As the NHRA Sport Compact drag racing series continues to grow, NHRA has begun to slowly introduce the sport compact drag racers to the ever popular Powerade race series. Amidst the pits lined with 300+ mph top fuel dragsters and legends such as John Force, sport compact racers in the form of Stephan Papadakis, Ara Arslanian, Brad Personett, Tony Shagday, Scott Kelley, Ron Lummus, Kenny Tran, Ed Berghenholtz and many more are seen pitted alongside at Las Vegas Speedway. As part of the series’ points chase, the Pro classes of the NHRA Sport Compact series decorated the staging lanes to show the Powerade fans what they’re missing out on.
Having to make a solid qualifying attempt at NHRA’s season opener at Moroso, Florida, the consistent Pro racers were determined to show how quick and reliable sport compact cars are getting. In the Pro FWD category, Marty Ladwig and Ed Berghenholtz made the trek out to represent. As the sunset on Friday’s qualifying sessions, Ladwig would take pole position with a 7.70 @ 192mph and Berghenholtz secured himself in the lock of competition as well with a 8.46 @ 159mph. The Modified class along with the Hot Rod class were both lacking with competitors as well. Reigning champion Paul Efantis made a 7.69 pass to secure the #1 qualifying spot, but Justin Humphreys in his Lexus GS drag race would not be far behind with a 7.94 @ 185mph. Ali Afshar is testing and tuning the new motor setup in the WRX and made a 9.75 @ 143mph pass. In the Hot Rod category, Ron Lummus ran an 8.00 @ 179mph to no surprise in the first position. Kenny Tran traveled from Texas to run a quick 8.30 in his Quaker State sponsored Civic hatchback. Mike Crawford made his presence known with his Neon pulling a 8.85 to round off the field.
The two classes everyone was talking about however, was the Pro RWD class and the All Motor category. With 10 competitors tearing up the quarter mile in All Motor, there was plenty to watch as the Skunk2 duo dominated the qualifying sessions with Tony Shagday leading the back in the old school Project Beta with a 10.14 @ 132. Teammate Shawn Hillier is only a tick behind with a 10.15 in the Project Delta RSX. Floridian and defending champion Jesus Padilla secured himself the third position with a 10.2 with Scott Kelley rolling in fourth with a 10.59. The rest of the field would be 10.64 and slower with Jeremy Lookofsky in 5th, Padilla’s teammate Angel Valentin in 6th, Kelley’s teammate Larry Kelley in 7th, Lisa Feeheeley in 8th, Scott Mohler in 9th and Adam Franzetti in 10th.
Pro RWD competitors raised some of the Powerade fans’ eyebrows with almost the entire field running in the 6’s. Papadakis has dominated the last two Vegas events, and made a solid showing that he might be up for a three-peat with a 6.55 @ 211mph. Titan’s newest entry, piloted by Vince Fourcade, was on fire (no pun intended) setting the new mph record at 214.42mph. Fourcade qualified second with a 6.59 pass. The rest of the field was filled with long time racer Ara Arslanian, Fourcade’s teammate, Brad Personett, Abel Ibarra, Matt Scranton and Matt Hartford.
As the sun began to set on Saturday, All Motor ran their first round of eliminations to start narrowing down the field. Skunk2 easily advanced to the second round with solo passes, but opted to put on a show for the crowd. Project Beta and Project Delta repeated their 10.19 and 10.20 passes to advance to the next round. Lookofsky received a win over Angel Valentin, Jesus would move onto the quarter finals over Lisa Feeheley and Scott Kelley would best his father’s troubled car. The quarterfinals brought on Padilla over Kelley as Hillier plowed through to the semifinals with a 10.16. Shagday was once again unopposed but put on a show with a 10.19 yet again. The semifinals finally rolled around and the anticipation of an all Skunk2 final was in the air. Padilla lined up against Shagday and it ended there: Padilla had Shagday at the light and went on to win with a 10.24 over Shagday’s 10.21. Ten more feet is all Shagday wanted and needed, but Vegas would not be his day for a final. The final pitted Hillier against Padilla, and with a .000 reaction time to Padilla’s redlight, Hillier took the win and his second Wally to the Skunk2 camp. Great showing from the all motor class, and it was great to see Project Beta and Shagday back behind the wheel.
Hot Rod came in and out just as quick as the cars in the field. Lummus had a solo as Crawford beat Kenny Tran due to a redlight. The final would prove not as dramatic as Lummus broke after the burnout, leaving Crawford with an easy win.
Modified class put on a show, as Humphreys powered his GS300 with a 7.70 over Afshar’s WRX who ran a best 9.64 on Sunday. Efantis would ultimately take the win with a 7.25 over Humphrey’s 7.37. Great racing from both of them!
Pro FWD was up in the air, as Bergenholtz desired another Wally and Ladwig was plagued with troubles from Saturday night. The light dropped and both cars went off slower than expected. Ladwig would take the win with an 8.61 as Bergenholtz tried to recover lost ground with a 9.15 @ 177mph.
Pro RWD was the crowd shocker, as several 6 second passes were already laid down. Vince Fourcade of the second Titan car fame had already claimed the new mph record at 214mph, but his teammate Brad Personett had something to say about that. With a massive straight blast down the right lane, Personett held off a broken Abel Ibarra with an impressive 6.52 @ 217.04mph. 217! In a 3-rotor! The crowd’s reaction was similar, as they thought they had seen it all with Fourcade’s previous 214. Perhaps a fluke the crowd thought, could Personett seriously back that up at that high of an elevation? Fourcade would follow with a win over Hartford, further backing up another 6.56 pass at 213.47mph. Ara would get a default win over a jumpy Matt Scranton who red-lit. Stephan Papadakis had a single run into the semi finals. With only about 45 minutes in between rounds, the Pro RWD cars and crews worked in record speed to get the car back into the lanes. After a blazing burnout from Fourcade and Ara Arslanian, it was evident that Fourcade had problems as the fire-bred Titan black Celica was pushed back to the line. Personett was the only other Titan car left to go for the finals, but he would have to settle for the mph record as Stephan raced to a 6.65 over Personett’s 6.80. Tire shake would be the cause of the slower ET but the 216.93mph pass was plenty good enough to back up the 217.04mph. The finals would prove a sad day for the AEM and Stephan Papadakis team as Papadakis jumped the gun and gave Arslanian and StreetGlow an easy win.
It was great to see the sport compact racers at the same location of a Powerade event, and hopefully we brought on some new fans. The rest of the season is going to be extremely exciting as Skunk2’s two cars are running consistently within 0.1 of each other, and Pro RWD’s bar has just been raised with the 217mph standard. We can’t wait to see what’s next!