SCSDA Soboba May '16 Race Recap

The Southern California Sand Drag Association (SCSDA) returned to action in late May with the “Mayhem at Soboba” event. This would be the second event of the 2016 season held at the Soboba Casino in San Jacinto, CA. Luckily for all in attendance, the weather was picture perfect all weekend long with uncharacteristically comfortable high temps in the mid 70’s when temps in the 90’s are average for that time of the year in Southern California. The great weather coupled with the Soboba dirt working better than ever led to some great ET’s and side-by-side racing.

Top Alcohol

There was a lot of excitement surrounding the Top Alcohol class heading into this event with a strong field of seven entries making the tow to Southern California. This would be the biggest TA field in several years with a high quality group of cars battling it out for the top prize. Qualifying kicked off on Friday night, and it would be Jim Hammond striking first jumping back into the 40’s with a strong 2.49/135MPH lap. But the big story would be in the lane next to Jim as Craig Mark and the Washington-based Eruption Top Alcohol Dragster went for a wild ride. Craig’s car went into a massive wheelstand around half track and he would lose control in the shutdown area after a 2.594 ET pass (lifting at 1.8 secs) going into a violent rollover. Thankfully the safety equipment did its job and Craig avoided serious injury. We look forward to seeing the Eruption team back on track in the future.

Qualifying continued on Saturday and in Q3 Gary Mink would unload a statement to the rest of the class as the Fresno-based “Bad to the Bone” Dragster lived up to its name with a solid 2.448/138MPH hit to earn the top qualifying spot. Hammond would end up as the #2 qualifier with his Q2 2.48/136MPH blast. Pedro Villa and the Express team recorded a personal best in Q4 recording a strong 2.509/138MPH to earn the #3 position on the ladder. Unfortunately carnage would take three entries out before eliminations paring the field down to four for race day. Craig Mark was unable to continue after his Friday night crash, Jimmy Depasse sat out eliminations after some great passes in Saturday qualifying with the “Otis Xpress” Jeep, and the debut of Chris Barlow’s new ride was cut short after torching a head in Friday night’s qualifying session.

Sunday eliminations kicked off with top qualifier Mink lining up with the Larry Minor Motorsports Jeep piloted by Derek Balcunas. This one would go to the long car as Gary Mink was 1.02 to 60’ and 2.47/135MPH at the traps for the victory. Derek recorded a solid 2.727 in the other lane as the Bob Devour-tuned entry continues to improve at each event. Next up would be Jim Hammond’s “April’s Dream” entry against Pedro Villa in the “Express” Dragster. Hammond took a .04-second starting line advantage and never looked back in a good 2.54 to 2.59 battle.

The stage was set for the final round with the two quickest cars to that point in the weekend facing off as the class dominator in recent years Gary Mink lined up with the resurgent Jim Hammond. Hammond regained his performance on this weekend getting back consistently in the low 50’s & high 40’s putting the pressure on Mink. In this great final round battle, Hammond would get the job done taking the starting line advantage .078 to .118 and recording his best pass of the weekend with a 2.486 to get around Gary’s 2.52/129MPH pass. Congrats to Jim Hammond and the whole April’s Dream team on their big win at Soboba.


Jim Hammond - Top Alcohol Winner


Gary Mink - Top Alcohol Runner-Up


Top Eliminator

The Top Eliminator (2.95 Index) category was filled with ten strong entries for the Mayhem at Soboba event. As usual qualifying was a dog fight with all the usual suspects battling for the top spot. The final qualifying session was a roller coaster with the top spot switching hands over the last two passes. Heading into the last session, Vegas racer Terry Crawford led the pack with a 2.973ET in his “Yabba Dabba Doo” Dragster. Terry dodged some bullets early in the session, but with two pairs left in Q4 Jim Rossi laid down a great 2.962 to take the top spot. The only problem was that there was one car left in line that could knock him off the top spot. That racer would be Paul Taylor in the “Outta Control” Dragster out of Bakersfield. Taylor, known as one of the very best at running right on the 2.95 Index pulled off some magic once again with a great 2.957 ET to earn the top qualifying spot heading into eliminations on Sunday.

