Just because summer is over doesn’t mean the fun is done! Everyone knows the old saying, “records fall at E-town” and boy we were not to be disappointed! Just about all the classes were full houses – from Sportsman to the pros. The Sportsman All-Motor class had a new record set by female driver Loan Nguyen. She ran a 12.503@ 112mph. Congratulations to her and her teammates! Sticking to the Sportsman class, the CRX of Brian Ballard did him very well. He managed to pull off the win by the narrowest of margins against John Ferguson’s ‘92 civic. Ferguson actually had the quicker time but this was a race that was won at the tree. Ferguson had a reaction time of .098 but that wouldn’t beat the quicker reaction of Ballard– he pulled off a lightning-quick .055!. The final result was Ballard running a 9.725@ 152 mph and Ferguson with a 9.685 @155mph. Ballard won by a margin of about 11 inches!
On to some Pro car action and you all-motor junkies would have loved this one! Shawn Hillier driving for the Skunk2 team ran a blistering 9.705 @139.33mph in the third round of qualifying on Saturday. All he had to do was back it up with a 9.79 and he would be good for a new record. This was not to be Hiller’s weekend however. In the first round of eliminations Sunday he had a bye run into the second round of eliminations. Shawn accidentally red lit, eliminating him from the race, leaving the first place podium open for the taking! After a few more eliminations it would come down to a classic shoot out Norris Prayoonto and Jesus Padilla, front wheel drive Honda vs. rear wheel drive Mazda! This would be Padilla’s day of glory. He defeated Norris, who ran a 10.039 @ 134mph to his 9.882 @ 133mph.
Onwards and upwards to the Hot Rod class, where the GM cars would again be the dominating force. After absolutely destroying a rear end qualifying Saturday night, John Shepherd got his ‘92 Talon back together just in time for Sunday just hoping to break again. But what he did will have you DSM junkies doing back flips. Shepherd ran a ridiculous … and I mean ridiculous 7.976 @ 179mph. Even though he lost that race to Ron Lummus I’m pretty sure he went home a happy camper! But now back to Lummus and his domination of the class. He worked his way to the final where he would face another GM player by the name of Gary Gardella. It would be a close race but Lummus had the win right from the green light were he treed Gary and took the win with a 7.979@ 186mph to Gardella’s 8.153 @175mph.
The next class up would be the Modified Class with a not to shabby six-car field. It would be the rotaries vs. the Toyotas, and this would be a weekend of personal bests for this class! Luis Corujo would set his personal best with an 8.1@ 159mph, and this was just after his team had to do some major surgery on the. We gotta salute his crew, they did a head gasket repair in record time! We can’t forget Dee Karagiannis who also had an NHRA personal best in E-town. He ran a 7.739@ 169mph and was considered one of the favorites to win the race. Unfortunately he was plagued with clutch set up problems and he just couldn’t make it to the end. So the final came down to Justin Humphreys Lexus and Jose Mendez in his 1980 Corolla. Well all know Mendez would have loved to take home an NHRA win, but for that to happen Justin would have had to have some problems at the line. That wasn’t that case for the Maryland native – Justin left the line with a .100 r/t and Mendez just couldn’t catch the screaming GS300 of Humphreys who ran a 7.741@ 176mph.
The Pro Front Wheel Drive class, which is usually a very sparse field, had four cars running in it which we haven’t seen in some time. We also caught sight of Shaun Carlson, who we haven’t seen in some time. Rumor had it he was getting the car dialed in just right, and I guess the rumors where true because he came out to take names! Although he had some problems Saturday he managed to get them sorted out to make a great pass of 7.633@ 188mph. Which would have been a great run if Marty Ladwig in his Chevy Cobalt didn’t run a blinding 7.316@ 191mph. Also going out was the Sunfire of Jason Hunt. Hunt got eliminated running against Ed Bergenholtz when he got a little anxious and red lighted, giving Ed the ticket to the finals to run Ladwig’s land rocket Cobalt! When the Pro FWD final came around it was perfect racing conditions – a nice warm track and cool night air. Bergenholtz treed Ladwig with a .032 reaction time and Ladwig bogged a little bit out of the hole and just couldn’t come up with enough to catch the Mazda. Bergenholtz ran a 7.807@ 159mph.
Last but not least, the Pro Rear Wheel Drive category. With 11 cars competing for eight spots you knew the drivers and their cars had to be in great shape. The biggest surprise of the weekend was seeing the new 350Z of Performance Motorsports, piloted by none other then Vinny Ten. What a great looking car and what a beautiful sound from the motor. Vinny surprised everyone on Sunday when the car ran a 6.644@ 212mph. That would give him lane choice over the new team Titan driver Ed Marx, who defeated AEM driver Stephan Papadakis in his ‘03 Civic. It was too bad for Vinny that he had some clutch problems on the line in the final vs. Marx. Vinny hurt the clutch during his burnout, which lead the car to creep through the line making him red light. Marx ran a 6.789@ 208mph and Vinny could only watch.
I suggest if you’re reading the article and didn’t get a chance to make it out to E-town for the NHRA fall nationals you better do it next year because you’re definitely missing out on something special!