A good portion of the country had just dealt with some of the hottest weather it had experienced all summer. A week earlier the legendary US Nationals was contested with heat indices approaching 100 degrees. So imagine the surprise of many a racer and fan who felt the need to purchase sweatshirts at the 2018 edition of the Funny Car Nationals held at US 131 Motorsports Park in Martin, Michigan. That’s right temperatures barely hit 70 degrees during the daytime and with most of the action occurring in the evening temperatures had dipped down into the 50’s with a steady breeze. Though the masses may have not been prepared for the cool temperatures, the racing vehicles were. If you have been around the sport long enough, you know what cool temperatures can do to high horsepower vehicles on a well-prepped track. And that is exactly what you got when nostalgia nitro funny cars, fuel altereds, and the Nostalgia Drag Racing League came to throwdown at the Fastest Track in Michigan. Here are some of the highlights the capacity crowd experienced.
RECORDS AND NEAR RECORD RUNS-
This was a two-day event with the NDRL making two qualifying passes and nostalgia nitro making one on Friday evening. It was then that the nostalgia funny car track record was reset by Joe Haas in the “Quickdraw” Firebird owned by John Lawson. Recently the car had been giving the team fits as it continually refused to fire on all eight cylinders. Coming into Friday night of the event, the team took another swing at the combination and turned the wick up. Success!! Joe lit the candles and carried the green flopper through the lights with a 5.22 at 281 mph.
Joe Haas set the Nostalgia Funny Car Track record Friday night with a 5.22 at 281 mph.
Friday was not the only evening in which stellar performances were had. A world speed record was nearly set in the fuel altered category on Saturday evening’s first pass around six o’clock. It was Troy Martin in Tom Motry’s “Drastic Plastic” Anglia squaring off against Gary Krause in the “Moonshine Express” ’40 Ford Coupe. Both cars left hard with the torque from the motors carrying the left front for the first 200’. Both cars settled and ripped down the quarter mile sashaying as nitro burning altered tend to do. As the nitro belching beasts crossed the traps the lights illuminated with the second fastest run in fuel altered history. It was Gary Krause with a 5.31 at over 285 mph, just a tick under the record mph. His 5.31 also put him fourth quickest in history. The excitement didn’t end there for Gary. As he crossed the traps apparently the wind created by the 285 mph blast was too much for the front windshield as it imploded. The extra air conditioning then sent the escape hatch skyward. Troy Martin was no slouch in the left lane as he crossed the line with a 5.46 at nearly 256 mph. I don’t have the statistics but would be curious to know how that rates in terms of quickest and fastest side by side fuel altered runs. If anyone knows, drop us a line.
Perhaps one of the quickest and fastest side by side Fuel Altered passes.
Greg Krause with 5.31 at 285 mph to Troy Martin's 5.46 at 256 mph.
Evidence of the shattered windshield of Gary Krause.
US 131 also brought back the Lagana Brothers and their “Nitro Ninja” top fueler. Last year the team set the Top Fuel record with a 338 mph blast in the quarter mile. The cool conditions had everyone licking their chops to see if the Lagana’s could be the first to hit 340. They gave it a valiant effort on their first run Saturday and ran a 334 mph blast in 4.59 seconds. That gave them the track’s second fastest run ever but they were unable to surpass it in their last opportunity as driver, Dom Lagana, had to pedal the car twice and then popped the blower just before the lights.
BACK IN BLACK
It was just about a month ago that John Lawson went on a wild burnout here at US 131. You may recall he had an issue with the throttle sticking on the burnout. That caused the car to make a hard right into the retaining wall about 300’ feet down track. The impact punched a hole in the fuel tank and caused a fire to erupt that destroyed the front end of the body. In just about a month’s time the Lawson Family Team had taken a new chassis and body and put it together with the salvageable parts that remained. The car this time in a hot rod black as opposed to its familiar orange still carried the “Runaway” name on its flanks. John took the car on a three-quarter check out run on Friday night with successful results. Unfortunately, the car struggled on Saturday with a wheels up pass that pulled the car out of the groove and sent timing blocks flying on its first pass and then with a cool tight track, lost traction on the last pass of the evening. Though the scoreboard did not light up with their best passes, the weekend still was a success given all that the team had been through since their last time at the track. And the fans who were there in August were equally appreciative to see the return of the Lawson racing team and the “Runaway” flopper.
John Lawson returned to US 131 Motorsports Park in a new "Runaway" Firebird.
And the Winners are….
Greg Jacobsmeyer repeated as the Funny Car champion. Greg had qualified third in the round robin event and was not supposed to be in the final. However, Mike McIntire Jr. hurt his “McAttack” entry and was unable to make the call, thrusting Jacobsmeyer back into the money round. Waiting for Jacobsmeyer and his “All Star” Dodge was Mark McElwee in “Buzzy’s Nitro Bomber.” McElwee had previously run a 5.68 on Friday evening. McElwee was not able to repeat as his flopper quickly went up in smoke. Jacobsmeyer took the win for the second consecutive year with a 5.74 at 251 mph.
Nostalgia Funny Car winner Greg Jacobsmeyer won with a 5.745 at 251.40 in the final.
The nitro nostalgia and exhibition vehicles were not the only show on the grounds as the Nostalgia Drag Racing League brought in their four categories of vintage drag vehicles. It was Dan Mullin in his orange Camaro taking the win in the Nostalgia Gas category. In the Nostalgia Comp category, it was Shane Rasler in his carbureted slingshot taking the win. Bo Boles drove his Boles & Freels 23 T Altered to the win in the 7.5 category. And it was “Rocketman” Robbie Freels who had to overcome major adversity to take the win in the ultra-competitive 7.0 category. On Friday, Robbie had a connecting rod exit through the oil pan. Many would have thought his weekend was done there. Instead a phone call was made, and a spare motor was driven all the way up from Kentucky. Saturday morning the new bullet was prepped, readied, and installed. The new bullet didn’t only qualify the car, but also made it through four rounds of competition and ultimately into the Winner’s Circle on Saturday evening.
Nostalgia Gas winner Dan Mullin!
Though the temps were chilly, the action was hot. Nitro flames and jet exhausts lit up and warmed the night skies and those in attendance both nights got to witness some great vintage racing action. That is it for the Sopko’s this year, but we plan to be back next year with some more vintage drag racing coverage.
See you at the drags,
Mike Sopko Jr.