Round one of eliminations was a little anti-climatic with parts attrition causing several single runs. The best pass of the round would go to top qualifier Taylor as he recorded a 2.99 to defeat Wes Gilmore’s strong 3.22 in his Blown Alcohol Jeep. Matching Taylor’s pass would be another Vegas racer as TE newcomer Jeff Liston recorded a 2.999 to pull the upset win over higher qualified Paul Graham’s 3.10 in the 5-6 pair.

The second round kicked off with top qualifier Taylor earning the competition bye at 5 cars and he showed his strength with a great 2.977 ET to earn lane choice in the semi’s. Taylor’s semi-final opponent would be the winner of the Billy Morris-Terry Crawford matchup. This one would go to the Morris Family Racing / EKR / Lucas Oil team as Billy recorded a 3.000 to advance on as Terry turned it red negating a 3.02 effort. The final pair of the round would be a 2-for-1 as the winner would earn the bye to the final. It would be last month’s Avenal event winner Jim Rossi in the “Bad Toy” Dragster against Jeff Liston’s “Sand Bomber” Blown SBC-powered Dragster. What ensued was the closest race of the weekend as Liston’s dream weekend kept going with a 3.01 to 2.98 hole shot victory with a margin of victory totaling .014 at the stripe.

The semi-final round kicked off with a titanic matchup between two of the longtime heavyweights in the west coast TE wars as Billy Morris and Paul Taylor put em in the beams. The defending class champ Morris was amped up for this one taking a tenth of a second starting line edge with a .039 RT and using a 2.98 to defeat Taylor’s game 3.01.

So the final round was set between Morris and Liston, who opted to save his potent small-block Chevy for the round that counted most. Both drivers had been strong on the tree all day and run close to the Index so the stage was set for a showdown. On this one, Morris showed why he’s the champ with a psychic .026 RT and held on for the win in a 3.00 to 2.97 hole shot decision. A huge congrats goes out to the Morris Family Racing team on the win in their first race flying the Lucas Oil colors. Also a big tip of the hat goes to Jeff Liston and the Sand Bomber team on a great final round finish with the mighty small block.


Billy Morris - Top Eliminator Winner


Jeff Liston - Top Eliminator Runner-Up


Fast Fours

When you talk about some of the biggest winning streaks in sand drag racing history, the current reign of terror on the Fast Fours class by Robert Skidmore is becoming more prolific. Skidmore won five straight SCSDA events heading into the Mayhem at Soboba event with his Phoenix-based Nitro burning four-cylinder powered Dragster. Qualifying was once again led by the Skidmore team as Robert recorded a 2.682 lap in Q3 during the heat of Saturday afternoon, which set up the potential for a reset of his current World Record with a backup run. Mario Tavares was on a record mission of his own in qualifying as he took the 4-cylinder MPH World Record with a 122.62MPH blast backed up by a 121.53MPH on his 2.840 #2 qualifying effort. Rounding out the top half of the field would be Art Cronin’s Meltdown ride with a 2.946.

After qualifying carnage, only 3 entries would make the call for round one of the Fast Fours category. Skidmore would earn the competition bye, where he would make an attempt to get a backup run on the record. Unfortunately, he would fall short of the number required with a 2.805. Next up would be the 2-3 pair between Mario Tavares in the Pauter Rods entry against Cronin Racing’s Meltdown ride of Art Cronin. Both cars struggled with traction, but it would be Cronin pulling the upset in a great 3.03 to 3.04 battle.

This set up a great final match up between Skidmore and Cronin. With plenty of Nitro in the air, Skidmore would be successful in earning his 6th straight SCSDA win as he turned on the winner picker with a 2.79/117MPH blast to Art’s game effort 2.931. Skidmore’s 2.79 would not be enough to back up the 2.68 for the record, but you know their team will be continue shooting to reset the World Record as they attempt to sweep back-to-back SCSDA seasons in the Fast Fours category at the September event.


