It would take more than a challenging, temperamental new combination to hold down 50-time NHRA national event winner Jeff Taylor and team owner/crew chief David Nickens at the second stop on the NHRA Division 4 schedule. 

Taylor stopped Rick Brown in the Competition Eliminator final round at Thunder Valley Raceway Park in Noble, Oklahoma. This was also the first event in the Rooftec Competition Eliminator Bonus Fund Series. 

Joining Taylor atop the headlining divisions were Craig Gualtiere (Super Stock) and third-generation drag racer Will Emmons (Stock).

Taylor and Nickens unveiled their new BB/Altered combination, and qualified only 18th, but raced like a boss by beating every quicker qualified opponent along the way. 



"If somebody would've told us yesterday [that we would end up winning], you guys can make it to the semifinals if you just want to load up, we'd loaded it up and left because we looked terrible," Taylor said with a smile. "But Me and David [Nickens] put our heads together and figured out that we needed to make some changes, we did, and it worked."

Taylor's 2024 combination is unlike any he's raced before in his storied career. His 2008 Dodge Stratus is powered by a 330-inch, LS-based engine equipped with a Magnuson supercharger. It's essentially a Factory Stock Showdown engine in a Pro Stock-style car. 

To reach the final round, Taylor beat Jarrod Grainer, Greg Kamplain, Joe Mozeris, and Taylor Chomiski. 

Gualtiere, entered the Super Stock final eliminations as the fourth quickest, and overcame previous event shortcomings, to seal the deal against Gary Emmons in the final round. 

"It's been a long time coming," said Gualtiere, who races a 2002 GT/GA Cavalier. "I lost in the semi-finals last weekend at the Vegas National. I thought I was driving pretty decent, pretty solid. As you go, you got to have a couple of those lucky rounds. But I think I was pretty solid all weekend. It's been a long time coming."




The victory was Gualtiere's first since winning a NHRA D4 divisional at Houston Raceway Park in 2018.  

"I took out the big Fletch man first round on a super close .003 race at the stripe," Gualtiere continued. "In the last three years, I've lost so many races by three-thou or less, and I was just becoming so discouraged, but just kept on plugging away."

There are traditions, and then there's the Emmons tradition of winning. Third-generation Emmons drag racer Will Emmons (son of Speedy aka Harvey) lived up to the family tradition by stopping Daryl Hamlin in the final round. 

"It feels great," Emmons said. "We have a really great team, and that's what brought the win together. Staying focused on the tree was the biggest challenge all weekend. Staying focused on the tree and consistent, I was trying to bring the car to me, and we did just that. So it was a challenge, but we worked through it."

The Elite Group proved their talents extend well beyond Pro Stock as team driver Mike Morehead won Top Sportsman by stopping Allen Firestone. David Bills used a .003 reaction to win Top Dragster by fending off Ricky Carrell. 

Other winners included Michael Green (Super Comp), Rod Wolter (Super Gas), Chuck Wier (Super Street), and Michael Nash (Sportsman Motorcycle).