Larry Larson became a five-time Unlimited class and overall winner of Hot Rod Magazine’s Drag Week presented by Gear Vendors Overdrives on Saturday, as rain postponed the scheduled Friday finale at the Tulsa International Raceway. However, Larson, who has won every Drag Week since 2008, is the only winner ever to repeat, and was the first over 200 mph and the first in the sixes, didn’t do it in his usual dominating fashion, and the adventure certainly wasn’t without its struggles.
Larson entered the final day of Drag Week 2012 in a rather precarious and surprising position — not at the top of the Unlimited leaderboard. That position belonged to NMCA Pro Street racer Jeff Lutz, who has been steady and consistent all week in his 1957 Chevy to score a 7.081-second average through the first four days and present the Kansas chassis builder with perhaps his stiffest challenge to date. Larson trailed close behind Lutz at 7.092, while virtually everyone else in the class had fallen off the map after the grueling trip.
If you recall last week, we reported on Larson and his record-breaking 6.94-second run on the opening day in Tulsa to give himself a nice cushion to open the trip with, but it was Lutz that was quicker by a decent margin at the next two stops in Ennis, Tex. and Gilliam, La. But as day four in Memphis commenced on Thursday, struggles began to set in for both of the leaders.
Both Lutz and Larson pulled to the line for a crack at the Memphis International Raceway quarter mile after the 300-plus mile trip from Louisiana, but neither took the tree as each encountered mechanical breakage that put their entire journey in jeopardy — Larson a broken third-member and Lutz a broken shaft-mount rocker arm. Lutz and company managed to make the needed repairs, while Larson scoured the Memphis area for parts.
The champ, needing a big run on the final day to overtake Lutz, saved his best run for last in nail-biting fashion, as he reeled off the quickest run in Drag Week history — a 6.940 that bettered his Monday 6.941 — for a final average of 7.062-seconds that was just enough to overcome the 7.071 average of Lutz aided by a 7.033 best on the final day.
When all was said and done, both ends of the Drag Week record were re-set as Larson carded his 6.940, while Lutz posted a booming 212.76 mph lap and an incredible 209.96 mph average over the course of the week. Other Drag Week winners included Eric Yost (Pro Street Power Adder), James McEntire (Pro Street N/A), Bryant Goldstone(Super Street Big Block NA), and Jeff McConnell (Super Street Small Block N/A).