Atoka Heartland Nats May '11 Race RecapThe 13th Annual Heartland Nationals at Atoka Motorsports Park saw some amazing on track action, including the track record being lowered. A great turnout of racers from as far away as California, Arizona, and Michigan came out to compete at this Southeastern Oklahoma race track. Let’s take a look at the racing from this event.
Four competitive Top Alcohol dragsters showed up in Atoka to compete for the prestigious Heartland Nationals trophy. Gary Mink made the haul from Fresno, CA with his class record holding TA Dragster as did Arizona’s Scott Carroll, Michigan’s Pat Goodale with his Ted Lirones-tuned Crude Awakenings TA car, and Oklahoma’s own Rod Trower with his Mike & Jeff Strasburg-tuned Thunder dragster.
Qualifying showed that all four entries came out ready to shoot for the win. Gary Mink’s group, especially, as they would set a new track record in Friday’s Q2 with a great 2.633 that lowered the previous track record of 2.647 set by Jeff Janoe’s JWJ Top Fuel car several years ago. Mink’s 2.63 was followed by a great 2.69 from Rod Trower’s Thunder entry in its first weekend with a screw blower on top of the BAE Hemi. Carroll sat third heading into race day with a 2.77 and Goodale improved each pass up to a 2.83 for the fourth qualifying spot.
Round one kicked off with a CA vs. MI match up between Mink and Goodale. Pat had run Low ET of the Sunday morning Test Session for the TA cars, so everyone anticipated a great race. Mink would leave first by .051 and outrun Goodale for a 2.703 to 2.758 victory. This would set up the final pair of round one with Oklahoma’s Rod Trower against Arizona’s Scott Carroll. Rod had an impressive outing all weekend with his new combination and crew qualifying #2 against the always tough Carroll, who already has a win & runner-up in west coast TA action this season. Trower was up for the battle with a .491 to .547 starting line edge, but after side by side wheels up finishes it would be Carroll advancing on with a 2.76 to a 2.92.
A familiar final round match up in 2011 would occur as Carroll & Mink would face off for the third time. Mink took the win & set a World Record at Dome Valley before Carroll singled to the win at Soboba when Mink could not make the call. This would set up one of the best TA races we have seen all season as Carroll would leave first .546 to .567, but Mink’s record holding horsepower would be enough at the finish line to take a narrow 2.706 to 2.743 final round victory. Congrats to the Bad to the Bone Team on their big win in Oklahoma, and third overall win in 2011.
The highly competitive TE class has become one of the staples of the Heartland Nationals as a tough field of cars seems to show up ready for action in this great category. This year would be no different as qualifying showed with it taking a 3.00 (2.95 Index) just to make the top half of the field. On the pole would be Atoka local Robert Smith & his brother Danny with a great 2.962 in Q2. Unfortunately, for the Smith Brothers parts breakage would take them out for the weekend after this pass. Qualifying really heated up in the final session as Dee Trower was the last car down the track and drove into the #2 position with a 2.986. Just a couple of pairs before, Tim Martin ran a 2.992, which would ultimately place him #3 in qualifying. Up until those two passes, Courtney Stidham’s 3.008 from Q2 was second on the board & gave him the fourth qualifying spot.
Round one would see Oklahoma’s Mike Smith with his Turbo four-cylinder entry receive a bye run with the Smith Brothers could not make the call. Mike would shut off early to a 3.43 on this run. The next pair out was highly anticipated as two of the toughest TE racers in this area battled with Texas’ Courtney Stidham going up against Missouri’s Terry Glasscock. Even though they run vastly different combinations, Stidham with a blown small block Chevy against Glasscock’s turbo Corvair, both racers are regarded as the guys to beat at Atoka. Stidham would leave first .473 to .519 and the V-8 power would reign on this pass as Courtney would turn on the win light with a 3.007 to Terry’s 3.043. Next up would be Oklahoma’s Dee Trower against Missouri’s Tim Hatfield. This would be another small block Chevy versus Turbo 4-cylinder pairing. Trower, in her first weekend using a transbrake with her Dragster, would cut a great .465 light and take the win with a 3.112 while on the other side Tim would go red by .019 on a 3.28 pass. Rounding out this session would be New Mexico’s Tim Martin against Oklahoma local Marc Luce. This pair of blown big block Chevy powered dragsters would see Luce get the RT advantage, but at the other end Martin’s horsepower took the win with a 3.06 to Marc’s 3.21.
