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Enter the Draggin': NHRA E-Town

Fall Sport Compact Nationals Presented By Toyo Tires8 NHRA National Records Crushed IN Jersey

Evan Griffey
Dec 18, 2002 SHARE

On the craps tables in Vegas the best odds are on 6 and 8. For Pro and Hot Rod competitors, 6s and 8s are the gateway to import immortality.

At the Fall Sport Compact Nationals at Englishtown, the gateway was straight-up stampeded as sport compact drag racing continued to blaze new trails in import performance. The excitement extended into Modified, where rolling a 7 put you in elite company. Yet again the NHRA provided record-setting thrills, and yet again it all went down on the grippiest surface in sport compact racing--legendary Old Bridge Township Raceway Park in Englishtown, N.J.

In Hot Rod, Lance Ho Lung and the HP Racing Civic (Turbo, Dec. 2002 issue) served notice. They were indeed a force. Right off the trailer, Lance power-shifted the Honda to a wicked 8.73, just a thousandth off the class record, and giving Team HP a chance to set a record at the event.

Lined up next to Lance was Jojo Callos and the Castrol Integra, who proved he was back on the attack after a mid-season slump by registering an 8.81 in the first side-by-side 8-second run in unibody Honda history. True, there was no elimination at stake, but it was a first nonetheless.

The 8-second barrier was again crushed by Marty Ladwig, who continued to improve with the GM Racing/Bothwell MS Sunfire. An 8.868 put him third on the grid while Kenny Tran made a 9.06 pass in the first qualifying round.

The big news was Venom Racing's Civic going down with a broken ring and pinion gear. Would they be back? Was the door open to tighten up the points race? The answer was yes and no. The Venom Civic unleashed an 8.656 in round two to take the top spot. Hot Rod was so off-the-chain, it was hard to keep track of the 8s as they came at us rapid-fire style (see accompanying chart), with eight 8-second runs from five different cars.

It got crazier in eliminations as the barrage kept coming. In the first stanza, Lance Ho Lung laid down an 8.593 and was poised to set a new record. Going into the second round he needed an 8.678 to be within the 1 percent mandated by the NHRA to officially set a record. His best qualifying effort of 7.727 was 1.56 percent of the 8.593. The HP Racing Civic's engine stuttered in the burnout box. Then, according to Lance, the Honda hooked so hard it bogged, even on the rev-limiter. The Civic stalled and Lance had to re-fire the engine to complete his run. "This had to be the best hookin' track I have ever seen," says Lance.

This sentiment was shared by many. Bruce's second-round 8.750 was not enough to back up his 8.65--he needed an 8.742 or better. In the semis, he blasted an 8.725 for the e.t. record, and in the finals, his 168.11 trap speed was enough to reset that record as well. The points Bruce earned as top qualifier, the records he set and the event win gave him a stranglehold on the NHRA season championship.

In Pro, all the big dogs were looking to take a bite out of the 6-second barrier. The Venom Racing Tundra ran a 6.95 at Route 66 Raceway in a race a week or two before E-Town, so everyone knew the chase was on to get in the NHRA record books at E-Town.

Ara Arslanian fired first with a 6.984 at 196.22 in the first round of qualifications. John Lingenfelter put his hat in the ring with a 7.088, which would be enough to support a high 6 but he dropped a valve in his Ecotec powerplant. It was the second engine failure of the event and put his Pro class Cav on the trailer for Sunday.

The second round of qualifying saw Ara's stablemate George Ioannou move to the head of the class with a 6.969. Another longshot with a chance was Manny Cruz, who gear-slammed a 7.001 and 195.48 in the final qualifying round.

In eliminations, Ara came up short with a 7.15 and Manny Cruz did not initiate the Auto Start system in time and was DQ'd. Round two saw Ara make a 7.16 pass. Then it happened. George Ioannou pulled a 6.939 at 195.76 to set the record in the 6s and also grab the mph record.

The final was as anti-climactic as they get, as a wounded Ara drove around the burnout box, waited two seconds after the green and limped to a 26-second e.t. George did a huge burnout but putt-putted to an 11.66 to take the win.

With records tumbling like dominoes, it was no surprise to see the bar raised in Modified. What may have been surprising to those not in-the-know was who would end up in the book.

Cesar Febus and his white, late-'80s vintage 300ZX had displayed hints of its potential in Dallas. His 7.99 in the first qualifier was expected, but Matt Hartford's 7.79 was a back-up run short of a new record. The likelihood of a Hartford record was lessened when Febus blasted a 7.678. It became a race to back it up.

In the first round of eliminations, Hartford dropped a bomb, rambling to a 7.665, but he was light at the scales. Febus, in the next pair of cars, grabbed the glory with a 7.707. Hartford didn't see the 7s for the rest of the event, which meant that Febus had the e.t. record at 7.678 and Hartford re-set the mph record with a 179.97-mph trap speed.

Hartford won the event, but runner-up Stephan Papadakis made out like a bandit. Steph is the points leader in the class, but Hartford has strung together a bunch of wins, and after a late start is making a charge for the title.

