Motorsports

Sportsman Racing Recap: NHRA Arizona Nationals

The NHRA continued its early-season excitement with the NHRA Arizona Nationals in Phoenix last week. If you want to read about the Pro Stock, Top Fuel, and Funny Car finishes, check out this story, but here’s a look at the Sportsman class winners.

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Justin Lamb – Super Stock

The defending world champion in both Stock Eliminator and Super Stock extended his success into the new year with a win in his SS/AM ’10 Cobalt at Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park. Henderson, NV’s Justin Lamb earned the 19th NHRA national event victory of his career in his 30th national final. Mike Cotten, driver of the classic GT/KA ’70 Barracuda, was a giant-killer in eliminations, shutting down ace Sportsman competitors like Jody Lang and Dan Fletcher. He could not, however, get past Lamb, who clocked .016-second reaction time and 8.513 on his 8.47 dial to his opponent’s .085 and breakout 10.025 (10.03).

“The track here is always good,” Lamb said. “My cars seem to work well here, and the weather is a lot like home. We race in Vegas all the time, and the weather is very similar to Phoenix, and I think that probably helps. Pomona was not very good for us, but this definitely makes up for it. It makes me feel a little more like I deserved to win [the championship] last year.”

Jody-Lang

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Jody Lang – Stock Eliminator

Few drivers have ever pulled off the coveted double (24 in NHRA history, to be exact), but Jody Lang has done it twice. He was edging toward a third double-up victory, but it was not to be at the 34th annual NHRA Arizona Nationals. Lang was ousted in the semifinals in Super Stock but won the Wally in Stock Eliminator to assuage a bit of the discomfort. A .004-second red light-start from fellow finalist Brian McClanahan handed Lang and his ‘grocery-getter’ M/SA ’81 Malibu wagon the automatic win.

“I feel like I was pretty lucky in that final there. If he turned it green, it was probably going to be a different outcome – but I’ll take it,” said Lang, who earned the 29th national event trophy of his career and 20th in Stock Eliminator in his 45th final round. “It was really tough [breaking out in the semis in Super Stock], but that’s the reason I run two cars; you get to step up to the plate and take another swing.”

Trevor-Harkema

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Trevor Harkema – Super Comp

Trevor Harkema reached his first final round in Phoenix and won the match on a holeshot over Modesto, CA’s Glenn Kern. Harkema’s father, Ken, is a multi-time track champion at Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park, and he was a finalist himself at the national event there in 1990. The Harkema family is now based in Coeur d’Alene, ID.

“This feels awesome,” said the younger Harkema following his .013-second reaction time and 8.968-second pass at 172.08 mph to top Kern’s .067 and closer-to-the-index 8.927, 170.79. “I grew up around this track before we moved up to the Northwest, so this is really cool.”

Todd-Barton

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Todd Barton – Super Gas

Top-qualifier Todd Barton won the Super Gas category, putting together a .015-second package in his unique ’55 Chevrolet to defeat Val Torres, who broke out of the 9.90 index by a thousandth of a second.

Barton had a .010-second reaction time and ran 9.905 to Torres’ .022 and 8.899. It was the second final round of Barton’s career and resulted in his second win, although it was his first in a car that is very special to his family.

“I’ve had a bit of a dry spell in national events,” said Barton, of Norwalk, CA. “I won my first in 2004 in Super Comp, and my son wasn’t even born yet. Now he’s 8 years old, and he’s a heck of a Jr. dragster racer. He’s already been to two finals this year, and I can’t have him showing me up. This car has been in my family since 1971, and I’ve watched my dad wheel this thing for decades. They’re both here today, and it just doesn’t get any better than that. To park this thing in the winner’s circle really means a lot.”

David-Kiesel Vega

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David Kiesel – Super Street

Desert Hills, AZ-based Super Street winner David Kiesel drove his ’76 Vega to the first victory of his career due in large part to a stellar .005-second reaction time. At the top end he was 10.895 at 133.17 mph on the 10.80 index to halt ’69 Chevelle campaigner Chris Borges’ 10.890, 137.37.

“The key round had to be the [semifinals],” said Kiesel, speaking of his double-breakout match with Glendale, AZ-based driver Brian Griffey. “We race a lot here, and we knew he would be tough. We thrashed to get everything together to make this trip, and Wild Horse Pass has a soft spot in my heart; I won my first divisional here, this is my home track, and my boys are here. It was just a great day.”

Paul-Nero

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Paul Nero – Top Dragster

Paul Nero scored his third national event win and second in Top Dragster with a final-round defeat of Rodger Comstock. The Eugene, OR resident held fast despite Comstock’s .002-second reaction time and ran a 6.760 at 195.62 mph that was a hundredth off his dial. Comstock broke out by a smidge with a 6.817 at 198.50 on a 6.83.

“My wife always says that when it’s your day, it’s your day,” said Nero, who was #2 in the world last year in the Top Dragster category. “Today was that day. I wasn’t great, but I was on the right side of everything. This is unbelievable. Moe [Trujillo] does the nitrous tune-up, and it’s deadly. You just have to trust the car and let go of the button on time, and you’re good.”

Bryan-Warr-Corvette

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Bryan Warr – Top Sportsman

Phoenix Top Sportsman winner Bryan Warr wheeled his ’04 Corvette to his first national event win with a triumph over Bud Preuss. Warr, of Riverton, UT, was .013 at the tree and ran a 6.978 on his 6.93 target to beat a 6.851 (6.79).

“The fans have been great, and Sportsman racers really appreciate that kind of support,” said Warr, who was competing in his second final round. “I can’t believe this happened. You know, you dream about this and think it’ll never happen, but pinch me – I think it did.”

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