Steve Stuart; Sunoco Race Fuels Pro Champion
The Sunoco Race Fuels E.T. Pro bracket category is one that allows vehicles with transbrake buttons attached and that run 9.00-13.99 the chance to compete. After the opening point’s event was cancelled, the competition was also prematurely cut short in the semi-finals at the NWDRA Winter Classic, as waiting pairs Carl Wilkerson/Rick Sales Sr. and Steve Kelly/Reid Rund had wait until April 28th to settle the score. Of the great rounds of competition that were held on Sunday, one of the closer matches featured last year’s number two and three points earners: Steve Stuart and Wilkerson. Stuart was .000 on the starting line, but was only able to run a 5.832 (1/8 mile) on his 5.80 dial to Wilkerson’s 6.857 on a 6.85, which, coupled with a .022 reaction time, gave him the victory by .0032, approximately 6 inches. On April 28th, Rick Sales claimed victory over Steve Kelly, to complete the final round.
At the 11th Annual Tulip Festival Drags, Dave Nassimbene and Eli Taghon did battle in the final round. Nassimbene, the ex-California Hot Shot, outlasted the field of 55 cars by winning against Bruce Riedl, Jim Laird, Roger McWilliams, a single, and Ryan Schaefer to advance to the final round. For Taghon; Casey DePeel, Richard Beyea, Steve Stuart, Richard Pottter, and Fadi Atiyeh were victims to the ’72 Chevrolet. In the final Nassimbene used a starting line advantage of almost two hundreths of a second over Taghon to take the victory after both drivers ran the same number off their dial-ins.
After two races, Pro bracket racers were in an almost airtight bubble of competition, with the current top 4 drivers separated by only one round. Dave Bronec, the number two qualifier, raced through former National Champion Steve Kelly, Jeff Marchi, John Maul, and Dave Fowler before earning the single pass into the final round. Meanwhile, Thomas Jackson III went through Carl Wilkerson, Andy Harris, Casey DePeel, Mike Hansen and Steve Stuart to reach the final round. In the final, Jackson left on Bronec via an .025 to .043 reaction time start, but Bronec was able to seal the deal as Jackson broke out by 29 thousandths of a second, giving the win to the ’72 Nova of Dave Bronec. Through the six round race, Bronec had a light better than a .014 on three occasions, while Jackson averaged a .038 (.027 if you throw out one bad reaction time). Special recognition should go to Bryce Moilanen, who on the second to last pair of Pro competition, used a .020 package to earn the A-1 Performance Trans and Converters Package for the Points prize, and 10 additional points that go along with it. With three races completed, the current point’s standings were as follows: Bronec with 180, and then a three-way tie for second (170 points) between Steve Stuart, Thomas Jackson III, and Dave Nassimbene.
Thomas Jackson III and Casey DePeel faced off in the final round on May 5th. For Jackson to reach his second straight final, it meant going through many multi-time champions: Robert Rhines, William Breese, Mike Hansen, Ryan Schaefer and Steve Stuart. On the other side of the ladder, DePeel fought valiantly through ET Finals Champ Scott Lang, Reid Rund, Pat Figini, a single and former National Champion Steve Kelly to make it to the final. In the final round, Jackson was off first .033 to DePeels .052, and never looked back running an 11.811 on his 11.80 to seal the deal. Richard Beyea was the winner of the A-1 Performance Trans and Converters Package for the Points, putting together a .028 in the Jeff Lewis Auto Body ’57 Chevrolet.
Sunday of the 40th Annual Season Opener showed off Thomas Jackson III and John LaRoche in the final round. Jackson’s El Camino battled through Barry Greathead, Reid Rund, Tony McCauley, and Rick Sales Sr before earning a bye into the final. For LaRoche, the number one qualifier, the victories were over Mike Saucy, a single, Dan Stokes, a laddered single, and George Burns Sr to reach the final round. In the final, the starting line was an issue as LaRoche fouled out, ending his day one round short of the win. Jackson would have been tough to beat nonetheless, as he was .011 off the starting line and ran an 11.683 on his 11.67, posting a .024 thousandths package. Casey DePeel was the winner of the A-1 Performance Trans and Converters Package for the points, when he scored a .020 total package.
