COWIE MAKES TRIUMPHANT RETURN IN TOP ALCOHOL DRAGSTER
Sidelined Top Alcohol Dragster star Shawn Cowie, critically injured in a motorcycle accident two years ago in Nashville and told repeatedly that he’d never race again, won the Les Schwab Tires Challenge Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series event at Woodburn Dragstrip his first time back in the seat, qualifying No. 1 and defeating red-hot Chris Demke in the final. In Top Alcohol Funny Car, John Lombardo Jr. returned to early season form with a hard-fought win over the second-quickest field ever assembled.
Cowie’s triumphant return began with a 5.45 test run on Thursday that was a victory in itself. Just getting the car down the track would have been a major accomplishment, but Cowie qualified No. 1 with a 5.33 that held up throughout eliminations for low e.t. and ran low e.t. of two of three rounds, including the final, where he edged Demke, 5.41 to 5.43, to cap a fairytale weekend.
Demke, coming off a win at the Route 66 Nationals, qualified No. 2 behind Cowie with a 5.39 and advanced to his seventh final already this season with back-to-back 5.38s against Megan McKernan, who backpedaled into a wheelstand, and track co-owner Joey Severance, who banged the blower.
Cowie’s Mundie’s Towing team took out defending event champ Gregg Lawrence in the opening round with a 5.37 and Norwalk runner-up Ray Martin in the semi’s with a 5.41. Demke and Cowie left simultaneously in the final with .054 reaction times, and Cowie pulled ahead to win by half a car, 5.41, 267 to 5.43, 268 as Demke fell out of the 5.30s and the 270-mph zone for the first time all day.
Demke’s 271.00 in the semifinals was good for top speed of the meet, and his latest final-round showing catapults him over yearlong leader Jim Whiteley and into the national points lead. Cowie’s victory actually is his second in a row; in his last race before his accident in April 2011, he won the SummitRacing.com NHRA Nationals in Las Vegas.
Lombardo scored in Top Alcohol Funny Car for the first time since the season-opening Winternationals in Pomona. He lost photo-finish finals at both the national and regional events in Houston and was upset in the first round in his most recent outing, at Tulsa. This time a close final went his way, 5.70 to 5.75 over defending event champ Jay Payne.
The final was the only race all day in which the lower-qualified driver didn’t win. No. 8 Payne defeated No. 5 Steve Gasparrelli in one semifinal match, and No. 7 Lombardo took out No. 6 Sean Bellemeur in the other. In the first round, all four drivers from the top half of the field lost – No. 1 Clint Thompson to Payne, No. 2 Doug Gordon to Lombardo, No. 3 Annie Whiteley to Bellemeur, and No. 4 Brian Hough to Gasparrelli.
Qualifying was a show in itself. The bump was a 5.663 – the second-quickest ever behind only the 2009 Sonoma event (5.659 bump) won by Gasparrelli. Four drivers from that field also were a part of this one: Lombardo, Gordon, Gasparrelli, and Payne.
Oregon’s Thompson qualified No. 1 with a 5.60, and another home state driver, Hough, set top speed with a barrage of 260-mph blasts, including a best of 262.23. Former Division 7 champion Terry Ruckman and 2013 national event winner Jirka Kaplan ran in the 5.60s and didn’t qualify, and top-five driver Shane Westerfield just missed with a 5.70. The entire field was separated by less than six-hundredths of a second, from Thompson’s 5.604 to Payne’s 5.663.
Only one run in all of eliminations would have been quick enough to make the field – Lombardo’s 5.62 in the first round. He ran a 5.70 against Bellemeur in the semifinals, Payne dispatched Gasparrelli a 5.75 in the other semi, and both drivers duplicated their semifinal times in the final.
Hometown racer Paul Nero took home the trophy in Top Dragster while Brandon Huhtala defended his win from a year ago in Comp Eliminator. Nero, Eugene, Ore., beat out Jake Morris, McKinleyville, Calif., with a lap of 7.558 seconds at 177.09 mph for his second win at Woodburn. Huhtala, Puyallup, Wash., defeated Aaron Strong, Auburn, Wash., to win back to back at Woodburn Dragstrip in his ’09 GXP.
Woodburn, Ore., racer Karl Hart took out Kirby Olmsted, McMinnville, Ore., in the Pro bracket class. Hart drove his ’84 Firebird to a 13.458 winning pass.
Reigning NHRA Lucas Oil National Champion Jimmy DeFrank knocked out Kory Alby who was celebrating his birthday with a final round appearance. DeFrank had a big starting line advantage and went 8.908, 152.72 for the win.
The event produced three first time winners in Mike Williams, Don Paine, and Cody Cumpton. Williams beat two-time Woodburn winner Barry Hobson in the RH Racecars Top Sportsman class with a pass of 7.306 at 190.79 mph and Paine won on a double breakout over Gary Palmateer in Super Street. Both drivers had 0.004 second reaction times but Paine, Tacoma, Wash., was better at the strip with a 10.890, 137.78. Cumpton was better on both ends of the track to knock out defending event champion Jeff Havens in the Sportsman Motorcycle Series presented by Harley-Davidson. Havens was 0.003 at the light and 8.577 on his 8.55 dial for the win.
