Certain drag racing events become synonymous with their location on the calendar. The Funny Car Nationals at Martin, Michigan has become one of those events with its date on the calendar being reserved for the weekend following Labor Day. In approximately the span of a month’s time the dragstrip just east of Lake Michigan puts on its two biggest events of the year that pack the fans in the bleachers leaving standing room only. That was certainly the case this year as the Funny Car Nationals brought the return of the Nostalgia Drag Racing League and boasted a hot new up and coming series, Funny Car Chaos. The eighth-mile run-what-you-brung funny car series was truly a perfect partner for an event sharing its namesake.
US 131 Motorsports Park has been tagged the Fastest Track in Michigan and it can be seen everywhere at the facility from it’s a-board, scoreboards, and merchandise. And it lives up to its moniker with the fastest quarter-mile top fuel pass in history. After this event the track could also be referred to as the quickest in Michigan. In drag racing circles (or straight lines-see what I did there) the term fast is reserved for speed, while quick is left to describe elapsed time. For the Funny Car Chaos entrants this event saw the rewriting of several records, both in terms of miles per hour and elapsed time.
First off, there was the A-Field. Now at each event the flopper entrants usually get to make 3 qualifying passes, allowing the teams to find a baseline for the track and then tweak it through two more rounds of qualifying. That, however, was not the case this weekend as an out of nowhere Michigan mist fell on the track Friday evening eliminating both sessions of qualifying. This left the teams with one shot at the earliest stages of the afternoon on Saturday. The track now completely dry, with sunlight directly overhead, and temps in the upper 60’s, low 70’s produced the quickest A-Field bump in the series’ short history. Allan Middendorf held the pole with a 3.73 at over 213 mph and was anchored by Kevin Lennon’s “Shake and Bake” Arrow at a 4.06 at 197 mph. Again, remember this was with only one shot at the track as opposed to three. The pole for the B Field was held by Mike Minick and his family’s Chi-Town Hustler with a 4.22 @ just 128 mph being forced to lift, indicating that there was potential for more there.
Mike Minick burnsout in front of a capacity crowd.
So, prior to the first round, the series already had one new record, with its quickest A Field. Then came Round 1 where Allan Middendorf, and his “American Outlaw” tuned by Jake “the Snake” Sanders reset the series’ speed record at 218 mph in his win over Kevin Lennon. But he was not done there as he took on Mark McElwee in the “Buzzy’s Nitro Bomber” Chevy II flopper in the semis. McElwee gave him all he could handle with a 3.79, but it was Middendorf resetting both the series et and speed records with a 3.58 at 221 mph.
The final would pair number 2 qualifier (3.76) Ken Singleton in his Monte Carlo bodied “High Risk” TA/FC against Middendorf’s Dodge Charger, brining two of the series’ most formidable competitors against one another. Consistency was the name of the game for Singleton who had made passes of 3.78 and 3.77 in his wins over Aiden Heatley-Smith and Brandon Lewis.
Ken Singleton checks out the info on his Racepak gauges.
The B Field final would pair two legendary names in funny car racing against one another. In one lane would be Michigan’s “Detroit Tiger” owned and driven by Steve Timoszyk who had already visited in the Winner’s Circle in the A Field, at Central Illinois Dragway earlier this summer. In the opposite lane would be the “Chi-Town” Hustler from just the other side of the lake in Illinois with Pat Minick’s grandson, Mike behind the butterfly steering wheel. Minick had qualified on the pole, but as the speed had indicated there was more potential there and he proved it with runs of 3.80 and 3.73 at nearly 200 mph. Meanwhile Timoszyk had taken out Todd Barker’s “Back in Black” Corvette with a 3.98 and fellow Michigander Sue Christophersen in her “Suzy Q” 57 Chevy with another 3.98. Based on et Minick was favored in his nitro burner versus Timoszyk’s alky flopper. However, ignition gremlins struck the Hustler and despite the feverish work of several teams they were unable to get it fired. Therefore, Timoszyk was granted a solo, but he did not take it easy. Instead he drove it out the backdoor with a 4.02 at 180 mph.
Steve Timoszyk takes the B Field win on a solo when Mike Minick's "Chi Town Hustler"
failed to start due to ignition issues. Timoszyk drove it through to a 4.02 at 180 mph.
Next was Middendorf versus Singleton and another alky versus nitro battle. Middendorf held lane choice and took the driver’s left lane. As the cars drove past the 330 ft. mark they looked as if they were neck and neck, but at the 660 ft finish line the win light shone in Middendorf’s lane with a 3.61 at an even faster 322 mph to Singleton’s game-but-not-enough 3.76 at 202 mph.
Singleton got a slight jump on Middendorf off the start, but it wasn't enough to hold off the series points leader.
Middendorf takes the win over Ken Singleton with a 3.62 to a 3.76 for the A Field victory.
The Nostalgia Drag Racing League brought out a plethora of nostalgic vehicles as well. Not only does the series provide a wide variety of outstanding vintage race cars, but they perform just as good as they look. In combination with the Funny Car Chaos series there was little down time to be had for the spectators, … and photographers as more and more stellar racing vehicles competed.
In the four-category series it was Nick Dishon in his silver Camaro besting Jim Hayes for the Nostalgia Pro Gas title. In the Nostalgia Pro Comp category, it was Tod Kapp in his red 23 T altered getting the win over Tom Mallack and his roadster. The Pro 7.5 series saw Derek McCuistion taking the win in the all FED final against Verne Griffith. The Pro 7.0 category saw the win light come on for Jefferey Sanborn in the “Bruiser” Fiat over Larry Harlen’s blown Anglia.
Jeffrey Sanborn took the win in the 7.0 Pro category.
The capacity crowd was surely treated to show that had a little bit of everything from, the NDRL and Funny Car Chaos, to even some modern day fuelers, jet dragsters, Bob Motz’s jet Kenworth, and even a wheelstander. We’re just another 12 months a way from the return of the Funny Car Nationals next year so if you don’t have it on your calendar yet, I would highly recommend it.
See you at the drags,
Mike Sopko Jr.