The Southern California Sand Drag Association (SCSDA) held their Season Opener event over the first weekend of March. Chamber of commerce weather greeted everyone at the Soboba Casino for what would be the second points race for the 2013 NSRA Quality Aircraft Care point series. Let’s take a look at the action from this event.

Top Alcohol

The Top Alcohol class saw a shootout between two of the very best in this class currently. Jim Hammond and the April’s Dream Top Alcohol Dragster kicked off the weekend with a then Personal Best 2.54/135MPH in Friday night qualifying. Jim came back Saturday afternoon and bettered that with a stunning 2.483/139MPH to set the bar high atop the qualifying sheet. Defending class champion Gary Mink arrived Saturday afternoon, so his first and only qualifier would be in the final session. In typical Mink fashion, Gary reeled off a track record 2.480 to take away the top spot from Hammond, who ran a 2.57 in the opposite lane.

With both cars running so close ET-wise in qualifying, the final round match up was highly anticipated. Both cars made great passes, but it was Mink reaching the stripe first in a hole shot win with a 2.52/137MPH to Hammond’s 2.50/139MPH. Gary takes a nice early season points lead with his second win in as many races going for his fifth straight class championship.

Gary Mink - Top Alcohol Winner.

Jim Hammond - Top Alcohol Runner-Up.

Top Eliminator

Qualifying was quite exciting for the Top Eliminator class for this event in Southern California. A great field of eleven entries showed up looking for the cash at the end of the weekend. Paul Taylor in the “Outta Control” Dragster sat the bar high with a great 2.961 on the 2.95 Index. The “Bad Toy” of Jim Rossi came up later in the session and ran a 2.966 before coming just one-thousandth short of Taylor in Q2 with a 2.962. But in the final session, it would be defending champ Billy Morris sneaking up on the competition with a 2.954 to steal away the top qualifying spot heading into eliminations.

With eleven entries, a race-in round one was contested to set the eight car field for race day. This round on Saturday night saw some excellent side by side action. The #6 vs. #11 match up saw the “Red Warrior” of Ron D’Artenay pair up with the Lucas Oil/Tap It blown SBC-powered Dragster of Zac Bogner. Bogner left first by almost three-hundredths, but it was the Hemi power of D’Artenay that took the stripe in a 3.07 to 3.14 decision. Two of the best Front Engine entries in the class lined up next as Geoff Gill in the Larry Minor Motorsports Jeep rolled into the beams against the Whitmore Speed & Custom Altered of Marc Whitmore in an all blown small block battle. Marc would couple a psychic .417 light and 3.07 to take the win light over Gill’s 3.01 with a Margin of Victory being just .006. Rounding out the round, Sid Payne with his beautiful “Hypertension” Blown Alcohol Dragster lined up against the “Rat Poison” Blown Alcohol Jeep driven by Jimmy DePasse. This pass would belong to the dragster as Sid had a tenth of a second advantage at the tree and outperformed the Jeep 3.04 to 3.05.

Sunday’s eliminations started off with a single in round two as Sid Payne was unable to make the call giving top qualifier Billy Morris a single pass, where he ran a solid 2.97 to advance. The next pair would see good friends Paul Graham & Larry Snow do battle with their Blown BBC-powered Buggies. Graham would leave first by over a tenth and hang on for the win with a 3.06 to Larry’s personal best 2.96. Second qualifier Taylor would do battle with the Altered of Whitmore. Marc would again leave first, but “Outta Control” would drive around for a 3.00 to 3.09 victory. Closing the round would be Rossi versus D’Artenay in a Dragster battle. They would leave together off the line, but it would be Rossi with a little too much steam as he broke out with a 2.91 handing D’Artenay’s 2.98 the win.

In the semi-final round, Morris would be too much for Graham in a great 2.99 to 3.06 battle. Facing Morris in the final round would be the winner of the Taylor/D’Artenay battle, ensuring an all-Dragster final round. When the tree dropped, Taylor took a .547 to .579 lead and never looked back taking a 2.973 to 2.956 decision by just .015 at the stripe.

Just when we thought the races in this class couldn’t get any closer, the final round rolled to the line on Sunday afternoon. Whenever the Morris and Taylor teams head to the line, it’s always an excellent battle. On this day, Morris had the RT advantage .549 to .588 and would edge Taylor out by the slimmest of margins (.002) in a 2.999 to 2.962 decision. The Morris Family Racing / Red Line Oil team starts the 2013 campaign with back-to-back wins as they try to repeat as class champions.

Billy Morris - Top Eliminator Winner.

Paul Taylor - Top Eliminator Runner-Up.

