Labor Day, the unofficial end of summer has come and passed, and with it the racing season begins to draw to a close in the Midwest. But before the cars are packed in the trailer for one last time, there was still one more opportunity to burn nitro at the fastest track in Michigan, US 131 Motorsports Park.
Sunny skies and cool weather greeted the thousands of fans and racers that attended the annual funny car gathering. Eight nitro funny cars, two fuel altereds, and the cast of the Nostalgia Drag Racing League were all on hand to give the fans their money’s worth. The Lagana’s were also there with their big show fueler as well as the jet funny cars of Al Hanna’s stable, and the world famous Bob Motz and his jet semi.
Paul Romine provided some thundering burnouts in his 'Man O War' Mustang
Action began Friday night with the floppers each making one pass and the NDRL series making two qualifying runs. After the first evening, Paul Romine had emerged as the Low ET runner of the heritage legal floppers. This would cement him in the final round Saturday, against Saturday’s first round low ET runner. Joe Haas also ran a 5.47 at 267 mph in his “Quickdraw” Firebird to take out John Lawson’s “Runaway” Camaro,which had lost a blower belt in the battle of the big blower and pump funnies.
Ronny Young sprays some raw fuel out of the left bank during his burnout at the Funny Car Nationals
Saturday’s action began in the middle of the afternoon with each of the floppers taking a shot at the track. In the battle of the heritage legal fuel coupes, Ronny Young brought his “Blue Max” Omni out to take on Romine’s “Man-O-War” Mustang. Romine’s hit was short lived as his car was forced to shut off after leaving a substantial amount of oil on the racing surface at the completion of the burnout. That left Young on a single, but traction woes kept him from making a solid pass. To Young’s credit he pedaled the Omni got it back in the groove and took it down the strip, but his 6.59 would not be enough to qualify for the final. After the clean up, Greg Jacobsmeyer came out in his “All Star” Challenger against Shawn Bowen at the wheel of Michael Bartone’s new Camaro nostalgia funny. Both cars left together, but Bowen ran in to difficulties down track and was forced to lift. Jacobsmeyer stuck his Challenger through the traps with a 5.760 at 250 mph to take the provisional Saturday pole.
John Hale's One Bad Texan still tries to carry the wheels, but is able to keep it from unloading the tires and runs 5.763
Next up were John Hale in his “One Bad Texan” Camaro against Mike McIntire Jr.’s “McAttack” 70 ½ Camaro. The tale of this run would not be complete without the background story of Hale’s recent struggles. Back in early August, Hale joined with several other nostalgia funny cars to compete at US 131’s Northern Nationals. During the event Hale’s car continually demonstrated a propensity to go into a wheelstand and ultimately unload the tires. Unfortunately for Hale the misgivings continued Friday night as his car had to be shutoff. Thus, Hale decided to make a test run prior to Saturday’s show. The test run like many of Hale’s recent runs ended with tire smoke as the “One Bad Texan” once again carried the wheels past the 60 foot mark and unloaded the big slicks once again. Now flash forward to Saturday’s round one, as I spied Hale’s car through my viewfinder and wondered how far his car would make it down the track or how high would his front wheels climb. At the flash of the yellow Hale was out with McIntire. Hale’s car pulled strong enough just to have the front wheels dance on the racing surface and as he passed me beyond the 200 foot mark, the candles continued to be lit and traction was maintained. McIntire, ended up crossing the finish line first and taking a holeshot win with his 5.78 to Hale’s quicker 5.76 with a 3. So Jacobsmeyer still held the Saturday low ET mark, but Hale seemed to finally exorcise the demons of his ride.
You can see Tyler Hilton is experiencing some engine trouble as he has dropped a cylinder.
He lifted shortly after this shot as Paul Romine tries to catch him.
To the fan’s surprise and pleasure Romine made a return to the lanes and was poised to make a pass after apparently fixing the oiling problem that had plagued him on the initial burnout. Romine however would not be on a bye, nor would he run any other funny car. Instead he was positioned against the front engine fueler of Tyler Hilton. Though both cars left strong, both also experienced their own share of issues and were forced to lift aborting the runs. That would ultimately mean that Romine the qualifier from Friday would take on Jacobsmeyer who held Saturday’s low ET.
The fuel altereds of Tom Motry and Troy Martin with flames out above the roof
In the battle of Haas versus Lawson, Lawson got his revenge from the night before as he took out Haas’s trouble plagued run with a 5.45. In other big blower, big pump battles Troy Martin, brought his “Martin’s Moonshiner” ’40 Ford Altered up against the nitro Anglia of Tom Motry, with Tim Cullinan at the wheel. Cullinan took the win with a pedaling 6.34 at 220 mph as Martin was forced to lift after experiencing extreme tire shake.
Troy Martin's cockpit fills with smoke during the burnout.
This run would produce some severe tire shake resulting in the coupe crossing the centerline.
All the funnies came back up to make a second pass. First up was Bowen against McIntire. Bowen continued to experience new car blues as his car slowed to a 6.01 to McIntire’s quicker 5.81. The next pair saw Hale alongside Young. In a battle of Texas fuel pilots, Hale came out on top and ran low ET of the heritage legal funny cars with a 5.69 to Young’s 5.82. That set the stage for the championship round of Jacobsmeyer versus Romine. Romine took the left lane while Jacobsmeyer took the right. As the ambers flashed Romine appeared to have a slight advantage, but that was quickly covered by Jacobsmeyer. Near half track Romine experienced traction issues and with some great driving kept his car off the wall, but in the other lane Jacobsmeyer streaked to victory with a 5.82 to claim the Funny Car Nationals title.
In one of the greatest runs of the day John Lawson took a 5.40 holeshot win over Joe Haas's 5.38
Haas and Lawson came out one more time and put on a show for the crowd. Lawson took the holeshot and Haas tried valiantly to track him down. As the cars eclipsed the 1/8 mile both cars moved towards the centerline with flames 2 feet above their roofline. As they crossed the stripe Lawson took the win with a slower 5.40 to Haas’s 5.38. In the showdown of those wacky and wild fuel altered it was, well…. wacky and wild. Both cars experienced traction issues forcing the drivers to pedal. Cullinan took the stripe with a 7.30, but Martin was experiencing more issues as the tire shake had apparently loosened the nose of his altered. Air then got under the nose, and lifted it off the car and into the windshield cracking it and placing two rather large holes in it.
Just an example of some of the unique variety that can be seen in competion at a Nostalgia Drag Racing League event
In NDRL action, Kerry Millet was low qualifier in the 7.50 class with a 7.513 in his supercharged ’41 Willys. Don Nave qualified his supercharged slingshot #1 in the 7.00 Pro class with a 7.007. In final round action, Robert Eaker defeated Kenny Robinson in the Quick Fuel Technology Pro Gas class. Gary Williams drove his front engine dragster to a victory in the Rod and Custom Machine Pro Comp class over Gary Leever’s altered. Bill Lehman took his coupe bodied slingshot to the winner circle in the Phenix Industries Pro 7.5 class defeating number one qualifier Kerry Millet. Don Nave ran the table in the Ross Racing Engines Pro 7.0 class qualifying number one and defeating Jeff Sanborn’s supercharged Fiat.
See you at the drags,
Mike Sopko Jr.