FINAL NOTEBOOK - MANZO, REICHERT HEADLINE SPORTSMAN WINNERS
Wednesday’s Mac Tools NHRA U.S. Nationals opened with 632 entries and by late Monday afternoon, each eliminator had been pared down to two entries.
TOP ALCOHOL FUNNY CAR - Frank Manzo, the No. 1 qualifier in Top Alcohol Funny Car was matched with No. 6 qualifier Fred Tigges in the final round. The 14-time national champ and 20 time divisional champ left the starting line with a huge advantage and crossed the finish line first to take the win with a 5.494 elapsed time at 264.55 mph. Tigges was 5.595 at 256.24 mph in his losing effort.
“We made some important calls,” said Manzo. “A lot of the good top qualifiers went out and weird things happen here. We just tried to stay consistent and go down the track. With all the great cars we have in Top Alcohol Funny Car you have to be consistent. I am very fortunate to have a great team.”
TOP ALCOHOL DRAGSTER - Bill Reichert established his place in drag racing history as he became the only three-time Top Alcohol Dragster winner at Indy by defeating Duane Shields by 0.097 seconds.
“I just won the U.S. Nationals three times in a row,” said Reichert. “I’m really really surprised that we did that. It’s just super. It’s really something to win it three times at all. We’ve runnered-up twice too. I was a little worried that we might have another runner up but it came through good for us. I had a great light and the car ran good. We did what we needed.”
COMPETITION - In Competition Eliminator, No. 1 qualifier Jirka Kaplan, joked about taking part of the starting line home with him to remember his first appearance at Indy. Instead, Kaplan will take home a better memento, a for winning Indy. Kaplan beat Brian Browell in the final after both cars slowed and were not able to run under their indexes.
“It’s beyond words,” said Kaplan. I’m still in shell shock. I didn’t expect to win. It has not sunk in. We were the fastest car here but comp is a very complex class and we weren’t looking very good after about the second round, four permanent and fourteen for the race. We had more for them in the later rounds but the car was actually wounded. We put as much power in it as we could but we went to the starting line with a wounded car. I was pretty lucky.”
SUPER STOCK - Shane Carr won his second national event of 2011 by defeating Gary Richards in the Super Stock final. Carr was 0.005 to Richards’ 0.007 reaction time and on the right side of his dial to win the U.S. Nationals. Richards ran under his dial by 0.003 seconds under his dial in his losing attempt.
“It feels great to win Indy,” said Carr. This race has always been real bad to me for some reason. I got to the semis a few years back against Gary Richards and he beat me. This time it turned around for me. It’s been a long week with a lot of work. It’s a marathon. It feels great to win.”
Carr made his way to the final with three 0.000 lights during the marathon weekend at Indy. Carr advanced into the final after Bryon Worner was 0.005 seconds on the wrong side of the tree in the semi-final round.
STOCK - Jeff Teuton lined up his F/SA ’09 Challenger against the F/SA ’02 Camaro of Sam Pourciau in the Stock eliminator final. The race ended early as Pourciau lost an engine on the starting line enabling Teuton to grab the victory.
“I’m high. I mean this is the biggest event, it’s the only NHRA event I’ve ever won,” I’m feeling pretty good. I’m proud of my car. I’ve sold those cars I’ve been a dealer for years and I’ve been racing since 1958. This is a pretty good milestone.”
SUPER COMP - Brian Folk, a former U.S. Nationals Super Gas champion, took the win over close friend Britt Cummings to win Super Comp. Folk was 0.004 on the starting line and 0.045 seconds over the 8.90 index to win with a 0.0101 margin.
“I want to thank my mom and my brother Nick,” said Brian Folk. If it wasn’t for them I wouldn’t be here. They are the ones that help the most. It sure was a fun race to run my pool shooting buddy Britt Cummings in the final. Him (Cummings) and I have had a lot of fun times together over the years. I’m just ecstatic as usual.”
SUPER GAS - In Super Gas, Ryan “High-Gear” Herem came from California to win the U.S. Nationals. He was 0.017 on the starting line in a borrowed ’63 Corvette and 0.002 over the 9.90 Super Gas index to defeat Kevin Kleineweber. Kleineweber ran under the index, taking 0.0559 seconds of finish line stripe and breaking out in his losing attempt.
“It’s just unbelievable,” said Herem who credits Shawn Langdon and Brad Plourd for his success. “It’s Indy and it’s luckily my first try at it. There’s no words for it.”
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SUNDAY NOTEBOOK - ELIMINATIONS CUTTING FIELDS DOWN
PERFECTION IN SUPER STOCK ROUND ONE- Three rounds of Super Stock eliminations were on the schedule for Sunday at the U.S. Nationals.
Round one was completed with Gregory Meyer, Shane Carr, Michael Iacono and Ed Wright all leaving the starting line with a 0.000 reaction time. Meyer was then 10.221 on his 10.16 dial in his ’92 Firebird to defeat Jerry Silveus by 0.024 seconds. Carr singled when Bo Kenny did not make the call. Carr was deadly on the starting line anyway with his third 0.000 reaction time. Iacono was just as tough on the starting line with a perfect reaction as opponent Jim Clark fouled.
TIGHT RACING CONTINUES- Super Stock No. 9 qualifier Mark Nowicki and No. 73 Ricky Decker faced each other in a heads-up GT/EA battle. Nowicki ran -0.759 under the 10.65 index with Decker just as quick going under by -0.757. Nowicki had the better reaction time allowing the 0.002 seconds advantage he had in elapsed time to lead him through the finish line first. When cars of identical classification meet in eliminations, there is no breakout.
