SCSDA Soboba Jan '17 Race Recap

The 2017 sand drag racing season kicked off with the Southern California Sand Drag Association (SCSDA) Season Opener at the Soboba Casino in San Jacinto, CA over the last weekend of January. There was a ton of excitement in the air as racers converged on the Southern California track with high hopes of earning points towards the 2017 SCSDA championship as well as recording quick ET’s in the great weather conditions. The weather was a huge factor over the course of the weekend as crisp high temps in the 50’s along with low’s in the 30’s over Friday & Saturday produced unreal ET’s followed up by Sunny skies & mid 70-degree temperatures on Sunday race day. This made it a challenge for west coast racers that rarely see wildly varying conditions like this, and led to some amazing on track action for the huge spectator crowds on Saturday & Sunday. Continue to on to view our Race Recap & event Photo Galleries.

Top Fuel

A huge highlight of the SCSDA Season Opener was having a strong field with three Top Fuel teams in attendance to do battle. Prime conditions had the nitromethane-burning teams licking their chops to put power down to the heavy surface at the Soboba Casino. The Friday night Qualifying session was the first time for these teams to hit the track and see what they could throw at it. The results were epic. First out was Marcus Norris in the Worldwide Insurance Specialists/Pat Norris Racing entry. Marcus was aiming to break into the 2.2x range for the first time, and he would accomplish just that with a phenomenal 2.25/171MPH blast. Up next was fellow Phoenix area TF racer Matthew Ludlow in the Coldwater Kid/Arizona Air Compressor/FS Curtis/WSM ride, who was also looking to break into the 2.2-second zone for the first time. Matthew would get the job done as well with a strong 2.27/146MPH pass to slide into the #2 qualifying position. Finishing up the round would be the TF World Record holding Hammer Down team and Dennis Rieck. Dennis would have problems at the hit relegating him to a 1.37 60’, but the car came on strong down track to record an amazing 2.68/162MPH blast after the slow start. The early session on Saturday would see Norris continue his strong performance with a great 2.26/158MPH lap. Ludlow and the Coldwater Kid team only made an attempt in the early session and had a strong 60’ before breaking a blower belt ending the run early. The Hammer Down team continued to chase gremlins in both sessions on Saturday with no improvement on Friday’s lap. So heading into round one on Sunday, Norris would have the bye while Ludlow and Rieck would face off.

Sunday’s eliminations would be a challenge to all three teams as their qualifying runs were all at night in prime air & track conditions. First out would be the pair between the Coldwater Kid and Hammer Down teams. In a bizarre matchup, Rieck would coast across the finish line first after breaking the blower belt early in the run while Ludlow broke his rear end just off the line and coasted across as well. Just a crazy race to start off Top Fuel on Sunday. Next out would be the bye run for top qualifier Norris. Marcus would record a strong 1.00 60’ time, but had some serious wheel speed and shut off early. Unfortunately for the Norris team, they would also suffer a broken rear end on this pass that took them out of competition. This set up a solo Top Fuel final for Dennis Rieck and the Hammer Down team. But as with the theme of odd circumstances for Top Fuel on Sunday, the Hammer Down team was unable to get their Hemi to start for the final round single run. But overall it was an incredible weekend for the Top Fuel class with two teams throwing down Personal Best ET’s and these amazing cars making strong earth shaking passes for the strong Southern California sand drag crowd.


Marcus Norris (Max Cackle Photo)


Matthew Ludlow (Max Cackle Photo)


Dennis Rieck (Max Cackle Photo)


Top Alcohol

If the first event of the 2017 race season is any indication, the Top Alcohol class is going to be an awesome show all year long. Jim Hammond and the April’s Dream team delivered the first strike to the competition on the season recording a Personal Best 2.411-ET in the first qualifying session on Friday. This was an incredible wheels-up pass for Jim that would hold up for the top spot in qualifying. On Saturday in Q3, Jake Morton would shoe the Morton Racing ride to a great 2.48 ET to take the #2 spot on the ladder. Chris Barlow threw down a really great 2.558 ET in Q4 to earn the 3rd position while Derek Balcunas in the Larry Minor Motorsports Jeep ran a Personal Best 2.65/135MPH blast in the final session to earn the A/Pro Jeep MPH World Record for the #4 spot on the ladder.