June 2nd was a special day in Pro as it was the first in the last three races that didn’t have Thomas Jackson III in the final, and also a semi-final round where all three competitors drove ’67 Chevrolet Camaros, and the final round featured former National Champion Steve Kelly, and Bill Maness, driving the National Championship winning car of Kelly!! To make it to the final Kelly had to defeat Rick Sales Sr, Matt Kielman, Dave Bronec, a single and Mike Hansen. For Maness, the victims were defending Pro Champion Nicholas Shepherd, Tony Price, Ryan Schaefer, and David Chun Jr before earning the single. In the final, Kelly jumped to an advantage by .03, and never trailed to score the victory. Mike Hansen made the best of his A-1 Performance Trans and Converters Package for the Points win by going to the semi-final round, before being defeated by Kelly.
Final Round competitors on June 8th were Dave Bronec and Nicholas Shepherd. Bronec’s journey included beating Rick Sales Sr, Richard Beyea, John Maul, Fred Nelson, and Matt Kielman. For Shepherd, in his first final of the year: point’s leader Tom Jackson III, Pam Hitchcock, Tony Price, and Steve Kelly were the opponents defeated before he earned a single in the semis. In the final round, Bronec cut a great .018 reaction time to gain over .03 hundredths of a second advantage, and used that to seal the deal at the finish line. Shepherd’s win of the A-1 Performance Trans and Converters Package for the Points with a .020 helped to ease the sting.
Pro bracket racers saw a scene that is sadly familiar to them from over the last three years, as 3-Time defending Pro Champion Nicholas Shepherd chose the Bi-Mart/Sunbelt Rentals sponsored Rose Festival Drags as his weekend to ‘flip the switch. Shepherd went from having two round wins at his first five events (technically he earned both of those rounds at the first event, then went 0-fer at the next four) and having a grand total of 170 points, to having 13 round wins, and earning 190 additional points in two races. Shepherd beat Michael Cairy, Bryon Bilodeau, George Burns Sr, Casey DePeel, and John LaRoche before squaring off with Rob Newman in the final round. In that final round, Shepherd took a small .013 advantage off the starting line and never looked back, running right on his 10.67 with a 10.678 to seal one of the more dominating weekends in recent memory. Vic Levings claimed the A-1 Performance Trans and Converters Package for the Points with a .018. After Shepherds blistering weekend, he had now leapfrogged into 6th place, behind leaders Thomas Jackson III (470), Dave Bronec (440) and Steve Kelly (430).
The next event on June 16th told the story of a driver who had absolutely came alive when eliminations began. Ron Wirostek had competition reaction times of a .001, .023, .008, .013 and .003 in the final round. These reaction times he used to defeat Steve Stuart, Darrell Heard, Dom Andreotti, a single and Michael Pliska. Against Wirostek in the final was Hollis Runge, who took down Tami Nelson, Richard Beyea, Allen Bayless, and Carl Meinig before earning a single in the semis. In the final round Runge ran right on his 10.158 on his 10.15, but with Wirostek’s .003 it was all for not. Pam Hitchcock performed the near impossible in scoring the A-1 Performance Trans and Converters Package for the Points when she cut a .001 reaction time and ran an 11.220 on her 11.22 dial-in.
June 30th brought the end of the month, but the racing action had no plans to slow down. Steve Stuart, the number one qualifier, made it to the final by defeating all-stars Matt Kielman, William Breese, Steve Kelly, and Nicholas Shepherd. Matt Kielman’s trip was through Casey DePeel, Tony Littleton, Hollis Runge, and Richard Potter. The final round was over before it even began, when Kielman turned on the red light by just .022, securing the victory for Steve Stuart, who for good measure ran right on his 9.24 dial-in in the final. Nicholas Shepherd was the A-1 Performance Trans and Converter Package for the Points winner with his .030 package.
