2017 NHRA WINTERNATIONALS - SPORTSMAN NOTEBOOK
SPORTSMAN FINAL RESULTS
SATURDAY NOTEBOOK - MOTHER NATURE GOES COLD ON SPORTSMAN COMPETITION
COLD TRACK DELAYS SPORTSMAN UNTIL SUNDAY - The combination of rain, oil downs, and a cold track forced NHRA officials to postpone Lucas Oil competition until Sunday morning at 9 AM, PST.
Super Stock, Stock, Super Comp and Super Gas are headed into Round Four.
The Top Alcohol divisions, both Top Sportsman and Top Dragster will completed one round.
ALCOHOL FUNNY CAR OPENING ROUND - After struggling through qualifying, defending NHRA Top Alcohol Funny Car champion Jonnie Lindberg, subbing for Jay Payne, rebounded big in the first round of eliminations with a 5.458 elapsed time to beat Chris Marshall.
There was a slew of 5.4 winners including low elapsed time of the round Shane Westerfield (5.457 def. Mike Doushgounian), John Lombardo, Jr. (5.477, def. Mike Drake) and Doug Gordon (5.476, def. Cody Perkins).
No. 1 qualifier DJ Cox also advanced with an off-pace 6.134 to beat Ulf Leanders.
Other winners included Terry Ruckman (Sean Bellemeur), Brian Hough (Chip Beverett), and Steve Gasparrelli (Bret Williamson).
ABOUT THE DRAGSTERS - Defending Lucas Oil Top Alcohol Dragster champion Joey Severance set the pace for the first round with a 5.236, 274.55 to easily outrun Bill Litton.
Shawn Cowie stopped Don St. Arnaud with a strong 5.287, 269.29 performance.
Garrett Bateman used a 5.288 269.46 to knock off sophomore driver Krista Baldwin.
James Day scored a monumental upset by knocking off six-time Pomona finalist Chris Demke in the first round. Demke fouled away a 5.39, while Day coasted to an 11-second victory. In another upset, Randy Eakins took out Friday's provisional low qualifier Alan Bradshaw.
Other winners included Duane Shields (Casey Grisel), Fred Hanssen (John Ahten) and Ashley Sanford (Derik Milanesio).
FRIDAY NOTEBOOK - ELIMINATIONS UNDERWAY FOR SOME; QUALIFYING FOR OTHERS BEFORE RAINS HIT
FLETCHER WATCH - Dan Fletcher, who entered the weekend one win away from 100 national event wins, is looking good headed into Day Three of sportsman competition.
Fletcher advanced to the second round of Stock Eliminator by stopping Al Corda in a clash of the titans. In a battle of Factory Stock machines, Corda went -.02 red.
Fletcher is the provisional No. 1 qualifier in Comp Eliminator with his C/Econo Altered Cobalt, running an 8.030 elapsed time, -0.670 under his index.
PERSONAL BEST - Top Alcohol Dragster Shawn Cowie's personal best 5.241, 271.62 performance was enough to surpass Alan Bradshaw's 5.283 during Thursday qualifying.
AHTEN'S BIG LEAP - Top Alcohol Dragster racer Johnny Ahten made a quantum leap in Friday's second session. He jumped from No. 16 in the provisional field to as high as fifth before ending the day at sixth.
Ahten debuted new associate sponsor EPHA Inc. this weekend. This is EPHA’s first involvement back in the NHRA since the 2004 season.
“We are very excited to bring back Mitch Myers’ company EPHA to the class,” said Ahten. “Top Alcohol racers are a close family and Mitch has a long history of success. EPHA offers performance hose protectors, spacers and looms, safety sheaths and ladder guards. Opening up the season with a new sponsor is also a great way to kick the 2017 racing season at our home track. We know how to run fast here, and we are up to the challenge.”
PLAY THAT SONG AGAIN, MR. DJ - DJ Cox Jr., jumped to the front of the Funny Car qualifying order with a 5.471 elapsed time at 268.17 mph. The run vaulted him from 14th to first.
Cox, the reigning NHRA Lucas Oil East Region champion, is driving for the Bartone Brothers this season.
“I’m thankful to Tony and Steve for the opportunity,” Cox said. “Tony has put together an exceptional team with all the best equipment and necessary resources. The goal is to win the national championship, so expectations are high. I'm looking forward to the challenge.”
The Bartone Brothers Racing team plan to run 12 National events and six East Region events this season.
Cox drove part-time for the Bartone Brothers Racing team in four events during the 2016 season and found instant chemistry with the group, winning in their first national event together on September 18 at Charlotte’s zMax Dragway.
