Wayne Newby scored his first win in four years after defeating his Rapisarda Autosport International teammate Damien Harris in the A-Final on day one of the Australia Day Nationals at Sydney Dragway, January 26-27. 
Newby's win is all the more commendable because the three-time champ is still undergoing rehab after having a knee replacement in December.
Phil Lamattina outpaced fellow veteran Peter Xiberras to claim honors in the B-Final.
On day two, race organizers canceled the meeting due to persistent drizzle. 
The hard luck story over the weekend belonged to NHRA star Larry Dixon, who never made it out of the pits on any of his scheduled three runs after his car was plagued with electrical gremlins. 
“I don't know anyone who has traveled further than me to come and watch this race,” said Dixon. “These things happen. You can’t fight Mother Nature whether you’re in the States or here in Australia. For whatever reason, I was not to get in the car this weekend and I won't argue with whoever pulls those strings.”
What was meant to be a single round of the championship, the Australian Day Nationals morphed into a two-day meeting when race organizers decided to include the rounds of Top Fuel and Top Alcohol from the December meeting at Sydney Dragway that was canceled due to rain.
The decision to run back-to-back rounds had significant consequences for both categories, which faced no qualifying laps and a grueling six rounds of racing over the two days. 
To exacerbate the situation, the track temperature on day one hit 135F. 
No team has raced at the venue since the Nitro champs in May 2023. Lamattina went into the meeting with a slight advantage, having tested at the venue a week earlier.
Round two of the season attracted the regular starters headed by reigning champ Harris and Newby spearheading the four-car RAI attack. 
Veteran Phil Read, with NHRA tuner Jim Oberhofer on board for the weekend, was chasing his first win since March 2023, along with Peter Xiberras second in the points and Phil Lamattina looking for his first win of the season. 
There can be no questioning “Mr. Nice Guy" Kyle Putland's commitment to the Top Fuel series after traveling from Perth to Sydney, a return trip of 5,300 miles.
Thanks to the formidable resources of Rapisarda Autosport International, what was shaping up as a run-of-the-mill meeting received a significant boost when team owner Santo Rapisarda decided to field four cars. 
The two newcomers included talented local Shane Olive and popular NHRA import Larry Dixon. 
With no qualifying runs, match-ups were decided based on standings in the championship. That meant series leader Harris was drawn to race Kyle Putland, fifth, and at the bottom of the point’s table. Dixon and Olive, with zero points on the board, faced off against each other.
Harris opened his account with a comfortable win over Putland, who went into a tire shake around 330 feet. 
The Xiberras and Lamattina rivalry went up another notch, with Xiberras running a 3.91 despite shredding a belt around the three-quarter mark. Lamattina’s run ended after dropping a cylinder and then tossing a belt. 
Newby was in ominous form with an impressive 3.92 to drill Read, who dropped a cylinder and then shut off early.
Olive’s first lap with his new team ended abruptly when he was unable to engage in reverse after his burnout, while Dixon was unable to fire up in the pits.
Newby’s sparkling form continued despite spitting out a spark plug 2.7 secs into the run with an easy win over Putland, who smoked the tires.
Read upset Xiberras on a holeshot and Lamattina took the win with a strong 3.812, 315 mph against Olive, who smoked the tires around 330 feet. 
Harris was handed the easiest of victories when Dixon was a no-show due to ongoing electrical issues.
Newby returned to the winner's circle for the first time since 2004, when he took out the A-Final. Harris led on the green with a  .044 reaction time and looked to be on track to score his second consecutive win of the season until breaking a crank. 
“It’s been a while since we had a win,” said Newby. “We’ve been close a few times but not quite there. Santino and the team have put in a lot of hours at the ‘shop, and it has paid off. We ran a 92 in the heat on the first run and I clicked it a bit early. Run two, and we were marching down the track pretty good until I burnt a plug lead and spat the plug out. Then, in the final, the car took off, kept running and we got to the finish line first.” 
Lamattina turned the tables on Xiberras to claim a narrow 3.82/3.85 win in the B-Final. Lammas' time was the quickest of the day.
Olive led all the way to score an upset win over Read, who dropped a cylinder on the hit in the C-Final. 
