Sacramento Raceway was the fourth stop for the NHRA Summit Import Drag Racing Series in its inaugural season. There was a big turn out in cars and fans as 570 vehicles went to war down the 1320 and the pit-side stands were filled to capacity. A bit of controversy centered around the lights in the left lane. The lane was the site of many red lights throughout the day by drivers who are not normally prone to impatience. Reportedly, the phenomenon would take place when the right-lane competitor would fully stage before the left-lane car would even pre-stage.
JoJo Callos was the runaway qualifying leader in Hot Rod at 9.22 behind the wheel of the JG/Edelbrock Civic. Callos was far ahead of Jimmy O'Connor's Venom Civic (9.75) and Lisa Kubo's Nitto Tires Civic (9.93).
There were no major upsets in round one as Callos, O'Connor, Kubo, Kenny Tran, Andrew Tran, Eddie Chuong, and Andrew Bermea all advanced to the second round.
O'Connor drew the bye run followed by Andrew Tran stunning Kenny Tran (no relation), ending the day of the class' number-two points earner. After Callos ripped Bermea with a 9.446, the normally steady Kubo lost her chance to put further distance between herself and Tran by drawing a red light.
In the semifinals, O'Connor ended Chuong's Cinderella tale while Callos zipped into the finals posting the quickest e.t. of eliminations, a 9.33 at 149.37 mph, to erase Andrew Tran's game 11.41.
Callos was relentless in the final, nailing O'Connor on the tree (O'Connor not doing himself any favors with a sleepy .813 reaction), and powering away to a 9.41 to 10.03 victory.
R.J. Simrock struggled on his first two qualifying passes in Ben Ma's AEBS Focus, then stole the No. 1 qualifying berth from Efren Vasquez in the final qualifying session Sunday. Four drivers got past Vasquez's 8.169 Sunday, with Simrock leading the way at 7.854. Jimmy O'Connor motivated the Venom Performance Toyota Tundra truck to a second-best 7.922 at 170.96 mph. Jose Torres and Abel Ibarra had their RX-7s third and fourth with runs of 8.050 and 8.119 respectively.
In round one action, Ibarra and the Toyo Tires/ExtrudeHone Mazda got a first-round bye when Vazquez was a broken no-show. Simrock also got a bye when Marcos Acosta broke the Driverfx.com '95 Mazda MX-3 just off the line in a West Coast versus East Coast battle. O'Connor then red-lighted against Moises Benitez and Torres and his potent Siguel Racing RX-7 entry got an easy freebie when fellow Puerto Rican Rafael Rivera, winner of the B&M NHRA Import Nationals in Gainesville, broke just off the line.
During the semifinals, Siguel waxed Benitez, 7.91 to 8.44, which was followed by the day's grudge match between Ibarra and Simrock, whose last three encounters, all in final rounds, have been thrillers. In their last match up Ibarra lost in the final at Maple Grove when his RX-7 got into some liquid just off the starting line and nearly collected the Focus. Ibarra got revenge here in the semis with a hair-splitting 7.89 to 7.91 victory, claiming the event's top speed at 171.40 mph in the process.
This set-up the finals where Siguel made Team Puerto Rico two for three at NHRA events as Torres took an easy 8.166 stroll after Ibarra, being the true sportsman, had waited for his late-arriving opponent. Ibarra fell victim to a creeping clutch that forced a red-light, followed by another wild ride as his Mazda headed for the guardrail down the track and took some "driver input" to keep it off the wall.
Some of the big names in Modified were running big numbers in qualifying. Ray Lochhead's Mazda grabbed the Modified pole position with an 8.888, outrunning heavily favored Stephan Papadakis (9.217) and Christian Rado (9.294).
Rado got caught up in the fever as he red lit against Jason Siebels in round one. However, Rado's brief appearance was enough to take the lead in the class points race. In other action Papadakis (9.50), Adrian Sabori (10.02), and Lochhead (16.860 on an engine-wounding bye run) also advanced to the semifinals.
Primed for firing in the semifinals, Papadakis' AEM Honda screamed to a 9.282 at 159.79 mph totally overwhelming Siebels' gear-missing 10.979 while Sabori reeled off a 9.830 in the JG Edelbrock Civic after refusing to buy into a broken Lochhead's staging games.
The well-respected Papadakis left little doubt in the final, leaving on Sabori, .490 to .581, then outrunning him, 9.564 to 9.946 for the Wally.
Ari Yallon ran the table on the competition once again as his Rotary Performance RX-7 took its third class win of the season. Ari dismantled the shott three-car field and faced off against fellow rx7.com teammate Steven Kan in the finals.
Yallon was more than a half-second ahead of Kan and third-wheel Ken Sheepers in qualifying, posting a 10.704 to Kan's 11.205 with Sheepers back in the 12.0s.
While Yallon took a free-wheeling 11.08 first-round bye, Kan disposed of Sheepers, 11.32 to 13.03, to set up the all RX-7 final, where Yallon bettered his qualifying time, posting a 10.697 at 139.09 mph to oust Kan (11.180 at 128.15 mph).
Scott Kelley made some serious noise in All Motor qualifying, powering his Toyo Tires Bullet '69 VW Fastback to an 11.093 at 120.94 mph, well ahead of points leader Joel Mandl's JG/Edelbrock '91 Honda Civic (11.541) and third-quickest Shawn Hillier's '95 Civic (11.661). Lawrence Tse held the field's final spot with his '95 Acura Integra with an 11.919.
In round one, Bill Burnham and his '78 Mazda RX3 stunned number-two points man Cotorres Gee, 11.70 to 11.76, while Mandl kept the pressure on with an 11.405 conquest of Japan's Tsuneaki Mankumo's and his beautiful CRX. Kelley blasted an 11.008 just missing the 10-second zone while putting Tse on the trailer. The round closed with another upset as Tom Simon's '65 Beetle got an easy pass when Hillier's Civic broke.
Kelley got quicker still -- albeit by just .002-second -- with an 11.006 on a solo semifinal run when Burnham was a no-show. Mandl added his name to the final-round roster and boosted his points lead even more by taking down Simon, 11.45 to 11.82. Now all he had to do was find four-tenths of a second.
Both drivers slowed in the final, but Kelley's VW was still plenty fast enough, gaining the holeshot lead and holding on to win easily, 11.095, 120.93 mph to Mandl's 11.735 at 111.25 mph.
The next stop on the trail for the NHRA is Houston Raceway Park in Baytown, Texas. See you there.