After qualifying with a blistering 8.13 at 181.50 mph (his best is 8.12), Steph faced Vinny Ten and his wicked Supra, who tore off an 8.040 in qualifying. Vinny cut a .443 light to Steph's .498 and ran an 8.27 to Steph's 8.36, but Vinny was DQ'd for crossing the outer boundary line.

In the semis, Steph lined up with record holder Cesar Febus, but was spared the guillotine when a loose oil line sent Febus to the sidelines after the burnout. This put Steph in the finals, which greatly reduced the points gained by Hartford. Steph was unfortunate enough to stall his AEM Drag Civic after the burnout and not get it started. It was dark and the track was cold, but Steph knows how to coax traction out of the Civic. We thought he had a better shot than it looked like on paper. We were right. Hartford got way out of the groove and had to lift, running an 8.85, which we think Steph could have covered.

Street Tire and All Motor were once again without the superstars. This meant the Wally was up for grabs. There was a familiar sound in Street Tire--Supra dominance. Paul Efantis really turned it up in his Mk4 Supra. The Toyota qualified first with a 9.86, ran 9.45 in the semis and 9.59 in the finals to take the cash. In All Motor, Scott Mohler qualified on top with a 10.63. He stood alone in the 10s during eliminations, running 10.70, 10.65 and 10.62 on his way to victory lane.

Every once in a while, we are asked how much faster can these imports run. At E-Town, both the number of inquiries and the knowledge of those asking multiplied dramatically. Our answer has always been: "Never underestimate the innovation of the import racer." But we have to admit 8.50s in a FWD unibody is plain sick. How much faster can they go?

The last 2002 event is at Pomona and we think the Pomona officials will have the track as sticky as flypaper. We know the racers have nothing to lose and all winter to fix broken cars. We're looking for fireworks.

The Day of TimeSlips: 8-Second Barrage
 60-ft3301/8 @ mph10001/4 Mph
Qualifying R-1
Lance Ho Lung (HP Racing Civic) 1.445 3.912 5.774@131.87 7.374 8.735 163.79
Jojo Callos (Castrol Integra) 1.444 3.913 5.820@134.67 7.472 8.849 162.90
Marty Ladwig (GM Racing Sunfire) 1.411 3.851 5.797@126.74 7.464 8.868 160.69
Qualifying R-2
Kenny Tran (Jotech Civic) 1.427 3.830 5.676@131.86 7.277 8.813 137.78
Bruce Mortensen (Venom Civic) 1.417 3.865 5.719@136.41 7.314 8.656 167.34
Qualifying R-3
Kenny Tran (Jotech Civic)1.4173.779 5.645@127.57 7.371 8.753 160.79
Marty Ladwig (GM Racing Sunfire) 1.3363.7385.659@127.51 7.332 8.789 153.11
Lance Ho Lung (HP Racing Civic) 1.5103.966 5.782@139.627.3838.727165.72
Eliminations R-1
Kenny Tran (Jotech Civic) 1.4163.8625.749@131.157.3948.746166.56
Lance Ho Lung (HP Racing Civic) 1.4233.8605.667/139.857.2538.593162.98
Eliminations R-2
Kenny Tran (Jotech Civic) 1.3803.7885.648@129.107.2688.627161.81
Bruce Mortensen (Venom Civic) 1.4803.9665.840@131.367.4278.750170.02
Eliminations R-3
Bruce Mortensen (Venom Civic) 1.4673.9335.798@136.407.3938.725165.44
Eliminations Final
Bruce Mortensen (Venom Civic) 1.4873.9635.878@131.207.4938.833168.11

Winners: Fall Sport Compact Nationals
All Motor
Winner Scott Mohler Mopar Performance Neon 10.62 @ 128.04
Runner-up Ken Scheepers Rotary Performance RX-7 11.24 @ 117.40
Street Tire
Winner Paul Efantis Toyota Supra 9.591 @ 155.56
Runner-up John Shepherd Eagle Talon broke
Hot Rod
Winner Bruce Mortensen Venom Civic 8.833 @ 168.11
Runner-up Kenny Tran Jotech Civic 10.36 @ 158.22
Modified
Winner Matt Hartford Summit Cavalier 8.855 @ 115.13
Runner-up Stephan Papadakis AEM Drag Civic broke
Pro
Winner George Ioannou Bullish Solara 11.664 @ 45.65
Runner-up Ara Arslanian Bullish Solara 26.168 @ 31.70
Pro V8
Winner Matt Scranton Turbonetics Celica 6.894 @ 202.24

Pro Class: 6-Second Sneak Attack
 60-ft3301/8/mph10001/4Mph
Ara Arslanian (Bullish MS Solara)1.0592.9234.487/157.175.8386.984196.22
George Ioannou (Bullish MS Solara)1.0662.9324.480/158.655.8246.969195.96
George Ioannou (Bullish MS Solara)1.0472.8924.447/158.225.7926.939195.76
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By Evan Griffey
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