ALTERNATE INVOLVED IN CLOSEST FINISH OF THE ROUND- Super Stock alternate qualifier Dan Zust and Tom Randall were involved in the tightest race of the round. Zust was slower off of the line with a 0.054 reaction, but made up for it by running dead-on his dial-in. Randall’s was no slouch on the starting line with a 0.002 reaction but couldn't run the number, running +0.053 and losing by 0.0019 seconds.
LEAVE IT TO THE 14 TIME NATIONAL CHAMP- Frank Manzo sat in the No. 2 position behind Tony Bartone through the first three sessions of Top Alcohol Funny Car qualifying. The pair then ran side-by-side the lowest E.T.’s of qualifying during the final session with Manzo taking the No. 1 spot by 0.015 seconds. Manzo recorded a 5.559 elapsed time at 259.91 mph. Bartone’s slipped into second with a 5.574, 259.46 effort.
CHRIS FOSTER CONTINUES TO STRUGGLE- Not included in the sixteen qualified TAFCs is No. 8 in the championship point standings Chris Foster. Foster tagged the wall in first session of qualifying, was shut off after the burnout in the second session and shook the tires in the third and final session.
YOUNGER, QUICKER AND FASTER- The No. 1 qualified position in Top Alcohol Dragster was taken by 23 year old Chase Copeland. Copeland put 0.070 between himself and the second quickest qualifier. He was also 14 mph faster.
THE REST OF THE PACK - Five-time national champion, Bill Reichert, improved his elapsed time to 5.350 at 264.49 mph to qualify No. 2. Chris Demke’s elapsed time was 0.024 seconds off of Reichert’s to claim the No. 3 position with a 5.374.The JC Auto Glass-sponsored TAD of Richard Bourke moved into the top half of the field with a 5.412 elapsed time to finish No. 4
RELYING ON THE FINAL SESSION- Jared Dreher and Karen Stalba’s hopes to make the field came down to the final session. Both drivers improved to make the field, Dreher in the No. 11 position and Stalba No. 14. The bump spot belonged to Matthew Cummings' 5.605. Jerry Powell and Dave Hirata both missed the field by less than 0.025 seconds.
SATURDAY NOTEBOOK - ELIMINATIONS GET UNDERWAY
The Top Alcohol cars were the key plays in day four of sportsman qualifying for the Mac Tools NHRA U.S. Nationals presented by Lucas Oil in Indianapolis.
Bill Reichert retained the No. 1 spot in Top Alcohol Dragster qualifying with the 5.398 elapsed time he posted Friday.
Chris Demke, Duane Shields and Chase Copeland rounded out the top four positions.
Demke, who was unqualified after two sessions of qualifying, improved to the No. 2 position with a 5.410 elapsed time pass at 266.37 mph. Shields improved to No. 3 from the No. 6 position with a 5.447 elapsed time pass at 264.44 mph. Copeland earned his spot with a 5.448 elapsed time at 269.67 mph.
Jared Dreher and Karen Stalba were bumped from the show with one session remaining.
Tony Bartone and Frank Manzo both improved during the third session of Top Alcohol Funny Car to keep the No. 1 and No. 2 positions respectively.
Bartone stepped up with a 5.633, 258.37 mph while Manzo ran a 5.645, 258.76 mph.
Jay Payne moved into the third position ahead of John Lombardo Jr., who was fourth.
Brent Henry in his 21Ten Life Shotz ’11 Mustang is on the bubble with a 5.794 elapsed time at 250.27 mph.
Bryan Brown, Brian Harvanek and Tony Bogolo are on the outside looking in with one session remaining.
Competition eliminator eliminations opened with a feast or famine round. Half of the first round races were decided by either red lights or included reaction times worse than 0.100.
Al Ackerman, the 2010 Comp World Champion, was part those who fouled in the opening round. The defending series champion added insult to injury by recording his quickest pass of the weekend with an 8.136 elapsed time, -0.464 under the F/D 8.60 index in losing.
Vinny Barone Racing teammates Kevin Robb and Tom Stalba advanced to the second round without the team’s third car driven by Anthony Bertozzi.
Bertozzi ended up on the wrong side of a race with David Rampy. Rampy was 0.008 on the tree and -0.437 under the 7.84 A/EA to beat Bertozzi.
Stock eliminator has been eliminated down to 16 cars.
No. 6 qualifier Bo Butner faced the K/S ’66 Nova of Bill Sempsrott in the third round of competition. Butner had a 0.008 seconds advantage on the starting line but loses the race by 0.001 seconds to Sempsrott who was closer to his dial.
Nick Folk will also race on Sunday in the Stock Eliminator class. Nick Folk was quicker on the starting line in his C/S’99 Camaro and close enough to his dial to take win light against the K/SA ’72 Grand Sport of Tim Lowe.
Anthony Fetch and Jim Boudreau lined up 3rd round for a heads-up match-up between two B/SA hot rods. Fetch was behind on the starting line with a 0.093 seconds reaction time to Boudreau’s 0.045 but was able to run farther under the 11.25 index to move on to the 4th round.
In a tight Stock Eliminator race, 0.008 seconds separated Mike Ficacci and Jerry Hefler at the finish line with Ficacci coming back to race on Sunday. Ficacci was 0.045 on the starting line and 0.026 seconds over his dial in beating the 0.055 reaction time of Hefler who was 0.024 seconds over his dial.