Fast Fours

It was a rough weekend for the Fast Fours class at Soboba with it being a battle of attrition as the weekend went on. Qualifying saw most of the teams struggle until the final session where Art Cronin hit the tune up with a solid 2.83/114MPH to take the top spot while Mario Tavares ran a 2.84/113MPH alongside for the second spot.

When the first round came around, just four entries were able to make the call. This set up two bye runs and two single passes. Brian Chapman in the Short Fuse dragster laid down Low ET of the round with a 2.87/111MPH. On his first round bye run Mario Tavares experienced a massive fire when his Pauter powerplant let loose in the lights. Thankfully Mario emerged okay and the damage was confined to the engine.

Top Qualifier Art Cronin also experienced engine damage in round one, leaving the class with just two cars left in action. So, the final round would be between Chapman and Daniel King in the “Animal Control” Dragster. This would be another classic Short Fuse-Animal Control battle with the front ends high in the air as Chapman turned on the win light with a 2.90/113MPH while King turned on the red light on a 3.03 pass. Chapman’s win moved him into second in points behind defending class champion Aaron Mamer.

Brian Chapman - Fast Fours Winner.

Daniel King - Fast Fours Runner-Up.

Pro Mod Unlimited

The Pro Mod Unlimited class had a light turnout, but two quality entries showed for this Soboba event. Jimmy DePasse in the Otis Simpson/DePasse “Rat Poison” Jeep squared off with the Larry Minor Motorsports/Lucas Oil Jeep driven by Geoff Gill for the PMU title. DePasse had the upper hand in qualifying as he threw stellar 3.01/107MPH to top Gill’s 3.09/102MPH. Jimmy would be up for the final round match up, but would be just a little too antsy going red by .006 with a .394 RT throwing away a 3.08 to Gill’s winning 3.05/107MPH. This gives the Larry Minor Motorsports team a leg up on the Pro Mod Unlimited points race in the SCSDA series.

Pro Mod Final Round - Winner Geoff Gill (Far Lane) vs. Jimmy DePasse.

Pro Bracket Classes

The always competitive Pro 1 class came down to a pair of seasoned racers as Yuma, AZ’s Tommy Zavala lined up against Anaheim, CA’s Mike Kelly. This pair of BBC-powered Dragsters was all Zavala’s as Tommy had a .498 to .668 RT edge that translated to the win with a 3.781 (3.74). Zavala’s win propelled him into third place in the NSRA point standings, just 13 points behind leader Bob Cambridge after two races.

Tommy Zavala - Pro 1 Winner.

Sunday at Soboba was Wes Gilmore’s day with the Rattitude/Gilmore Refrigeration Jeep. Wes started off in round one earning #1 qualifier points with a great .414 RT in his defeat of Wes Johnson. Gilmore then earned the round two bye run before forcing a breakout on eventual Pro 1 winner Tommy Zavala in the semi-finals. The Rattitude Jeep would then line up against the Bounty Hunter of Chris Adamson, who was looking for back-to-back wins to start the season after taking the Dome Valley Pro 2 win. But this would be all Gilmore’s day as he had the better RT .422 to .447 and ran 4.045 (4.02) to take the big victory. Wes’ win also earned him the NSRA Quality Aircraft Care Bonus Bucks Program $500 for winning the class at this event. He then graciously donated the $500 to the Wounded Warriors Project. Meanwhile, Adamson’s runner-up finish kept him atop the standings with a sizeable lead over Charlie Johnson.

Wes Gilmore - Pro 2 Winner.

Wes Gilmore (Right) picking up the $500 NSRA Quality Aircraft Care Bonus Bucks Award from QAC's Dennis Rieck.

Pro 3 always is an interesting class to follow at the west coast races, and at this event the late rounds were quite a story. Las Vegas racer Shawn Thompson made the semi-final round after defeating Pro Gambler winner Derek Balcunas in round one & Jeff Goorsky in the next frame. Thompson’s small block Chevy-powered Jeep lined up with another similar powered Jeep in Carlsbad, CA’s Dennis Rieck. Rieck normally competes in the Top Fuel class with the Hammer Down Hemi Dragster, but was racing his Jeep this weekend for the Wounded Warrior Project. Thompson would have some trouble staging with his mid 4-second Jeep ending up with a stage foul while Rieck advanced to the final round with a 4.653 (4.57). Up next would be defending class champion and Hemet, CA local racer Charlie Johnson in the Mopar-powered Back N Black Jeep against Washington’s Christopher Wells in his V8 powered Buggy. Wells had a short weekend off of active military service where he was able to fly into do some racing, and take home the Sportsman 1 victory on Saturday. In this semi-final pair, both Johnson & Wells would fender race at the stripe pushing them each way under their dial-ins with Johnson turning on the win light with the lesser breakout of .09 4.46 (4.55) while Wells ran 4.12 (4.26). This set up a great final between duning friends Johnson and Rieck in a Mopar versus Small Block Chevy battle. Rieck would have a stellar run, but at the finish line Johnson would run exactly on his dial with a 4.550 (4.55) to take the win over Rieck’s 4.689 (4.65). Johnson’s win propelled him past Race 1 winner Adamson by just 7 points heading into Race 3.