Sunoco Race Fuels Pro Bracket competition featured racing action that included multiple .00 reaction times, perfect lights a-plenty, and heavy upsets. With a final round between drivers Don DePeel and Steve Stuart, you know racing was action packed. DePeel’s trip into the final was through drivers Dave Nassimbene, Richard Potter, Richard Beyea, and Pat Figini before a single in the semi’s. On Stuart’s side of the ladder, Cliff Mansfield, George Churilla, Hollis Runge, Dave Fowler, and Dean Tabert. In the final round, the race was over before it even began, when Stuart turned on the red light by .021, giving DePeel the win. Nicholas Shepherd’s .020 package in the third time trial won him the A-1 Performance Trans and Converters Package for the Points.
The semi-final round on July 20th featured the number one, two, and three qualifiers, as all of Pro bracket showed off extremely tight drag racing. Steve Stuart’s journey to his third straight final round was through Dave Bronec, Matt Kielman, Dave Nassimbene, Tony Price, and a single. For Allen Bayless, who’s wheel standing Nova qualified second, the defeated racers were Rob Newman, Tim Lewis, Jeff Marchi, a single and Pat Figini. In the final round, Stuart used a sizeable starting line advantage to get to the finish line first and earn the victory over Bayless. Richard Potter earned the A-1 Performance Trans and Converters Package for the Points with his .012 overall package. Figini and Steve Kelly’s first round matchup was one that had everyone in Pro’s attention as Kelly entered the event second in points. However, the race was over before it even began when Kelly turned on the red light by just .012. His opponent would have been difficult to defeat as Figini uncorked a perfect .000 reaction time, earning a Northwest Wholesale/Hilton Racing, the Suppliers of Goodyear and Hoosier race tires Perfect Light T-Shirt and two decals. As there were now only two races remaining, the points were in Stuart’s favor to earn a fifth Woodburn Dragstrip championship after three straight final rounds. He totaled 600 points, 9 rounds ahead of second place Thomas Jackson III, and 10 above third place Steve Kelly.
The Non-Electronics category of the Night of Fire doubled as a points earning event for Sunoco ET Series Sportsman and Pro Bracket racers, and helped to show off some of the best bottom-bulb racers in the entire Northwest. The final round battled Washington Vs Oregon. The Washington racer, Zach Craig, downed Scott Lang, Paul Comeau, a single, Jerry Jackson, Steve Stuart, Jerry Durant Jr, and Mike Hansen to make it into the final. On the other side, perennial points chase Hollis Runge went through Tony Price, Ryan Anderson, Kevin Feeny, Dave Nassimbene, David Chun Jr, David Harter, and Ron Sears to make it into the final round. In the final round, the race was over before it even began when Runge turned on the red light start. Craig was also your Non-Electronics Ultimate Gambler Winner, resulting in a big pay weekend for him. Now with one race left, Stuart’s six round lead seemed unpassable, with 2nd-5th sitting as Thomas Jackson III (600), Hollis Runge (580), Steve Kelly (570), and Dave Bronec (570).
The final event of eliminations brought together a final round showdown between Jim Goodman and Nicholas Shepherd. Goodman, who started the day not on the Woodburn Dragstrip team, defeated Thomas Jackson III, Carl Wilkerson, Pat Figini, a single, and Tony Littleton to reach the final round. Opposite him was Shepherd, who defeated Rick Andrews, Tony Price, Karl Hart, and Steve Stuart before reaching the final round. With two cars remaining, Goodman left first with a supersonic .009 reaction time start to leap out in front of Shepherd, and stayed there by running an 11.596 on his 11.55 dial-in to get the win and solidly place himself onto the team. Carl Wilkerson was the number one qualifier with a .012. Tony Littleton swept away the A-1 Performance Trans and Converters Package for the Points with his .014 package.
Listed are the top three point’s earners, in order of driver name, total points, and round wins.
1. Steve Stuart, 720 Points, 34 Round Wins
2. Nicholas Shepherd, 660 Points, 27 Round Wins
3. Steve Kelly, 630 Points, 26 Round Wins