TWO THOUSANDTHS TOO QUICK - Current No. 2 in the world in Super Gas, Tommy Phillips, moves into round four after his third round competitor Dave Klomps was 2 thousandths too quick on the starting line. Dave Klomps was not the only competitor to turn the red light on by .002 as current No. 1 in the world, David Tatum was also 0.002 red giving the 3rd round win to Ryan Dillman. A third SG driver Ken Mostowich also found the red light by 0.002 seconds to Ed Apples benefit as he will be back to race on Sunday.
TIGHTENING UP THE RACE- Leo Zynda will move into found four with Dillman, Phillips, Stalba and the rest of the sixteen cars left to race on Sunday. Zynda was perfect on the tree and took the holeshot win defeating Steven Hoyt by 0.004 seconds. Brian Folk also took the round win in a race decided by 0.009 seconds. Folk was 0.006 on the starting line to Mark Coles 0.025 and 9.920 at the finish line stripe to defeat Coles’ 9.910 elapsed time on a holeshot.
THREE ROUNDS OF SUPER COMP COMPLETE- Britt Cummings had his work cut out for him after he left the starting line 0.026 seconds behind the 0.000 light of Wade Pennington. However, Cummings will continue to round four after Pennington’s car never went on the throttle stop and ran way under the 8.90 index.
GOING ROUNDS IN TWO CLASSES- Tommy Phillips and Brian Folk who were mentioned earlier for their success so far in Super Gas have also found that same success in Super Comp. Phillips defeated Dennis Ridgeway leaving 0.005 seconds quicker on the starting line and crossing the finish line on the right side of the index. Ridgeway took too much stripe to go under the index by 0.053 seconds. Folk was given the automatic round three win after Adam Gerber went red by 0.001 seconds. Folk was 0.032 on the tree and ran an 8.818 elapsed time on his free run.
ONE KENNY CONTINUES- Samantha Kenny moves on to round four without her brother Jason Kenny. Samantha Kenny was 0.012 on the starting line and 0.012 seconds over the index to defeat Ronnie Siani who fouled out on the starting line by 0.004 seconds. Jason Kenny’s attempt at the Super Comp national title in Indy was ended in a tight race against Shawn Langdon. Langdon was 0.006 on the starting line, 0.001 seconds behind the 0.005 of Jason Kenny. Landon made the 0.001 seconds up at the finish line crossing with an 8.912 elapsed time, 0.001 seconds quicker than Kenny’s 8.913. The race was decided by 0.0008 seconds.
FINAL 16 DECIDED IN STOCK- No. 6 qualifier Bo Butner faced the K/S ’66 Nova of Bill Sempsrott in the third round of competition. Butner had a 0.008 seconds advantage on the starting line, but lost the race by 0.001 seconds to Sempsrott, who was closer to his dial.
HEADS UP- Anthony Fetch and Jim Boudreau lined up 3rd round for a heads-up match-up between two B/SA hot rods. Fetch was behind on the starting line with a 0.093 seconds reaction time to Boudreau’s 0.045 but was able to run farther under the 11.25 index to move on to the 4th round.
MORE TIGHT RACING- 0.008 seconds separated Mike Ficacci and Jerry Hefler at the finish line with Ficacci coming back to race in Stock Eliminator on Sunday. Ficacci was 0.045 on the starting line and 0.026 seconds over his dial in beating the 0.055 reaction time of Hefler who was 0.024 seconds over his dial.
FRIDAY NOTEBOOK - THE WESTCOTTS MAKES HEMI CHALLENGE A FAMILY TRADITION
ALL IN THE FAMILY - Charlie Westcott Jr. continued his family’s dominance of the Mopar HEMI Challenge event at the Mac Tools U.S. Nationals, powering to his fourth career victory at the Indy race and banking the record $15,000 winner’s purse in a final-round fight with his father, Charlie Westcott Sr., at Lucas Oil Raceway today.
“Congratulations to Charlie Westcott Jr. on winning the 11th annual Mopar HEMI Challenge,” said Pietro Gorlier, President and CEO of Mopar, Chrysler Group LLC’s service, parts and customer-care brand. “Mopar is proud to support this outstanding event, which recognizes the grassroots racers who are the backbone of the Mopar brand.”
Westcott Jr. swept the Mopar HEMI Challenge, which features Super Stock A/HEMI (SS/AH) 1968 Dodge Darts and Plymouth Barracudas in head-to head-battle, also claiming the $1,000 bonus for seizing the No. 1 Qualifier spot in the 20-car field. He drove his 1968 “Warfish” Plymouth Barracuda to victories over Steve Kent, Chuck Comella and Gary Wolkwitz to set up a father-and-son battle with Westcott Sr., who dispatched of Rick Houser, Stephen Herbert and Wendell Howes on his road to the final.
The elder Westcott, winner of the 2009 Mopar HEMI Challenge U.S. Nationals event, gave his son a lesson off the starting line in the final, recording a 0.010 reaction time to Jr.’s tardier 0.103 mark. However, youth would win out at the finish line, as Westcott Jr. pulled away in the battle of ’68 Plymouth Barracudas with an 8.441-second run at 158.50 mph to his father’s 8.549/157.65 effort. Including Westcott Sr.’s $2,000 runner-up purse, the Westcott clan will take $18,000 and the Mopar HEMI Challenge trophy back to their home in Parma, Mich.
