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2002 NOPI Drag Racing

The 2002 NOPI World Import Finals

Chris Harrington
Feb 1, 2003 SHARE
Impp_0302_01_z+2002_nopi_drag_racing+nopi_official Photo 1/30   |   2002 NOPI Drag Racing

Steamin' San Antonio
Once again the NOPI road show landed in Texas at River City Raceway near San Antonio, and, once again, the racing was packed with high drama and record-setting performances. Thanks in no small part to excellent track conditions the records kept falling all weekend as the very best of the NDRA put on a first-class show for the loyal fans in attendance.

The Bullish Racing Toyota Solaras of George Ioannou and Ara Arslanian provided the fans with an unbelievable four 200-mph passes between them. Three of the passes dropped into the 6-sec. zone, and the crowd showed its appreciation with a standing ovation every time the crew headed down the return road.

Chris Rado looked like he's finally got the World Electronics Celica on pace after posting his best-ever e.t. with an 8.46-sec. run at 170.46 mph. The ever-flamboyant Rado was grinning from ear to ear, having finally showed the potential of the Outlaw Class Toyota. Another driver with reason to smile was local-boy Kenny Tran, who blasted to a fastest-ever 8.59-sec. run at 170 mph and proceeded to back up that pass with an 8.61 for a new class record.

NOPI.com Pro Stock
The NDRA all-motor class came down to a final round battle between Norris Prayoonto and Leslie Durst. Prayoonto's Integra set the standard for the field, and after getting a bye in the first-round of competition, Norris dispatched Larry Herring in the second round when Herring fouled out at the line. Prayoonto ran a 10.61 at 128.05 mph to clinch a final-round appearance against Leslie Durst.

Durst made it to the final by steadily building his pace as the day progressed. The first round saw Durst taking out Lisa Feheley with an 11.07 at 123.03 mph, setting up a tough second-round battle against the Dodge Neon of Scott Mohler. In that round, Mohler got the holeshot, but it wasn't enough to stop Durst from powering to the win with a 10.85 at 123.07 mph against Mohler's 11.13 at 122.58 mph.

The final-round clash lived up to expectations, with both cars running in the 10s. Prayoonto had an advantage at the light with a 0.54-sec. reaction time against Durst's 0.57. That was enough for Prayoonto to clinch the win after finishing the run with a record-setting 10.68 at 127.43. Mohler did enough to win the championship for Mopar, with Larry Herring finishing the year in second place and event winner Prayoonto in third.

Toyo Pro 4-Cylinder
The unibody front-wheel-drive class saw archrivals Kenny Tran and Lisa Kubo lining up for the deciding final round. Both cars have found more performance of late, and this was going to be a spectacular matchup. Kubo set new, personal best times on her way to the final. The Nitto Civic was charging as Kubo posted an 8.89 at 163.16 mph in the first round against Joe Demaree, who ran a 9.44 at 156 mph. The second round saw Kubo increase the pace again with an 8.80 at 163.87 mph against the super-fast Lance Holung, who ran an incredible 8.70, but fouled out with a red-light start.

Tran, in his Jotech Civic, had already posted a record-pace 8.59 at 170.58 mph during qualifying, and was looking to back that run up to clinch the record. Tran wisely saved his car and cruised to a solo win in the first round, having received a bye. The second round saw him facing Len Ayala. Ayala obviously ran into problems and ran a 12.83, leaving Tran to move on to a final round appearance against Kubo.

Tran and Kubo were more than happy to be facing each other for the honors.

"I've been having a pretty tough year so far," said Kubo. "It's great to be back on the pace again. Gary has been working hard to get the car running at its best again, and I love racing against Kenny, so this should be fun."

Tran was also looking forward to facing Kubo. "I know Lisa is always a tough competitor, but we're great friends away from the track and whatever happens this will be a good race," he said. "Norwood has made a couple of changes to the car lately, and we are seeing some progress. I hope we can back up the 9.59 to grab the record. That would be awesome."

As the tree dropped, Tran got the early advantage with a 0.48-sec. reaction time against Kubo's 0.50. From the sidelines it was hard to tell who was winning; the cars were virtually side-by-side. At the finish line Tran stopped the timers with an 8.61 at 170.58 to take the win and set a new class record. Lisa ran an 8.26, but ran into problems. The Nitto Civic seemed to stand on its nose and then swerved wildly out of control before contacting the wall. As the dust settled, the track staff raced to the scene and the driver was immediately taken to a local hospital for treatment. Kubo's injuries were minimal, but the Nitto Civic was the worse for wear.

"I don't really know what happened," Lisa said later. "Something locked up at the front and the car tried to do a handstand. I was more concerned with keeping the car away from Kenny than anything else. I didn't want to take him out."

Tran was happy for the win but was obviously concerned for Lisa. "I hope she's OK," he said in the pits. "It's great to get the win and set a new class record, but Lisa is my friend and that is more important than anything else."

Lisa Kubo's performance was enough to clinch the championship honors for the year, and Gary Kubo hinted at some changes that may be made next year. "I'm not sure what the problem was, yet, but obviously we have to eliminate it before next year. The car is going faster than ever, so we're in uncharted territory. I'm sure we'll figure it out and be back faster than ever in 2003."

APC Pro Outlaw
Chris Rado was totally unopposed in the Pro Outlaw Class, but in typical Rado style he was having fun in the World Electronics Toyota Celica. Having to make only one pass to win the event meant that Rado could have cruised to the finish line and headed straight home with the prize money. Thankfully, he decided to give the fans a show and blasted to a personal best time of 8.46 at 170.06 mph.

NOPI.com Pro Import
The NDRA premier class was the scene for record-setting performances and incredible action as the Bullish Racing team put on a real show for the San Antonio crowds.

George Ioannou had a bye run in the semi, but it was obvious he wasn't going to cruise as he launched the Bullish Solara hard when the tree dropped. He was rewarded with a pass at 6.81 at 202.70 mph, establishing a new class record.

Ioannou was not going to have it all his own way, however. Teammate Ara Arslanian was also in top form, and as he lined up against R.J. Simrock, he launched hard and straight and finished with a 6.87 at 198.15 mph. Simrock cruised to the finish line, having had some problems, and that left the fans with an all-Bullish Racing final-round exhibition.

As it turned out, Ioannou got ahead at the light and never looked back. Arslanian chased hard but couldn't run down his teammate down, and Ioannou took a well-deserved win with a 6.84 at 201.43 over Arslanian's 7.06 at 177.65.

CHAMPIONSHIP POSITIONS
Pro Import
George Ioannou Bullish Racing 2030
Ara Arslanian Bullish Racing 1445
RJ Simrock APC Racing 985
Abel Ibarra K&N 715
Pro-Outlaw
Shaun Carlson Meguiars {{{Focus}}} 1605
Carlos Montano   1310
Chris Rado World Racing 1080
Brent Rau Thermal 460
Toyo Tires Pro Four Cylinder
Lisa Kubo Nitto 1685
Len Ayala Hahn Racecraft 665
Joe Demaree SCC Racing 635
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By Chris Harrington
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