Renner Petroleum/Simpson/We the People Run-Tuff Eliminator
April 30, 2006

            More new faces came out to try the Samoa Drag Strip for the first time, and a few finalists were familiar faces whose rides weren’t in frequent force, last season.  Good thing ESPN was here to capture it all at the Renner Petroleum/Simpson/We the People Run Tuff Eliminator.

             Consistency is evident early in the 51st season, as with Kyle Skillings, whose Super Pro ’94 Berretta got him a second consecutive Top Qualifier  title after a 8.60 run in Time Trials Session #3. The season opener a week prior had only one racer snagging a perfect .500 reaction time, and he came back to do it again: Curtis Daniels piloting “Nappy”, his ’69 Chevelle.

            Newcomer Tim Height brought his ’02 dragster and his Amzoil racing team up from Richmond, making  low 9-second passes at around 168 mph, and  assured he’d back soon for more, and frequently.  He has been running in Super Eliminator in the Korbel Racing Series.

           Stay tuned: ESPN2 paid us a visit to film for a future episode of NHRA2day. At press time, not even their camera man knew when it’ll air, but Brad Schiewe was the designated interviewer when he wasn’t busy racing his ’74 Mustang toward the Super Pro final.  

          The previous weekend had Schiewe runner-up, and this Sunday’s final had Dale Waddell’s Super Pro “T” roadster rolling up beside him, but a red-lit start made a runner-up of Waddell, before a 10.22 run @ 128 mph.

            Glen Terry, last weekend’s 1st place runner in Sportsman, got his ’76 El Camino back into the Finals, facing off against Alan Ambrosini’s ’69 Olds. Both had a clean start from get-go, but the Olds’ 14.57 run @ 87 mph didn’t catch up with Terry’s Elko in time, Terry’s 17.31 pass @ 76 mph sealing the deal for a second consecutive first place trophy.

            The Pro final featured two racers who hadn’t a lot of track time in the ’05 season: Jerry Toledo and Dale Cooper.  Cooper campaigned the ’69 Charger consistently, running 11.29 in both round 2 and 3 of Eliminations, as Toledo climbed the bracket ladder with a borrowed ride- Ray Rapp’s ’71 Vega. Both blue-skinned machines met in the final, but Cooper’s red-lit led towards Toledo’s 1st place win, the Vega passing by the 1320-foot cones with a 12.24 e.t.. Runner-up Dale was still all smiles as he returned the pits, glad to make it that far with the Mopar he and father Tom have worked so hard on.

              Mishaps riddled the semi-final and final for Motorcycles- Sport Burns had things go mechanically awry halfway up the track, spelling out a Final between Black & White Motorsports teammates John Widman and Wayne Cox. “I thought for minute I was gonna get tossed,” Burns recalled of his swing-out arm mishap, conceding his surprise that he wasn’t.   Trouble at the starting line found Cox in the Final before the race could start, discovering he wouldn’t be able to make a run with his drag bike. He and Widman shook on it, and Bomber John mounted his ride for a quick flight up the track.

           Steve Will’s family was busy drag racing, this weekend;  Hillary qualified 2nd with a 4.56 e.t. on Saturday in Thunder Valley, Tennessee, Sunday was ousted in a tight race against Morgan Lucas ( her teammate Doug Kalitta took the top Wally win), but on a peninsula on the country’s other side brothers Kevin and Austin were the Final attraction in Junior Dragsters, with Kevin reaching the eighth-mile cones before Austin, his 10.18 e.t. over Austin’s 9.08.    Robbie Waddell then took on Mike Pettit in the Consolation round. Both dragster pilots had cut near-.500 reaction times that day, but Waddell would red-light in the final run, with a 11.87 run against 1st place winner Pettit’s 9.81.

         When Alan Ambrosini cruised back to the tower a Sportsman runner-up to Glen Terry, Ron Gulbransen – who Terry had beat the week before – vowed to Alan that next time would be Ron’s turn, and his next chance to prove it will be Sunday, May 13th at the California Auto Image Competition Eliminator 26, where they race North, and every witness’s ticket is a pit pass.

                                                            -- Tim O’Brien

                                                        The Voice from the Tower Above