Tim's Dragstrip News For July 11-12, 2009        

Mike Wright- Pro

           Drake Crone Memorial Race Weekend
July 11 & 12, 2009


            As the season deepens, my notebooks get filled with individuals’ times that drop, speeds that rise, and a growing number of new names, too. Named after a very young drag race fan that fought cancer hard until the end, the Drake Crone Memorial Race Weekend had all of that going on.


            Sponsored by Bella Vista Realty and Greg’s Paint Repair, it saw the return of Killer Bees Racing buzzing in for the Slant 6 class. Samoa Dragstrip has become a part of their annual points tour (including Las Vegas, Infineon and Woodburn). A few returned after making NHRA world records in Slant 6 class speeds at Samoa, last year. One of them, Aric Ericson of Paradise, had the quickest Slant 6 of the weekend (12.48 [he set the Inline world record last year, 12.33]). Record holder Doug “Dr. Dodge” Dutra (12.71, B-gas Nitro) returned as well, for a full weekend.


            The many Killer Bees raced for points Saturday, several stuck around for an extra Slant 6 bracket on Sunday. A lengthy wait through heavy mist delays paid off for Sergio Gonzales, whose roadtrip from Biggs, CA with a ’64 Dart led to a Finals appearance in Sportsman and his native Slant 6 class. He would red-light in the Slant 6 final against John Terry, but took 1st place against Josh Rapp’s ’64 Falcon in the sportsman class. John Terry had to beat father Glen in the Slant 6 semi finals, but Sunday the senior Terry would emerge in the Sportsman Final, his ’65 Dart against fellow Mopar man Mike Wysock of Redding. Wysock’s ’67 Plymouth Satellite broke out 7 thousands of a second under his 12.15 dial-in, as Terry took a win (15.47) back home to Oroville.   Sergio stuck around for some Sunday racing, but that Slant 6 Final featured local event host Andrew Howard beating Dr. Dodge to the line, Howard’s ’63 Valiant “Mr. Loud” buzzing victory back to the pits.


            Saturday:  Kevin Dinan would have the only perfect reaction time of the weekend, leading to a 12.02 pass in time trials with his ’66 Chevelle. Keith Jenks joined a growing field of dragsters, making licensing passes, Kyle Skillings’ stretched Beretta was top qualifier in cars  (7.70 at 181 mph), Mike Pires’  9-second Honda top qualified amongst bikes with the best reaction time, .004 on a .400 tree. Jake Morris ran his dragster dead on its 8.93 dial-in after an .014 reaction time (.500 tree), Pam Conn drove her Camaro dead on its d.i. of 10.99 with an .057 RT.


            In Super Pro semi’s, Mike Giacone broke out against Jim Toledo, running 10.68 on a 10.69 dial-in. Bill Wood made a 3rd consecutive semi-final appearance, this time against Jake Morris (the other two have been against Ray Rapp), both racers had an under-.500 reaction time, Wood was the first to commit it, so Morris’ dragster would meet Toledo’s ’64 Comet in the final. Toledo left too soon on the lights, Morris ran a winning 9.59 at 141 mph.

            In Junior Dragsters, newcomer Nina Tucker of Redding – her second day of drag racing – worked into the finals against local Ashley Johnson. Johnson would take 1st place, but Tucker was still all smiles at the end of it, her family sticking around for more competition Sunday. Kaycee Mela would take the Consolation win against Austin Petersen.


            In Motorcycles, rookie Mike Pettit, Jr. has met veteran George Brooks three of Brooks’ four consecutive finals appearances, Brooks continuing his streak in a race free of breakouts or red-lit starts, maintaining his points lead, Pettit maintaining 2nd in points.


            Pro semi-finals, Saturday, featured Redding’s Sam Tucker advancing off of Duane Mayo’s breakout, sending his ’79 Camaro to the trailer. Pam Conn’s ’74 Camaro took on Mike Wright’s ’87 Camaro, and young Wright of San Fransisco State, his bowtie among the lowest e.t. runners in Pro, was soon headed to his first Pro final. Wright raced Tucker’s ’66 Satellite but went too quick for his 10.55 dial-in by 6 thousandths of a second. Visually a very tight race, Tucker took 1st with a 10.49 e.t.


            Wright’s weekend wasn’t done yet, working into a second Pro final, Sunday against Jim Broderson’s ’63 Falcon. An even tighter race for 1st, a double breakout finish, Wright with the lesser offense by 2 hundredths of a second, running 10.50 on a 10.53 (.03 under) dial-in compared to Broderson’s 11.71 on a 11.76 d.i. (.05 under). And again, head-to-head to the finish line. You have to figure the two of them saw it, and just went for it, dial-ins begone. It’s just crazy how close the races are, this season. At the end of the weekend, reigning Pro points champ Ray Rapp was sharing the top rung with Mike Wright, tied for 1st in points, Pam Conn and Jerry Toledo tied for 3rd in points.


            Newcomer Nina Tucker, of Redding, was joined by Juniors newcomer Kyle Barrett of Willits. Tucker raced her way to the Consolation round, but red-lit against Melissa Surber (Surber: 8.96 Tucker: 9.28).  K.C. Mela met Kevin Will in the final, marking his undefeated season with a 1st place win of her own, 10.41 at 61 mph to Will’s 8.45 at 76 mph.


            Kevin’s sister Kim, meanwhile, earned a bye-run in the Super Pro semi-finals in the ’71 Challenger that Top Fuel sister Hillary once raced in her Samoa days. Redding’s Bill Wood made a 4th consecutive semi-final appearance, but his ’68 Camaro red-lit against Mendocino’s Mark Gordon.  Kim Will then took on Gordon, and took home her first 1st place win in Super Pro.


            George Brooks and Mike Pettit, Jr. had dominanted the Motorcycles’ Finals rounds of the season, but Sunday was Mike Pettit, Sr. and Rick McFarlin’s turn, McFarlin banking on Sr.’s breakout finish, Sr. running 11.09 on an 11.21 dial-in, McFarlin – King of the Hill Sportsman ’09 – with a winning 10.14 e.t.  Pettit, Sr. came out of the weekend 3rd in Motorcycle points, Pettit, Jr. 2nd, Brooks the points leader.


            Brooks’ and his Hyabusa grabbed top qualifier status, Sunday, in bikes, with an .017 reaction time (.400). Ricky Ellsworth’s dragster was among the quickest among cars, running 8.32 in Session 1 and an 8.25 run in Session 2 before Kyle Skillings’ 7.69 pass at 181 mph. No perfect reaction times, though Jake Morris came closest with an .001 leading into an 8.93 run.            But whether they win or lose – to paraphrase the weekend’s memorial moment -, every driver gets a helping hand from Drake Crone, for his hand is there at the 60-foot mark, literally embedded into his favorite dragstrip for all time.

                          -- Tim O'Brien

                       Track Announcer