STOCK UPSETS - The top five of the Stock Eliminator qualified field took a beating in Friday's first round.
Nanette Stein, who entered eliminations as the No. 33 qualifier, used a perfect reaction time to take out No. 1 qualifier Lindy Lindholm.
Jim Durham scored an easy win over the No. 3 qualifier Bobby DeArmond, who fouled.
No. 36 qualifier Christopher Whitney's A/Stocker took out the No. 4 runner Darren Smith.
Chad Loge, the #37 seeded entry, drove his B/Stock Automatic to victory over #5 Bob Gullett.
TOP QUALIFIER TARGETS - Super Stock, just like Stock, provided no haven for those at the top of the qualifying list.
Gary Emmons scored the grand prize as a perfect reaction time helped him to get the double-breakout win over No. 1 qualifier Larry Zavala.
George Stassi scored a default victory as Ron Roddel; the No. 2 qualifier was a no-show.
Adam Emmer was on the receiving end of an easy win as No. 3 qualifier Eddie Leabo fouled.
Alan Freese also scored an easy victory when No. 4 runner Fred Moreno went .004 red.
QUICKEST OF FRIDAY'S TAD SESSION - Garrett Bateman was the quickest of the second session with a 5.316 elapsed time at 273.05 miles per hour.
Bateman has new major sponsorship displayed on Rick Henkelman’s entry, which is now the Boost Performance Products/HipLink A/Fuel dragster.
THURSDAY NOTEBOOK - THE 2017 SEASON IS OFFICIALLY UNDERWAY
THURSDAY’S LEADERS - Past NHRA Lucas Oil champion and former Top Fuel racer Alan Bradshaw made the most of his one ran Thursday at the NHRA Winternationals in Pomona, Ca.
Bradshaw, subbing for Justin Ashley behind the wheel of Randy Meyer's Top Alcohol Dragster, threw down the gauntlet with a 5.283, 277.37 to edge defend world champion Joey Severance, who turned in a 5.285, 272.72. Shawn Cowie was third with a 5.300, 268.28.
Top Alcohol Funny Car racer Doug Gordon, from Paso Robles, Ca., raced to the top of the list with a 5.513, 268.71 to grab a sizeable lead over second-quickest Brian Hough's 5.552, 264.39. Shane Westerfield was third with a 5.603.
Dan Fletcher, on the cusp of 100 national event victories, was the top qualifier in Comp Eliminator with a -0.670, 8.030 performance against the C/Econo Altered standard.
Larry Zavala's GT/IA Camaro overtook SS/A Ron Roddel's SS/A Grand-Am in the third and final Super Stock session with a 9.614, -1.036 performance.
Lindy Lindholm's Newport Beach, Ca.-based 1974 Firebird topped Stock qualifying with an 11.274, -1.026 performance against the I/SA standard.
BRADSHAW SUBBING - Alan Bradshaw hasn't raced NHRA Top Fuel since 2008, but this doesn't mean he's been nitro free.
Bradshaw, 2003 NHRA Lucas Oil Top Alcohol Dragster champion, has raced with both Randy Meyer and Doug Doucette. This weekend, Bradshaw is back with Meyer.
"Man, there’s nothing better than starting out the season in Pomona with Randy Meyer Racing," said Bradshaw. "Brings back good memories of the days we ran for the championship in ’03 and won it. And I’m really looking forward to having a lot of fun this weekend."
Bradshaw is running a tribute to his father on the side of the Meyer dragster.
"I lost my Dad last year on March 1st, so we’ve got a tribute decal on the car this weekend, honor my Dad’s life racing this weekend," Bradshaw explained. "I’d like nothing more than to win a Wally for him."
Ironically, Bradshaw is subbing this weekend for Justin Ashley, son of two-time Pro Modified champion Mike Ashley. Ashley's grandfather Kenny passed away earlier this week.
JONNIE ON THE SPOT - Jonnie Lindberg was initially supposed to be in Pomona to offer tuning assistance to Jay Payne. A lingering shoulder injury for Payne resulted in the defending Top Alcohol Funny car champion sliding behind the wheel of the Peak-sponsored flopper.
If only it were that easy for Lindberg and Payne.
"Weird," Lindberg described driving Payne's car. "It’s big in the inside."
Nevermind the fact Lindberg is 100 pounds lighter than Payne, just the feeling of driving another Top Alcohol Funny Car of his own was a foreign experience for the Swedish driver.
"I’m used to having my own car and my own stuff," Lindberg admitted. "But, they have all good stuff and the team’s good, we’ll see what we can do. I put my tuneup in it, and we’ll see what’s going to happen."
About the stature differential between the drivers, this was a relatively easy fix.