Robert Skidmore - Fast Fours Winner


Art Cronin - Fast Fours Runner-Up


Pro Mod Unlimited

The performance gains in the Pro Mod Unlimited category have come in big chunks the past couple years and all of a sudden the once unthinkable 2.6 second barrier had the potential to be broke going into the Mayhem at Soboba event. The all-time short car Front Engine mark was set by Charlie Brown Jr. in 2000 with a 2.69. Charlie’s Nitro-burning Top Fuel motor in a solid Altered-bodied Funny Car chassis differs greatly from the left hand steer Screw-Blown Alcohol Jeeps of the Larry Minor Motorsports & Otis Xpress teams. At this event, Jimmy Depasse and the Otis Xpress team would hit on the magic tune up and record an incredible 2.690/123MPH blast backed up by a 2.700 to earn a new A/Pro Jeep World Record. This also matched the quickest FE short car record as Depasse’s 120” Wheelbased Jeep ran right on top of the 16 year old pass of Charlie Brown Jr. Derek Balcunas and the Larry Minor Motorsports team was right with Depasse recording runs of 2.71 and 2.72 throughout the weekend. Sadly a Sunday afternoon final round matchup did not materialize as the Depasse team decided to play it safe and sit out Sunday after seeing some potential damage in the motor after the record setting passes. Balcunas would make a single pass on Sunday afternoon and record a pedaling 2.893 pass to earn the weekend’s Pro Mod Unlimited title.


Derek Balcunas - Pro Mod Unlimited Winner

Pro Bracket Classes

Kevin Cambridge completed a dream weekend at Soboba by taking the Pro 1 victory in his first start in this class on Sunday afternoon. Kevin, piloting his dad Bob’s Dragster, had some previous seat time in the Dragster in Sportsman & Gambler class competition at previous events but this was his first full weekend behind the wheel of this car. He started off the weekend with a big Sportsman 1 class victory; then went into unchartered waters by competing in the Pro 1 category for the first time. Kevin would line up with one of the best in the business in the final as rolled into the beams against many time event winner Kenny Hayes in his Larry Minor Motorsports-built Jeep. This one would go to the Dragster with a .094 RT and 3.468 (3.39) as Kevin kept up the family tradition and ended up in the winner’s circle.


Kevin Cambridge - Pro 1 Winner

The Pro 2 (3.75-4.25) class saw two sand drag veterans face off, both looking to earn their second final round win of the weekend. Charlie Johnson in his Mopar-powered Jeep was the Friday night Pro Gambler winner and continued his solid weekend with his first Pro 2 final in a while. Charlie would face off with Justin Adamson, who won the Saturday Pro Gambler in his own Jeep but was piloting Chris Ketron’s Jeep during Sunday’s Pro 2 eliminations. Charlie was zeroed in on the tree as he put up a solid .028 RT to Justin’s .096 and there was no looking back for the Mopar power as Johnson scored the double breakout win 4.248 (4.25) to 4.137 (4.18).


Charlie Johnson - Pro 2 Winner

Pro 3 saw a pair of local racers face off as Wes Johnson tried to match his brother Charlie’s Pro 2 win against Greg Tounget in the “CHEEP” Jeep. Greg had been killing the tree all afternoon with superb RT’s, but the tree is where it all went away for him in the final as he staged just a hair too deep causing a stage foul. This would give Wes a victory lap to the win and give the Johnson Brothers another Pro 2-3 sweep.


Wes Johnson - Pro 3 Winner

Bakersfield scored the win in Motorcycle Pro 1 as Taylor Holmes capped off a solid day of riding with the final round victory over Brad Olson. Holmes, who made it to two finals last month at Avenal, used a .122 RT and 4.206 (4.10) to take a Margin of Victory totaling just .028 at the stripe for the victory.