Rookie Daniel Reed and veteran Russell Mills slugged it out for honors in the A-final.
Victory going to Reed on a holeshot with a .027 reaction time and a 5.57/263 mph pass to Mills with a .023 followed by a 5.57/261 mph. 
"My reaction times have been too close," Reed said. "You're literally thousands of a second from throwing it all away, like in the second round when I ran a .009. Generally, a .040 to .050 will be good enough to win.”
The B-Final was also decided on a holeshot when Chris Hargrave accounted for Wayne Price.


DOOR SLAMMER  - West Australians took the top three spots in Doorslammer qualifying. Rookie sensation Russell Taylor chasing his third consecutive win headed the charts with a superb 5.71. 254 to head evergreen John Zappia and series front-runner Daniel Gregorini. 
Local Geoff Gradden surprised with a solid fourth ahead of Lisa Gregorini, while highly fancied Ronnie Palumbo snuck into the field in the eighth spot with a sluggish 6.55. 162 mph.
PRO STOCK - Pro Stock attracted eight entries and was dominated by the interstate pair of Chris Soldatos with a 7.00, 191 mph and Robert Dekert with 7.02, 195 mph. Rick Chilton was the best of the locals, with a 7.04. 193 mph.  
PRO MOD - There was no surprise when top qualifier Craig Burns and third qualifier Zoran Gajic faced off in the A-Final. Gajic cut a .017 light and was never headed, taking the win with a 5.90, 258 mph. Burns's run ended after pulling a ‘wheelie’ and was forced to back off. 
Share a thought for Larry Dixon, who took 51 hours to travel from his home in Indianapolis to Sydney and then home again. Dixon raced for a total of zero minutes.  
NHRA tuner Jim Oberhofer, making his ninth trip to Australia, was working alongside Bruce Read on the Phil Read entry. Oberhofer first visited Australia in 2005 with the Scott Kalitta car that won the Australia USA challenge meeting. 
 “Coming to Australia is all about the Read family,” according to Oberhofer. “They are family. I really enjoy catching up with the other teams - Santo, his boys, Junior and Santino, Pete Xiberras and Phil Lamattina, have all become close friends over the years.”
While Group One struggles to attract female entries, Lisa Gregorini in Doorslammer is the exception. Sportsman racing and, in particular, Modified is booming. The event attracted what is believed to be a record seven females across the 13 entries.
“Modified is a class where many junior dragsters and especially girls step up to,” according to Modified star Jess Turner. “It is an entry-level category. It's not about how much money you've got or how fast you race. What is important is being consistent. The people involved make you feel welcome and we enjoy the racing."
Congratulations to Peter Xiberras, who was celebrating the 30th anniversary of launching his industrial hire company PremiAir Hire. The business has grown into one of the leaders in the field. Xiberras, as well as being a two-time Fuel champion, is also the owner of PremiAir Racing, one of Australia's leading Supercar teams.
Shane Olive’s car was previously driven by Damien Harris when he set the Australian record of 4.44 sec. for a quarter-mile in 2017.
Pro Mod privateer Daniel Camilleri posted a credible 6.40/220 mph to qualify fifth. Camilleri debuted in the category in November and destroyed his engine on his first run.
On the mend. Mary Fabietti, wife of leading Doorslammer team owner Maurice Fabietti, is recovering from major surgery.
Kyle Putland’s fuel car sported significant changes to the rear wing to create less downforce and help keep the car in a straight line.
The LTFR car ran a decal honoring the memory of Sheridan Coulthard, daughter of long-serving crewmember Gavin Coulthard, who lost her life in a car accident earlier this month.
When it became evident that Larry Dixon would not get out to race, he was co-opted into the commentary team. This continues a common practice this season, with several current racers passing on their knowledge and experience. Dixon has joined Phil Read, Phil Lamattina and Funny car exponent Morice McMillin in sharing their expertise. More please.
Special thanks go to Richard Smith from PremiAir Racing for his assistance during the meeting.
Larry Dixon brought some cheer to the small crowd on day two waiting to see racing when he heroically attempted to do ‘donuts’ in the RAI golf buggy in front of the main grandstand…. while it was raining.
The general consensus is that Larry should still concentrate on straight-line racing.