Black though it may appear to the layman’s eye, the track at the Auto Club Speedway in Fontana was definitely green. Temperatures above 90 degrees all weekend had the track hot and slippery, but you wouldn’t find any quitters in the pits. From stars like Pro Mod ace Joe Lepone to spunky fighters like TT5er Burk Heck, one and all were there to make the 4th Annual NMCA West Shootout a race to remember.
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Garrett Pro Mod
Things got off to a rocky start for the first round of eliminations, as Greg Seth-Hunter’s late-model Mustang suffered a major malfunction and forced him to bow out. John Scialpi took the bye with a smile on his face, clocking in with an elapsed time of 6.102-seconds.
Next up was Andrew Berry and Joe Lepone. All of Lepone’s Musi muscle wasn’t enough to save him, however, as Berry’s quick reaction time–consistently under one tenth of a second at each round of eliminations–got his sleek green Camaro slipped past the 1,000-foot mark at 5.807 seconds. It was a bit of poetic justice for the kid from Paso Robles, as his weekend had taken a few unfortunate twists and turns (including a popped oil line on Saturday) leading up to Sunday.
Scott Oksas had a similar situation to that of Scialpi, as Bluebaugh’s Barracuda blew the transmission in a previous hot lap, and couldn’t be fixed in time to compete. He nevertheless put the most toward his right-lane pass, which wound up costing him as he spun, shook the tires and almost struck the wall to the right. A 9.486-second elapsed time sealed the deal for Oksas to move up to the next round of eliminations. Rick Snavely was a little less than concentrated as he made his single pass, with a slow reaction time of .976 seconds and elapsed time of 8.733 seconds at just 20.63 mph.
In the second round, Snavely and Scialpi were first up to the staging lanes. Scialpi was off the line first with a stellar .019-second reaction time, but Snavely’s turbocharged Camaro blew past rather quickly, leaving Scialpi biting dust as he crossed the finish line at almost half a second behind Snavely.
Oksas and Berry followed quickly, and Berry once again had his honed timing skills in his favor as he leapt out of the box first. Oksas put up a good fight for most of the blacktop, but got sideways at half track and had to back off, giving Berry the victory at 5.244 seconds to Oksas’ 6.863.
The final saw Snavely and Berry going all-out: Berry was first out of the box with a .076-second reaction time, but he got loose and had to pedal to recover, giving Snavely the win. The Turbos Direct Camaro emerged the champion with a 5.320-seconds elapsed time.
Lucas Oil NA 10.5
The field was wide and varied when it came to the naturally-aspirated of the bunch. Tony Aneian was the champion of the class at this track, but with uncontrollable conditions and mishaps causing frequent troubles for the field, this event was anyone’s game.
Tony Valentino and Brad Udell were up first in eliminations, with Valentino snatching victory from the jaws of defeat after Udell cut a tire and got sideways. “I had one of those days today,” Udell later joked, “those days when I wish I was out golfing.”
Up next was Aneian and Jack Shippy. Both men drive ’68 Camaros with Chevy engine setups, but that’s where the similarities end. The green light saw Aneian launch first but not by much–only three thousandths of a second. Shippy gave the champ a run for his money, but ultimately couldn’t compete against the superior power of Aneian’s 555 cubic-inch big-block beast. Aneian took the win with 8.251 seconds at 163.87 to Shippy’s 9.558 at 136.70 MPH.
Afterwards, Joe Keurjikian’s gleaming blue-striped Trans Am, paired with Ryan Bell in his C3, ambled up to the burnout box and prepared the tires for the next few seconds. It was a very close race between the two, yet Bell couldn’t match the acceleration of Keurjikian on this particular Sunday; the Trans Am wound up winning this round, clinching it at 8.388 at 161.02 MPH.
The second to last of the quarterfinals competitors were Bryan Cobbett and Victor Brum. The drivers pleased the crowd with almost side-by-side passes down the blacktop, Cobbett in his ’04 Stang, Brum in his ’70 Chevelle. It was a photo finish as Brum ran out of track attempting to catch his opponent; Cobbett’s reaction time was almost two hundredths faster than his rival, giving Cobbett a holeshot victory with a combined time of 8.824 to Brum’s 8.841. Talk about close!
Lastly, Randy Jones and Matt Funkhouser were scheduled to bring up the rear, but Funkhouser had to abdicate at the last second. Jones and his ’05 Cavalier ran a respectable 8.466 at 157.30 MPH and moved up the tree.
The quarterfinals saw clean passes from each of the contestants except for Cobbett, who jumped the gun out of the hole and lost to Keurjikian in the second matchup. Valentino bested Jones in yet another nailbiter like Cobbett versus Brum. Aneian had a bye and cruised into the semifinals with a lazy 14.822 seconds at 78.08 MPH.
Aneian and Keurjikian pushed their F-bodies to the limit in the first matchup of the semifinals, with Aneian edging out Keurjikian at 8.221 seconds at 167.22. Now it was Valentino’s turn to take a bye, which he did by breaking the beams and rolling back out to pit lane.
