The tradition of big money bracket racing at Byron Dragway continued last weekend with the running of the 23rd Firecracker Bracket Nationals.
Held over three days, with $100,000 to win on Saturday, and $30,000 each on Friday and Sunday, the Firecrackers are exclusive due to the limited number of entry slots available. And that exclusivity means some of the best bracket racers locally and from across the country show up to pocket the Big Bucks and Byron Dragway’s richest race weekend.

Friday’s action was run under increasingly hot and humid conditions. At the end of the day, Shane Pope of Mount Morris, IL, took his No Box ’74 Ford Pinto to victory over Mooresville, NC’s Doug Foley Jr. in a dragster by American. Pope’s $30,000 payday supplemented his $10,000 win one month prior at Byron Dragway’s Triple $10k weekend. 

This set the stage for the weekend’s $100,000 main event.

However, Mother Nature had other ideas, as a large rain mass began moving across the region slowly in the early morning. Once it ended in the early afternoon and the track prepared a few hours later, the hope was to get at least one round of racing in. And yet that also was not to be as another wet cell moved in.

With that, Byron Dragway officials decided to roll Saturday and Sunday’s purses into one $130,000 check to the winner on Sunday.
Weather conditions were much more favorable on Sunday morning, with lower humidity and a northerly breeze creating a tailwind. With more dollars in a single day on the line, cash-hungry racers were called to the staging lanes at 8:45 AM, with the first pair of No Box Door cars firing up at 9. Once eliminations were underway, it became apparent that those favorable conditions would prove challenging, with numerous double breakouts. By Round 2, the racers had adjusted, with breakouts becoming far less frequent.

Racing progressed in workmanlike fashion into Round 3 when Tim Wurtz lined his Corvette Roadster up against Scotty Richardson’s Nova. Both cars had been launching wheels up in previous rounds, and this one was no different as Richardson got the .88 second head start. Wurtz followed with the Corvette, finally setting the front tires down around 150’, slightly out of the groove. As Wurtz was correcting course and chasing down Richardson, his roadster started moving toward the centerline, completely crossing into Richardson’s left lane by the 500’ block. Fortunately, no car-to-car contact was made, and Richardson would advance to race to Round 6.  

The Door Car final would feature two high flyers. Nick Hastings of Shelby, OH, driving a 1981 Pontiac T1000, and Randy Folk of Bradenton, FL, wheeling his classic 1964 Corvette coupe.

The always hard launching short wheelbase Pontiac of Hastings was the surviving No Box Door Car, having dispatched Palo, Iowa’s Brandon Schmall with a dead-on his 6.16 dial-in in Round 6, then the delay box equipped S-10 of Shane Boney in Round 7.

While a Florida resident for years, Randy Folk hails from nearby Durand, IL, and has run countless laps at Byron Dragway. His Corvette leaves hard, and its clean looks suggest it would be equally at home at a show or cruise-in.

Getting to the Door Car final was no easy task for Folk. He dispatched the last local racer, Chicago’s Ed Niemiec, in a close double breakout Round 6 race, and then Troy Williams Jr. with a superior reaction time while breaking out the least in Round 7.

In the final, Hastings would stick with the number he dialed in all day, a 6.16. Folk predicted his Vette would run a 5.93. Hastings launched high on his .023 head start, recording a .020 reaction time. Then Folk left with a .013 R/T, the Corvette carrying the front end to 100’. It didn’t take long for Folk to catch Hastings, but at 500’, Hastings had half a car length on Folk. As they neared the finish line, Hastings’ attempt at braking enough to prevent a breakout failed, as he took too much stripe, going .013 under his dial running 6.147. For his part, Folk played the game slightly better, breaking out by .002 with a 5.928, earning him a trip to the overall final. 

The Dragster final featured two experienced hands in big money bracket racing.

Lane Dicken of Lebanon, TN, ran consistently throughout the day, not breaking out until his Round 6 bye run. He would do so again in Round 7 against Donovan Williams, but Williams would lose by breaking by .001 more.

Doug Foley JR. would get to this round by taking the tree on Round 7 bye. Previously in Round 6, Foley prevailed over Salem, Wisconsin’s Ryan Fasano, the last local dragster in the field. 

The Foley/Dicken matchup was essentially heads up, with Foley dialing in a 4.52 and Dicken a 4.50. Both drivers were on their game on the tree, with Foley reacting in .001 seconds and Dicken recording a .007. By 330’, Foley was clearly ahead, with nearly a car length on Dicken. The gap had closed by 500’, but it wasn’t enough for Dicken to overcome as Foley crossed the stripe first with 4.562 ET to Dicken’s 5.551.

With two drivers with an outstanding pedigree going to the Firecracker $130k Final, the promise of a great race was set in stone.
Randy Folk comes from the Folk Racing clan, whose success is well documented in Sportsman and bracket racing lore.

Besides his past success in big money racing in years past, including a $30k payday at Byron’s 2019 Firecrackers and a runner-up on Friday at this 23rd event here, Doug Foley Jr. crews on his father Doug’s NHRA Top Fuel Dragster. He lives and breathes drag racing.

With the sun getting low over the Big Bucks final, both drivers predicted they would run slightly quicker than previous rounds, with Folk dialing in a 5.92 ET while Foley predicted a 4.49.

When Folk launched the Corvette on .006 reaction time in the right lane, it went into its biggest wheelstand of the day. Nearly one and a half seconds later, Foley gave chase with a .013 RT.

At that point, Folk’s Vette came down from the wheelstand slightly out of the groove toward the center line. By the 500’ block, the nose of Foley’s dragster was on Folk’s tail.

Nearing the finish line, Foley was all over Folk, inching ahead over the last few feet to take the win with a nearly dead on 4.491 to Folk’s 5.948, with a margin of victory of .020 seconds.

Randy Folk congratulates Doug Foley Jr. on his victory.
Randy Folk, his family team, and Byron Dragway’s B.J. Vangsness celebrate his runner-up finish.
Byron Dragway’s B.J. Vangsness presents Doug Foley Jr. with the Big Check for $130,000