Racing Season Winding Up for Takeoff
By Annette Barton
Pullman, Washington – Spring greetings from Division 6 country! The snow is gone (or it was for 4 days), replaced with heavy rain and wind, daffodil tubes coming up and a cacophony of birds migrating north. Several early events have been rained out but the Winternationals did press on, the Arizona Nats are completed and the first 2017 Wally's have been handed out.
NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series – after a wet start to the Winternationals, Leah Pritchett was able to cross the finish line first driving the 'Papa John's' Top Fuel car and take home the Wally, the 2nd of her TF career. She is one of only 5 females in TF with the Winternational Wally accomplishment, the first being Shirley Muldowney in 1980 with a 5.94 (the first woman to win Winternationals in any class was Shirley "Drag On Lady" Shahan in 1966 with her '65 Plymouth S/SA). 10 years after Muldowney's win, Lori Johns driving the 'Jolly Rancher' RED won big over Dick LaHaie with a 5.031 to LaHaie's 5.035; in 1994 the talented Shelly Anderson overcame an input shaft failure to cross the line first over Rance McDaniel to win the second of her 4 career Wallys in TF. One of our favorites, Melanie Troxel, grabbed the Winternational win in 2006 with a 4.58 and made it to the next 5 final rounds with her Skull Gear TF team. Pritchett secured the 2017 Winternational win with a 3.71 – pretty impressive times for 1000 feet!
Speaking of Leah Pritchett, she slammed the competition with the quickest run in NHRA history with a 3.658 pass at the Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park/NHRA Arizona Nationals during qualifying. On race day Pritchett then polished off Brittney Force who ran an amazing 3.704 @ 330.39 .081 start to Pritchett's 3.705 @ 328.22 with a holeshot .053. This win made Pritchett the first to win the first 2 NHRA races in TF in 20 years.
Courtney Force in her Advance Auto Parts Camaro set both ends of Funny Car track records at 3.838 @ 332.67 followed by Tommy Johnson Jr. in the Make A Wish Funny Car who set records with a 3.837-second pass at 329.10 mph February 25 in the final qualifying session for the NHRA Arizona Nationals. In the end the 2016 Funny Car Champ, Ron Capps, was taken out on a holeshot by Matt Hagen with Capps running Top Fueler-style ET and speed of 3.883 @ 330.88 with a leave of .075 to Hagen's .057 3.883 @ 330.88. Crazy, huh?
We are SO PROUD of our Division 6 racers who have been racing down south since January and of course of ALL racers all year! At the Arizona Nationals our own Division 6 Top Sportsman driver Mike Ferderer brought home the Super Gas Wally with a 7.254 @ 187.83, his 24th National Event win. Blasting his way to the semi's in Top Fuel was our own 4-time Drag Boat champion Shawn Reed from Lake Tapps, WA. Running the Hughes Oilfield Transportation dragster, Reed was taken down by event winner Leah Pritchett. We are looking forward to the Mello Yello Drag Racing season to see what Reed can do; one of Reed's crew members was none other than Jake "the Snake" Sanders, former resident of Maple Valley, WA and crew chief on the 'Mr. Explosive' Nostalgia Nitro Mustang. Jake said he was a little concerned that they had enough parts to keep going rounds but they kept going. Runner-Up in Super Stock at the Arizona Nats in Chandler was Jody Lang who is always a respected and feared driver in Division 6 and multiple champ in Stock and Super Stock.
January 15th Drew Austin in the Austin- Dinsmore digger ran a second round 6.06 @224mph which was the fastest time ever for A/Fuel Nostalgia Dragster at Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park. Unfortunately they were unable to run in the final due to a malfunction at the starting line but will be at the March Meet in Bakersfield March 2-5.
Troy Sitko, Edmonton AB, announced that he will no longer be behind the wheel of Harold Parfett's Team ACE Racing blown alcohol altered because Parfett will be focusing on his role with Troy Coughlin Jr's Kalitta Motorsports TF car in 2017. Sitko has been chosen to pilot the "Canadian White Trash" '70 Plymouth Duster BBFC of Larry Burkowski and Larry Kos. Troy is the grandson of George Sitko and son of Ken Sitko who have all been racing since the 1960's; Troy himself started out in Jr's and won his very first event. We hope to see that sharp Duster this side of the border in 2017! Weeks ago Troy said, "I am pleased to announce that I have been chosen as the pilot of Larry Burkowski's 'Canadian White Trash' nostalgia alcohol funny car."
So far not a lot happening in the Northwest with rubber on the track but the prep is underway with schedules set, sponsors secured and Test n Tunes ready to go within the next few weeks at Division 6 tracks. Don't forget the Spokane Speed and Custom show on April 8th.
In Passing – the racing world lost Pat Minick on January 19, 2017. Minick was the original 'Chi- Town Hustler' driver for John Farkonas, partnering up with one another in the early 60's as dedicated Mopar guys. After racing Super Stock they got sponsorship from none other than Mr. Norm of Grand Spaulding Dodge in 1965. They ran one of the new altered-wheelbase Plymouths with a blown nitro engine they named the "Hustler".
In 1966 they teamed up with wrench Austin Coil and together they built the 1967 Barracuda flopper named the "Chi-Town Hustler" in Farkonas' mothers garage. Not a barn burner by any means but the trio made the name famous. The insane burnouts and the name Chi-Town Hustler were all Minick's idea and MInick drove for 4 years before giving the seat to Frank Hawley. Minick is survived by his wife Ardeen, 2 children, 5 grandchildren and great grandpa of 6.
Vern Moats left the racing world on January 15, 2017 at the young age of 77 in Des Moines, Iowa. Moats had an incredible 48-year racing career in TAFC with an amazing record of 16 National Event wins, 15 NHRA championships in Division 5 and many, many more wins in Lucas Oil and JEGS Allstars series. He had won so many events in Comp, Pro Comp and TAFC that his record stood until Frank Manzo eclipsed it in 1999 in TAFC. Pretty darned impressive record by the time he retired in 2012. What I remember about Moats was the insane wheelstand in his Kendall flopper in Texas in the early 2000's.
The semi-trucks are already lining up on the freeways bound for Famoso Raceway by the time we write this and we cannot attend. We'll be thinking about all of our Northwest racers down there including Drew Austin, Bucky Austin, Kris Krabill, Chris Davis, Mad Mike Molea, Greg Howland, and Ron Heugli. Have fun guys and we'll see you trackside later this year!
In closing, please support your local and regional tracks and their sponsors! Let the neighbor kids help you on your racecar and take them to a race or a car show. We need young fan appreciation and participation in the sport of racing and the classic car hobby. Thank you Veterans!
UPDATE MARCH MEET:
With rain delays on Sunday the final for the March Meet was completed on Monday March 6. Two heavy hitting Top Fuel teams pulled into the final, Jim Murphy with the WW2 and Mendy "Nitro Kitty" Fry driving for High Speed Motorsports. Murphy broke a fuel pump drive at the hit and Mendy went on to win the coveted Wally with an impressive 5.59.
In Funny Car, two Northwest heavies went at it full tilt, Kris Krabill driving the brand new Austin-O'Brien Bardahl/Dayton '69 Camaro and Ryan Hodgson driving the Oceanus/Pacemaker 69 Camaro. Krabill had a horrendous fire (according to the photogs at the end it was one of the worst and longest FC fires in a long time). Krabill is OK, the car not so much. Just recently assembled by Bucky and team, painted (not wrapped) by Ron's Hot Rods & Custom in Spokane.