NSDA Lake Elsinore April 2010 Race Recap

lead.jpgThe NSDA CANIDAE Pet Foods Nationals at the Lake Elsinore Motorsports Complex was the first race at this new venue and certainly did not disappoint. From the great weather to the frequent air show beyond the track to the hot and heavy racing action on track; this race was the beginning of a bright future of racing at this great new Southern California race track. Here is a detailed look at the racing action from this Inaugural event at Lake Elsinore.

Top Fuel

Scott Whipple and the CANIDAE team typically come into an event as the big story. What will they do next, is the question that is asked. However, this event was a little different as the NSDA series went to a brand new track and questions about what kind of numbers the surface could produce were in the fore front. Not surprisingly, all the buzz would go full circle and end up back on the CANIDAE team.

Qualifying started off with some pretty big surprises in the TF class. At the end of Day 1, Geoff Gill in the Gill/Bettencourt Fueler was the #1 qualifier with a 2.314/160mph blast. Whipple and the CANIDAE team struggled with an early shut off pass to start off qualifying, then an inadvertent release of the chutes heading up to the starting line in the evening session. But Whipple’s crew banded together and re-packed the chutes to allow for a test run that night, which didn’t count towards qualifying, and stole Gill’s thunder with a 2.313.

On Saturday, heading into the final qualifying session, Gill sat on top with his Friday night 2.31 followed closely by Whipple’s third session 2.34 and Dennis Rieck’s 2.42. The night session would have the best conditions seen to this point in the weekend and the numbers would prove this. Whipple would leap to the top of the pack with a great 2.255/149mph shot. The Famous Amos Satterlee tune-up produced an amazing .960 60’ time on this pass. In the other lane, Gill would fall short with a 2.39 and some engine damage that would put the Gill/Bettencourt team out of competition for the weekend. So, heading into race day Team CANIDAE would lead the pack with a 2.255, followed by Rieck with a 2.383 and Rick Cameron’s 2.627.

Leading off eliminations would be the number two and three qualifiers facing off as Dennis Rieck’s Hammer Down entry faced off with Rick Cameron and the Cameron Motorsports team. It was great to see the Cameron’s back out on track as Rick has fought off some health issues to get back behind the wheel again. As the drivers staged, it appeared as though Cameron’s car had some clutch issues dragging him through the beams, handing the win to Rieck, who lay down a 2.458/133mph hit. The round’s bye run would be up next for low qualifier, Whipple. Famous Amos threw a ton of power at the track and what resulted was a .961 60’ time and finish line numbers of 2.265 @ 165mph. This would set up a great final between the CANIDAE and Hammer Down race teams.

In the final, the air had cooled down and seemed to produce optimal conditions for making horsepower. At the hit, Rieck would take a slight lead, but would break a rear-end shortly after while Whipple would sail down the track to the quickest pass in sand drag racing history with a 2.221/172.79mph. Once again, the CANIDAE crew led by Famous Amos Satterlee had shattered the record books. With his prior 2.255, the record was once again reset by Whipple, replacing his record setting run two races ago in Primm, NV (Oct ’09). This also gave the CANIDAE 10 bonus points for a World Record putting them 42 points ahead of Rieck with two races in the books for 2010.

Top Fuel Winner Scott Whipple (Near Lane) versus Geoff Gill (Far Lane) in TF Qualifying. (NSDN Photo)

Dennis Rieck (PDQ Photo)

Rick Cameron in the Cameron Motorsports/Lake Elsinore Hotel & Casino Top Fueler. (NSDN Photo)

Top Alcohol

Same as in the Top Fuel class, everyone was wondering how much the new racing surface could hold at the new Lake Elsinore facility. The answer was a LOT as Gary Mink flirted with the current TA World Record running a 2.417 in qualifying, just off of his current 2.403 record. Gary was followed closely by Dan Allen and the Lucas Oil TA Dragster, who ran a 2.477. Rounding out the top half of the field was Mike DeNunzio (2.523) and point leader Scott Carroll (2.567). However, the qualifying numbers themselves weren’t the big story in TA qualifying.

This story revolved around the April’s Dream team of Jim Hammond. In the Friday night qualifying session, Jim was on a great pass with the front end WAY up in the air and when it got to the point where he had to lift, the front end slammed down and caused considerable damage to the chassis of his dragster. Most racers would have loaded up for the weekend, but not the April’s Dream team. With some great help from the sand drag family, they were able to effectively “front half” the chassis in the pit area. After this massive thrash, they did not even miss a qualifying session and in the final qualifying round Jim ran a great 2.719 to put him in the #6 spot. The hard work and dedication showed by the April’s Dream team was unbelievable and deserve a huge tip of the hat for what they were able to accomplish.