Charlie Johnson - Pro 3 Winner.

Motorcycle Pro 1 was a strong category at this race with 17 entries making the round one call. Points leader and defending class champion Mark Ratliff stumbled in the quarter finals against his son Garrett opening the door for a new winner at this event. Garrett would force Robert Garnas into a breakout earning him a spot in the final round against veteran racer Bo Crossland. Both of these competitors are always up for a big final round. On this day, it would be Crossland with a nice .491 RT and 4.521 (4.44) taking the win light in Southern California. Garrett’s runner-up moved him within just two points of his dad in the point series battle.

Bo Crossland - MP1 Winner.

The MP2 Final Round would see two pro’s of the sport battle for the win as George Amos and Randy Mings waged battle on the Soboba Casino race track. These two have countless event wins and championships between them. When the tree dropped, Amos would get a little too antsy with a .155 red light handing Mings the win with a 5.526 (5.49). George’s second runner-up of the season puts him in the early season points lead over Garrett Ratliff and Craig Durning.

Randy Mings - MP2 Winner.

Pro Gambler

Saturday night under the lights at Soboba always plays host to some excellent Pro Gambler racing. Al McKinney drove his wife Fern’s “Drag N Lady” Jeep to the Cars final round against the Larry Minor Motorsports/Lucas Oil Jeep of Derek Balcunas. Al was the big winner a couple races back in the Pro Gambler at Soboba with his own car, so he was looking to keep his hot streak going. But this one would belong to Derek as he left first .495 to .508 and ran a 4.510 (4.45) to take the win by just .063 to score his first ever bracket class win. On the Moto Pro Gambler side of things, the final round came down to a pair of Central California racers as Craig Wright lined up against Christian Payne. Payne would take a slight advantage off the line, but it would be Wright running closer to his dial with a 4.617 (4.56) for the win.

Derek Balcunas - Pro Gambler Winner.

Craig Wright - Moto Pro Gambler Winner.

Sportsman and Junior Classes

The Sportsman 1 final round was a sizzler between Washington’s Christopher Wells and local racer Clayton Record. They would have identical .462 RT’s, but when the dust settled the win light came on in Wells’ lane with a 3.932 (3.89). The margin of victory was a mere .016 at the stripe. Congrats to Wells on the big win during his weekend off from active military service. We appreciate all that he and his fellow service men & women do for our country.

Christopher Wells - Sportsman 1 Winner.

Another Northwest racer made it to a Sportsman final round as Washington’s Jack Bone squared off against Sport 1 runner-up Record for the Sportsman 2 class title. Bone gave it away on the tree, though, with a .191 red light handing the win to Clayton Record.

Clayton Record - Sportsman 2 Winner.

Motorcycle Sportsman 1 boiled down to an all-MPC Racing final as Mark and Garrett Ratliff would battle it out for the win. Garrett would emerge victorious in his first race back to Soboba after a season ending crash last season. He got back in the saddle and earned the hardware on this day. Garrett’s win moved him to within two points of his dad atop the standings.

Garrett Ratliff - MS1 Winner.

Motorcycle Pro Gambler winner Craig Wright made it two victories on Saturday as he also took the Motorcycle Sportsman 2 title over Steve Lackey. Craig ran a 4.585 (4.55) to force Steve into a break out. Garrett Ratliff leads his dad Mark by just one point in the MS2 standings.

Craig Wright - MS2 Winner.

The Soltz Racing/Lucas Oil Junior Dragster driven by Billy Nunno impressed all weekend with a string of high 4-second passes before earning the class win on Sunday morning over Kyle Hensley. Defending class champion Kyla Belville left with a two point lead over Ryan Rodriguez. Other Junior class winners included Dylan Hegwood (Mini Junior Dragster), Cierra Pace (Juniors), and Sean Dowling (Peewees).

Billy Nunno - Junior Dragster Winner.

Photos Courtesy

Photo Gallery - Courtesy of NSDN

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