Kin Bates, the winningest A/F driver in NHRA Heritage Racing Series history (seven championships),
started off the new year in fine fashion by winning class at the Wild Horse Pass MP event.
Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park in Glendale, Arizona, opened their 2016 drag racing schedule on a high note (and a long, smoky burnout) by hosting NHRA’s first Heritage Racing Series event for the year. Even without the nostalgia nitro funny cars and dragsters (it was for Groups 1 & 2 only), 132 competitors put on a great show for the spectators that showed up for the event. Yes, there was a NFL playoff football game the same weekend in Phoenix, but that was Saturday night and eliminations were Sunday at the drag strip. The fans that were in the stands witnessed great racing: record times, the red light/breakout scenario, and double breakout races over and over again. Those eleven drivers/teams that made it to the winner’s circle knew they had earned it. It took the track a day to come around when conditions cooled dramatically Saturday and the racers had to negotiate a fickle racing surface. Not so Sunday; it was game on.
Indicative of the improved racing conditions was the competition in A/FD. Kin-Bates led the seven entrants with a 6.37 going into Sunday’s eliminations. On Sunday, his worst run would be 6.254. Bill Wayne was another competitor that improved mightily on Sunday. Sitting third after Saturday’s qualifying with a tepid 6.606, Wayne reeled off three consecutive 6.2s. Although Casey Grisel and Drew Austin did manage 6.3s on Sunday, Bates and Wayne were the stars of the class. The final round found the always wished for classic duel between blown alcohol and injected nitro A/F machines. Bates, the defending Heritage Series champion in A/FD, took a huge lead over Wayne at the start (.021 to .213 RTs) and won a tight race: 6.254/ 226.13 to 6.291/ 219.12. Adams-Bates also ran top speed (229.40) and clocked low ET (6.194); a clean sweep for the team from Anderson, California.
Junior Fuel dragsters, though few in number, never lack for action. These light weight, high tech vehicles are magnificent racing machines. Qualifying was paced by Simi Valley’s Wayne Ramay driving Bud Hammer’s entry at 7.142. But, this is a class notorious for not sticking to the script in eliminations. Ramay, in the very first pair in eliminations, was upset by John Marottek who punched out a winning run of 6.913/188.04, the only sub-seven second run of the day for the junior fuel dragsters. In the final round, Marottek was unable to sustain his earlier excellence and was easily defeated by Dean Carter. Carter, running on the 7.02 index, never strayed from the 7.0s during eliminations, finishing off Marottek, 7.048/164.79 to 7.490/176.65.
7.0 Pro was comprised of a competitive field of seven altereds and five dragsters with the dragsters holding a slight performance edge—they had three out of the four top qualifiers. From the get go, it was Richard High and Terry Caldwell’s FED in the performance spotlight. The #1 qualifier never missed a beat on Sunday laying down a series of 7.0144/ 7.012/ 7.012 runs prior to the final round against Terri L. Brewster. Brewster, whose best run up that point had been a 7.156, probably figured she would need to get out on High to have any chance for a win. Terri moved first, but it was three thousandths too early, and Richard cruised to the winner’s circle with a 7.157.
Nostalgia Eliminator 1, in qualifying, was paced by a trio of dragsters in the 7.60s: Ed Silbermann, Kenny Upton, and Dan Schrokosch at 7.603, 7.607, and 7.609, respectively. However, it would be an altered and next-to-last qualifier, Steve Schoenfeld, that would hoist the Wally. Schoenfeld has had plenty of success in NE 1, placing second in 2014 and third last year. It was the same for his final round competitor, Brandon Serephine, with whom Steve tied with for third place last year. Schoenfeld had been cutting great lights all day (including an .001 in E1), which may have had something to do with Brandon’s -.012 RT and automatic DQ. Gary Ryan, the defending Nostalgia Eliminator champ from 2015 picked up where he left off by taking the NE 2 at Wild Horse Pass MP. Lindsey Lister also made it to the winner’s circle courtesy of a red light. This time it eliminated the 2015 NE 3 runner up, Ed DeStaute.
Kenny Phillips won A/G and he did it in style by trailering last year’s A/G champion, Keith Morovich, in E1, and runner up, Ray Padgett in E2. Tom Tourele had to get past Jim Stewart (3rd in 2015) to win B/G, and Mike Munoz won C/G with his ’65 Olds 442. In D/G, it was déjà vu all over again with Bakersfield residents Steve Barta and Tim Gorman, both of whom tied for fifth place last year, duking it out again in the final round. Barta’s .007 light was just too much for Gorman’s ‘64 El Camino—Steve took the win by .027. Jay Waxler, Ft. Mohave AZ, survived the forty car marathon field to win Hot Rod Eliminator.