“The heat has been killer, and we fought some issues with both our cars, but it ended up with me and my dad in the final," said Westcott Jr., who also triumphed at the Mopar HEMI Challenge U.S. Nationals event in 2005-2006 and 2008. "We’ve got a good rivalry going; the last two times I ran him in a final he beat me. We race wide open and we don’t have any gimmes. He ran a really good race. He had me a lot better on the reaction time; he treed me by a tenth.
“It’s a big deal to win here. Last year we broke both our motors here and went home with our tails between our legs. We came back stronger than ever, qualified No. 1 and No. 2, and basically had the field covered all weekend.
“This is the most cash that’s ever been put up at a Mopar HEMI Challenge. We basically took every dime that was up for grabs, including a $250 Mopar eStore gift certificate my dad won in a raffle during the Mopar Sportsman BBQ on Thursday. It couldn’t have went any better. We didn't blow anything up and we captured all the prize money, so we’ll go home happy.”
IT'S A FULL DAY - As the NHRA Mac Tools NHRA U.S. Nationals presented by Lucas Oil moved into its third day of qualifying, the full compliment of sportsman divisions gained a shot at the Lucas Oil Raceway racing surface.
Tony Bartone’s Centre Pointe Collision Centers TAFC’s first session elapsed time of 5.676 was the quickest amongst the Top Alcohol Funny Cars.
Manzo and the Al-Anabi team stays in the No. 2 position with no improvement in his first session 5.680 elapsed time.
John Lombardo Jr. moved into the No. 3 position with a 5.720 elapsed time pass at 254.47 mph.
Jay Payne also made a big move in his Fire Ice ’10 Mustang, from the outside looking in into the No. 4 qualified position. Payne ran a 5.728 elapsed time at almost 255 mph to improve on his first qualifying attempt.
Steve Gasparrelli also moved into the qualified field taking over the No. 9 position with a 5.784 elapsed time pass. There are currently seven other cars that will attempt to make their way into the field on Saturday.
Bill Reichert continues to lead Top Alcohol Dragster field in his Rislone Engine Treatment TAD qualifying with his 5.398 elapsed time pass from the first session of qualifying.
Marty Thacker moved into the No. 2 position with a 5.449 elapsed time at 262.95 mph. Thacker nudges Chase Copeland into the No. 3 position.
Sidnei Frigo, recent divisional winner at Charlotte, and Duane Shields also climbed up the ladder moving from the No. 15 and 11 positions to the No. 4 and 6 positions respectively.
Sixty-one cars make up the Competition Eliminator ladder with three rounds of qualifying complete. After two sessions of Competition Eliminator Jirka Kaplan held an .081 lead over the No. 2 qualifier. Kaplan increased his lead to .168 with a 6.346 elapsed time pass, -0.704 under the 7.05 AA/AM index.
Steve Ambrose remains in the No. 2 position, and Frank Aragona Jr. moved into third. Aragona Jr. moved from the No. 22 qualified position into the No. 3 position with an 8.188 elapsed time to go -0.532 under the 8.72 J/AA index. Larry Pritchett and David Rampy complete the rest of the top five qualifiers.
The final qualifying order for Super Stock is set after five rounds of qualifying were completed. The SS/BA ’10 Mustang of Ray Skillman remains in the No.1 position improving to -1.242 under the 9.90 index with an 8.658 elapsed time pass.
The GT/GA ’08 Cobalt of Dave Layer sits in the No. 2 position with the SS/AA ’10 Mustang of Randy Hopkins directly behind him in the No. 3 spot.
Sixteen cars had one last run to make their way into the Super Stock field during the 5th round of qualifying Friday morning. Larry Cummings and Shane Carr were the only two of the sixteen to improve enough to make the field. Cummings improved to -0.641 under the SS/BM index, landing in the No. 121 qualified position. Carr, also running in the SS/BM class, improved to go -0.625 under the 9.90 index. Carr will qualify in the No. 122 position. Their gain in elapsed time bumped out the SS/AH ’68 Barracuda of David Barton and the GT/DA ’00 Firebird of Brina Splingaire.
HOLESHOT- In the first round of class eliminations in Super Stock Nick Morris’s 9.971 elapsed time defeated David Jackson’s much quicker 9.888. Morris was 0.021 on the tree to Jackson’s 0.104 giving him barely enough room, an inch to be exact, to defeat Jackson by .004 of a second. Brad Zaskowski also won his class, GT/I, on a holeshot. Zawkowski defeated Gene Bichlmeier after leaving .051 better off the line and crossing the finish line with a 10.186 elapsed time to Bichlmeier’s 10.170. The SS/OA class winner, Mryon Ramey, beat his opponent Mike Hunter’s 11.671 elapsed time with a 11.745 after leaving the starting line almost two tenths in front of Hunter.
THROTTLE STOP- Round one of Super Gas and Super Comp finished just before 1 pm with 62 cars returning second round in Super Gas and 55 returning in Super Comp for round number two on Saturday.
SCARY MOMENT-Chris Foster tagged the wall during the first round of Top Alcohol Funny Car qualifying after having the car up on two wheels in an attempt to steer his Forbes Construction ’11 Mustang in the other direction. Foster then coasted down the track and his “11 Mustang TAFC returned to the pits on a rollback wrecker.
BARTONE AND REICHERT LEAD- Tony Bartone leads Frank Manzo and the rest of the TAFC pack with a 5.676 elapsed time at 259.26 mph. Manzo only trails by 4 thousandths of a second with a 5.680 elapsed time pass. Reichert holds the top spot after the first round of Top Alcohol Dragster qualifying with a 5.398 elapsed time at 266.21 mph. Chase Copeland sits nearest Reichert, in the No. 2 position, with a 5.450 elapsed time at 262.33 mph.