Round one saw Gary Mink start off eliminations with what would be Low ET of the round, a 2.470 on his bye run. Next up would see Dome Valley Season Opener champ Scott Carroll face off with Oregon’s Craig Sines. Carroll would dodge a bullet on this run as Sines ran a great 2.612, but turned on the red bulb by .006. Carroll advanced with a 2.662. The Thunderstruck team of Sines showed huge improvements throughout the weekend and even ran a 2.65 on a test pass late Sunday on a very early shut off pass. Next would be a single run for Dan Allen as Shane Sanford and his Frederosa team had some massive parts breakage in qualifying, putting them out for eliminations. Allen advanced with a 2.60. The final pair of the round would see Team CANIDAE’s Mike DeNunzio face off with Hammond. DeNunzio would take the round win in a 2.57 to 2.77 decision.

This set up a rematch of the NSDA Dome Valley Season Opener final round in the semi-finals between defending champion Mink and Season Opener winner Carroll. Mink would revert to his dominating 2009 form leaving first and not looking back in a 2.46 to 2.57 victory. The final semi-final match would see the Lucas Oil entry of Dan Allen face off with CANIDAE’s Mike DeNunzio. Mike would leave first, but Dan would hit this run out of the park with a sizzling 2.427/135mph shot while DeNunzio had some parts breakage in the other lane.

The final round would be a huge match up between the quickest two cars of the race weekend. Everyone was on the edge of their seats waiting for this match up as the air had gotten substantially better and the possibility was there for the first 2.3 second TA run. However, things didn’t turn out as expected. Allen’s Lucas Oil entry cracked a fuel line forcing him to be shut off, setting up a single for Mink. All eyes were on Gary, but he would fall short of the record, running another solid 2.483 for his first NSDA win of the season. Gary’s seventh career NSDA TA victory moves him into a 15 point lead over Carroll with Allen another 7 points behind him.

Gary Mink (NSDN Photo)

TA Runner-Up Dan Allen (Far Lane) versus Scott Carroll (Near Lane) in Qualifying. (NSDN Photo)

Mike DeNunzio (NSDN Photo)

Jim Hammond (NSDN Photo)

Super Eliminator

The new Super Eliminator class showed huge potential during its Inaugural event at the Dome Valley Season Opener, so all eyes were on the class to see if the competition level would remain so high. They would not be let down as qualifying saw some amazing performances. Season Opener race winner Billy Morris would run a 2.809 in the 2 Dolla’ Bill Dragster to lead the pack in qualifying. Jim Rossi would run a great 2.82 to qualify second with Paul Taylor right behind him at 2.83 in the third position to round out the top half of the 6 car field.

Round one would see the top half qualifiers advance with Taylor running Low ET of the round with a nice 2.84. A big match up between Taylor and Jim Rossi would start off the semi-final round. This was an amazing race with Taylor taking a .099 to .119 lead at the tree and holding on for a close 2.836 to 2.843 victory. The Outta Control entry of Taylor would face off with the 2 Dolla Bill Team of Morris in a rematch of the Dome Valley Season Opener final round. Morris would end up stealing lane choice from Taylor on his bye run with a stellar 2.823.

Everything continued to stack up the same as the Dome Valley race as the Morris team experienced some parts breakage between the semi-final and final rounds. As at Dome, a thrash ensued and they were able to prepare the car for the final round. At the green light, Morris would take a large starting line advantage .024 to .323, and looked to take an easy win. However, Taylor would continue on and run a 2.822 nearly catching Morris, who lifted early to a 3.098. Morris would take the stripe by just .023 for his second Super Eliminator class win of the season. The 2 Dolla’ Bill Team holds a 20 point lead over Taylor after 2 races with Jim Rossi another 20 points back.

Super Eliminator Finalists: Billy Morris (Far Lane) and Paul Taylor (Near Lane). (NSDN Photo)

Billy Morris (Bill Fox Photo)

Paul Taylor (Bill Fox Photo)

Top Eliminator

Top Eliminator has always been one of the most competitive classes in NSDA competition, and we were reminded of that at Lake Elsinore. Paul Graham would lead the pack in his Blown V8 Buggy with a 2.977, on the 2.95 Index. A total of four cars would run in the 2 second zone in qualifying with Graham being followed by Aaron Mamer (2.989), Daniel King (2.989), and Don Diffenbaugh (2.992).

