Story by Phil Hutchison Photos by David Smith and Phil Hutchison
If it’s a NHRA national event at Reading PA, fans and racers are pretty much guaranteed two things… Precipitation will affect the weekend, and second, the cool fall air in the hills of Pennsylvania will have racers putting up career best numbers up on the scoreboard.
The 2012 edition of the event did not disappoint in either category as persistent rains during Sunday’s eliminations postponed the finals of the event to Monday after the NHRA record book took a big beating during qualifying and throughout eliminations.
Seeing that an impending storm front was on its way, the NHRA made the decision to run all of the Sportsman classes for the exception of Alcohol and Competition Eliminator to completion on Saturday. By 10 PM on Saturday night, all of the winners in the 0.90 classes along with Stock and Super Stock were crowned.
This left Sunday for what was basically, a Pro Show for the fans who braved the raw conditions. Round one was completed before the first of two rains hit. The track was dried and round two started with only a handful of runs complete before the second shower killed any chances of completing the racing.
But back to Saturday’s Sportsman action.
Winning his first ever Super Comp Wally was long time racer Jack Sepanek from Moosic PA. Jack got the jump off the line with a 0.008 light and coupled with an 8.934 took out the dragster of Chase Fahnestock from Newville PA for the win. Chase wasn’t too tardy on the lights either catching a 0.022 light but would have had to run nearly a perfect 8.90 for the win and Chase came up short with an 8.921 ET in the loss.
Earlier Sepanek beat some of the best racers in D1 as he put Al Kenny, Dave Long, Kath Smulligan, Tom Slater, and Ken Moses on the trailer on his way to the winner’s circle. Fahnestock didn’t have it easy either as he had to get around Scotty Albrecht, Mike Mitchell, and Dave Heuwetter to get to the finals.
It was father and son in the finals of Super Gas with Kenny the elder taking out son Jason after Jason left too early giving the win to dad. Jason was kicking himself later as his Corvette roadster ran a dead on 9.900 in the loss. The win at Maple Grove was Al’s 5th career NHRA national win. Earlier in eliminations, Al took out Scotty Albrecht (again?) and Pete Biondo as Jason defeated Tom Goldman and Billy Leber to get the chance to race his dad in the finals.
Super Stock racer Bryan Worner from Duncannon PA has been on a late season tear with wins at the Cecil County LODRS and a runner up in Charlotte. This weekend at Maple, Worner added another win to his resume taking the Wally over the SS/AM Pontiac of Anthony Bertozzi from Ashland VA. Worner’s GT/EA Camaro was second off the line but Bertozzi had problems and slowed to a 12 second ET as Worner clicked it early running a 10.021 @ 107.66
MPH on a 9.80 dial. Earlier Worner defeated the Mopar of Tom Sheehan and the Camaro of Dan Fletcher to get to the finals. On the other side of the ladder Bertozzi beat the Pontiac Firebird of Gianni Cantusci and Jeff Tripp’s Monte Carlo to make it to the money round.
Stock Eliminator went down to a pair of small block Mopars as D3 racer Craig Marshall’s E/SA “Dodge Material” Dart from Winchester OH, defeated the G/SA Duster of Kelly MacKay racing out of Mineville Nova Scotia . Craig got the better light and chased down MacKay’s Mopar beating him with a dead on 10.95 to Kelly’s 11.211 on a 11.20 dial. The win was Marshall’s 4th NHRA national event win.
In Competition Eliminator it was a pair of small motors in the finals as Calvin Hill’s V6 I/AA Chevy was up against former NHRA World Champ Sal Biondo driving the Barone D/EA Beretta. At the green both drivers went red but Calvin’s red was the lesser of the two evils giving him his first ever NHRA national win.
Two round of Alcohol were finished on Saturday so Monday’s eliminations started with the semifinal rounds. Division 3 racers Paul Noakes must have a lucky rabbit’s foot in his driver’s suit since his Mustang was in the right place at the right time thru the first 3 rounds of eliminations. In round one he defeated an out of shape Todd Veney. In round two, it was Paul Gill getting squirrely on the cold track giving Noakes another win. Then in the semis Noakes ran a 5.697 to beat Dan Pomponio putting the London Ontario driver into his first ever NHRA finals.
On the other side of the ladder, it was all Frank Manzo driving the Al Anabi Monte Carlo, as the Morganville NJ racer defeated Tony Bogolo, John Fiorini, and Mickey Ferro to get to the finals. And going into the final round Noakes had lane choice with his previous round 5.69! So would Noakes’ luck hold out for one more round? … Nah, not today as Manzo ran a 5.508 to Noakes’ best ever 5.611. Noakes even tree’d the champ with a telepathic 0.005 light but Manzo reeled the Mustang in at the 1000 foot mark to take his 100th national event win and clinch the 2012 Lucas Oil Top Alcohol Funny Car championship. To no one’s surprise, Manzo also had Low ET and Top Speed at 5.486 @ 263.20 MPH
Top Alcohol Dragster winner Bill Reichert loves Maple Grove. The Division Three driver makes a yearly trek to the Memorial Day LODRS event, an event he has won 2 out of the last three years and at this year’s Auto Plus Nationals, he continued his dominance of the class with a win over #3 in points Chris Demke. Neither Demke or Reichert (who is #2 in the Lucas Oil race) will catch points leader Jim Whiteley to win the Championship but both racers were the class of the field and both drivers had their cars in the 5.20’s during eliminations.
In the final Demke blew the motor slowing to a 6.292 @ 119.87 as Reichert motored on to a 5.286 268.12 MPH win.
Richard Bourke’s A/FD set low ET with a 5.247 and Demke had Top Speed at 272.06 MPH.
Next week, the NED season ending Dutch Classic at Maple Grove and The Shakedown at E Town.