lead.jpgThe Southern California Sand Drag Association (SCSDA) held their second & final event of the 2011 season in late October at the Soboba Casino in San Jacinto, CA. A great turnout of racers converged on the Southern California race track to do battle for the last time in 2011. Let’s take a look at the happenings of this late season race.

Top Fuel

Five Top Fuelers made the haul to California for the Paddles & Pumpkins SCSDA event. Qualifying ended up being a learning experience for the Nitro burners on a tricky race surface. Scott Whipple in the “Famous Amos” Satterlee-tuned CANIDAE dragster led the pack with a sizzling 2.384/153MPH blast in Q4. The JWJ Team of Jeff Janoe turned the second quickest qualifying lap with a 2.541 while the Hammer Down SBC-powered Fueler of Dennis Rieck carded a 2.549 for the third spot. Rounding out the field would be John Cadzow running a 2.570/138MPH and Shane Sanford with a 2.939/123MPH in his first event in Top Fuel with the Frederosa’s Team Extreme entry.

After qualifying, the Cadzow team would withdraw leaving four cars to contest eliminations on Sunday. Top qualifier Whipple would match up with TF rookie Sanford in the first pair. Whipple would slow to a 2.53 en route to the victory over Sanford’s 3.05. The next pair would see Janoe and Rieck face off. Janoe would dodge a bullet as he had a late RT, but a great 2.46 hit would be enough to cover Rieck’s troubled early shut off pass. The .46 for Janoe would give the JWJ team lane choice heading into the final round.

This set up a great final round showdown between the two quickest cars of the weekend. Both the CANIDAE & JWJ teams were looking to finish off the 2011 season undefeated as Whipple had won at Soboba in April while Janoe took wins in both of his 2011 appearances, Kingman (May) and Dome Valley (October). In the final, Famous Amos would pull out another magic trick as the CANIDAE entry laid down the best 60’ time of the weekend with a 1.049 and parlayed that into a 2.389 for the win over Janoe, who roasted the tires to a 2.93. This would make the CANIDAE team 2-for-2 in 2011 Top Fuel action while Dennis Rieck in the Hammer Down small block-powered Fueler would take home the 2011 NSRA Top Fuel class championship.

Scott Whipple

Jeff Janoe

Dennis Rieck

Shane Sanford

Top Alcohol

A quality Top Alcohol class was on hand going for the win at the Soboba Casino. Once again, Gary Mink set the performance standard in qualifying taking the top spot with an off the trailer 2.599 in Q3. With this top qualifying effort, Gary closed out the 2011 race season being #1 qualifier in all 7 events he attended. Scott Carroll ended up second with a nice 2.64 and Jim Hammond’s April’s Dream dragster sat third with a 2.65, both runs from the event's first qualifying session.

Round one saw the top two qualifiers receive bye runs. Mink would lower the boom on the competition with an incredible 2.573 (1.10 60’) on the tricky Soboba track surface. Carroll, in the other lane, would kick out a burst panel early & coast to a 3.07. The first pair saw Hammond face off with Oregon’s Craig Sines in the Thunder Struck TA Dragster. Sines’ weekend struggles continued as his 3.09 was not enough to cover Hammond’s 2.76. In the final pair of round one, Billy Morris in the 2 ‘Dolla Bill dragster would battle with the “Express” team of Pedro Villa. Morris’ impressive weekend continued with a 2.72 to 3.17 victory.

The anticipation was high as a big semi-final round of Top Alcohol action rolled into the lanes. Top qualifier Mink & the Bad to the Bone team would face off with Hammond’s April’s Dream entry. The Hammond team looked strong all weekend in the last outing with their current engine combination, as they will switch to a Hemi in 2012. When the tree dropped, Mink took a slight starting line lead and hang on at the stripe for a 2.62 to 2.81 victory. That round would clinch the 2011 NSRA Top Alcohol class championship for Mink. He would be waiting for the winner of the Carroll-Morris battle. Carroll qualified #2 with a nice 2.64, but had struggled in subsequent qualifying rounds and in E1. On the other side, the Morris team running their first TA event on the west coast qualified #4 with a 2.70 & ran consistent low 2.7’s all weekend long. This had all the makings for an epic battle. At the hit, Morris would leave first .566 to .709 and just hold off the Hemi-power of Carroll for a 2.74 to 2.69 hole shot victory.

