Records Fall And Champions Crowned At Inaugural Napa Auto Parts/Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series
Spectacular weather and cool temperatures dominated the weekend and led to records falling as the Inaugural Napa Auto Parts NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series ‘Fall’ event was ran. Four days of racing were concluded Sunday with a prestigious Wally awarded to the winners, along with checks for the racers who went into the late rounds.
Incoming West Region points leaders Chris Demke and Annie Whiteley swept the Napa Auto Parts Challenge event at Woodburn Dragstrip, Demke scoring for the second time this season in regional competition and Whiteley for the fourth. Whiteley’s husband, Jim, was neck and neck with Demke in the Top Alcohol Dragster final until his car banged the blower near the 1,000-foot mark, slowing him to a 5.41 at just 217 mph. “I heard the boom,” Demke said. “I heard him right alongside me the whole way, and then I heard the bang. For a second, I thought it was my car and expected to slow and lose. It took a little bit to realize that I wasn’t slowing down.” It was the first time all year that Whiteley, who scored in Las Vegas, Denver, and Tulsa, has lost a round in regional competition. He’s led the national standings since early in the season and, because of the new 7/3 national/regional format for the alcohol cars this year, he can earn no more points towards the national title at a regional race. “This weekend was all about trying to win a regional championship,” Demke said. “Jim’s already won three – he can’t improve nationally – but we both want to win the regional championship, too, so here we are.” Whiteley qualified No. 1 with a 5.28 and ran another 5.28 on a first-round single and a 5.29 against track co-owner and defending event champ Joey Severance in the semi’s, all at 271 mph. Demke was second in qualifying with a 5.31, shook the tires in the first round, and got lane choice for the final with a 5.28 in the semifinals. He pulled away from Whiteley on the top end with a track-record 5.27. “This weekend was critical for the regional championship,” Demke said. “I have to win the Vegas regional in November. If I do and Whiteley is the runner-up, we’ll both have three wins and two runner-ups, but I’ll win on the tie-breaker: most wins within the region.” Beating Whiteley for the national championship will be tougher: Demke has to win his next three national event starts and hope that Whiteley goes out early at his next two.
Rookie Annie Whiteley has won more regional events than anyone in Top Alcohol Funny Car this year – four altogether and three in a row: Las Vegas, Tulsa, Sonoma, and now Woodburn. After qualifying second behind Doug Gordon (5.60 to 5.61), she had low e.t. of all three rounds of eliminations, starting with a track-record 5.54 in the first round opposite quick-leaving Sean Bellemeur. Earlier in that round, 2011 U.S. Nationals Comp champ Jirka Kaplan, who was making his debut in Top Alcohol Funny Car at this race, upset second-ranked Steve Gasparrelli on a holeshot with a .015 reaction time, 5.75 to 5.66. Kaplan had a .018 in the semifinals, but Whiteley drove around him with a 5.610. In the other semifinal matchup, Brian Hough just missed lane choice for the final with a 5.617 against Russ Parker, who had his second consecutive .020 light. Hough had excellent lights in the first two rounds but Whiteley got the drop on him in the final, .087 to .092, and held it to the finish line, 5.60 to 5.63.
Local favorite Joe Sorensen of Woodburn, Ore., took home another NHRA Wally trophy over Coos Bay, Ore., racer Korry Alby. Sorensen drove his ’69 Camaro to a lap of 10.182 seconds at 128 mph to knock out Alby’s ’68 Chevy at 11.4448, 108 mph. Top Sportsman Robert Strohm made it two for two at Woodburn winning the Lucas Oil event back in July and then again this weekend. Strohm of Seattle, put his ’00 Mustang in the winner’s circle running dead on his 7.80 dial at 7.800, 177.30 mph combined with a .008 second reaction time. Strohm beat the quicker Mike Williams at 7.263, 189.39. Aaron Kinard has been on a hot streak winning last month in Super Comp in Seattle, then taking the hardware in Super Gas over Curtis Geise this weekend. Kinard went 9.899 at 161 in the double breakout win while Jess Dale also won on a double breakout in Super Street against Craig Tharp. Multi-event winner Justin Lamb, Henderson, Nev., broke through for his first win in Comp Eliminator. Lamb went 142 mph in 8.636 to take out Aaron Strong, Auburn, Wash., running 8.434 at 142 mph. Leading the rest of the winner’s was Cam Chowen with a perfect .000 second reaction time in Stock to defeat Mick Alley. Raymond Jones won in Super Comp when Jolene Scott went too quick running 8.883 seconds on the 8.90 dial, Clint Geise collected his first win in Top Dragster over Art Hoover, Al Ommond won in Sportsman Motorcycle presented by Harley Davidson, Paul Snell won in Super Pro and Steve Stuart beat Steve Williams in Pro. This was the final 2012 event for NHRA Northwest Division however racers can travel outside their home division and continue to earn points toward national, regional and divisional championships.