3rd ROUND PRODUCES MORE CLASS WINNERS- After three rounds of Super Stock class eliminations Mike Cotton in SS/JA, Robert Cruzen in GT/AA, Stephen Belanger in SS/J, Lloyd Wofford in SS/BM, David Tincher in GT/CA, Irvin Johns in GT/BA, Brett Candies in SS/EA, Peter Biondo in GT/DA and Roy Hill in SS/BA were added to the list of Super Stock class winners.
FINAL QUALIFYING ORDER FOR SUPER STOCK- The final qualifying order for Super Stock is set after five rounds of qualifying were completed. The SS/BA ’10 Mustang of Ray Skillman remains in the No.1 position improving to -1.242 under the 9.90 index with an 8.658 elapsed time pass. The GT/GA ’08 Cobalt of Dave Layer sits in the No. 2 position with the SS/AA ’10 Mustang of Randy Hopkins directly behind him in the No. 3 spot.
MAKING THE SUPER STOCK FIELD- Sixteen cars had one last run to make their way into the Super Stock field during the 5th round of qualifying Friday morning. Larry Cummings and Shane Carr were the only two of the sixteen to improve enough to make the field. Cummings improved to go -0.641 under the SS/BM index landing him in the No. 121 qualified position. Carr, also running in the SS/BM class improved to go -0.625 under the 9.90 index. Carr will qualify in the No. 122 position. Their gain in elapsed time bumped out the SS/AH ’68 Barracuda of David Barton and the GT/DA ’00 Firebird of BrinaSplingaire.
ARAGONA JR. MOVES INTO TOP THREE- Frank Aragona Jr. moved from the No. 22 qualified position into the No. 3 position in the final round of Competition Eliminator qualifying. Aragona Jr., from Freehold New Jersey, ran an 8.188 elapsed time to go -0.532 under the 8.72 J/AA index.
FURTHERING HIS LEAD- Sixty-one cars make up the Competition Eliminator ladder with three rounds of qualifying complete.After two sessions of Competition Eliminator Jirka Kaplan held an81 thousandths lead over the No. 2 qualifier. Kaplan increased his lead to 168 thousandths with a 6.346 elapsed time pass, -0.704 under the 7.05 AA/AM index. Steve Ambrose remains in the No. 2 position and Frank Aragona Jr. moved into the No. 3 position. Larry Pritchett and David Rampy complete the rest of the top five qualifiers.
TWO SESSIONS COMPLETE IN TAFC- Tony Bartone’sCentre Pointe Collision Centers TAFC’s first session elapsed time of 5.676 will stay on top of the qualifying list in TAFC with the second session now complete. Manzo and the Al-Anabi team stays in the No. 2 position with no improvement in his first session 5.680 elapsed time. John Lombardo Jr. moved into the No. 3 position with a 5.720 elapsed time pass at 254.47 mph. Jay Payne also made a big move in his FireIce ’10 Mustang, from the outside looking in into the No. 4 qualified position. Payne ran a 5.728 elapsed time at almost 255 mph to improve on his first qualifying attempt. Steve Gasparrelli also moved into the qualified field taking over the No. 9 position with a 5.784 elapsed time pass. There are currently seven other cars that will attempt to make their way into the field on Saturday.
SECOND TAD QUALIFYING SESSION IN THE BOOKS- Bill Reichert continues to lead Top Alcohol Dragster field in his Rislone Engine Treatment TAD qualifying with his 5.398 elapsed time pass from the first session of qualifying. Marty Thacker moved into the No. 2 position with a 5.449 elapsed time at 262.95 mph. Thacker nudges Chase Copeland into the No. 3 position. SidneiFrigo, recent divisional winner at Charlotte, and Duane Sheilds also climbed up the ladder moving from the No. 15 and 11 positions to the No. 4 and 6 positions respectively.
THURSDAY NOTEBOOK - CLASS ELIMS TOP DAY TWO QUALIFYING
LEADERS OF THE PACK - Two days of qualifying for the Mac Tools NHRA U.S. Nationals presented by Lucas Oil are now completed.
Highlighting the day was the start of Competition Eliminator qualifying lead by Jirka Kaplan who took the provisional lead by .081 edging out No. 2 Steve Ambrose. Kaplan, in his ’23-T Ford, went -0.617 under the AA/AM with a 6.433.
The top point earners in Comp are grouped closely in the qualifying list. Arnie Martel, No. 3 in points, is 7th running -0.488 under the D/AA index while David Rampy, No. 2, is eighth by running -0.487 under the A/EA index. David Billingsley, No. 4 in the current national points, is .008 behind Rampy, running -0.471 under the L/AA index.
Super Stock qualifying is complete with the SS/BA ’10 Mustang of Ray Skillman taking the top spot, running -1.150 under the SS/BA index with an 8.750.
Randy Hopkins and Roy Hill, both driving late model Mustangs, sit directly behind Skillman in the No. 2 and No. 3 positions respectively.
Anthony Bongiovanni and Mark Nowicki made remarkable moves in the qualifying order. Nowick jumped 117 positions into the No. 9 position after running 9.642 on the 10.65 GT/EA index to go under by -1.008. Bongiovanni, who was qualified No. 77 after three sessions ran -0.948 under the 10.04 SS/CA index with a 9.102 elapsed time to move into the No. 20 position.