Gary Mink & Billy Morris pulled to the starting line for the final round at the Soboba Casino with all eyes on the two Blown Alcohol Dragsters. The cars brought their RPM’s up & Morris would roll the beams in his first TA final turning on the red light, while Mink would run his best 60’ of the weekend with a 1.088 en route to the win with a 2.635. This would be the Bad to the Bone team’s fifth victory in seven 2011 races (3-for-5 in NSRA point series events).

Gary Mink

Billy Morris

Scott Carroll

Jim Hammond

Top Eliminator

The Top Eliminator category saw a great championship battle transpire as the season progressed on. Following Race 4 of the NSRA series, the race was down to two contenders Jim Rossi with his Bad Toy Dragster & Paul Taylor with the Outta Control Dragster. Both cars are based out of the Central California area & run similar Blown BBC power plants, so the title hunt was bound to be great heading to the Finale at Soboba. Rossi held the lead entering the event, and all he had to do was win one round to lock up the championship. Qualifying saw some great passes. When the dust settled, points leader Rossi would sit at the top of the standings with a 3.000. With a short six car field, Rossi would earn a round one bye run and therefore lock up the 2011 NSRA TE championship. The Bad Toy team certainly was strong all season scoring a big win at Dome Valley in October as well as a runner-up at the Soboba April event.

With the championship battle settled, the rest of the field headed into race day going for the win. In round one, Rossi would continue in championship form with a solid 2.978 on his bye run. The Frederosa Team Extreme TE Dragster of Ashley Sanford earned the other round one bye with a #2 qualifying effort of 3.008. In round one, she would break a blower belt at the hit, but would be ready for round two. Paul Graham & Glen Hickey would face off with Paul advancing on. The final pair of the round would see Taylor’s Outta Control Dragster pull up against the “Lap Dance” Blown BBC-powered Buggy of Larry Snow. Snow ran a great 3.11 in qualifying, but could not keep up the pace and fell off to a 3.33, which was not enough to top Taylor’s 3.09.

Starting off the Semi-Finals would be the champ Rossi against Paul Graham in “The Excavator”. Graham’s Blown Buggy would leave first and hang on for the win in a close 3.05 to 3.09 decision at the stripe. In the other pair, the Blown Dragsters of Taylor & Sanford were put in the beams. Sanford got a little jumpy & left too soon handing the win to Taylor, who ran a nice 2.99. Taylor’s 2.99 was just the second 2 second pass of the weekend in TE.

This would set up a big final round between the Paul’s. Unfortunately, the tree would decide the winner as Graham would go red handing the win to Taylor with a 3.06. This would be Taylor’s first TE victory of the season. Taylor would come up just nine points short of the NSRA series champion, Rossi.

Paul Taylor

Paul Graham

Jim Rossi

Ashley Sanford

Fast Fours

The Fast Fours class headed to Soboba after a memorable event at Dome Valley Raceway, where we saw breath taking performances as well as extremely close competition. This was another class that did not have a champion decided for the NSRA series as the weekend commenced. When the dust of qualifying settled, Brian Chapman & the Short Fuse team closed the gap to just within two rounds of points leader Art Cronin. Chapman’s crew qualified #3 with a 2.98 after a monster effort by the Short Fuse team & several others in the pits to fix a scattered rear end in Q1. The Meltdown team of Cronin struggled in qualifying, testing some new parts and came up with a 3.12 best to put them seventh heading into race day. At the top of the order, Don Diffenbaugh and the Poison Ivy team put their new parts to work en route to the top spot with a stellar 2.850. The Pauter team of Mario Tavares was right behind Diffenbaugh with a great 2.859. This would set up a great day of eliminations for this category.

