surprisingly without an event win.
For Reichert, who won the first divisional he ever entered, the 1992 Division 3 meet at Union Grove, this North Central crown is his first in the regional era, sixth in seven years, and 10th overall. He also won division titles in 1994, 1998, 2001, and 2004. The only thing better would have been a record sixth national championship. "You have to be realistic about things," he said. "It seems like I'm always getting compared to Frank Manzo, but it's not even close. If we're able to hold off Chris Demke for second, that'll be five firsts and three seconds since 2004, and that's not too bad."
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