Everyone knows that Las Vegas is known as the city that never sleeps. As a result, everything that goes on in and around the city always starts and ends late. By running most of the series throughout the night, NHRA’s Sport Compact event fit well with Vegas tradition. As the points race came down to the wire, several points leaders in all classes were separated by only a small margin. Many race teams were hoping Lady Luck would favor them this weekend.
A few surprises popped up before the action even started at the Las Vegas Speedway. By the time the blazing sun began to set not only had Team Titan introduced their new ’05 Scion tC – replacing their Titan Copper Celica – an unfamiliar name would be on the wide window of their second car; no longer was Vince Fourcade behind the wheel. Ed Marx would take his first pass ever in the flamed-black Celica at a national event. During his first qualifying pass commentator Lisa Kubo dubbed him as an “unsafe driver.
In the All Motor category, the points chase was as tight as it possibly could get. Florida native Jesus Padilla, who is also the defending champion led Skunk2’s Tony Shagday by only six points. Shagday’s teammate, Shawn Hillier, trailed the leader by 13 points. Both Shagday and Hillier knew they had to be on top of their game to try to pull away from Padilla’s full throttle run towards the championship. Seeing Leslie Durst’s old purple CRX again, driven by Bubba Ocdneda was a nice surprise. In the Sport FWD class, plenty of racers from California and “Team Utah” came out to battle.
Pro Class qualifying began with All Motor competitors smoking up the track. After three rounds, Skunk2’s Tony Shagday would be the only racer entering the 9-second territory with a 9.97 @ 138.81mph. Defending champion Padilla would be second with Jeremy Lookofsky’s DVS Shoe Civic in third. The top 8 qualifiers were all running within the 10-second range however, making the 15-car field full of excitement for Saturday’s eliminations.
The Hot Rod class would bring heavy hitter Ron Lummus and the Garrett Turbo Pontiac Sunfire to the number one qualifying position with a blazing 7.88 @ 184.30 mph pass. Nine more cars rounded off the rest of the class, including Mike Crawford in second and a much-improved Stephanie Eggum in third.
In the Modified class, Justin Humphreys – second place in championship points, would qualify first over Tom Shambaugh in an ’04 Cavalier, Rene Franco in an old school Mazda, Ken Scheepers’ RX-8, Ali Afshar’s Subaru and Jose Rapaw in an RX-7.
Coming hot off their win in Indianapolis, Team Titan’s ’05 Scion driven by Brad Personett would take the top position with a 6.57 @ 215.13 mph pass. Mr. Papadakis in the AEM Civic ran a clean 6.74 @ 207.82 mph pass, but seemed to run into problems by Friday night’s end. Ara Arslanian was racing “angry” this weekend hoping to take home a win in the Streetglow Solara by qualifying third. Abel Ibarra rocked the crowd with his rotary RX-8 by blasting a 6.79 putting him in fourth. Summit Racing’s Cavalier driven by Matt Hartford had high hopes of bouncing into first for overall points if they could stay on pace after Friday’s qualifying fifth spot. Titan teammate and rookie Sport Compact driver Ed Marx would drive against all the criticism qualifying sixth with a 7.08 @ 193.68 mph. Defending champion, Matt Scranton would qualify seventh hoping to improve for Saturday.
Pro FWD would only consist of points leader Ed Berghenholtz in his Mazda 6 and Marty Ladwig in the GM Chevy Cobalt. Berghenholtz rumbled down the track with a new best of 7.71 @ 182.53 mph taking the top qualifier position while Ladwig had a 8.18 @ 183.89 mph. Shaun Carlson in the Dodge Mopar Neon ended up showing a tad late to race, but still made exhibition passes of 7.55 consistently in the bracket racing category!
Without skipping over the Sport FWD class and the Sport RWD class, lead qualifiers would prove to put on a show with Utah’s Cortney Green tearing a 9.91 @ 147.29 mph to qualify first. The other 15 cars would join Green shortly as the Sport FWD category once again filled out completely. Julie Stepan of the Easy Street WRX team would qualify first with a 9.64 @ 143.32 mph, continuing her streak.