The SS/EA ’08 Mustang of Brent Hajek was the only car of the 16 not qualified after three rounds of qualifying which improved enough in the fourth round of qualifying to bump his way into the show. Hajek ran a 9.720 -0.630 under the 10.35 index to bump Willard Daughtery out of the show for now.
The top 128 of the 140 entries in Stock Eliminator were determined after the fourth and final qualifying round during Thursday’s time trials.
Pennsylvania residents David Barton and Don Fezell took the top two spots. Barton went 9.676 on the 11.00 A/SA index to run -1.324 under while Fezell ran -1.216 under the AA/S index to claim the No. 2 position.
The rest of the top five are as follows: the AA/SA ’10 Mustang of William Skillman, the A/SA ’10 Challenger of Keith Lynch and the A/SA ’09 Challenger of Charlie Fitzsimmons.
Qualifying resumes on Friday morning.
SERIOUS FISH - Charlie Westcott Jr. of Parma, Mich. claimed the top spot in qualifying today for the 11th Annual Mopar® HEMI® Challenge at the Mac Tools U.S. Nationals, picking up the $1,000 No. 1 Qualifier bonus. The driver of the 1968 “Warfish” Plymouth Barracuda will attempt to bring home his fourth career Mopar HEMI Challenge U.S. Nationals win during eliminations Friday and also bank the record $15,000 winner’s purse.
A large field of 20 Mopar-powered Super Stock A/HEMI (SS/AH) 1968 Dodge Darts and Plymouth Barracudas hit the strip at hot and steamy Lucas Oil Raceway. Westcott Jr. led the way with an elapsed time of 8.425-seconds at 0.875 under index in his Mopar 426 HEMI-powered machine. Right on his tail was his father and fellow past Indy HEMI Challenge winner (2009), Charlie Westcott Sr., who recorded an 8.461-second run at 0.839 under index to claim the No. 2 spot in his own ’68 Barracuda.
“It’s going to be a hard-fought battle. The best thing was that both my dad and I were at the top of the sheet, No. 1 and No. 2,” said Westcott Jr., winner of the Mopar HEMI Challenge U.S. Nationals event in 2005–2006 and 2008. “We’ve been working on our cars since we got here, changing valve springs and gear ratios, throwing everything we got at it and seeing what we can do.
“We’re already better than we were last year, because last year at this time we were headed back home after blowing up both our cars. My dad broke on the first qualifying run, and I broke on my second qualifying run.
“It’s a lot easier to lose one than to win one. This is the biggest cash purse we’ve ever had, so it would be nice to win it. I’m going to do my best and see what we can do. This is a great race, and I’m glad Mopar still supports the HEMI Challenge.”
Tyler Hard of Harrisburg, Pa. qualified third with an 8.507-second effort in his 1968 Plymouth Barracuda. Defending event champion Jim Daniels of Bristol, Pa. was fourth with an 8.571-second mark in his Ray Barton Racing 1968 Dodge Dart. Rounding out the top five was another ’68 Dodge Dart pilot, Gary Wolkwitz of Annandale, N.J., who posted an 8.586-second run.
Eliminations for the 11th Annual Mopar HEMI Challenge will take place Friday , with the final round scheduled between the Funny Car and Top Fuel qualifying rounds. Mopar NHRA racing legends “Big Daddy” Don Garlits and Shirley Muldowney will drive Mopar Challenger Drag Pak vehicles, Mopar’s modern-day version of a package car, down the return road at Lucas Oil Raceway just prior to the Mopar HEMI Challenge final.MOMENT OF SILENCE - Before the start of class eliminations in Stock Eliminator on Thursday at the 57th Annual NHRA Lucas Oil Nationals all activity paused at the race track to remember Judy McCormack, respected drag racer and mother of Jason and Jennifer McCormack, who idled down the track in her remembrance during the first round of Stock Eliminator qualifying.
LADDERS - The morning started off a little later than expected but that can most likely be attributed to having to pair 137 stockers. Instead of random pairing, all Stock Eliminator classes ran off a sportsman ladder to complete first round class eliminations.
THREE ARE IN THE BOOKS FOR SUPER STOCK - Third round of Super Stock qualifying is now complete with no major changes to the top 15 qualifiers from the previous round with the exception of Todd Patterson who moved from the 16th position into the top 10. Todd improved his prior qualifying attempts with an 8.648 elapsed time to go just over a second under the SS/BS 9.65 index. David Tincher jumped 56 spots to the No. 17 position in his ’94 Cavalier running -0.965 under the GT/AA index. Only one of the fourteen competitors behind the bump spot after two rounds was able to make a move into the field. Rick Houser moved from the not qualified No, 136 position to the No. 116 position with a 8.674 elapsed time on the 9.20 SS/AH index.
COMPETITION ELIMINATOR TO THE STAGING LANES - The top three qualifiers in Competition Eliminator Steve Ambrose, Larry Pritchett and Joe Tanksley were the only three cars to break the .50-under barrier during the first qualifying session. Ambrose in his J/AA ’23-T Ford sits on top of the 56 car field running -0.536 under the 8.39 index with a 7.854 elapsed time.
FINAL QUALIFYING COMPLETED IN STOCK- The top 128 of the 140 entries in Stock Eliminator were determined after the 4th and final round of qualifying. Pennsylvania residents David Barton and Don Fezell took the No. 1 and 2 positions, respectively. Barton went 9.676 on the 11.00 A/SA index to run -1.324 under while Fezell ran -1.216 under the 10.60 AA/S to be the top stick qualifier and claim the overall No. 2 position. The rest of the top five are as follows, the AA/SA ’10 Mustang of William Skillman, the A/SA ’10 Challenger of Keith Lynch and the A/SA ’09 Challenger of Charlie Fitzsimmons.
