EXCLUSIVE REPORT - MICHALAK, LASTOR, TABOR AND TOBAR TAKE RTRA WINS AT NORTH STAR DRAGWAY
Text by Chris Graves; Photos by Wes Ramsey Mon, 2015-09-14 18:00
The fourth of six points races in the inaugural Radial Tire Racing Association season brought the series to its host racetrack North Star Dragway in Denton, Texas. The only points series of it's kind, the RTRA has made a big splash in it's freshman season and attracted the biggest names in drag radial racing to compete in this quickly growing class.
Three classes (Pro Drag Radial, X275, Limited 275) were in action in this three-day event held September 10-12th as teams packed the pits. Records were broken and first-time series winners were crowned. North Star Dragway holds onto the motto "Where The Fast…Go Faster!" and those were not idle words as the racers backed the statement up with some stellar performances in all three classes.
THE PLAYERS - PRO DRAG RADIAL
Jason Michalak of Cypress, Texas had his fan favorite blown Corvette in the house at North Star Dragway. Coming in fourth in RTRA points standings as the series moved into the second half of the season, Michalak and company looked to make a move to the front and that's just what they did. After qualifying third with a 4.06 at 188 mph and advancing past Justin Martin in round one, Michalak moved into the final over a red lighting Taylor Lastor to take on number one qualifier Rick Thornton.
Justin Martin has attended every RTRA event this season from Pocola, Oklahoma in his sleek 1972 Chevy Nova. Martin qualified sixth with a 4.37 at 164 mph but met his match in round one against eventual event winner Jason Michalak.
Kyle Huettel had the famed "Bad9er" Camaro on hand at North Star Dragway looking to go rounds, but unfortunately it was nothing but problems for the experienced racer from start to finish. On Friday night, a wild nitrous backfire lit up the starting line seen here. Huettel did manage to qualify fifth with a 4.31 at 175 mph but was unable to make the call for first round of eliminations.
Rick Thornton enjoyed a very successful weekend behind the wheel of his twin turbo charged 1965 Chevy Corvette. Under tuning guidance from Grant McCrary, Thornton blew the scoreboards up with a 3.99 at 195 mph in the final qualifying session. This is the first official three second run for any small block on Mickey Thompson 315's which set a national and series record. Thornton thundered to the semi-finals where his 4.08 defeated Mark Moore, earning him a date with Jason Michalak in the final round. In what could have been the first side by side three second pass in RTRA history, Thornton jumped the tree before it was activated while Michalak ripped off a stellar 4.01 at 190 to take the event win.
In semi-final action of Pro Drag Radial, the photo tells the story as Taylor Lastor goes -.017 red, voiding his 4.10 elapsed time. Despite the red light, Lastor's entry ran very strong consistently over the weekend and you can bet will contend for an event win with two points races remaining this season.
Mark Moore moved to the semi-finals after qualifying fourth with a 4.17 at 185 mph. Moore hoped to make his first final round in Pro Drag Radial at his hometown race, but his 5.09 was no match for Rick Thornton's 4.08 at 194 mph.
Taylor Lastor double dipped in RTRA action at North Star Dragway with an entry in both Pro Drag Radial and X275. Even more impressive, Lastor qualified second in Pro Drag Radial with a 4.04 at 175 mph and recorded a semi-final finish while qualifying number one in X275 with a stellar 4.55 and riding those performances to the X275 class victory at North Star Dragway.
Team "Bad9er" packed the starting line in celebration of their second RTRA Pro Drag Radial win of the season. This team has raised eyebrows across the country this year with their spectacular blown Corvette. Michalak made a move into the top three in points with two RTRA events remaining this season. It will be a fun finale as Michalak, Thornton, Moore and the rest of the points hungry teams battle it out. RTRA will return to North Star Dragway in October and November for their final two races in this inaugural season for the series.
THE RUNDOWN - ROUND-BY-ROUND RESULTS
THE PLAYERS - X275
Cecil Whitaker of Dexter, Missouri wheeled his flaming 1999 Camaro to a strong semi-final finish at North Star Dragway. After qualifying number two with a 4.58 at 154 mph, his 582 cubic inch entry met eventual event winner Taylor Lastor in the semi-finals. Whitaker had a fighting chance on paper, having laid down two more 4.58's in earlier elimination rounds, but fell off to a 4.66 at 153 mph in the semi and was no match for Lastor's 4.54 at 154 mph.