Round one kicked off with the pair between #1 qualifier Hammond and Balcunas in the ultra-fast Jeep. This one would go to Hammond as he ran a strong 2.53 in the heat of the day to get by Derek’s 2.92. Next up is the 2-3 pair between Morton and Barlow. Both of these racers were ready for battle with Morton taking a slight starting line edge .136 to .147 and it would be the Chevy power for Morton hanging on for the win in a 2.51 to 2.59 decision. Jake had an incredible .977 60’ on this pass, which was really impressive for the heat of the day on Sunday. This led to a big time final round with Morton holding the lane choice over Hammond. These cars were locked together on the starting line with Hammond taking a slim .135 to .138 edge, but at the stripe it would be Morton turning on the win light in a great 2.53 to 2.56 battle. Congrats to the Morton Racing team on their big win to start the season as well as all the Top Alcohol teams that put on an incredible show at the Soboba Casino.


Jake Morton - Top Alcohol Winner (Max Cackle Photo)


Jim Hammond - Top Alcohol Runner-Up (Max Cackle Photo)

Top Eliminator

Twelve Top Eliminator teams ventured to the Soboba Casino for Race One of the 2017 SCSDA Season. The 2.95 Index competitors faced challenging conditions in qualifying with abnormally great air density numbers rarely seen on the west coast. This led to many breakout passes and a big learning curve throughout all 4 sessions. When the dust cleared, it was Billy Morris and the Morris Family Racing/Lucas Oil entry in the top spot with a strong 2.962 ET. Right behind Morris was a pair of Las Vegas racers as the Small Block of Jeff Liston recorded a 2.97 for the #2 position while Fast Track Construction’s Mark Punos ended up third with a 2.98.

Round one was filled with a lot of weird passes, but the Best Pass of the round was recorded by the top qualifier as Billy Morris ran a 3.01 ET on his single run as Terry Crawford could not make the call after breaking a ring & pinion in qualifying. The best side-by-side run of the round saw #2 qualifier Liston turn on the win light with a 3.10 over Dave Huffman’s Personal Best 3.25 in the first full pass in his new Blown Alcohol Jeep.

The action heated up in Round 2 as top qualifier Morris kicked off the round paired up with the always competitive Larry Snow in his “Lap Dance” Blown Alcohol Buggy. This one was decided at the tree as Morris left first .101 to .211 and pedaled to a 3.03 to 3.05 decision for the MFR team. Next up would be Liston’s Small Block Chevy-powered “Sand Bomber” Dragster against Paul Graham’s “Excavator” Blown Alcohol Buggy. Graham had a slight starting line advantage and turned on the win light with his second consecutive 3.04 over Liston’s too fast 2.931 lap. Wrapping up the round would be Mark Punos on a bye run with his Fast Track Construction Dragster recording a 3.10 to advance on.

Semi-final action was next with #3 qualifier Punos battling #5 qualifier Graham for the right to go to the final round. A red light decided this battle as Punos let go of the button too soon handing Graham the win with a solid 2.991 ET. Up next was the natural bye run for top qualifier Billy Morris in the 12-car field. Morris knew he would have to outrun Graham for lane choice, and he did just that by the slimmest of margins with a 2.990 ET. This would set up an incredible final between two cars that were separated by just one-thousandth of a second in the previous round. As has become common place in the ultra-competitive TE class, the final would be decided by Reaction Time. Morris would take the starting line edge .069 to .174 and hang on for a hole shot 3.01 to 2.98 victory. Congrats to Billy, Rick & the whole MFR team on the Season Opening victory.


Billy Morris - Top Eliminator Winner (Max Cackle Photo)


Paul Graham - Top Eliminator Runner-Up (Max Cackle Photo)


Fast Fours

The Four-cylinder contingent came out in full force with seven strong entries vying for the hardware at the 2017 SCSDA Season Opener. Qualifying was quite a battle with two competitors swapping the top spot throughout the four sessions. When the final qualifying order was set, it was Michigan racer Adam Roe hanging on to the #1 spot with his Personal Best 2.705 ET at 119MPH. Early round qualifying leader Robert Skidmore was just three-thousandths of a second behind with a 2.708 ET. Roe’s 2.705 run backed up by his Q3 ET of 2.716 earned him the new Fast Fours World Record heading into race day. Kris Lauffer’s 2.81 & Mario Tavares’ 2.85 rounded out the top half of the field in qualifying.

