Avenal Apr '14 Race Recap

Avenal Sand Drags in Avenal, CA kicked off their 2014 race season with their Spring Nationals event in late April. After a busy off-season with a major track surface improvement project, the hard work paid off for the Avenal Sand Drags crew with a top notch race surface leading to excellent action all weekend long. Here’s a look at the racing action in Avenal.

Top Alcohol

The Top Alcohol class always puts on a great show at the Avenal events with several of the big hitters in the class based locally in Central California. This always leads to some big numbers. Qualifying was a battle with all four teams aiming for the top spot. When the dust settled, it was the Morton Racing entry wheeled by David Morton earning the top spot with a solid 2.483/128MPH blast with a great .973 60’ time. It’s always an accomplishment to best five in a row Top Alcohol class champion Gary Mink in qualifying, and Morton did just that as Mink’s best number was a 2.523/136MPH in Q2. Jeff Hitchman’s “Wild Bunch” Team recorded a 2.72/111MPH for the third spot while the new “Eruption” Top Alcohol Dragster driven by Washington’s Craig Mark ran a best of 2.84/119MPH.

First round started with Top Qualifier Morton facing off with class newcomer Craig Mark. Mark and his Joe Bettencourt Motorsports-tuned Dragster made solid progress in their second outing with their potent BAE Hemi-powered entry throughout qualifying. This would be an incredible side-by-side battle as Mark earned a .078 to .091 starting line edge, but would come up just short at the stripe as Morton recorded a 2.55/126MPH to nip Mark’s personal best 2.58/137MPH by just .018-seconds. Up next would be Mink versus Hitchman in the 2-3 pairing. Hitchman was on his game at the starting line taking a .051 to .085 RT edge, but it would be Mink’s BAE Hemi power getting the job done with a 2.489/139MPH to 2.75/111MPH for Hitchman.

That would set up a great final round pair as the two quickest cars on the weekend squared off for the class victory in Avenal. Mink would have lane choice from his round one 2.48 and took the Left Lane against Morton. The converter-equipped entry of Morton would get the hole shot advantage .047 to .082, but Mink would power him turning on the win light with a 2.50/136MPH to Morton’s game effort 2.59. Congrats to the Mink team on a hard fought win over a tough group of cars. All of the Top Alcohol teams certainly put on an exceptional show on this weekend at Avenal Sand Drags.


Gary Mink - Top Alcohol Winner


David Morton - Top Alcohol Runner-Up


Top Eliminator

As always, the Top Eliminator 2.95 Index category lived up to the hype of being the most competitive class in sand drag racing. Qualifying looked like a NHRA Pro Stock Qualifying Sheet with the Top 4 all within less than two-hundredths of a second (.02). Auberry, CA’s Jim Rossi piloted the “Bad Toy” Dragster to the #1 Qualifying spot in this tough field with a 2.959 ET. Rossi was followed by a pair of racers running an ET of 2.965. Paul Taylor would earn that #2 qualifying spot over Paul Graham by just five ten-thousandths of a second (.0005). Ron d’Artenay’s “Red Warrior” would qualify fourth with a 2.977, just .018 off of the top spot.

First up in Round One would be d’Artenay facing off with Marc Whitmore in the Whitmore Speed & Custom Blown Altered. These two racers both logged countless hours working on the track surface improvement project. This one would go to d’Artenay with a 3.01 to defeat Whitmore, who turned on the red light recording a 3.39 ET. Paul Graham would have a single pass in Round One as Sid Payne’s Injected BBC-powered Altered couldn’t make the call. Graham would make the most of this pass as he piloted “The Excavator” Blown BBC-powered Buggy to a great 2.963, which would be the Best Run of Round One.

An all-Dragster battle between Top Qualifier Rossi and d’Artenay would start the semi-final round. Ron would get a great hole shot in the “Red Warrior” with a .066 to .117 edge, but the Hemi would have a little too much power recording a too fast 2.896 on the 2.95 Index while Rossi turned on the win light with a nearly perfect 2.953. The Battle of the Paul’s was up next as Taylor and Graham pulled into the beams. They were both ready for this one with Graham earning the RT edge .010 to .049, and he would hang on for the win in a close 3.05 to 3.04 decision.

The final round battle saw a pair of Blown Big Block Chevy-powerplants face off in two vastly different types of cars with Rossi’s long-wheelbase Rear-Engine Dragster against Graham’s short-wheelbase Rear-Engine Buggy. Graham was ready for battle with a solid .040 to .081 RT edge, which would be enough as he recorded the win with a 3.03 to Rossi’s 3.16 having issues down track. Congrats to the Graham/Excavator Team on the big TE win at Avenal.