In the first round, Daniel King (in his first NSDA start driving his grandfather DL’s Animal Control Dragster) ran the best TE pass of the weekend with a 2.967 coupled with a .006 RT in defeat of Larry Snow. Round two saw some incredible action in TE. Early in the round, Daniel King would face off with Brian Chapman’s new Short Fuse 4-cylinder Dragster. Chapman didn’t show any rust as he would leave first .063 to .098 and take the win 3.037 to 3.033. In other round two action, Taylor Brewer would stage foul against Graham and Aaron Mamer would run a 2.968 on his bye run.

Chapman would receive the bye run into the final round while Graham and Mamer would face off. Mamer, in his dad’s Sidewinder Dragster, would get the hole shot lead .091 to .112; however the V8 power of Graham would drive around for a 3.057 to 3.084 victory. The Margin of Victory at the finish line was just .006.

The final round would see two racers face off that have never been in a NSDA Top Eliminator Final Round, but are no familiar to final rounds. Chapman would leave just a little early turning on the red bulb and giving the V8 entry of Graham his first NSDA TE victory with a 3.040. Graham’s victory puts him one point ahead of Dome Valley winner Steve Hoffman in the TE point standings.

Paul Graham (NSDN Photo)

Brian Chapman (Bill Fox Photo)

Jeff Mamer (Bill Fox Photo)

Pro 1

The Pro 1 class was stacked with top competitors in the Southwest region, including all three past NSDA class champions. Geoff Gill would return to the class at this event, doing double duty racing Larry Minor’s Jeep in Pro 1 as well as driving the Gill/Bettencourt Racing Top Fueler. Gill went right back to where he left off qualifying #1 with a great .003 RT in a round 1 defeat of Kermit Larby.

Eliminations would wear down to the semi-final round where Gill would face off with Rick Heintzman, from the Northwest with his Buggy. This race would be over at the tree as Gill would red light by .014 sending Heintzman to his first NSDA Pro 1 Final Round. In the other match up, a pair of Southern California based dragsters would face off as Mike Gazzeny and Mike Kelly rolled up to the line. Gazzeny would force Kelly into a 3.699 (3.74) break out advancing him to his second straight final round. This time the result would be different as Heintzman would turn on the red bulb by just .002 giving Gazzeny his first Pro 1 win of the 2010 race season. Mike’s second final round of the season gives him a commanding 52 point lead over Larry Brown in the Pro 1 championship chase.

Pro 1 Final Round (NSDN Photo)

Mike Gazzeny (Bill Fox Photo)

Rick Heintzman (Bill Fox Photo)

Pro 2

2008 NSDA Pro 2 champion Wes Johnson looked to regain his form in 2010 at the NSDA CANIDAE Pet Foods Nationals. Wes came in off of a runner-up finish to Steve Anthony at the NSDA Season Opener in Dome Valley and looked to improve his finish one position at this event. In round one, he would take the first step by narrowly defeating Rocky Randolph by just .020 at the finish line. Wes’ .039 RT would be the best of the round giving him the #1 qualifying spot on the ladder. The big upset of round one was when Wes’ brother and 2009 NSDA Pro 2 Champion Charlie Johnson would lose a close battle against Tony DeNunzio.

A big match up kicked off round two as Wes would face off with Wheelie Contest & 3-time NSDA champion Justin Adamson. This race would belong to Wes with a .026 RT & 4.313 (4.20). In other round two action, DeNunzio would take a .020 MOV over Howard Sato; Dennis Brooks would red light his chances away against David Cox, and Tommy Zavala would have a single run when Fred Russo could not make the call.

A big match up kicked off the round with DeNunzio facing off with 2007 NSDA Pro 2 champion David Cox. Cox would cut a brilliant .010 light, but could not run close enough to his dial allowing DeNunzio to drive around by less than one-thousandth of a second (.001). What an incredible race. Up next would be Wes Johnson versus Tommy Zavala. Unfortunately, Tommy suffered some parts breakage and was unable to make the call giving Wes a freebie into the final round. Wes would run a great 4.201 (4.20) on his single run.

The final round was set as an all-Jeep battle with Johnson versus DeNunzio. The Jeeps left glued together with Johnson having a slight .020 to .029 advantage, and at the other end of the track Wes would run a 4.221 (4.20) to turn on the win light. Wes’ win gives him a 62 point edge of his brother Charlie after 2 races in the 2010 season.