MOSER MAKES BIG ANNOUNCEMENT - Prior to the first round of Super Stock qualifying today Moser Engineering made the announcement that they will be holding “NHRA Moser Engineering Sportsman Shootouts,” two actually, in the 2012 season which are scheduled to be held in Division’s 3 and 4. These shootouts will include Super Stock, Stock, Super Comp, Super Gas, Super Street, Top Dragster and Top Sportsman. Competitors will qualify for these events by earning points at national and divisional races and the winner, in each class, will have the opportunity to win $5,000.
MAKING MOVES- Anthony Bongiovanni and Mark Nowicki made remarkable moves in the qualifying order. Nowick jumped 117 positions into the No. 9 position after running 9.642 on the 10.65 GT/EA index to go under by -1.008. Bongiovanni, who was qualified No. 77 after three sessions, ran -0.948 under the 10.04 SS/CA index with a 9.102 elapsed time to move into the No. 20 position. The SS/EA ’08 Mustang of Brent Hajek was the only car of the 16 not qualified after three rounds of qualifying that improved enough in the fourth round of qualifying to bump his way into the show. Hajek ran a 9.720 -0.630
under the 10.35 index to bump Willard Daughtery out of the show for now.
COMP KEEPS ‘EM COMING - Two sessions of Competition Eliminator are now complete. Jirka Kaplan moved into the No. 1 position in Competition Eliminator by 81 thousandths of a second over No. 2 qualifier Steve Ambrose. Kaplan, in his ’23-T Ford, went -0.617 under the AA/AM 7.05 index with a 6.433 elapsed time. Matt Harris improved to the No. 5 position running an even 50 hundredths under the E/A 8.31 index. Brian Browell also improved to the No. 6 position with a 7.295 elapsed time on the 7.79 index to go -0.495 under.
PHOTOGRAPHER SUPPORTS SUPER COMP RACER - Photographer Diane Kubicke, usually found around the starting line wearing her trademark cowboy hat, is helping out Division 1 competitor and former Indy Super Comp champion Doug Doll Jr., allowing him to return to Lucas Oil Raceway, home of his first national event victory. Fellow racer Jeff Kundratic is also supporting Doll Jr.’s mission to strike again at Indy, allowing him to compete in his Lucas-Oil ’02 Ed Quay dragster.
"I'm very grateful for the opportunity that Jeff and Kubicke Photography have given me to compete at my favorite race," said Doll, Jr.
When Doll Jr. won the Super Comp class at Indy, 12 years ago, he was 18.
ARMY STRONG - With the 10th anniversary of 9/11 approaching, recognizing and thanking the U.S. Military for their service will be on the minds of many. After all, the general consensus is their unselfish actions make possible the freedom to be at major sporting events such as the NHRA U.S. Nationals.
This feeling is not lost on Super Comp racer Don O'Neal, an active reserve Army soldier, competing in this weekend's events.
O’Neal grew up around drag racing watching his father race until he eventually passed away less than a year after O’Neal made the decision to join the Army. From that point, it was all Army for O’Neal as he became a helicopter mechanic and crew chief.
“Once I made rank and got to sergeant, I decided that’s when I wanted to get back into racing,” said O’Neal. “I missed it and it was something that I did with my dad so I felt those emotions and connections being at the racetrack just knowing that he’s looking down on me knowing he’s still here with me."
O’Neal returned to the racing in 1995 after being stationed in Korea. He bought a used and "tired" dragster on his limited military income. He then left active duty in ’03 and transferred to active reserve and became involved in recruiting.
“In 2003, there was a big push with the “Army of One” deal, as far as the tag line and the logo," O'Neal said. "It just really happened by accident. The Army found out by one of my company commanders. He told him ‘You know you have an actual recruiter that drives a race car,’ and from there they put together basically what it is a branding agreement.
“I enjoy it. It’s kind of my way to be able to tell the public and other people that there is no way that I would be where I am if it wasn’t for my time in the Army.
O'Neal credits the Army for providing a chance to develop his leadership skills, further his education and develop people skills in preparation for interaction with the variety of demographic groups within the Army. He believes the Army also provided him with life experiences which would be impossible to duplicate outside of his military career.
“It worked to my advantage but at the same time it was a huge boost for me to be able to travel the country to high schools and colleges away from the racetrack," said O'Neal. "That’s really where the fun for me is. It’s talking to high school kids and college kids to explain to them, because a lot of people just don’t understand, what the army has to offer
“I was afforded an opportunity by a recruiter. I still remember my recruiter’s name, Larry D. Salisbury, he was from Kansas. I still remember him today, right here right now, I have not forgotten him in 20 years because he gave the opportunity of a lifetime.”
“So when people walk by and they say ‘hello’ or they’re kind of staring and looking, I have no hesitation saying, ‘Hey if you have questions let me know,’ and numerous kids, you know, numerous parents ask questions because a lot of the time parents want to ask questions for their kids like, ‘so what could my son do, what could my daughter do,’ I definitely get those conversations and I enjoy them.
“I would feel slighted if I didn’t have at least one good recruiting conversation in a race weekend.”
This year has been a career-best season for O’Neal. Recently he finished in the quarter-finals at Brainerd, the quarter-finals in Bowling Green and a semi-final finish at Joliet. He is currently 7th in his division, 3rd in JEGS points and 17th in the world in Super Comp.