"We poured a new seat, and moved like the steering wheel back two inches, and put a different clutch pedal in it," Lindberg said. "But, other than that, it’s the same car like when Jay drove it. With a little extra lead in it too."
HONORING THE LEGENDS - James Day is a drag racer born too late.
Day, normally found behind the wheel of a nitro-burning Nostalgia Funny Car, has a one-off gig this weekend racing in Top Alcohol Dragster for Larry Miersch.
Mierch and Day are paying homage to the Hall of Fame Top Fuel duo of Kuhl & Olson, who won the NHRA Winternationals 45 years ago.
"I love the nostalgia stuff. Nostalgia Funny Cars and front motor Top Fuel cars, all my heroes," Day explained. "I wish I could have been born earlier to see the real days of drag racing."
The special scheme emulates the design of the Kuhl & Olson team’s first rear-engine dragster which earned Best Appearing Car honors at the 1971 U.S. Nationals and won the Winternationals the next season. Tim Sieger of Ultimate Design produced and applied the vinyl graphics.
Besides their 1972 Winternationals victory, other accomplishments include winning the March Meet, The Last Drag Race at Lions Drag Strip, the 1972 IHRA championship, and being the 14th members of the Cragar 5-Second Club.
“I’ve been so lucky to grow up at the race track around legends of the sport, and I really wanted to pay tribute to them, particularly Kuhl & Olson,” said Miersch, team owner and tuner. “They are such an iconic team with deep roots in Southern California who have each made their marks on the sport and the industry. The body of the dragster turned out beautiful. I hope the weekend goes as good as the car looks.
“I was talking about this with the Donnell family, who were also close to Mike Kuhl through boat racing and drag racing, and this came together with Jason Donnell’s involvement with his company, Car Credit Auto Group in Corona [Calif.]. Mike will be at the race with his Cacklefest car. I can’t wait to see his reaction.”
DOWN FOR THE COUNT – Comp Eliminator has only 11 entries on the property.
READY FOR IMPROVEMENT - Fifth place in the championship point standings is quite an accomplishment for many teams, but for past NHRA Lucas Oil Top Alcohol Dragster champion Chris Demke this kind of finish inspires improvement.
Demke is back with his same Maddern Racing crew, headed up by his stepfather and team owner, Jerry Maddern, and car chief Kevin Watson.
New for 2017 is a front half on Demke’s Uyehara-built dragster. All engine and transmission components were either freshened or replaced, as well.
“As most people know, last season didn’t necessarily go as we had planned,” Demke said. “I crashed midway through the season in the first round of qualifying at the Seattle regional. Fortunately, I was okay, but the car was basically ruined. We had to pull out our older chassis that had won the championship in 2014, but it’s had a lot of runs on it.
"We nicknamed it ‘Saggy Maggie’ because it had a pretty good sag to it. We took it up to Wade Ramsey for a few upgrades. He put a new front half on the car, so everything in front of the roll cage is fresh pipe. He also made us a new magnesium body. We’re hoping the fresh pipe as well as the freshened motor parts will help get our performance back on track.”
BIDING HER TIME - Krista Baldwin has no interest in taking over her famous grandfather's Top Fuel ride. Instead, she'd love to line up in the opposite lane and race him.
Baldwin, whose grandfather is Chris "The Golden Greek" Karamesines, comes from strong nitro pedigree as her father was the late Top Fuel racer Bobby Baldwin.
"I wouldn’t take his ride because it is his ride," Baldwin explained. "I told him, 'I’m like, ‘I don’t care. If I get to drive your car, that’s awesome. But I want one time that we can be head to head against each other."
"Either if it’s going to be a match race with me in this car and him in his Top Fuel car, or he drives Anthony’s other car, I just want to go head to head with him somewhere, somehow."
Baldwin has found her home in racing an A/Fuel Dragster fieded out of Anthony DiCero's Nitro University.
"For right now I’m going to stay in the A/Fuel car," Baldwin said. "I’d love to be in Top Fuel, but I still need to learn a little more. This is only my second year out here in this car. And so with the help of Anthony Dicero, I think hopefully in some time in the future, we’ll be in Top Fuel."
Baldwin believes DiCero's high-horsepower curriculum has been invaluable in her two years of competing in the Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series.
"You think you want to just come in here, drive the car, and be done," Baldwin explained. "No, you need to learn a lot more. Anthony’s helped me with the fuel, so I have my own driver responsibilities on the car with the fuel and the parachutes, and doing the RacePak data and stuff like that.
"So, here at Nitro University, you can learn everything on these Fuel cars from the clutch to pulling the heads, to doing bottom end, anything like that. So, if you’re interested in doing this, this is where you need to start."