Paul Graham - Top Eliminator Winner


Jim Rossi - Top Eliminator Runner-Up


Pro Bracket Classes

The Pro 1 class was stacked top to bottom with tough racers on this weekend at Avenal. The prime time match up of the day was in Round Two as two of the very best bracket racers anywhere in Bob Cambridge and Keith Ahart squared off. Bob took the RT edge .033 to .051, which would be enough to use his 3.342 (3.33) to force Keith into a 3.647 (3.650) break-out by just .003. These two are worth the price of admission to watch as you know it will be decided by inches at the finish line. Unfortunately for Bob, he would go red in the semi-finals sending Christian Payne to the final round. Christian was deadly on the tree all day long in his Last Minute Dragster before lining up with Arizona’s Kenny Hayes in his first weekend in the newly purchased ex-Clayton Record Jeep. When the tree dropped, Christian was a little too amped up as he turned on the red light by the slimmest of margins one-thousandth of a second (.001). Kenny would use a .021 RT and 3.501 to record his first Pro 1 class victory.


Kenny Hayes - Pro 1 Winner

Pro 2 featured a solid class top to bottom with great racing throughout eliminations. The semi-final round featured a Father-Son match up between Chris Adamson and his son Justin. Father knows best on this day as he used a .056 to .097 RT advantage and 4.194 (4.18) to advance to the final round. Chris would pair up with Brian Chapman. This is not the only time you will see Chapman’s name in this recap as he was in numerous final rounds throughout the weekend. On this one, Chapman would have the RT edge .014 to .041, but at the stripe Adamson slipped inside with a 4.183 (4.15) to take a .021 MOV over Brian’s 4.071 (3.99). This Pro 2 win would be the first for Chris in his recently purchased ride, previous campaigned by the late Clayton Record. This win coupled with Kenny Hayes’ Pro 1 win put both of Clayton’s rides in the winner’s circle on this day at Avenal.


Chris Adamson - Pro 2 Winner

After a close Pro 2 semi-final defeat to his dad, Justin Adamson was driven to take the Pro 3 class win. Adamson would take his “Raped Ape” Jeep into the Pro 3 final round against Dome Valley Pro Truck class Winner Al McKinney in his wife’s “Draggin’ Lady” Jeep. This was a great Heads-Up battle with both dialed at 4.26. Justin would leave first .054 to .074 and never looked back taking the win 4.30 to 4.32.


Justin Adamson - Pro 3 Winner

The Motorcycle Pro 1 class came down to a battle between Sonny Fricia and Austin Rego. Sonny had struggled in early rounds, but got a nice pass in a semi-final round win over Gabriel Banducci by just .011 while Rego ran solid all the way to the final. This great battle wouldn’t materialize, however, as Rego had problems at the line and could not make the pass. This would allow Fricia to solo for the win at Avenal.


Sonny Fricia - Motorcycle Pro 1 Winner

A solid 19 entries made the first round at Avenal searching for the Trophy and Cash at the end of the day. The final round would boil down to a battle between two veterans who have seen the Winner’s Circle their fair share as MPC Racing’s Mark Ratliff lined up against Last Minute Racing’s Jack Vandigriff. This race would be decided at the stripe as Ratliff took a little too much stripe breaking out with a 4.568 (4.60) to Jack’s winning 4.923 (4.85).


Jack Vandigriff - Motorcycle Pro 2 Winner

Other Bracket Classes

Saturday’s Pro Gambler was 31 cars strong as first round loaded the lanes on Saturday. This class features ‘A’ and ‘B’ halves split in half by ET, basically Fast & Slow classes. The large field makes for some great racing and a very nice winner’s purse at the end of the night. The final round would be a preview of Sunday’s action with Justin Adamson lining up against Brian Chapman. This all-Jeep battle was great as Brian took a slim .076 to .092 RT edge, but at the stripe Adamson got there first with a 4.262 (4.25) for a Margin of Victory of .033.


Justin Adamson - Pro Gambler Winner

Sunday’s action saw Brian Chapman use a 4.014 (4.00) and .025 RT to edge out Kevin Williams in the Sport Gambler Final Round. Paul May wheeled his Chevy Truck to the Pro 4 victory over Ron d’Artenay Jr. Sunday Junior class winners were Levi Graham (Juniors), Rowdy May (Kids), and Jesse Wallis (Youth).


Brian Chapman - Sport Gambler Winner


Levi Graham - Juniors Winner

The Sportsman 1 class saw Chris Adamson defeat his son Justin in the final round. Both Adamson’s would end the weekend with two class wins a piece. Defending class champion Kevin Cambridge turned on the win light in Sportsman 2 over first time finalist Jeff Wolfgang. Barbara Ervin defeated D. Hartman in the Sportsman 3 final round. Bryce Deaton ran a nearly dead-on 4.127 (4.12) to defeat Austin Rego in the Motorcycle Sportsman 1 final round. Austin Thomas was the big winner in the Motorcycle Sportsman 2 category defeating Jeff Coale in the final. Saturday’s Junior class winners were Christina Harrison (Junior Dragster), Eric Young (Juniors), and Margaret Adams (Youth).


Chris Adamson - Sportsman 1 Winner


Kevin Cambridge - Sportsman 2 Winner


Bryce Deaton - Motorcycle Sportsman 1 Winner


Austin Thomas - Motorcycle Sportsman 2 Winner

Photos Courtesy: NSDN

Event Photo Gallery - Courtesy of NSDN



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