Round one started off with points contender Chapman facing off with Oregon’s Dave Marcroft in the Tuff E Nuff Dragster. Chapman would leave first and take the win 3.07 to 3.18; however that was not the big story on this pass. At the stripe, Chapman’s engine would suffer catastrophic damage putting the Short Fuse team out of action for the weekend, which clinched the 2011 NSRA championship for the Meltdown team of Art Cronin. Cronin would be up to the line in the next pair against #2 qualifier of Tavares. The Cronin team would go back to what they know works, and pull out a hole shot win 3.09 to 2.99. Daniel King and the Animal Control Dragster would go Snake hunting against the Sidewinder of Aaron Mamer. This would be one of the best races of the weekend as Mamer left first by .019, and would take the win 2.99 to 3.00. The best of the first round would be saved for last as top qualifier Diffenbaugh threw down a sizzling 2.87 to advance on.

The second round saw a big match up between newly crowned champion Cronin & the Sidewinder of Mamer. Cronin would push the tree a little too hard and turn on the red bulb, but that was the least of his problems as he fell to a similar fate as Chapman with the motor coming apart down track. Fortunately, Art was able to escape the fire unscathed. Mamer would run a 3.08 for the win to head to the final round, where he would face off with Diffenbaugh.

On Sunday evening, the Fast Fours finalists rolled to the line and put them in the beams for the final run of the event. When the dust settled, it would be the Poison Ivy Dragster of Diffenbaugh taking a wire-to-wire victory with a 2.98 to 3.01 victory over Mamer. This would be Don’s first ever Fast Fours class victory. The Poison Ivy team sure gave the rest of the Fast Fours competitors to talk about over the off-season.

Don Diffenbaugh

Mario Tavares

Art Cronin

Brian Chapman

Pro Mod Unlimited

Pro Mod Unlimited, which appears to be similar to the Pro Outlaw FE class we see across the country, put on a great show for the Southern California action. These wild short-wheel based Front Engine entries ran remarkably well for the conditions. The Larry Minor Motorsports entry, driven by Geoff Gill, topped the qualifying list with a 3.03/102MPH blast. Geoff’s pass edged out his dad, Bob’s 3.04 from earlier in the weekend. The Gill-Bettencourt Jeep also ran consistent 3.06 & 3.09 passes in qualifying. Jim DePasse, driving Otis Simpson’s Rat Poison Jeep, ran a solid 3.08 to qualify third while Wes Gilmore rounded out the PMU field.

The first round saw the Minor Jeep of Geoff Gill face off with Gilmore’s Jeep. Gilmore would take the starting line advantage, but the Blown Small Block power of Gill was proved too much as he would turn Low ET of the weekend with a 3.02. Up next would be the NOS-assisted BBC Funny Jeep of Bob Gill battling with DePasse’s Blown BBC-powered Minor bodied Jeep. DePasse would take the starting line edge and hang on for the win in a 3.24 to 3.32 decision.

A big time final round ensued as a Small vs. Big Block Chevy battle pulled to the line. When the tree dropped, it would be the driving skills of Gill taking the starting line edge and hanging on for a 3.23 to 3.12 win for the Larry Minor Motorsports Small Block-powered entry.

Geoff Gill

Jim DePasse

Pro Bracket Classes

The Pro 1 Final round came down to a pair of Alcohol Injected Big Block Chevy-powered Dragsters as Phoenix AZ’s Keith Ahart faced off with CA’s Austin Powell. First time final round jitters got to Powell as he left before the tree was activated, handing another win to one of the most winning sand drag bracket racers of all time in Ahart. Keith would also end up being the 2011 NSRA Pro 1 class champion.

Keith Ahart

Chris Wells would make the long haul from Washington pay off on this weekend in So Cal. Wells in his V8-powered Buggy faced off with west coast hitter Charlie Johnson in his Mopar-powered Jeep’s first final round of the day. Johnson would leave first .496 to .509, but at the stripe Wells would drive around to take the win with a 4.145 (4.05). Keep reading for more on Wells’ big weekend. Phil Soper’s Blown Some Buggy would take home the hardware as the 2011 NSRA Pro 2 class champion.

Christopher Wells

Johnson would come right back round to the starting line for the Pro 3 final round as he would face off with fellow local Hemet-area racer Jeff Goorsky. Johnson would leave first .500 to .648 and take the victory this time with a 4.870 (4.75). Arend Schouten’s second round finish would be enough to clinch the 2011 NSRA Pro 3 class championship.

