Story by Phil Hutchison and NHRA Communications. Photos by Phil Hutchison
Hurricane Isaac didn’t do anybody any favors, from destruction in the Caribbean, to the floods in Louisiana; Isaac also made its presence know in the Midwest bringing a halt to the 58 Annual Mac Tools U.S. Nationals at Lucas Oil Raceway Park in Indianapolis Indiana.
Before the rain put a stop to the action on Sunday, winners were crowned in the First Annual Traxxas Top Fuel Nitro Shootout, the Mopar Hemi Challenge, and the inaugural Factory Stock Showdown.
Friday’s Hemi Challenge was, as usual, one of the most anticipated events at the Big Go East as over 20 of the baddest Super Stockers were on hand to find out who has the baddest of the bad.
Winning the Challenge for the second year in a row and his career fifth, was Parma Michigan racers Charlie Westcott Jr. Westcott took his Warfish Plymouth Barracuda to a win over the Dodge Dart of Division One racer Jim Daniels from Bristol PA. Daniels was off the line first with a 0.022 light to Westcott’s 0.091 but the big power from the Jackson Engine Tech Hemi made all the difference as Westcott powered by Daniels with a 8.397 159.06 to the PA racers close 8.485 156.92 winning by half a car length.
“Congratulations to Charlie Westcott Jr. for winning the Mopar HEMI Challenge during the U.S. Nationals,” said Pietro Gorlier, President and CEO of Mopar, Chrysler Group LLC’s service, parts and customer-care brand. “Mopar is extremely proud to support sportsman drag racing, which is the backbone of the sport. The Mopar HEMI Challenge is an event that we always look forward to, and the turnout was fantastic again this year. Hats off to all the dedicated Mopar Sportsman racers who competed in the event.”
Westcott pocketed $15,000 for the win as Daniels took home the runner up check for $2000.
Minutes before the Challenge finals, the inaugural Stock Showdown finals were contested with Floyds Knobs IN racer Bo Butner’s FS/S’12 Mustang beating the similar Mustang of second generation racer Brett Candies. Former NHRA Comp national champ Butner, got his Cobra Jet Mustang off the line second with a terrible 0.127 light but his 9.106 @148.84 MPH was enough to beat Candies tire spinning 9.634.
The FS/S class, which showcases the latest generation of factory race cars from Ford, Mopar, and General Motors really did not have the complete participation from all the manufacturers for it’s first race with the 2011 Challenger of Larry Stewart from Clinton MS the only non Ford in the 9 car field. Sorry folks, no Chevy COPO Camaros yet.
Racers I talked to indicate the 9.70 index being the deal breaker as the racers running the Showdown could not qualify for the Stock Eliminator where the bump was -0.787 under. In fact, four of the nine cars (including the Mopar of Stewart) running in FS/S did not qualify in Stock. For the eliminator to be successful, the index needs to be adjusted to get the COPO Camaros and the Hemi Challengers in the show.
On Saturday after rains killed any chances of running the Sportsman classes, the Pros were the only show in town with the Traxxas Top Fuel Nitro Shootout up first after the racing started up in late afternoon.
Winning the first ever Traxxas showdown was Spencer Massey driving the Prestone/FRAM Top Fueler to a $100,000 payday.
Massey slugged his way through the elite field with a strong run in the opening round followed by crushing performances in the semifinal and final rounds. His Todd Okuhara- and Phil Shuler-tuned dragster iced the win with an outstanding 3.780 at 325.61 mph in the final round to defeat fellow 29-year-old Texas native Steve Torrence, whose Capco Contractors dragster coasted to a 4.840 at 155.70 mph.
“I’m so happy for all of our guys because this couldn’t have happened without any of them, including the guys who show up at our shop every day to make our parts and build our chassis,” said Massey. “Just making it into the Traxxas Shootout is huge. To win a race out here is amazing because every car in the class is bad to the bone. Leading up to this event has been pretty nail-biting. We came out and tested last week for seven passes and made pretty good runs, so we had some data and knew we had what it took to win so long as we could put it all together on Saturday.”
Weather permitting; racing will resume at 8 a.m. Monday. Super Stock Round One will lead off a normal eliminations Sunday schedule, with Top Fuel at 11 a.m. If Monday is a washout, the race will be held next Saturday and Sunday with qualifying scheduled for Saturday. With the Pro Mods only getting one shot on Friday and Pro Stock only getting two passes, racers like Larry Morgan ,who was/is hanging on to a Top Ten spot in the Countdown and is out of the show as of now, would like to see rain, and lots of it, on Monday…
But if Monday comes sunny, qualifying is completed and the fields are set.