The finals saw Aneian and Valentino pull their individual ’68 Camaros all the way down the 1320, in yet another close call as Aneian once again sealed his position as the champion of the ten-fives. His elapsed time of 8.176 seconds at 167.38 MPH was not far off from Valentino’s 8.331 seconds at 165.64. All in all, it was a solid weekend for the man from North Hollywood, and yet another notch in his coveted belt.
Pro Charger Street Outlaw
The competition was pared down quite a bit this weekend as eliminations opened in Street Outlaw, as three racers–Kevin and Jeff Young, as well as Rodney Bohanon–failed to appear for eliminations. Nevertheless, Chico Coleman made the most of his pass in the ’81 Cutlass, clocking in at 8.524 seconds at 172.94 MPH. Eric Gustafson followed Coleman on his bye, coming in at 7.661 seconds at a slowing 138.07 MPH.
Ryan “Toaster” Jones and Armen Maghdessian were the only pair in the quarterfinals to go head-to-head as planned. Both had excellent reaction times out of the hole, but Jones made it happen after Maghdessian broke loose. Jones’ time was 7.711 at 184.42 MPH.
Our very own James Lawrence brought his A-game to the Street Outlaw competition, and proved it when he qualified first on Saturday. He made a single run, losing a bit of traction halfway down the track, but got back in it at the end, pulling off an elapsed time of 7.633 seconds at 185.97.
In the semifinals, Gustafson’s early spin got him loose, costing him the win to Jones and his ’65 Nova. Lawrence and Coleman had a tussle breaking out of the hole, as Coleman had a reaction time of .195 seconds to Lawrence’s .254 seconds. Lawrence regained composure quick enough to save his pass, though, while Coleman suffered an unfortunate wheelstand that bled off much of his early advantage. Lawrence and his Camaro took the win at 7.468 seconds at 189.34 MPH.
Time for the finals: Lawrence and Jones, mano a mano. Jones had an impressive .050-second reaction time, far better than Lawrence’s .338 seconds. It looked like Toaster had his opponent beaten; he made it to mid-track out in front, but the top-end performance of the Camaro was enough to blow past the red Nova in the end, clinching the victory for Lawrence at 7.399-seconds.
Mickey Thompson True 10.5
Mark Luton made his mark once again here in Fontana this weekend, not only qualifying first in the category, but also by leading all of his rivals on a wild goose chase. Up first on Sunday was Burt Heck in his ’82 Camaro, which had a bye after his scheduled competitor, Roger Holder Jr., had to bow out due to a burnt-out ignition system. Heck quickly took off out of the hole, snagging a .077 reaction time and a respectable 7.721 elapsed time at 186.74 MPH.
Next was Dana Cook and her MMR-built Mustang, which had a bye after Jeff Kyle and his ’00 Mustang were a no-show. She cruised down the track without a care in the world. Finally, Luton ran a single down the blacktop, careful not to push his Grabber Blue GT500 too hard.
Round two saw Cook once again get the benefit of a single pass, which she gave her all for, netting a 7.322 seconds 201.43. Afterwards, Luton and Heck squared off for yet another grudge match, with the supercharged Shelby outdoing the nitrous-supplied 565 Chevy big-block–7.167 seconds at 174.96 and 7.701 seconds at 188.83, respectively.
The battle of the MMR machines was set once again, just as it had been two months prior here in Fontana: Luton versus Cook. All went well for both racers until Cook’s mistake (veering across the center divider) cost her dearly, and the race went to Luton once more. His time was 7.077 seconds at 177.44 MPH, with an impressive .046 reaction time.
ARP Outlaw 8.5
By all accounts, Erick Aldrich and his ’72 Maverick deserved the victory this weekend–top qualifying position, consistent reaction times, fast passes, and a cool head throughout. Things did not go according to plan, though, as we found out on Sunday.
George Raygoza and Tony Smith duked it out to open eliminations; Raygoza seizing the victory after running 5.314 seconds at 139.03. Aldrich and Eric Outland went next, with Aldrich edging out his fellow racer by a significant margin of three tenths of a second. Lastly, Dan Hale was a no-show to the staging lanes, making Carlstedt a little less nervous as he plowed his way down the track to a run of 6.003 seconds at 128.19 MPH.
In round two, Raygoza’s excellent reaction times came into effect once again, as he broke the beams at .090 seconds and blazed a trail to the finish line, winning against Carlstedt and his ’70 Camaro with a run of 5.317 seconds at 139.47. Aldrich ran a single into the semifinals, punching in at 5.262 seconds at 138.96.
All the king’s horses and all the king’s men couldn’t help Aldrich out in the final: he was five hundredths faster than speedy Raygoza out of the box, but a violent wheelstand and subsequent slam back down on the track knocked all the wind out of his sails. Aldrich then got sideways and practically lost control near the wall; his luck had run out. Raygoza zoomed past and went home with a Wally for his efforts, coming in at 5.424 seconds @ 139.17 mph.