Tim's Dragstrip News For September 27, 2009        


Samoa Championships   9/13-9/27

            Talk about a memorable close to a season of racing- this year’s took two days over two weeks, opening with no points championships sealed prior to the last event, four racers getting perfect reaction times and a racer jumping from 3rd in points to sudden points champion for 2009.

            Hosted by Pepsi Bottling Group, Eureka Car Stereo and Mission Linen, it started Sunday, Sept. 13 with charging rain clouds and ended with blue skies and thirty racers competing in a single bracket on the 27th.  Before the rain dumped a delay in Round 2 in regular eliminations, 9/13, Tom Brazil’s dragster was current top qualifier among cars with an 8.33 e.t. that would stand even in the makeup date’s time trials as the low e.t. In Round 1 of Pro Mike Wright caught a perfect reaction time at the starting line and at the finish line ran 10.67 on a 10.66 dial in to accompany his win.

            The Championships continued Sunday, Sept. 27 with three drivers getting perfect reaction times: Troy Beck’s .500 in time trials Session 2, biker Jason Garza’s .400 in Round 1 and Harlan Tucker (.500). Not that many have had multiple perfect lights, this season, but each of these racers have.

            Tucker entered the event 2nd in Pro points, a place occupied this year at times by Ana Toledo, Mike Wright, Troy Beck and Jerry Toledo. Pro 2009 has been a year of points ties in different areas of the Top 5 to Top 10 place holders and throughout it, the only time defending Pro points champion Ray Rapp was in the lead – at one point in mid-July sharing it in a tie with Mike Wright, when Wright won runner up in Finals July 12 and 1st place the next day. Wright entered the season-closer 3rd in points.

            Samoa Championships featured two eliminations programs: the regular, and the Championship Sportsman and Championship Pro program, this year including a Catch All bracket, in which 30 racers not racing in either Championship bracket ran for the money.

            In regular eliminations, Pro Semis featured Mike Wright taking on Jerry Toledo and Harlan Tucker taking on Alfred Larsen. The Toledo-Wright race was an extremely tight one, both racers having close reaction times with a narrow margin of victory in which Toledo’s ’72 Maverick edged out a win over the ’87 Camaro. Larsen’s yellow ’63 Nova had been extremely quick all day, but too quick for the starting lights, jumping the gun for a red-lit start against Tucker’s ’67 Barracuda. In the Pro Final another tight race,  Tucker launching off the line with a perfect reaction time that aided him to a win, his 11.10 run  (on an 11.10 dial-in) over Toledo’s 11.25 runner up run, crowning the Southern Humboldt racer as Pro points champion 2009.

            In Motorcycles, Mike Pettit, Sr. was half of a Finals feature with Jason Garza. In the previous round, Garza had a perfect .400 light at the tree, following that up in the Finals with a .401 RT in a win against Pettit, Sr., Garza’s 11.38 at 120 mph against Pettit, Sr.’s 11.12 at 113. Points-wise, Pettit cemented 4th place, Garza 5th place in points. Round 1 of Motorcycles featured Pettit, Sr. racing his son Mike Pettit, Jr., who’s had a tremendous rookie season in Motorcycles (having graduated from Junior Dragster to quarter mile 12-second snowmobile), maintaining 2nd place in points for much of the season.  In the second half of the season, biker Mike Pires seemingly came out of nowhere with top qualifier finishes and two back-to-back 1st place finishes.

            Mitch Marlin and his ’87 Thunderbird managed to secure a points championship, but the day’s regular Finals in Sportsman featured one of the series’ biggest head-turners: an 11-second station wagon. Dave Restad and his ’72 Olds Vista Cruiser – quite the sleeper if you overlook the mag wheels – worked into the Finals against Justin Sanders’ ’02 Mitsubishi. Restad would red-light at the start, Sanders took 1st Place, Sanders’ 16.57 over Restad’s red-lit 12.68 run.

            In Junior Dragsters, one of this year’s rookies made it into the final- Kyle Barrett ran 9.27 at 60 mph, but Kaycee Mela had 1st place with a 10.45 run at 61 mph. She would later race in the Championship Juniors bracket against points champion Austin Petersen, Petersen’s flamed dragster running 9.37 on a 9.36 dial in at 68 mph, but hampered by a red-lit started, Mela taking 1st place with a 10.42 e.t. at 60 mph.

            Leading up to Super Pro finals in regular eliminations, Jim Toledo suddenly led defending points champ Ray Rapp by one  point, 385 points to Rapp’s 384. By the time Bill Wood’s white ’68 Camaro matched up against Toledo’s ’64 Mercury Comet in the Semi Final, Wood was in 3rd place behind Rapp by 3 points. It made for one of the most edge of your seat/fence races of the 2-day event. Wood brought his fan base over the Trinity Mountains from Redding- and you could hear them well as he beat Toledo’s gasser-stanced Comet for the win, sending him to a Final against Rich Givens. Givens’ Mustang ran thousandths of a second over his 10.19 e.t. (my notes fail me here, point being it was that close to dead-on his dial-in), but Wood took 1st place with a 9.27 on his 9.26 dial in at 145 mph, sealing a points championship, too.