Sunday’s round one of eliminations was certainly bizarre. Top qualifier Roe wisely made the decision to idle down the track on his round one bye. Up next was Fast Fours rookie Hawaii’s Lance Kaaina with a single run as Mario Tavares could not make the call. Kaaina’s Crazy Coconut car launched hard but had parts breakage down track slowing him to a 3.77 ET. Next up would be #2 qualifier Skidmore up against John Cronin’s “Meltdown II” Dragster. This one would go to Skidmore with a 2.89/115MPH lap to Cronin’s 3.20. Final pair out would be #3 qualifier Kris Lauffer in the VW Paradise “Sand Hater” Dragster against Daniel King in the legendary “Animal Control” Dragster. Lauffer’s transmission problems from qualifying continued in race day as he bogged at the hit while King launched hard to a 3.02/99MPH pass. Unfortunately for the King team, after a clean launch there was engine damage down towards the finish line.

Heading into the semi-finals, both King & Kaaina would be unable to continue in eliminations. So, the decision was made to head directly to the final round with Michigan’s Roe facing off with Arizona’s Skidmore. These two had been the quickest of the weekend, so it was sure to be a great battle. When the tree dropped, Roe left first and held the lead through the stripe in a 2.75/122MPH to 2.79/120MPH decision. Congrats to Adam, Darrel & the entire Roe Racing team on making the cross-country trip pay off in a clean sweep of the weekend: Class winner, #1 Qualifier & World Record.


Adam Roe - Fast Fours Winner (Max Cackle Photo)


Robert Skidmore - Fast Fours Runner-Up (Max Cackle Photo)


Pro Mod Unlimited

The Pro Mod Unlimited Jeeps were ready for battle at the 2017 SCSDA Season Opener. Derek Balcunas in the Larry Minor Motorsports/Lucas Oil Jeep turned in the top qualifying pass with a 2.72/133MPH blast. Current A/Pro Jeep ET Record Holder Jimmy Depasse made a qualifying attempt on Saturday, but unfortunately had motor troubles at around half track on a 3.28/70MPH pass with the “Otis Express” Jeep. Depasse’s teammate Dave Huffman had transmission problems during qualifying. The Depasse/Huffman team was able to put the transmission from “Otis Express” into Huffman’s car to have a car ready for eliminations. The final round would be between top qualifier Balcunas and Huffman in the H&M Contractors ride. When the tree dropped, it would be Balcunas running a 3.08/124MPH to take the Season Opening Pro Mod Unlimited class win.


Derek Balcunas - Pro Mod Unlimited Winner (Max Cackle Photo)


Dave Huffman - Pro Mod Unlimited Runner-Up (Max Cackle Photo)


Pro Bracket Classes

Kevin Cambridge made it a perfect 2-for-2 entering the Pro 1 class in his dad Bob’s Dragster at SCSDA events. Kevin emerged victorious at the May Soboba race last year, and followed that up with the 2017 Season Opener win defeating Craig Durning in the final. Cambridge was .068 on the tree & 3.440 (3.38) for the final round victory.


Kevin Cambridge - Pro 1 Winner (NSDN Photo)

The Pro 2 class final round came down to a Truck vs. Jeep battle as Mexico’s Moises Roano lined up against So Cal’s Jim Larr. This one belonged to the Ford Pickup of Roano as he left first with a .077 RT and ran 4.253 (4.21) for the Season Opening win.


Moises Roano - Pro 2 Winner (Max Cackle Photo)

The story from Pro 2 would continue in Pro 3 as Roano was on track to score a double up victory. Roano’s great looking Mexico-based Ford Pickup Truck reached his second final of the day, this one would be against Forrest Hudson piloting Bill Meaney’s Larry Minor Motorsports-built Duner Jeep. The racers would be locked together on the starting line with Hudson taking a two-thousandths advantage. At the stripe, it would be Roano getting there first but breaking out worse in a double breakout decision 4.234 (4.27) to Hudson’s winning 4.437 (4.45).


