Ferrelgas Bracket Series Race #1 4/10/2011
Heartland Park Topeka kicked off the 2011 racing season on the drag strip with Ferrelgas as its new title sponsor for the bracket racing series. Ferrelgas has been serving propane customers in the Midwest for over 70 years and is proud to be part of the Heartland Park bracket series. The title sponsor wasn’t the only new addition to the bracket program. A-1 Automotive stepped up with their Lumberjack Challenge, Freddy’s Frozen Custard and Steakburgers stepped up with a new for 2011 bounty program and Heartland Park has their own Super Series featuring NHRA-legal Super Street, Super Gas and Super Comp classes. The action kicked off after two time trial sessions.
The Elk Creek Engraving and Awards Junior Dragster classes started the 2011 season with a battle of the Ashleys decided in the Junior C category. Eudora’s Ashley Miller defeated Ashley Winkler of Ottawa for the win by posting a 13.89 on her 13.82 dial-in as Winkler foul started and turned on the red light. In the B category, the young ladies continued their domination of the men when Savana Bennet of Shawnee put away Topeka’s Andrew Martinez in the final, 9.09 (9.07 dial) to Martinez’ 9.19 (9.25) breakout. The final for the A category featured two quick rides pitted against each other as Shelby Moore of Hutchinson made a great pass (7.94 on a 7.90 dial) to force 4-time track champion, Austin McClure to break out with a too-quick 7.95 on his 7.96 dial.
The Kansas National Guard Pro Bike category found two Topeka racers fighting for the win. Paul Mustain was able to put his Suzuki Bandit in the winner’s circle by defeating Shawn Ray aboard his Honda in the final 12.56 (11.99 dial) to 14.28 (13.75 dial).
When the cars hit the track, the Labor Pros Street category found Dave Wilson of Overland Park pitted against Topeka’s own, Martin Ranker. Ranker missed the 2010 racing season due to an injury. Wilson, who drove his 1955 Chevy last season, was behind the wheel of his 2000 Camaro for the first time since 2009. The new engine combination was working well for him and advanced to the finals with a bye run. Ranker dialed in his 1965 Mustang with a 13.33 and Wilson dialed at 13.80. When the green lights flashed, Ranker cut a great .030 reaction time and hung on for the win, 13.41 to 13.85
The Sportsman category, finding new sponsorship for the 2011 season from Commercial Fleet Repair, found 23 drivers competing for the win. Lots of great racing action ensued through 6 rounds of action. In the semifinals, Gail Spencer of Topeka found herself with a bye into the final and Labor Pros Street runner-up, Dave Wilson was battling it out on the other side of the ladder with Topeka’s Bradley Bell for the other spot in the final round. Wilson absolutely drilled the light at the starting line with a brilliant .014 reaction time. Bell stood on the gas hard, trying to catch up with his blue 1973 Dodge Challenger, and in doing so, went too quick and broke out by a tenth of a second to advance Wilson to the final against Spencer. Gail, who has been driving her familiar blue 1966 Chevy Nova for many years, decided this past winter she would have some work done on the front end of the car to help it launch more consistently. She explained, “I took it over to Mike’s Frame Shop and had them fix the front end. The parts were so worn, I couldn’t stage the car consistently. My 60’ times and reaction times were all over the place. Now, the car is consistent, but I still need to work on my lights a bit.” In the final round, her car proved its consistency and her reaction time against Wilson was enough to push her past his Camaro and collect her win as she posted a 12.63 against her 12.64 dial and Wilson ran 13.92 on his 13.80 dial. Both her sons, Mickey and Lee, were there to cheer her on.
Round one of Super 8 at Forbes Landing Pro Eliminator found 29 racers pitted against each other for a hotly contested category. In the semifinals, young Lauren Thomas of Marshall, MO found herself lined up with Salina, KS racer, Tyler Wudarczyk. Thomas, driving the only rear engine dragster in the category, dialed in at a 9.69 to Wudarczyk’s 10.57. Wudarczyk hammered the gas pedal of his 1986 Camaro, yanked the front wheels off the ground and headed down track. Thomas couldn’t wait quite long enough and left the starting line too soon, resulting in a red-light disqualification. Wudarczyk then coasted through the finish line with a 10.73 ET. On the other side of the ladder, Westmoreland driver, Joe LeBlanc faced Chris Livingood of Olathe, KS. Livingood had his black primered 1974 Chevy Vega set on kill all day long and had his sights set on the final round. LeBlanc knew it would be a tough round and when he dropped the hammer on his 1974 Chevy Nova, he cut a near perfect .009 reaction time to take a huge advantage in the race. At the finish line, Livingood pushed too hard and broke out trying to catch LeBlanc sending Joe on to meet up with Tyler in the final.With all the marbles on the line, Wudarczyk dialed in at 10.57 and LeBlanc posted an 11.69 dial on his window. Down came the amber lights and LeBlanc left a split second too soon and turned on the red light at the starting line. T-Dub blasted off the line and then coasted across the stripe for the class win.