Bertram, Texas resident Chad Smallwood qualified his 1987 Ford Mustang in the number six spot with a 4.64 at 151 mph in the twenty one car field. In second round of eliminations, Smallwood met up with Odie Sturgeon in a great side by side bout. After a small starting line advantage, Smallwood kept the pedal to the floor and his 4.63 at 150 mph narrowly defeated Sturgeon's 4.64 at 153 mph.
X275 competition was fierce and plenty fast with the stellar track preparations provided by the staff at North Star Dragway. RTRA points leader Jared Johnston who qualified third, met number one qualifier Taylor Lastor in the last dance of the night. In a true powerhouse match up, Lastor took a slight starting line advantage and never trailed, posting a 4.55 at 155 mph to Johnston's close 4.58 at 156 mph. This marked Lastor's first RTRA event win while Johnston's runner up finish kept his place atop the points standings with two events remaining this season.
Jared Johnston loves North Star Dragway. The team from Raymore, Missouri are undefeated in Denton, Texas dating back to last fall and over a span of three events. That streak held strong over the weekend until the final round where his 4.58 came up short to Taylor Lastor's 4.55. Despite being held from the winners circle, Johnston will hold a firm grasp on the category points lead and is a sure bet to hoist the hardware at the RTRA Championship Finals in November.
Lamar Swindoll Sr. of Onalaska, Texas belches flames from his TRE Racing Engines powered 1968 Nova. Swindoll qualified in the bottom half of the field, yet marched into the third round lined up with points leader Jared Johnston. A nice 4.62 at 152 mph was a solid run, but not enough for Johnston's 4.56 at 155 mph.
Mike Buttafouco clicked off a 4.61 at 152 mph to secure the number five qualifying position at North Star Dragway and moved past Travis Franklin and Justin Curry to enter his third round bout with Cecil Whitaker. Buttafouco's clean 1977 Chevy Camaro posted a solid 4.64 at 152 mph, but came up short at the stripe to Whitaker's 4.8 at 154 mph.
Taylor Lastor had his hands full in RTRA competition over the weekend, competing in both Pro Drag Radial and X275 and enjoying success in both categories. Lastor started the weekend off with a stellar 4.55 at 155 mph to take the pole position heading into eliminations. A stunning show of consistency and horsepower application resulted in a 4.55, 4.55, 4.54 and 4.55 run streak for Lastor who capped off the "perfect" event by defeating RTRA points leader Jared Johnston in the final round, a truly impressive effort.
THE RUNDOWN - ROUND-BY-ROUND RESULTS FROM X275
THE PLAYERS - LIMITED 275
Daniel Large qualified number six with a 5.00 at 140 mph and marched through the Limited 275 field to the final round where he'd face off with class points leader Eric Tobar. Large knocked out Marcus Westcott, Michael Hollis and Nathan Bevilacqua en route to his final round appearance. In the final, his first career RTRA Limited 275 final round, Large's 4.98 at 140 mph was no match for Tobar's stout 4.88 at 142 mph.
Friday night qualifying provided some big numbers on a stellar racing surface at North Star Dragway. Drag radial racing is unpredictable as wheelie bars are not permitted in the 275 tire size classes. Fast cars, big power and tight racetracks equal wheelstands as eventual event winner Eric Tobar found out during one of his Friday night qualifying passes.
Eric Tobar and Daniel Large squared off in the Limited 275 final round. Tobar was looking to improve on his class points lead and score his second RTRA win of the season while Large was looking for the upset win in his first final round appearance of the season. Large took a very slight starting line advantage as both drivers were on their game at the flash of amber. Tobar made a hard charge and pulled ahead with a 4.88 at 142 mph to take the win light over Large's 4.98 at 140 mph.
Lone Oak, Texas resident Michael Kilgore took the win for "longest and highest wheelstand of the weekend" as he drug the bumper and carried it under power almost to the 330' cone. One of the many reasons drag radial racing is on an impressive popularity swing. Unfortunately for Kilgore, wheelstands don't win races and he bowed out in round one to Michael Hollis.
Terry Thompson was your number eight qualifier in Limited 275 in his 588 cubic inch 1967 Chevy II from Canyon, Texas. Thompson slid past Miguel Varela and Benny Wilmeth before meeting his match in round three against eventual event winner Eric Tobar.
Eric Tobar is enjoying a career year in his 2002 Chevy Camaro packing plenty of ponies under the hood with a wicked 421 cubic inch small block. Tobar racked up his second RTRA Limited 275 victory at North Star Dragway and will take his expanded points lead home to Liberty Hill, Texas looking to clinch the inaugural RTRA Limited 275 class Championship with two points races remaining this season.
The staff at North Star Dragway delivered another great race as evidenced by the results and the fan approval.