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NHRA Dallas - NHRA Dallas BFGoodrich Sport Compact Nationals

Night Racing Delivers A Different Vibe In Dallas

Evan Griffey
Dec 1, 2002
Photographer: Henry DeKuyper
Turp_0212_01_z+nhra_dallas+jotech_honda_civic Photo 1/1   |   NHRA Dallas - NHRA Dallas BFGoodrich Sport Compact Nationals

There was a strange vibe surrounding the NHRA BFGoodrich Sport Compact Nationals held August 9-10 at Texas Motorplex in Ennis, Texas.

A good deal of the funk had to do with our hotel being blocks away from "the grassy knoll" where JFK was assassinated and the fact that the event was being contested at night and on Friday and Saturday.

The gates opened at 3 p.m. and the action pumped until well past midnight-which meant the local Dennys had a surge of late-night cash. Night racing was implemented as an escape from the unrelenting Texas heat-a combination of near triple digit temperatures and near triple digit humidity. Weather set the tone for the event again when the Dallas area was body slammed with a wicked thunderstorm Saturday morning, which didn't nail the track some 40 miles away too badly, but still hurt attendance.

As with most of the NHRA events this season, Dallas delivered the goods-controversy, drama and action. Before a single car had made a timed run, a controversy surfaced about the Lingenfelter-backed Cavalier driven by Matt Hartford. Slated for the Modified Class, many objected to the car's tube framing that ran from the firewall forward and alterations made to the firewall. When the car was approved for competition in Modified, not Pro, many looked to the side of the car for answers because the car's sponsor, Summit, is also the title sponsor of the series.

Jojo Callos provided some theatrics as he spun his Castrol Integra at about the 1,200-foot mark during the second round of qualifying. He hit the wall with the rear of the car but his wheelie bar saved the day and the body was not damaged. The crew used a tie-down to pull the bar into alignment and Turbo/Import Tuner technical editor Gary Castillo sparked the welder, helping send Jojo to eliminations.

Cesar Fibus cranked out an 8.02 at 153 mph in qualifying, then put a rod through the block of his old school 300ZX in the final qualifying round. The crew had most of the essentials but the crankshaft was a goner and they had to scrounge for a replacement. They miraculously found a crankshaft, but by the time they got the engine running, it was the second round of eliminations.

In Hot Rod, Kenny Tran used his home court advantage to grab the number one qualifying spot with a 9.25, Bruce Mortensen was second with a 9.30 and Gary Gardella came out from Jersey and survived a broken final drive in the first round of qualifying to run a 9.36 after repairs to secure third on the grid. Gearbox gremlins got the better of Gardella and points leader Jojo Callos couldn't advance his wounded Integra past the second round.

With a miscue concerning Bye runs, it came down to Kenny and Bruce in the semis. Yet again both racers brought out their A-game and the crowd was treated to one of the quickest and closest races in the history of unibody Honda racing. Kenny won the race on the tree (see accompanying chart) but neither racer was sure who won until they collected their identical 9.08-second timeslips-that's how close it was.

While the controversy surrounding the Lingenfelter Cavalier focused the spotlight on Modified, the racing kept it there. Ron and Ed Bergenholtz finally got their CRX down the strip. Ron went nuts after the run but we are not sure if it was because the car ran 9.19 or because they beat the Lingenfelter Cavalier, which broke after qualifying number two with an 8.23. It was a popular win all through the pits.

Third qualifier Jimmy O'Connor (8.27) had asthma complications and couldn't answer the bell for eliminations. With all the drama running rampant through the class Stephan Papadakis was the beacon of consistency. His 8.51 effort in qualifying was followed up with an 8.50 and an 8.42 in eliminations.

As others seemed to struggle with the nighttime set-up Steph and company marched on. When you're putting 800 hp through a front driver, traction hiccups are a constant companion. Steph was joined in the finals by Nelson Hoyos and the GM Racing Cavalier. This was the first time a Modified event came down to a FWD vs. FWD money race. In another remarkable spectacle of speed Steph went 8.412 at 173.74 to Nelson's 8.415 at 173.74 (no typo). The big difference was Steph's .488 reaction compared to Nelson's .602. It was a close race all the way down the track with the win light answering the question.