The Super Pro category, sponsored for 2011 by ABK Insurance boasted 31 racers in everything from Corvette roadsters to rear engine dragsters. The semifinal round pitted 2010 NHRA Div. 5 Lucas Oil Top Dragster champion, Larry Piper of Wamego against Kevin Lawrence of Manhattan. Lawrence drilled the champ with a .024 reaction time and streaked to the round win and into the final. Brian Coonrod, also of Manhattan, faced the uber-tough Topeka racer, Bill Chinn, Jr. Chinn, known to many as “The Exterminator”, dialed in his gorgoues Mullis dragster at 8.90. Coonrod, driving his bright red Fritz-chassied machine, dialed in at 8.32. Wound up his big block Chevy and left the line first with a solid .026 reaction time. Coonrod ripped up the starting line with a stout .015 light and chased after Chinn. At the stripe, in one of the closest races of the day, Chinn nipped Coonrod with an 8.906 ET. So with the final round set, Chinn and Lawrence each dialed in, staged their cars and let it all hang out. When the smoke cleared, in a double-breakout final, Lawrence emerged victorious after turning in a .024 reaction to Chinn’s .037 and running closer to his dial-in.
New for this year is the HPT Super Series. During each of the 12 Ferrelgas Bracket Racing Series events, one of the three super classes will be contested. This week it was The Diamond House Jewelers Super Street category and they put on a great show. Super Street is a 10.90 index class where the object is to beat your opponent to the finish line without running quicker than 10.90 seconds. Sounds easy, right? Step right up if you’re ready!
Fourteen racers entered the Super Street class and the semifinals featured four tough competitors. Steve Domingues of Derby locked horns with the rock-solid racer from Gardner, JR Lobner. Lobner drove his evil looking black Chevy S-10 pickup and Domingues piloted his bright red 1967 Camaro. Domingues not only had a better reaction time than Lobner, but also ran closer to the index to collect the win with a 10.91 ET. Greg “Wildman” Pfeffer, rolled up along side Silver Lake’s Curt Epperson in the other semifinal. Pheffer, driving his unique purple 1941 Willys sedan, narrowly escaped the top end charge of Epperson’s Nova and won 10.91 to 10.92. The stage was set for the final with Pheffer and Domingues. As the tree came down, Domingues launched first with a .029 reaction time. Pfeffer was just a touch late with his .055 light as he left the starting line. At the 300 foot mark, Pfeffer had overtaken Domingues, who was still waiting for his throttle stop to disengage. Once it did, though, the big red Camaro came to life. Domingues roared past Pfeffer just before the finish line at nearly 150 miles per hour and took the victory in a double break out, 10.896 to 10.874.
A huge thanks to out to A-1 Automotive for sponsoring the Lumberjack Challenge. This challenge pays the first racer in Sportsman, Pro and Super Pro who cuts a perfect light in a winning round $20.00. If nobody collects the money, it is rolled over to the next race until someone wins. Tony Eichem of Belvue, KS was this year’s first A-1 Automotive Lumberjack Challenge winner as he posted his perfect reaction time in round number 2 with his absolutely stunning 1969 Camaro to defeat David Hawley.
The Freddy’s Frozen Custard and Steak Burgers bounty hunter awards went to Tiffany Walters-Wilson in Sportsman for beating Lindsay Lippert, Mel Frazier won his award in Pro when he bounced out Troy Ross and Todd Stallbaumer received his Freddy’s award for putting away Tom Williams in Super Pro. Each of these drivers received 3 coupons for free entrees and combo meals at Freddy’s Frozen Custard and Steakburgers.
The Kansas National Guard and Motul Racing Oil stepped up and offered $50 to each of the first two drivers who posted a perfect reaction time during eliminations. Topeka’s own, Austin McClure nabbed the first fifty with his .000 light in the first round of Junior Dragster. The second cash award was picked up by Tony Eichem in the second round of Super Pro.
Come on out to the track on May 7th as we are going to do it all over again for race number two in the Ferrelgas Bracket Racing series featuring the Auto Body Unlimited Super Gas category. See you at the races!!