            On the 27th, some noteworthy runs weren’t necessarily in competition. 16 year-old Austin Will was the year’s youngest student to complete licensing passes with a Top Competition-level dragster (to legally run 9.99 or faster than 135 mph on NHRA tracks). Just earlier this season, he was competing in 1/8-mile runs in Junior Dragsters.

            Though originally aiming to finish his straight-axle drag car in time for the season opener, Kevin Dinan was excited enough to roll it out to the last Budweiser Racing Street Legal Drags, night before the Samoa Championships (9/12), brought it back out on the 13th and 27th for more runs. Overheard from the tower-side fence: “Boy, you hardly see ‘em like that anymore!” By the 27th  he was running 11.50 (his prior personal best: 11.98) before a pair of 10.90’s. Just getting to know the first gasser he’s built, along with friend/crew chief Matt, a ’56 Chevy that once sat on tires through changing seasons before being lassoed into a secret lab for a quarter mile reincarnation.

 Championship Eliminations

            After the regular eliminations came a few time trial runs before the Championship eliminations including the catch-all bracket, that 30-car field being narrowed down to two cars: Shane Barrett and Adam Moore. Barrett’s 9-second Super Pro Mustang had a weighty handicapped start against Moore’s 16-second Altima, the Nitro-induced Mustang running 9.32 at 145 mph but Moore stayed ahead for the win.

            In the Sportsman Championship final, Sanders’ ’02 Mitsubishi had a first green-lit start, running 16.60 against biker Jason Garza, but Garza would speed ahead from behind a the finish line

            In the Pro Championship final, sudden Pro points champ Harlan Tucker raced Mike Wright in yet another extremely tight race that afternoon, both racers with a tight start at the ‘tree, both running extremely close to their dial-ins with Tucker running a mere 5 thousandths above his 11.13 d.i., Wright running 10.67 to his 10.66 d.i. and staying ahead for a close 1st place win.

What’s It All Mean?! Points Finale 2009


            Mitch Marlin finished first after dominating the points lead through the season, Rick McFarlin – having won a Wally Parks trophy as King of the Track in June – came in 2nd, Larry Ghidinelli in 3rd, Josh Rapp behind him by a mere 18 points but ahead of Connie Beck by just 10 points.


            George Brooks dominated a points lead until the end, though it was Mike Pires and Mike Pettit, Jr. who’ve both held 2nd place in points in ’09. Pires finished 2nd, Pettit, Jr. ahead of Pettit, Sr. by 11 points, Pettit, Sr. finishing ahead of Jason Garza also by 11 points.

            Junior Dragsters:

            A very exciting Pro Pacific Auto Repair Racing Series for young racers and families, with Austin Petersen taking the points lead from Kevin Will late in the season, Ashley Johnson 3rd in points, Kaycee Mela finishing 4th and Mikie Pires, Jr., Rookie of the year ’08, returns for a Top 5 finish in points.


            In one of the most hotly contested points races, Harlan Tucker succeeded Ray Rapp for Points Champion by 14 points, Rapp stayed ahead of Mike Wright for 2nd by 10 points, Jerry Toledo finished 4th, Troy Beck – who raced hard all year long with an average of 33 point gains each race - moved up to a 5th place finish.

            Super Pro:

            In the final event, Bill Wood went from 3rd to 1st place in a matter of two very crucial races, with a 25-point lead. Jim Toledo finished 2nd place only 14 points ahead of Ray Rapp, Mike Giacone finished 4th after a very strong return this year, with his ’67 Fairlane, Curtis Daniels’ ’69 Chevelle came up to a Top 5 finish after an especially successful campaign in the latter third of the season.

          Though Ray Rapp didn’t make it into semi-finals for either Pro or Super Pro, he and crew chief Ron Macklin were still swinging hard with the ’72 Chevy Vega, the car perhaps picking the worst event of the season to have a bad day. Rapp broke out in both brackets, a rarity for him. As I sift through a season’s worth of notepads, his consistencies and close & dead-on dial ins are frequent, dominating the points in Pro and Super Pro, except for mid-July, when tied with Mike Wright.  What broke the tie was a single Finals race, July 19th, when both drivers went extremely close to their dial-ins, Wright running 10.687 on a 10.69 d.i., Rapp going 10.199 on his 10.20 d.i. for 1st place. Running with no electronic equipment for launching (delay equipment, etc.), just human neuron-activated reflexes. This is one of several examples of how Rapp and crew rolled through Humboldt-Del Norte Timing Association’s 54th season. At one point this year, crew chief Macklin spied two young men looking underneath the Vega in the pits, admitting they were “looking for the magic.”

Action Ain’t Over Yet…

            The points season for Rapp and others are on the trailer, but he and others plan on racing for big purses in the Samoa’s first-ever Arm Drop by the Sea, Saturday October 24th. Don’t forget, racers: you can only register to race in the 200-car limit event at Humboldt County Napa auto parts stores, as well as Willow Creek. Tickets to watch available at Napa and at the gate, kids 12 and under are free. Along with a $2500 purse and Napa tool chest full of new tools will be a Quick 8 class with its own one-grand purse.

            After that, the bench-racing season really begins. Don’t forget, this year’s Samoa Dragstrip Banquet Awards is at the Samoa Cookhouse, Saturday evening, November 14. After which, this announcer will try to do an even better job at off-season garage reports here on the website.

                                                See you at Arm Drop or the Cookhouse,

Tim O’Brien

                                                                                                  Track Announcer