Charlie Johnson

The Motorcycle Pro 1 class championship hunt went through some wild twists and turns at the season’s final event. All Garrett Ratliff had to do was win a couple rounds, and the championship would be all his after some great riding throughout the season. Unfortunately, the So Cal heat would get to Garrett sending him to the hospital, and out of action for Sunday. Thankfully, Garrett is 100% okay after a scary situation. Garrett’s dad, Mark as well as Collin Barnella both had a chance at overtaking Garrett for the title. Craig Thresher would put out Barnella’s championship hopes in round one. With qualifying points and all considered, all Mark would have to do to take the title is defeat KC Barnella. He would do just that to take an improbable championship. Mark would go on to face Brad Olson in an all-California final round in his first final of the day. Ratliff would hang on for a slim .040 Margin of Victory over Olson.

Mark Ratliff

The Ratliff story continues in Motorcycle Pro 2. Mark & Garrett were both close for the championship, so one of the MPC Racing bikes would take the title, but Mark would emerge on top again as Garrett obviously was not able to make round one. Ratliff would then go on to slice through one of the toughest MP2 fields of the season to reach his second final round of the day, this one against the always tough Randy Mings. Mings would leave first .481 to .496, but at the stripe it would be a double breakout with Ratliff’s 4.443 (4.50) closer to his dial for the win. Ratliff’s double win was especially emotional as he dedicated his wins to the Barnella Family & the memory of David Barnella, who was lost shortly before the Soboba event.

Sportsman Bracket Classes

Sportsman 1 was the other half of the Chris Wells show on the weekend. The Washington racer, who also won the Pro 2 class, sliced through the Sportsman 1 class, defeating 2011 NSRA S1 champion Phil Soper in round three en route to the final round. Wells would face off with California’s Joe Simeone in his Jeep. Joe would turn on the red bulb, handing Wells his second class victory of the weekend.

Chris Wells

The Sportsman 2 class saw the Northwest invasion continue as the final round came down to the Jeeps of Dean Becker and Fred Green. When the tree, fell Becker turned on the red bulb handing Green the victory with a 4.588 (4.50). Alan Mamer took home the NSRA Sportsman 2 class championship with his VW-powered Buggy.

Fred Green

Robert Garnas was not only the quickest bike in the Motorcycle Sportsman 1 class, but laid down the best runs throughout eliminations to take the class victory. Central California’s Garnas faced off with Arizona’s Chris Spitali in the final round. Garnas left first .461 to .491 and drove around the slower dialed Spitali with a 3.730 (3.65) for the victory. MPC Racing’s Garrett Ratliff locked up the Motorcycle Sportsman 1 championship at this event.

Robert Garnas

Motorcycle Sportsman 2 boiled down to a final round between young Caleb Mings on his dad Randy’s winning 3-wheeled entry against Danny Wehrer. Mings would show the same killer instinct of his dad with a .473 to .587 RT advantage & he would hang on for the win with a 5.872 (5.75). The Motorcycle Sportsman 2 class would be the third championship taken by MPC Racing’s Mark Ratliff.

Caleb Mings

Junior Classes

Aimee Mamer had a big day in Junior Dragster class action. She came into the event just 2 points behind leader Abby Carroll. Abby had a tough draw against Ryan Rodriguez in round one action. Unfortunately, her dragster shut off just off the line handing the win to Ryan. This set the stage for a huge battle for Mamer as she faced off with Christian Myers. In a great show of sportsmanship, Aimee waited as Myers’ crew restarted his Junior Dragster. Her dragster would stumble at the hit on the run, but at the stripe would break out 8.685 (8.87). This would make Aimee Mamer the 2011 NSRA Junior Dragster class champion. The final round in the class would come down to Rodriguez against Ronnie Gutierrez. Gutierrez would stall out in the track, handing the win to Rodriguez with a 6.338 (6.05). This would be Ryan’s second win on the season & third overall for the Durning team.

Ryan Rodriguez

Sydney Dismukes took home the Juniors category, defeating the wheel standing ATV of Tristan Graham in the final round. The Youth category was taken by Taylor Wehrer, defeating Elena DeNunzio in the final round.

Photos Courtesy NSDN.

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