Pro was up for grabs as a good number of the points leaders were not on hand. Manny Cruz stepped up with his V6 twin turbo Cougar. After limping into the field with a 9.46, the Cougar, crewed by Ralphy Estevez from DRT, ran an 8.43 and then got lucky when John Lingenfelter red-lit a 7.32 in the semis.

The final pitted Manny against Grant Downing and the Venom Tundra. There were more dramatic turns in 1,320 feet of the finals than in most Formula 1 races. The result sheet shows Manny got a .490 to .564 advantage off the line. But the Cougar bogged badly just past the 60-foot mark and Grant pulled away and his next stop looked to be victory lane. Manny got it back together and did not hesitate getting the accelerator wide open. Grant had problems on the top end and Manny zipped past 40 feet from the lights, winning with an 8.455 at 179 mph to Grant's 8.66 at 146 mph.

There was an eerie resonance surrounding the BFGoodrich Sport Compact Nationals but the action on the track struck a familiar chord as the most lethal high-tech import racers vividly illustrated why there is indeed a replacement for displacement.

Winner Jesus Padilla '85 {{{Mazda RX-7}}} (20B) 10.54@125
Runner-up Ken Scheepers '79 {{{RX-7}}} (13B) 11.64@115
Winner Mark Mazurowsli '94 {{{Titan}}} MS {{{Supra}}} 9.46@153
Runner-up Justin Nenni '95 Supra broke
Winner Kenny Tran Jotech/Norwood {{{Civic}}} 11.46 @83
Runner-up Viren Singh JL Audio Civic broke
Winner Stephan Papadakis AEM Drag Civic 8.41@173
Runner-up Nelson Hoyos GM Racing Cavalier 8.41@173
Winner Manny Cruz DRT/Duttweiler Cougar 8.45@179
Runner-up Crant Downing Venom Tundra 8.66@146
Winner Matt Scranton Turbonetics Drag Barrier {{{Celica}}} 7.16@195
Runner-up John Mihovetz AccuFab Cougar 7.99@175

Turbo Magazine's Timeslip Of The DayWhile Hoyos and Steph provided some fireworks in their Modified final we selected the semifinal showdown between Kenny Tran (Jotech/Norwood Civic) and Bruce Mortensen (Venom Racing Civic) as the Turbo Magazine Timeslip Of The Day. This epic showdown, in essence the final as Viren Singh's Civic was not running well on the top end, illustrates how intensely competitive Hot Rod has become. Running a 9.08 in a unibody Civic and losing just isn't right.

REACTION .566   .472
60 foot 1.632   1.531
330 4.178   4.096
1/8 e.t 6.{{{100}}}   6.023
1/8 mph 129.{{{57}}}   130.07
1000 7.729   7.701
1/4 e.t. 9.087   9.088
1/4 mph 167.78   162.92

NHRA/Turbo Magazine Track Conduct SeminarThe NHRA/Turbo Magazine Track Conduct Seminar is a way for beginners to learn the ropes of drag racing. By understanding where to be and when and knowing what will happen from the staging lanes to the staging lights and beyond, newcomers to our sport will get more enjoyment out of the experience.

The seminar was conducted by Turbo magazine editor Evan Griffey and featured input from NHRA officials and Hot Rod class driver Kenny Tran who went on to win the event. NHRA officials ran down what to expect in tech, safety basics and more while Kenny, who started as a bracket racer himself, offered some behind the wheel insight into the intricacies that make the brackets so fun.

The NHRA/Turbo Magazine Track Conduct Seminar will continue throughout 2002 and may well be conducted in 2003. It's free of charge to those already entered to race and more details can be gleaned at


Los Angeles, CA 90061
Unorthodox Racing
Copiague, NY 11726
Nitrous Express
Wichita Falls, TX 76310
Clutch Masters
Rialto, CA 92376
National Hot Rod Association
Glendora, CA
(626) 914-4761
By Evan Griffey
272 Articles



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