A pair of northwest hitters matched up in Stock Eliminator as Jody Lang faced off with Mark Faul. Lang, Puyallup, Wash., got the best of Faul in his familiar ’81 Malibu wagon clocking in at 12.358, 103.62 to the quicker Faul, Tacoma, Wash., at 11.278, 116.26.
Geoff Hughes and Mike Shannon picked up wins in the Super Comp and Super Gas categories as Hughes won his third NHRA Wally trophy in beating Dale Hrenko and Shannon added one to his collection ousting Rob Willis in his ’57 Corvette running 10.001 seconds at 139.34 mph.
In the Super Pro bracket class, Jim Glenn, Vancouver, Wash., joined in on the winner circle celebration defeating Charlie Dietrich with a run of 8.805, 175.71.
While in Pro, Karl Hart finally picked up his first Wally after defeating another Oregon resident in Kirby Olmstead.
The following are the final results from the NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series Les Schwab Tires Challenge event at Woodburn Dragstrip:
TOP ALCOHOL DRAGSTER:
3) Joey Severance, Woodburn, Ore., 5.770, 167.19 def. 6) Duane Shields, Boulder City, Nev., 6.018, 256.92
1) Shawn Cowie, Delta, B.C., 5.377, 268.73 def. 8) Gregg Lawrence, Salem, Ore., 6.082, 189.75
5) Ray Martin, Anchorage, Alaska, 5.535, 267.85 def. 4) Garrett Bateman, Albany, Ore., 14.360, 79.62
2) Chris Demke, Tujunga, Calif., 5.380, 270.59 def. 7) Megan McKernan, Sierra Madre, Calif., 6.762, 120.87
Demke, 5.389, 271.00 def. Severance, 6.775, 108.04
Cowie, 5.419, 266.03 def. Martin, 5.719, 262.54
Cowie, 5.411, 267.37 def. Demke, 5.439, 268.73
TOP ALCOHOL FUNNY CAR:
7) John Lombardo Jr., Brea, Calif., ’06 Monte Carlo, 5.628, 261.93 def. 2) Doug Gordon, Paso Robles, Calif., ’11 Mustang, 15.117, 52.34
8) Jay Payne, Claremont, Calif., ’09 Mustang, 5.749, 256.33 def. 1) Clint Thompson, Klamath Falls, Ore., ’06 Monte Carlo, 9.698, 95.84
5) Steve Gasparrelli, West Covina, Calif., ’11 Monte Carlo, 5.696, 254.45 def. 4) Brian Hough, Junction City, Ore., ’10 Mustang, 6.992, 161.31
6) Sean Bellemeur, Tustin, Calif., ’02 Camaro, 5.672, 256.55 def. 3) Annie Whiteley, Grand Junction, Colo., ’10 Mustang, 5.719, 254.23
Payne, 5.758, 257.36 def. Gasparrelli, 5.952, 204.35
Lombardo Jr., 5.704, 261.47 def. Bellemeur, 5.812, 253.95
Lombardo Jr., 5.701, 260.49 def. Payne, 5.755, 257.87
Brandon Huhtala, Puyallup, Wash., ’09 GXP, C/A, 7.341, 180.68 def. Aaron Strong, Auburn, Wash., ’98
S-10, B/T, 8.226, 165.77
Jimmy DeFrank, Chatsworth, Calif., ’10 Cobalt, SS/CM, 8.908, 152.72 def. Kory Alby, Coos Bay, Ore.,
’68 Chevelle, SS/KA, 11.083, 117.61
Jody Lang, Puyallup, Wash., ’81 Malibu Wagon, N/SA, 12.358, 103.62 def. Mark Faul, Tacoma, Wash., ’98
Firebird, D/SA, 11.278, 116.26
Geoff Hughes, Eagle, Idaho, dragster, 8.919, 175.19 def. Dale Hrenko, Port Orchard, Wash., dragster,
Mike Shannon, Kelowna, B.C., ’57 Corvette, 10.001, 139.34 def. Rob Willis, Edmonds, Wash., ’92
Don Paine, Tacoma, Wash., ’72 Luv, 10.890, 137.78 def. Gary Palmateer, Monmouth, Ore., ’68 Firebird,
Paul Nero, Eugene, Ore., dragster, 7.558, 177.09 def. Jake Morris, McKinleyville, Calif., dragster,
Mike Williams, Tilley, Alb., ’03 Corvette, 7.306, 190.79 def. Barry Hobson, Seattle, ’05 Grand
Am, 7.025, 192.22
SPORTSMAN MOTORCYCLE PRESENTED BY HARLEY DAVIDSON
Cody Cumpton, Vancouver, Wash., ’95 Suzuki, 8.577, 151.92 def. Jeff Havens, Yakima, Wash., ’95 Suzuki, 8.056, 153.66
Jim Glenn, Vancouver, Wash., dragster, 8.805, 175.71 def. Charlie Dietrich, Battle Ground, Wash.,
dragster, 7.609, 176.64
Karl Hart, Woodburn, Ore., ’84 Firebird, 13.458, 99.50 def. Kirby Olmsted, McMinnville, Ore., ’68
Camaro, 9.008, 150.25