Forrest Hudson - Pro 3 Winner (Max Cackle Photo)

Joey Weaver had a ton of success in the Motorcycle Sportsman 1 class at SCSDA events in 2016. He won 2 of 3 events and started off 2017 on the right foot by taking the win, but reaching the Winner’s Circle in Motorcycle Pro 1 had eluded him. That was until this event as JW would get the job done in MP1 as he recorded a 4.370 (4.30) with a .126 RT in the final round over Robert Garnas.


Joey Weaver - Motorcycle Pro 1 Winner (Max Cackle Photo)

Caleb Mings was the class of Motorcycle Pro 2 on Sunday race day at the 2017 SCSDA Season Opener. Caleb used a solid .054 RT & 5.974 (5.81) in the semi-finals to advance past Marcus Riedel. That set up a great final between Caleb and his strong running 3-wheeler against MPC Racing’s Mark Ratliff & his trusty #2 ride. Mings would throw down another great RT .050 to Mark’s .092 in the final. Mark would catch Mings, but the win light would come on for Caleb’s 3-wheeled entry with a 5.853 (5.81) to Mark’s break out 4.489 (4.50).


Caleb Mings - Motorcycle Pro 2 Winner (Max Cackle Photo)

Pro Gambler Classes

Saturday night’s Pro Gambler class was once again filled with incredible sand drag bracket racing competition. This time around it would be an all-Jeep final with Joe Simeone’s “I Love It” against Chris Adamson’s newly purchased “Black Jeep”. They would be identical on the tree with both going .106, but at the stripe it would be Simeone hanging on for the win with a 4.264 (4.18) to Adamson’s 3.722 (3.60) for a Margin of Victory totaling .038. This would be Adamson’s second final of the weekend as he faced off with Charlie Johnson’s Mopar-powered Jeep in Friday’s Pro Gambler final round. In that final, Johnson kept up his Pro Gambler winning streak taking the win with a .078 RT and 4.700 (4.60). That three race Pro Gambler winning streak for Charlie would end in Round 1 on Saturday. Saturday’s Motorcycle Gambler saw two tough customers battle as MPC Racing’s Mark Ratliff and Marcus Riedel squared off. Both racers would turn on the red bulb, but the win would go to Ratliff as Riedel turned on the first red light by .012.


Charlie Johnson - Friday Pro Gambler Winner (NSDN Photo)


Joe Simeone - Saturday Pro Gambler Winner (Max Cackle Photo)



Mark Ratliff - Motorcycle Gambler Winner (Max Cackle Photo)

Sportsman Bracket / Junior Classes

Kenny Hayes used an impressive string of RT’s to take the Sportsman 1 class hardware back to Phoenix with him over Don Minkel. Anthony Lopez used a little beginner’s luck & good driving to take the Sportsman 2 class win in his first race piloting the #24 Jeep that was previously owned by Bill Meaney. Lopez got the final round win over Ron Hess’ great looking “Mad Mouse” Fiat that went red by .083. We talked about Joey Weaver early in the article, but here he was again taking the Motorcycle Sportsman 1 class victory over Isaac Conchas with a nice lap 4.353 (4.30) & .054 RT. Another racer who took two class wins on the weekend was Mark Ratliff, who won the Motorcycle Sportsman 2 class final round victory over Kenny Cameron. Winners of Sunday morning’s Junior classes were: Troy Adamson (Junior Dragster 9+), Taylor Cameron (Junior Dragster Mini’s), Ryan Rodriguez (Juniors) & Ella Burch (Peewees).


Kenny Hayes - Sportsman 1 Winner (Max Cackle Photo)


Anthony Lopez - Sportsman 2 Winner (Max Cackle Photo)


Joey Weaver - Motorcycle Sportsman 1 Winner (NSDN Photo)


Mark Ratliff - Motorcycle Sportsman 2 Winner (NSDN Photo)


Troy Adamson - Junior Dragster 9+ Winner (NSDN Photo)


Taylor Cameron - Junior Dragster Mini's Winner (NSDN Photo)


Ryan Rodriguez - Juniors Winner (NSDN Photo)


Ella Burch - Peewees WInner (NSDN Photo)


Event Photo Gallery - Photos Courtesy Max Cackle Photos


Event Photo Gallery - Photos Courtesy NSDN

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