Justin Walshe scored his second win of the 2023-2024 NDRC Nitro Funny car season after taking a holeshot victory over last-round winner Morice McMillin in the A-Final of the inaugural Festival State Nationals, Jan 13-14. 
“I cut a .002 tree,” said Walshe. “I was aiming for a 040; sometimes, I flirt with it a bit too much. 002 I’ll take it. I could hear Morice out the side window but kept my foot into it and got there first.”

Spoils in the B-final went to McMillin’s teammate Brandon Gosbell, who was gifted the win after luckless privateer Anthony Begley could not front due to a damaged engine sustained in the previous round.

Pro Slammer ended sensationally when John Zappia crossed the line ahead of rookie Russell Taylor but was disqualified after race officials noticed that a crewmember had touched the car after it had gone into full stage.

Taylor, who debuted in the elite category in the previous round, has a remarkable record of two wins from two starts in the elite category.



Brandon Gosbell has emerged as the king of qualifying after claiming his third consecutive top qualifier spot with a strong 4.87/298 mph despite dropping the number 3 cylinder around the 300-foot mark. The run was all the more remarkable coming during Q1 on a track with the temperature nudging 125f. 

Walshe nailed second place with a Personal best for speed and time of 4.96/320 mph to claim second place.
Series leader Morice McMillian was third after dropping a number six-cylinder on his way to a 5.18/275 mph. 

However, the privateer duo Anthony Begley and Adam Murrihy provided the drama and heartbreak.

Their matchup during the final qualifier appeared to be a regulation side-by-side pass until Murrihy dropped a cylinder, took out a centerline foam block, and ended up in Begley’s lane. 
“We dropped a number four-cylinder at the top end,” according to Murrihy. “At that speed, around 315 mph, the car tore across the track in front of ‘Beggs,’ luckily, he was already out of it by that stage.”

The scoreboard flashed up Begley’s time as a 4.92, much to the delight of the crew, who have been chasing their first sub-five-second run for more than a decade. 

However, their jubilation was short-lived when the time was disallowed because it had been triggered when the centerline-timing box, hit by Murrihy, ended up in Begley’s lane. “I’m so disappointed for the team,” said a remarkably composed Begley. “We thought we had run a five when the time came up. The crew and the team thought it was Christmas all over again. To make matters worse, we also torched the motor. These things happen.” 

The damage to Murrihy’s car was significant. The front left quarter was torn off, and he was out for the weekend with the field reduced to four.
Race day and conditions were slightly less oppressive yet hot enough to deliver a greasy race surface. 

In Round One, the Gosbell versus Begley matchup failed to eventuate when Gosbell was unable to back up from the burnout due to a broken reversal pin.

The other paring saw McMillin drop a cylinder 1.66 sec into the run, move to the right, and was still able to defeat Walshe, who tossed a belt. 

Begley’s horror weekend continued in round two against Walshe. His throttle got stuck wide open, banged the blower, and ended in the gravel trap. Walshe was untroubled to take the win and advanced to his third consecutive A-Final of the year.

Aeroflow teammates Gosbell and McMillin faced off with a spot in the A-Final on the line. Gosbell jumped to an early lead,taking the win with a 4.58/298 mph to McMillen on 5.02/262 mph.

The A-final ended when Walshe cut a superb reaction time of .002 sec and began  to disappear into the distance. McMillin edged his way back into the contest and was a chance until dropping a cylinder near half-track. “Justin cut a .002; we call that in the industry a bad case of red lighting,” according to McMillan, who was gracious in defeat. “At the end of the day Justin got to the finish line first, that’s what counts and congratulations to him and the team.”

Gosbell on a solo took out the B-Final.

“We qualify well but that doesn’t carry over on race day,” explained Gosbell. “Full credit to the team who stepped up to the challenges and the weather over the weekend. We had some setbacks, but our program is still on track, and congratulations to Justin on the win.”



Russell Taylor proved that his win on debut last month was no fluke when he top qualified with a 5.74, 257 mph in the heat of the day. Series leader Ricky Polumbo had electrical issues and had to settle for eighth and a round-one matchup against Taylor.

John Zappia clocked a 5.77, 247 mph to start out of second.
Daniel Gregorini was a model of consistency with a 5.5.82/252 mph followed by a 5.78/253 mph in the cooler evening conditions to claim fourth ahead of Lisa G. who ran 5.89/247 mph.

Taylor opened his account on race day with a 5.70/254 mph after Palumbo red-lit.

Both Gregorini’s scored easy first-round wins. Lisa took honors over veteran Peter Lovering who cut a red light and Daniel drove around Adam Tassone after a sluggish reaction time of .10 sec.

Zappia took a solo after veteran Matt Able was a no-show. 

In round two Palumbo’s wretched weekend continued after he couldn’t engage reverse after the burnout against Lisa Gregorini. Daniel struck trouble when he was unable to back up. Taylor won after veteran Matt Able ran a red.

Zappia advanced to the A-main after easily driving around Tassone. 

In the B-Final, bragging rights around the dinner table went to Lisa Gregorini with a 5.93/247 mph after leading all the way to defeat Daniel with a 5.97/243 mph.

Zappia knocked out a stunning reaction time of .018 sec to lead all the way against Taylor in the A-Final. Zappia finished with a 5.76, 248 mph to Taylor on 5.74 /, 54 mph.

But it was all to no avail after ‘Zap’ was disqualified and the win was handed to Taylor. 

“We had a good weekend,” explained Taylor. “I got to do more laps in the car. So far, I’ve only done about 15 or 16 laps, so we’ve come a long way in a very short time.”





Top Fuel star Phil Lamattina took a back seat to third son Luca, who made it to the second round in Junior Dragster. The carrot farmer was gainfully employed over the weekend, driving the team’s golf buggy and dabbling in race commentary.

Noted engine guru Jeff Cutajar, best known as a long-term tuner for Doorslammer legend Peter Kapiris, was enlisted into race commentary duties for the weekend. Kapiris has been sidelined with a broken leg since November.

The Murrihy clan made the trip from home in the Northern Territory to see Adam race the family Funny car for the first time. “The kids absolutely loved it, according to his wife Stacey. “It was a massive adrenaline rush, breathtaking, and I can see why Adam loves to race.” 
John Zappia elected to run his B-motor at the meeting. His A-motor has developed a taste for stripping threads when torquing the heads. His C-engine made the trip from Perth as a backup.

Doorslammer racing was paused to pay tribute to the much-loved Marie Bray matriarch of the Bray family who passed away late last year.

Competition Plus wishes to thank the Anthony Begley team for their assistance throughout the meeting.