“It’s surreal it really is,” O'Neal said. “The learning curve and humbling of Super Comp and class racing is unreal. It’s so competitive. I would love to finish in the top 10 in the world. I think for an active duty soldier that would be a huge feat.
“I get torn inside because in a way I wish that I was with every guy that I ever served with if they’re deployed. I can’t lie, I think about them all the time. I think about the fact that I’m sitting in a racecar at Indy or Brainerd or wherever it is and I’m a solider but there are soldiers sitting in a tent, or soldiers sitting in an attack vehicle or crew chiefs in the back of a black hawk, in 100 degree weather wearing all their gear, sweating just for the fact that we can be where we are. It motivates me."
The 10-year anniversary of his branding agreement with the Army is coming up in the next two years and O’Neal continues to juggle racing with his work schedule and vacation time admitting, “It’s stressful at times but I feel very fortunate that it’s Wednesday and I’m in Indy.
“I runnered-up last year and I told my boss ‘I gotta go, I’ve got one more round to win.’ It’s a big weekend not only professionally but emotionally and personally so I want to try to do the best I can.
“We talked about it (his runner-up finish last year) the other night because I was wounded. Jimmy Lewis said, ‘Dude if they had called you on Monday when we parked at Indy last year and told you that you couldn’t win, you could go to the final but not win, would you leave?’ I said no and he said, ‘Exactly that’s why they call it Indy because it’s INDY!”
Monday, the final day of eliminations at the Indianapolis race, will be the 20 year anniversary of O’Neal’s father’s passing.
“I’m excited to be here again I hope I can do well just taking it one round at a time.”
WEDNESAY NOTEBOOK - THE BIG GO GETS GOING
REPRESENTING A FRIEND IN NEED- Tony Elrod, part of the Elrod family that has a strong reputation of success in the NHRA especially in Division 3, will represent a close friend this weekend at the 57th U.S. Nationals.
Elrod will be seen piloting the ‘09 Undercover 622 cubic inch dragster of Bill Riddle.
“We’ve known each other since I started racing. We met up in New Hampshire one year when they used to have a Lobster Fest. It was his wedding anniversary and we took him and his wife to the Lobster Fest and had a great time. It sounds crazy but we ate ribs marinated in lobster sauce and it actually wasn’t that bad,” laughed Elrod.
Unfortunately Bill Riddle’s father was recently diagnosed with severe kidney disease and is not expected to survive through this weekend.
“He (Riddle) asked me if I would run his car for him because his sponsors, Haul Construction and Screener’s Landscaping are here at Indy. We went ahead and withdrew him and I am going to run his car in Super Comp,” said Elrod. “I wanted to do this so that he could be with his family in their time of need. He’s one of my best friends in the whole world."
Tony Elrod will also compete in the Super Gas category running his Abruzzi-sponsored Suncoast roadster.
“I’m looking to double-up and win this one for my best friend and his family,” said Elrod.
The Elrod family will also be represented by Jacob Elrod running a Sunoco sponsored American dragster in Super Comp.
INDY IS ALWAYS BIG TO DEFRANK – Next to winning a world championship, winning Indy is the only comparable euphoria for Super Stock icon Jimmy DeFrank.
Last season, an emotional DeFrank raced to the winner's circle at the Mac Tools U.S. Nationals presented by Lucas Oil for the first time in his career by defeating Irvin Johns in the Super Stock final. The triumph was something that DeFrank had longed for throughout his racing career, and though his on-track successes elsewhere were bountiful, that particular title had been out of reach.
"I cannot explain how amazing it was to win Indy last year," said DeFrank, who has competed at the U.S. Nationals since his debut as a sportsman racer in 1995. "I had tears rolling down my face as I pulled around the shut-off at the end of the track, and when I saw my family, they were teary-eyed as well. It was so special to have my mom and dad both there, Jeff Taylor – who has taught me so much – and so many other wonderful friends. What a dream come true."
Now a 12-time national event winner, DeFrank has made the 2,000-plus mile journey to Lucas Oil Raceway at Indianapolis to defend his treasured title.
Though he typically pulls double-duty and also races the family's '69 Camaro in Stock Eliminator, DeFrank only brought one car this weekend, the California Car Cover Co.-sponsored '11 SS/BS Chevy Cobalt.
HEY, HEY, IT’S YOUR BIRTHDAY - Top Alcohol Funny Car racer Cassie Simonton plans to celebrate her birthday in style.
Simonton, who turned 25 yesterday, pilots the Kon Rodz entry tuned by Randy Anderson.
Anderson is the son of legendary alcohol racing icon Brad Anderson and joined the Canadian-based team at the start of the season and has already made an impact. Simonton participated in the O’Reilly Auto Parts NHRA Route 66 Nationals and qualified fourth out of 22 entries.
The sophomore TAFC racer is appreciative of the opportunity provided her.
“I really want to thank Spiro and Fay (Kontos) first and foremost because they are the ones giving me the opportunity to race each event we attend,” said Simonton. “Randy (Anderson, tuner) is also on my list of people to thank. He really has turned Kon Rodz Racing around this year and knowing that really makes us all excited for this long weekend ahead of us.”
ALL IN THE FAMILY - One year ago, Troy Coughlin Jr. reached the pinnacle of success by winning Super Comp at the NHRA U.S. Nationals.
"Winning Indy was beyond anything I could have imagined," T.J. said. "I can't wait to get back to the track and breathe it all in again. I love that place and everything it represents.
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