Pro 2 Final Round (NSDN Photo)

Wes Johnson (Bill Fox Photo)

Tony DeNunzio (Bill Fox Photo)

Pro 3

Even the best racers sometimes have a dry spell. Fortunately, that has to end at some point. That point was on this weekend for one of the top Pro 3 racers. Arend Schouten has gone since April ’08 without a NSDA Pro 3 victory, but everyone in the class knew he was due for a win. Round one would be a tough challenge for the Vegas area racer as he would face off with back-to-back NSDA Pro 3 champion, Charlie Johnson. Johnson took a .013 to .045 starting line advantage, however Schouten would use a 4.759 (4.70) to stay ahead of Johnson, who could only muster a 4.679 (4.53). This would put the end on a rough weekend for the Defending Champion.

Schouten’s .045 RT in round one would earn him the #1 spot on the ladder as well as the bye run. The semi-final round would be another huge match up for Schouten as he would face off with Jeff Goorsky. They would leave glued together with Schouten taking a .005 lead. Goorsky would take the stripe, but would lose a double breakout decision as he ran .072 under his dial to Schouten’s .047 break out. This would set up a final round match up between Schouten and Luz Malan, who received the semi-final round bye run. In the final, both racers struggled a bit at the tree, but Schouten would hold on for a 4.761 (4.72) long awaited return to victory in NSDA Pro 3 action. Schouten’s victory moved him into fourth in the point series standings, despite missing the Season Opener. Charlie Johnson holds a one-point cushion over Luz Malan heading into race three.

Pro 3 Final Round (NSDN Photo)

Arend Schouten (Bill Fox Photo)

Motorcycle Pro 1

The Motorcycle Pro Bracket classes were dominated by Mark Ratliff at the NSDA Season Opener, where he would complete a rare double win taking both the MP1 and MP2 class wins. Obviously, the bulls eye was on Mark’s back as the NSDA series headed to the Inaugural event at Lake Elsinore. As action kicked off in round one, it would be the other Ratliff, Garrett that would end up as the #1 qualifier with a stellar .021 RT in a win over Frank Prock.

The semi-final round would kick off with Garrett facing off with Heather Taylor. Both riders would struggle and run off their dials, but Garrett would take the win with a .071 and 4.312 (4.07). The other pair would see Mark try to make it an all-Ratliff final round against 2008 NSDA Motorcycle Pro 2 champion Ryan Winkle. Mark would continue to have the hot hand laying down a great .016 RT and running a 4.555 (4.43) taking a slim .019 MOV over Winkle.

In an amazing circumstance, the father-son final round would see both riders cut identical .075 reaction times. Garrett would have some issues keeping him from running close to the dial, and Mark would hang on to the lead for the win with a 4.566 (4.43). This would be Mark’s second straight Motorcycle Pro 1 class victory and puts him into a 35 point lead over Taylor.

Motorcycle Pro 1 Final Round (NSDN Photo)

Mark Ratliff (Bill Fox Photo)

Garrett Ratliff (Bill Fox Photo) 

Motorcycle Pro 2

As with Motorcycle Pro 1, Mark Ratliff was the man to beat heading into Lake Elsinore. With his hot run at Dome Valley, everyone knew they had to get by him to take the class win. In round one action, Ratliff would get a lucky break by receiving a legal single when his opponent broke, then he proceeded to throw down a great .019 RT putting him in the #1 qualifying spot on the ladder.

Mark would then receive another single in round two, followed up by a semi-final round bye run. Obviously, the luck was on his side on this day. However, his final round opponent would definitely not be a pushover as 2009 NSDA Motorcycle Pro 2 champion Joey Weaver would face off with perennial title contender Rob Winkle to fill out the semi-final round. In this intense battle, both riders would struggle to run their respective numbers, but Weaver would take the stripe with a 6.099 (5.80) to advance on.

In the final, Ratliff would not leave anything to chance against his formidable opponent as he laid down a great .023 RT and ran a 4.798 (4.50) to secure his second double up win of the 2010 race season. Ratliff’s sweep of the first two races of 2010 gives him a 40 point lead heading into race three.