The second round kicked off with Stidham facing off with Mike Smith. In this battle, it would be the Blown small block all the way as Courtney left first then drove on to a 3.03 to 3.26 decision. Closing the semi-final round would be a highly anticipated match up between Dee Trower and Tim Martin. Everyone knows both racers are capable of running dead-on the 2.95 Index, and we have even seen Martin run a perfect 2.950 on two separate occasions. Trower would have some issues staging, resulting in Martin getting a hole shot advantage & he would hang on for a 3.02 to 3.02 victory.
Courtney Stidham and Tim Martin would square off in the final round in a battle between Texas & New Mexico. Both of these racers ran within .01 of each other in the previous round, so everyone knew this would come down to Reaction Time to decide a winner. Nearly identical RT’s printed on the slip as Stidham left first .522 to .525 with Martin charging hard down track, but it would be the Texas based “Twisted” Dragster turning on the win light with a 3.012 to 3.016 for a Margin of Victory totaling just seven-thousandths of a second (.007). Congrats to Courtney, Jackie, and the whole Stidham crew on a great win at the Heartland Nationals.
The Friday night Quick 16’s turned out excellent with full fields in both the Car & Quad classes. A stout final four entered the semi-final round of the Cars class. Up first would be Jessie Wyche in his V8-Buggy up against Jackie Stidham’s Texas-based Fiat. Wyche would take a starting line edge and hang on for a 4.086 (4.06) victory. In the second pair, Keith Ahart’s Arizona-based Sudden Urge Dragster would match up with Tim Hatfield’s Missouri-based USA Dragster. Both drivers would leave together, but at the other end Ahart would run closer to his dial for a 3.606 (3.56) win. This would set up an Oklahoma versus Arizona final round. Ahart would take the RT edge with a .460 to .499 and hang on for the big win with a 3.586 (3.56).
The Quick 16 Quads class would have a little of out of town flavor as California’s Mark Ratliff would match up with Rick Lovelace. Ratliff would turn on the red bulb handing Lovelace the win with a 4.280 (4.18) for the win. In the other match up, Randy Kimbley would face off with Kirk Whitlow. Kimbley would take the RT lead and hang on for the win with a 4.355 (4.25). The final round would set up with Lovelace & Kimbley having nearly identical dial-ins 4.26 to 4.25. Lovelace would cut a great .429 RT giving him a nice RT advantage and he would stay ahead for a 4.395 (4.26) victory.
The Pro 1 Cars final round on Sunday would come down to the Turbo Motorcycle-powered entry of Tim Feuerhelm against Ethan Fomby’s V-8 Dragster. Fomby would run a little too quick breaking out giving the win to Feuerhelm. Ashley Ralston’s Jeep would take home the Pro 2 Cars title after David Collins stage fouled in his V-8 Dragster. One of the best races capped off the Sunday Bracket action as Kirk Whitlow & Mark Ratliff squared off in the Pro 1 Quads final round. Ratliff had an excellent .435 RT, but could not run close enough to his dial as Whitlow would run a nearly dead-on 4.384 (4.38) to take the win by just nine-thousandths of a second (.009).
Kevin Self nearly swept the Pro 2 Quads class as he would take both first and third place. Self would defeat Jordan Zurline in the final round. Quick 16 runner-up Randy Kimbley would emerge victorious in the Pro 3 Quads class defeating Dylan Puckett in the final round. Trey Walton would turn on the win light in the Pro 4 Quads final over Eathan Flippen. Layla Shull would take the win in the Peewees final over Cole Shull.
Photos Courtesy – Lone Star Graphics.