The following are the final results from the NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series Napa Auto Parts Challenge at Woodburn Dragstrip:TOP ALCOHOL DRAGSTER:
#1 Qualifier: Jim Whiteley, 5.283; 272.89 (Track Record MPH)
2) Chris Demke, Sunland, Calif., 10.160, 73.69 def.
5) Gregg Lawrence, Salem, Ore., broke;
3) Joey Severance, Woodburn, Ore., 5.410, 263.46 def.
4) Ray Martin, Anchorage, Alaska, 10.952, 70.58;
1) Jim Whiteley, Grand Junction, Colo., 5.286, 271.41 was unopposed;
Demke, 5.283, 268.25 was unopposed;
Whiteley, 5.299, 271.98 def. Severance, 9.295, 113.46;
Demke, 5.271 (Track ET Record), 268.57 def. Whiteley, 5.418, 217.49.
TOP ALCOHOL FUNNY CAR:
#1 Qualifier: Doug Gordon, Paso Robles, CA, 5.605; 257.95 ROUND ONE
4) Brian Hough, Junction City, Ore., ’09 Mustang, 5.923, 194.46 def.
5) Keeter Ray, Newport Beach, Calif., ’09 Mustang, 7.092, 141.62;
6) Jirka Kaplan, Calgary, Alb., ’09 Mustang, 5.757, 247.11 def.
3) Steve Gasparrelli, W. Covina, Calif., ’06 Monte Carlo, 5.661, 258.24;
2) Annie Whiteley, Grand Junction, Colo., ’09 Mustang, 5.542 (Track ET Record), 260.41 def.
7) Sean Bellemeur, Tustin, Calif., ’02 Camaro, 5.843, 253.30;
8) Russ Parker, Salem, Ore., ’02 Camaro, 5.853, 246.44 def.
1) Doug Gordon, Paso Robles, Calif., ’06 Monte Carlo, 6.477, 253.87;
Hough, 5.617, 256.92 def. Parker, 5.890, 244.29; Whiteley, 5.610, 258.69 def. Kaplan, 7.034, 204.03;
Whiteley, 5.603, 257.73 def. Hough, 5.636, 255.75.
Justin Lamb, Henderson, Nev., ’08 Cobalt, F/SMA, 8.636, 142.60 def.
Aaron Strong, Auburn, Wash., ’05 Cavalier, G/A, 8.434, 142.81.
Joe Sorensen, Woodburn, Ore., ’69 Camaro, SS/EA, 10.182, 128.36 def.
Kory Alby, Coos Bay, Ore., ’68 Chevelle, SS/LA, 11.448, 108.23.
Cam Chowen, Prince George, B.C., ’94 Camaro, C/S, 10.703, 115.19 def.
Mick Alley, Eagle, Idaho, ’69 Camaro, CC/SA, 10.219, 126.97.
Raymond Jones, Auburn, Wash., dragster, 8.910, 150.77 def.
Jolene Scott, Graham, Wash., dragster, 8.883, 169.61.
Aaron Kinard, San Marcos, Calif., ’63 Corvette, 9.899, 161.49 def.
Curt Geise, Auburn, Wash., ’02 Firebird, 9.892, 164.53.
Jess Dale, Bonney Lake, Wash., ’70 Dart, 10.889, 146.50 def.
Craig Tharp, Battle Ground, Wash., ’69 AMX, 10.838, 125.13.
Clint Geise, Renton, Wash., dragster, 7.219, 182.70 def.
Art Hoover, Concord, Calif., dragster, 6.702,180.50.
Robert Strohm, Seattle, Wash., ’00 Mustang, 7.800, 177.30 def.
Mike Williams, Tilley, Alb., ’03 Corvette, 7.263, 189.39.
SPORTSMAN MOTORCYCLE PRESENTED BY HARLEY DAVIDSON
Al Omond, Surrey, B.C., ’97 Kawasaki, 8.171, 151.89 def.
Kevin Brennan, Chilliwack, B.C., ’92 Suzuki, 8.453, 148.71.
Paul Snell, Sandy, Utah, dragster, 6.718, 187.18 def.
Randy Pressel, Estacada, Ore., dragster, 6.988, 193.29.
Steve Stuart, Estacada, Ore., ’66 Chevelle, 9.429, 125.87 def.
Steve Williams, McMinnville, Ore., ’68 Camaro, 10.623, 122.41.