Mark Ratliff (Bill Fox Photo)

Joey Weaver (Bill Fox Photo)

Pro Mod

The Pro Mod class had three entries to start the weekend at Lake Elsinore. However, by the time qualifying was over, the field was down to two as Todd Kinney withdrew from competition after breaking. This narrowed the field down to 2009 NSDA Pro Mod champion Clayton Record against the powerful fire breathing supercharged small block Chevy-powered Jeep owned by Larry Minor and driven by Geoff Gill. In qualifying, they would sit #1 with a 3.35 to Clayton’s 3.49. This would appear to be an uphill battle for Record. However, the Gill/Minor entry had issues starting at times throughout the weekend, and when it was time for the final round the Blown Chevy motor would not fire giving Clayton a single run to his second Pro Mod victory of the young 2010 race season.

Clayton Record (Bill Fox Photo)

Geoff Gill (NSDN Photo)

Pro Outlaw

Pro Outlaw was introduced in NSDA action at Dome Valley with a great turnout and excellent action. The same could be said about race two as 13 entries would make the call for round one. Race 1 winner Charlie Johnson would cut a sensational .001 light in round one against Wes Gilmore, however Johnson took too much stripe and broke out with a 4.381 (4.40). This would open the door up for another new winner in NSDA Pro Outlaw competition.

The semi-finals started off with eventual Pro 2 winner Wes Johnson facing off in the battle of the Wes’ against Wes Gilmore’s Rattitude Jeep. Johnson would cut a killer .012 light and run 4.290 (4.20) to advance on. The other side of the ladder would see the Swag Racing Jeep of Mike Erwin face off with Clayton Record. The Pro Mod winner Record would turn on the red bulb by .025, handing the win to Erwin.
So, this set up another all-Jeep final round. In this final, these two drivers that are normally sharp on the tree would miss with lights in the .130 range. This would give the advantage to the racer that could run closer to their dial. In this instance, it would be Erwin laying down a 3.866 (3.80) to take his first NSDA Pro Outlaw victory. This moved Erwin to just 6 points behind Charlie Johnson with Charlie’s brother Wes just 4 points behind Mike.

Pro Outlaw Final Round (NSDN Photo)

Mike Erwin (Bill Fox Photo)

Sportsman Car

The Sportsman Car class was in sort of an awkward position at Lake Elsinore with the 2009 champion not attending as well as the Season Opener race winner. This would open up the door for a new winner to take the spotlight. Jeff Goorsky went .112 on the tree taking the #1 qualifying spot in a round one defeat of Fred Russo. Goorsky would race on to a semi-final round match up against Al McKinney Jr. McKinney would leave first and take the win as Goorsky had staging issues ending up with a stage foul. The other pair would see Matt Gill line up against Jim Williams in an all-Jeep match up. Matt would leave way early handing the win to Williams. However, Williams would break the rear-end in his Wild American Jeep on this pass taking him out of contention. This would give Al McKinney Jr. a single run to his first NSDA Sportsman Car class victory. After two races, Fran McKinney sits atop the class point standings.

Al McKinney Jr. (Bill Fox Photo)

Motorcycle Sportsman

Joey Weaver was the man atop the NSDA Motorcycle Sportsman 2 standings at the end of 2009 and got off to a hot start under the new one class Motorcycle Sportsman format at the NSDA Dome Valley Season Opener. That put him as the man to beat at the Inaugural Lake Elsinore event.

The huge class put on a great show and came down to three great racers in the semi-final round. Weaver would draw the competition bye run to advance to his second straight final round. He would face the winner of the pairing between Brooks Ryan and Ryan Winkle. Winkle would turn on the red bulb first handing Brooks Ryan a trip to the final round. In the final, Weaver would leave first .041 to .126 and pedal his way to a 6.44 (5.90) victory as Ryan had problems with his bike on the pass. Weaver’s win gives him a strangle hold on the point lead, 57 points ahead of Mark Ratliff.

Joey Weaver (Bill Fox Photo)

Brooks Ryan (Bill Fox Photo)

Junior Dragster

The Junior Dragster class once again put on a stellar show in NSDA competition. The semi-final round saw a great match up between Christian Payne and Michael Wright. Both racers had rough reaction times, but it would be Payne pulling out the win with a 5.438 (5.20). He would face off with Alan Mamer in the final round. Payne would take a slight starting line lead and hang on for a close final round win with a 5.258 (5.20). Mamer’s runner-up puts him in a tie with Michael Wright atop the Junior Dragster standings.

Christian Payne (Bill Fox Photo)

Alan Mamer (Bill Fox Photo)

Photos Courtesy:
- Bill Fox (For prints contact Rialto Trophy - 909-873-4878 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. )
- PDQ Photos

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