Wow, was it hot. In the heat of summer, the Garrett Turbos NHRA Sport Compact Nationals were held at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. With temperatures reaching upwards of 110 degrees it was a sweltering event. Lucky for us, the weather wasn't the only thing that was hot. The racers heated things up with several track and world records being broken. Mother Nature decided the debilitating heat wasn't enough, so she moved two thunderstorms through the area over the course of the weekend, threatening to shut down the races.
We wandered through the pit area, with water in hand to stay hydrated, talking with racers and their crews as they prepared to make their first qualifying runs on Friday. Just when things were about to get going an ominous dark cloud appeared in the west. A storm was coming our way, and fast. The winds picked up and everyone was instructed to take down their banners and tents.
Many experienced teams put their vehicles back in the trailers as rumors spread that hail was on the way. I contemplated if I could fit my ride under the grandstands if indeed hail appeared.
The good thing about desert storms is that they disappear just as quick as they appear. While we waited for the storm to come we checked out the drifting that was underway on an adjacent parking lot. Needless to say drifters don't mind rain and wet pavement.
A lot of newbies tried their luck at the drift course, which provided an excellent training ground. The only real sponsored car at the event were the Toyo Tires drift cars. Among the rest of the participants the most notable were a pair of primered hachi roku coupes, one black and the other white. Our favorite drifter was Verena Mei, piloting the white Rotara-stickered Nissan 240.
Luckily, the dangerously high winds died down and qualifying finally got under way, but it didn't end until 2 a.m. Long day, yes, but remember, we're in Las Vegas, the city that never sleeps. While certain racers hit the strip clubs (names withheld to protect the innocent), we retreated to our hotel rooms and collapsed out of exhaustion.
Saturday brought more heat and another storm that passed through. The crowd was out in full force. They were entertained before the races began by the many side events taking place over the weekend. There was a car show and a dyno for cars to test their power. A bike ramp was set up as well as a sound competition. Product vendors displayed their wares and had giveaways for the fans. And of course, there was the ubiquitous bikini contest.
The Project Mayhem sportbike crew also showed the fans a good time between racing rounds. It had been a while since we last attended an NHRA Sport Compact event and we were pleasantly surprised to find many different things to do and watch besides watching drag racing.
As for the racing, it was blazing too. We saw records break left and right. In qualifying for the Honda Tuning All Motor class, Scott Mohler and his Mopar-sponsored Neon set the track record with a 10.383 at 128.48mph, giving him the number one qualifying spot, edging out Jesus Padilla in his '85 Mazda RX-7. The top eight spots in the All Motor Class qualified with a 10.869 or better. Mohler was able to take the momentum from the previous day straight through to the finals, where he beat Leslie Durst.
In the Turbo Magazine Hot Rod Class both the track e.t. and mph records fell at the hands of Marty Ladwig and his Pontiac Sunfire. Ladwig was able to blister down the track in the finals with an 8.131 at 174.01 mph beating out Mike Crawford who ran an 8.328 at 173.01 mph in his Mopar-sponsored Neon.
In the Pro FWD category, it came down to Lisa Kubo and Nelson Hoyos. In qualifying, Nelson broke the track record with a 7.658-second run while Lisa destroyed the mph record with a 191.54-mph run. It was only fitting that the two met in the finals.
When the light turned green Hoyos was off and running while Lisa played catch up. In the end the track wasn't long enough and Hoyos crossed the finish line first with a 7.712 at 179.33 mph to Lisa's trailing 7.821 at 195.05 mph.
In the finals of Pro RWD, Stephan Papadakis was not going to be denied the win. In the first round of eliminations Steph broke the national e.t. record with a 6.755 run. In the finals against Ara Arslanian Steph proved it wasn't a fluke as he ran an even quicker 6.751 to Ara's losing 6.802.
The next stop on the NHRA Sport Compact Nationals event schedule is at Dallas, Texas. If you thought it was hot in Vegas be prepared for Dallas because it will be another hot and sweaty weekend.