Taylor Holmes - Motorcycle Pro 1 Winner

Caleb Mings definitely earned his way to the winner’s circle in the Motorcycle Pro 2 category as he defeated two of the toughest customers in the category over the last two rounds. Caleb was able to defeat Mark Ratliff in the semi-finals before using a .064 RT and 5.824 (5.67) to get around the March race’s double up winner Mike Brock in the final round.


Caleb Mings - Motorcycle Pro 2 Winner

Larry Minor Jeep Shootout

16 of the baddest Jeeps in the world made the trip to the Soboba Casino for the Larry Minor Jeep Shootout. This was a pro tree bracket class eligible to only Larry Minor Motorsports-built Jeeps. When the dust settled, the final round would be a battle between Steve Winn in the Bill Meaney-owned #24 ride against Chris Adamson’s “Bounty Hunter”. Steve had been improving his driving skills each race and getting closer to scoring a big time win. Well, this was the day he broke through as Adamson would try a little too hard turning it .038 red handing the $2000 win to the Winn/Meaney team.


Steve Winn - Larry Minor Jeep Shootout Winner

Gambler Classes

The Johnson Brothers kicked off their great weekend right as they fought their way through the tough Friday night Gambler field to reach the final round against each other. Wes would drive it in a touch too deep & stage foul handing the win to Charlie, who was clearly ready for battle with a .009 RT in the Mopar-powered Jeep. Saturday night’s Pro Gambler final was an all Orange affair as two Jeeps with plenty of Orange on them squared off to decide the title. Justin Adamson would line up against Dennis Rieck in his first outing with the new Hammer Down Racing bracket Jeep. This race would be decided the same way as Friday night’s final as Dennis overstaged and handed Justin the Saturday night Pro Gambler victory. The ATV guys and gals jumped in for some Saturday night Motorcycle Gambler action. The final round would see MPC Racing’s Mark Ratliff line up with the young gun Austin Thomas to see who would take home the cash. This one would be over at the tree as well as Austin turned it .018 red handing the win and night’s bragging rights to Ratliff.


Charlie Johnson - Friday Pro Gambler Winner


Justin Adamson - Saturday Pro Gambler Winner


Mark Ratliff - Saturday Motorcycle Gambler Winner


Sportsman / Junior Classes

Kevin Cambridge kicked off his strong weekend with the Sportsman 1 class victory over the always tough Larry Sakaguchi. A great story on the weekend was when Wes Gilmore Jr. turned on the win light in the Sportsman 2 final round over Austin Thomas. What made the win so big was that Wes took the win in his first ever race. That’s certainly a huge accomplishment that very few people have done over the years. Our friend “Ole JW” Joey Weaver gave it a good crack & won the Motorcycle Sportsman 1 class with consistent 4.2-second laps defeating class killer Mark Ratliff in the final round. Another guy that has a good nose for the winner’s circle is Jack Vandigriff and he did it again, this time earning the Motorcycle Sportsman 2 victory over Marcus Riedel. The Junior racers were in action Sunday morning with 4 classes of competition. Blaine Denunzio jumped into a Junior Dragster for the first time at this event and ended up in the Mini Junior Dragster Winner’s Circle. Joining Blaine with class wins on Sunday were Conner Moore (Juniors), Dylan Gothard (Peewees), and Luke Kemble (Junior Dragster Advanced).


Kevin Cambridge - Sportsman 1 Winner


Wes Gilmore Jr. - Sportsman 2 Winner


Joey Weaver - Motorcycle Sportsman 1 Winner


Jack Vandigriff - Motorcycle Sportsman 2 Winner


Luke Kembel - Junior Dragster Advanced Winner


Blaine Denunzio - Junior Dragster Mini Winner



Dylan Gothard - Peewees Winner


Conner Moore - Juniors Winner


Photos Courtesy NSDN

Event Photo Gallery - Courtesy NSDN

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