Tim's Dragstrip News For , May 1, 2016       


Opening day of Humboldt-Del Norte Timing Association's 61st season was far from missing big surprises whereas some returning points champions and Top-Five'rs of 2015 had a door slamming start.


Veteran bike racer John Widmann returned on four wheels, piloting John Farber's turquoise altered T. He took it for some of the quickest passes in Super Pro time trials, fast as 8.43 at 155 mph. Kaycee Mela had the quickest machine that day, her dragster hauling up a 7.90 pass at 170 mph followed by a 7.83 pass at 167 mph (4.95 1/8-mile). She ascended to the Semifinals where she broke out against Jessie Blevins, Blevins having treed her (.005 to her .040 reaction time). Blevins' purple '70 Duster would take on Dennis Lindstrom in the Finals. Lindstrom top-qualified that morning by virtue of a perfect reaction time, but that same starting tree served him a red-lit loss that afternoon for leaping the purple Chevy before its .500 green light, aiding Blevins to First Place.

Notable runs: hecka-good packages in Super Pro included Brookings' Steve Poponi, who had a Round 1 run of 9.96 on a 9.90 dial in with a .005 RT in his yellow and white '56 Chevy shoebox. Following round saw Kaycee Mela run 7.90 on a 7.98 d.i. with a .061 RT. For both drivers, it was a win-light run, just as both drivers would lose the next race going too fast for their dial-ins.


Jessie Blevins' son Hunter returned after a championship season in points to make his way to the Finals. His Round 1 win against newcomer Lily Newell, 8, saw the 13 year old run a mere eight-thousandths above his 7.90 dial, coming the closest of any racer that day to a dead-on dial in run.

That win secured a bye-run in the Semis, therefor a Finals match against either 10 year old sister Trinity or 12 year old Chet Keasey. Trinity red-lit against Chet, sending 2015's Junior Driver of the Year to the Finals. Chet broke-out against Hunter, Hunter joining Dad in the Winner's Circle.


Some brackets had Round 1 no-shows lighten the path to Round 2 and beyond, but not for Sportsman's season opener, and certainly not for Larry Ghidinelli.

Armed with his basic looking light green '89 Mustang, Larry took a win over Jim Reed's Plantina, Calif. GTO, out-treed Chico State grad Eric Wright and ran within .005 of his 13-flat dial in against Tom Hasler (Hasler now contesting with an early '60s Chevy II) in the Semis. So here sits the correction: Kaycee Mela came second closest to a dead-on dial in run, and in L.G.'s following Final against tow man Bryan Goodman's '69 Nova, ran 13.01 on another 13-flat dial in with a .009 RT, taking First Place (Goodman, too, ran close to his dial: 14.83 (14.81 d.i.).


Looking at PortaTree stats, I realize the second-closest to a dead-on dial run happened in Round 1 Motorcycles,executed by Mike Pires, Sr: 13.447 on a 13.44 dial in that led to a win-light against his son (not before Mike, Jr. would hammer the .400 tree with a .007 RT to Sr.'s .160. To Sir With Love.). Next round, Pires would red-light against defending points champ Jason Garza, Garza improving upon Round 1's .129 RT with a .025 RT- best RT of that round. Garza's RT improved, better yet, in Round 2 with a .024 light as Mike Pettit brokeout against him. John Tohler's bye-run that followed featured a .020 RT (Tohler had second-best RT in motorcycle eliminations with his .010 light in Round 1, against George Brooks).

Neither finalist, Tohler or Garza, was a slouch in that Final round, coming within hundredths of their dial-ins (.07 above Jason's 9.84 d.i., .09 above John's 9.42 dial in), as Garza's RT of .021 over Tohler's .056 light certainly helped the 2015 M/C points champ start 2016 off with First place.


Of Round 1's nine expected races, three became single-passes due to competitor no-shows. That means a third of the single-passers – Pat Riemers, Mike and Mitch Marlin -, had their first race of the season in Round 2. Meanwhile, Ron Sandberg and Harlan Tucker snagged similar reaction times at the starting line, Tucker's .065 to Sandberg's .066 light, Tucker's early Barracuda becoming Riemers' first competitor of the day. With a 10.394 first-round run, Ron Gulbransen was the only Pro driver to run as close to their dial than did John Antongiovanni.

But first: now is the place for correction, since Gulbransen got closer than Ghidinelli in being dead-on dial ins (.004 away compared to L.G.'s .005). Now notice two paragraphs back where it states, “...as close...”, because in a Round 2 win over a breaking-out Mike Marlin, Anton's Chevy II runs a mere .002 above his 10.75 dial in, after a .008 RT. Best package amongst racers that day, and thematic to how his other races went in the big opener: 10.76 (10.75 d.i.) in Round 1 against Ken Youngreen's Viper (narrowly out-treeing Ken with a .037 RT to Ken's .039, before the Viper blasted past the finish line at 130 mph), and in the Finals, which became a single-pass as Mitch Marlin's low-13s '87 Thunderbird stalled out after a burnout and could not recover. That Final pass was another 10.75 on a 10.76 dial in, this one begun with a .019 RT.

      10.76 is no random number to his light green Nova: he ran it twice, consecutively, in time trials that day, ending a ride at the quarter mile in the Winner's Circle.

But for the 61st Season here in 2016, as the classic song opens with: “We've only just begun.”


Other Pro drives running close to their dial included Clear Lake's Pat Riemers running 11.82 on a 11.80 d.i twice consecutively, the latter run his first race and win-light of the season. He would run those numbers a third time in his semi-final race against victor Antongiovanni. Also: Nick Giacone ran his black and orange Maverick 10.38 on a 10.36 dial in Round 2 and 10.39 on a 10.38 dial in a quarter final against Mitch Marlin, who ran 13.07 on his 13.05 dial in.

The season continues Sunday, May 15, with an extra sport bike class, that day. See you then at historic, unpredictable Samoa Dragstrip.

– Tim O'Brien