As the intense qualifying session finished up into the early morning, the anticipation for Saturday’s competition was overwhelming. Saturday’s round one of All Motor competition would claim many cars in the right lane. Six of the eight races would become solo passes as Chad Barber, Scott Mohler, Scott Kelley, Jeremy Lookofsky, Bubba Ocdneda, Jesus Padilla, Tony Shagday, and Norman Aubry moved on. A very important round one race pitted Skunk2’s Shawn Hillier against good friend Jeremy Lookofsky. Hillier’s Skunk2 RSX unfortunately lost some top end steam as Lookofsky went on to the second round. Round two would bring Lookofsky over Kelley, Bubba over Mohler and Barber over Shagday. Succumbing to the little gremlins, Skunk2’s Integra sprung a major transmission fluid leak after the burnout taking them out of competition. Padilla looked like the pick for winner which could’ve caused major consequences to Skunk2’s championship hopes. Round three saw a David vs. Goliath battle as Lookofsky took on Padilla. With huge cheers from the crowd, Lookofsky’s awesome reaction time put him into the finals against Bubba Ocdneda. The crowd went crazy and Skunk2’s hopes for the championship were stayin’ alive. The All Motor final was anti-climactic though as Bubba Ocdneda broke at the line handing Lookofsky his first ever Wally – congrats to the DVS Shoe team!
Pro FWD went straight to the finals and was an automatic win to Berghenholtz. After patiently waiting for Ladwig to stage, the GM team unfortunately couldn’t stage the car giving Berghenholtz the win. Forever the showman, Berghenholtz piloted the Mazda 6 to a solo 8.08 @ 158.67 mph.
Leading up to the Modified final would consist of several bye runs as well. Scheepers ran over Franco, Rapaw was a no-show against Humphreys and Afshar had a single when Shambaugh didn’t make the call in the Cavalier. Round two gave Afshar a win after Scheepers red lit, but caused Afshar ran into complications and gave Humphreys a bye in the finals. Humphreys left before the tree was activated but having no one in the other lane still gave him the win!
The Hot Rod class had arguably some of the best racing this season. Crawford moved on to round two with ease over George Ahad. Eric Del Rosario in the “I Love Gold” Integra bested Iran Jolly’s CRX in a close race of 10.40 vs. 10.65. Kenny Tran would make an amazing 8.20 @ 180.33 mph pass over Alexia Guinitaran. Bautista was a no-show against Lummus and Eggum had a single since Housley didn’t make the call. Round two brought another surprise as Tran took too long to stage, giving Eggum an automatic win. Each pass from Eggum was an improvement over the last however, this one at an 8.80 @ 168.75 mph. Del Rosario’s race against Crawford would be one for the books. With great anticipation off of the line, Crawford’s engine died and Del Rosario broke just past the tree. Everyone stood by wondering who would limp down the track first when Crawford’s engine came to life and he took the win with a 22.33 second pass. The finals would pit Lummus vs. a broken Crawford. Lummus thundered all the way to the winner’s circle with a 7.82 @ 184.57 mph. Congrats to the Garrett Turbo team!
Pro RWD would be where all the action was at this Vegas event however. With so much on the line points-wise, all the teams were trying to be on the top of the game. Papadakis was a no-show against Scranton in round one. Hartford got an automatic win after Ibarra redlit. Ed Marx would drive through a ton of tire smoke and shake around Arslanian to bring both Team Titan cars to round two as Personett had a bye run. Round two would have some great racing as Marx and Scranton approached the track. Marx staged in second gear with no burnout. Having no first gear at all, Marx launched the car in second and drove past Scranton with a 7.22 @ 199.58 mph. In a staging duel, Personett and Hartford teased the crowd pre staging for over a minute. Personett finally hit up the second light and the win light with a 6.53 @ 215.68 mph over Hartford’s 6.69 @ 199.91 mph. It would be an all Team Titan final with no team orders to throw the race for Personett’s points. The dual burnout left the crowd in a wild, cheering frenzy as Ron Berghenholtz cheered on the side line for some side by side 6.40 action. It wouldn’t happen however, as Marx had to lift to avoid contact with the wall leaving Personett with a 6.55 @ 216.31 mph for his second straight win in a row with the new ’05 Scion tC!
As exciting as the Pro classes are, the Sport FWD class launched Penman into the winner’s circle after a series of low 10 second passes and even a blazing 9.69 @ 154.74 mph pass in his Del Sol. Julie Stepan would take the Sport RWD win over Dan Schechter in the Easy Street Subaru.
With two races left in the season and the points chase still tight in All Motor and Pro RWD, we’re excited to see all the teams stepping it up as the season winds down!