RONNIE GARDNER WINS EVENT, CLINCHES BIG DOG CHAMPIONSHIP

Written by Van Abernethy.

If ever a racer saved his best for last, Ronnie Gardner's performance at Thursday's Big Dog shoot-out would be hard to top. Big_Dog_10-02-08_122.JPGHeld monthly at Piedmont Dragway, the October 2 event was the season-ending gathering, and also the decider of the Big Dog Championship. Ronnie Gardner arrived at the Julian, NC facility with a 42 point lead over Jason Harris, a 2-time event winner in this his rookie season with the series. After qualifying, Gardner's point lead was extended to 48, but still hadn't clinched the championship. Harris could still mathematically pull off a tremendous upset, if he won the event and if Gardner lost in round one.
 
The championship, however, was decided early in the event, as veteran racer, R.B. Smith stopped Harris, while Gardner advanced to the semi-finals, winning the championship in the process. After a round one victory over Chris Rini, Gardner took a single in the semi-finals over Jack Gaddy, whose Cavalier hurt a motor in round one. R.B. Smith, who after getting past Jason Harris in round one, continued advancing when he got the win light over Travis Harvey in the semi-finals.
 
In the finals, Smith was out of the gate first (.070 - .106) but Gardner uncorked some massive power on this run, clocking 4.15 @ 176mph. Gardner's e.t. stands as the quickest nitrous-assisted run in Big Dog history. "This has got to be the greatest day in my racing life," stated Gardner. "I won all those championships years ago in Glenn Redmond's Corvette, but it seems like it's been forever since I've won the Big Dog Championship," added Gardner.
 
As for his record run in the finals, Gardner and company had the Camaro's Fulton 762 power plant de-tuned to the point that the 4th system was completely turned off. "We had a glitch in the timer and when the fourth stage came on it would turn the third system off, so we elected to just not use the fourth system at all," said Gardner. The cool night air proved to be the perfect conditions for the de-tuned set-up. "If it was 90 degrees out here, this car probably wouldn't run better than a 4.35," laughed Gardner.
 
The Big Dog Championship is Gardner's fourth in a very successful career of drag racing. "Mike Stanley has been my crew chief since day one, and I want to thank him for all the help," said Gardner. An original business partner, Gardner and Stanley together launched Prime Time Race Cars about 10 years ago. Although Stanley now works in Nascar, he's been a constant tuner for Gardner throughout the years. In addition to car owner Jack Gaddy, Gardner credited a long list of supporters that make this operation function. "I want to thank Mike, Greg, Robbie, Jayme, Shawn, Brian, Elijah, Mater, Tim and Tommy," said Gardner.
 
In Piedmont's consolation race, Ken Regenthal put his famous Carolina Hooker in the winner's circle. After getting past Rod Fitzgerald and Jim Teachman, Regenthal drove to victory in finals over Rocky Raynor. Regenthal clocked 4.25 @ 172mph - numbers that would have easily qualified for the main event, had the run happened a few rounds earlier. Raynor was off the pace on this outing as he continues to tweak brand new horse power from Sonny Leonard. 
 
Although this was Piedmont's season-ending Big Dog event, lots of racing still remains. Keep up with what's on tap by visiting: www.piedmontdragway.com

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