Competition wrapped up at Famoso on Sunday with drama, upsets, and unprecedented performance in some cases. Overall, we’d call the second annual NMCA event a success, with plenty of spectators enjoying the cool spring day, and lots of fast cars going down the track. Here’s how things shook out…
When we last left Joe Lepone on Saturday, he was sending his hood scoop on a sub-orbital flight thanks to a top end nitrous explosion. In his own words, “That’s what happens when you race with nitrous…” and after some quick repairs using a scoop borrowed from the team’s second car, he was ready to break the beams again Sunday morning. A first round win against Randy Walker, 6.491 to 6.919, had both racers doing a little more driving than they might have liked, but the win advanced ninth-seeded Lepone to a competition single in round two thanks to the 9-5-3-2 ladder.
The semi-finals paired Lepone with the always-tough Mike Bowman, but in a stroke of luck for Lepone, Bowman had hurt his car beyond repair in a wild second-round match against top-qualified Scott Oksas, who walked away from a scary high-speed encounter with the wall in that pairing. That gave the Duster a free pass into the finals, where he’d meet up with the ’59 Corvette piloted by John Durden.
Durden had received his fair share of good luck as well, getting a free pass in the first round when Doug Sikora couldn’t make the call, then earning a solid win against Greg Seth-Hunter in the second round, 6.250 to 6.293. That gave Durden the final competition bye into the money round, and on paper it looked like it was going to favor the Corvette over the Mopar by about a tenth. But, anything can happen once the staged bulbs are lit, and a -.028 redlight on Durden’s side of the tree handed the Cindarella story win to Lepone – quite a turnaround for a weekend that might have been over Saturday afternoon!
After showing a bit of his true Kung Fu during qualifying, King of Leaf Springs Al Jimenez was once again untouchable on Sunday in eliminations, crossed-up burnouts not withstanding. The seven car field let him take the green then get pushed back in a first round competition bye, then the second round saw him shooting past Mark Luton, running more than a half second quicker with a 7.098 at 205.35 MPH. That left just one man between Jimenez and the Wally – while second-qualified Rodger Holder did his best with a .022-to-.147 holeshot when the tree dropped on the finals, it turned into a pedal-fest down-track, and Jimenez got the better of it, winning with an 8.074 to Holder’s 9.134.
275 Drag Radial
Finals came early in 275, with just two cars in the class – Artis Houston’s beautiful ’71 Nova, and the ’02 Camaro piloted by our own James Lawrence. Though Houston stood the Chevy up hard on the bumper more than once in qualifying, by Sunday he had it all dialed in and managed to peel off another two tenths from his qualifying performance. That 7.411 at 187.70 was more than enough to get around Lawrence’s 8.063 (a personal best in itself) despite losing a .060-.078 holeshot.
In the NA 10.5 class, Tony Aneian bookended his number one qualifying spot with a Wally on Sunday, laying down bracket-racer-consistent eight-oh passes when needed. A gentle nine-second first round bye took him into the semis against Gypsy Mike Valentino, who got the holeshot but was more than two tenths behind Aneian at the stripe. That set up a final against Vic Brum, a stout competitor who grabbed a big .045 to .113 lead at the tree, but couldn’t out-pull the Camaro’s 8.074, running 8.320.
The eighth-mile small-tire class turned into a battle of attrition – on Sunday, nearly half the field failed to make the call for round one, giving Kevin Keller, George Raygoza, Ryan “Toaster” Jones, and Eric Gustafson broke byes. Combined with the odd-field competition single for polesitter Jason Ayers, it made the first round nothing more than a parade lap, and an opportunity to get dialed in for round two. Unfortunately, a broken transmission input shaft felled Ayers on his next pass, giving Keller the go-ahead into the semi-finals, while Toaster took out the overmatched Gustafson. Second-seed Raygoza took his bye, delivering him directly into the semis to face Keller.
Toaster, by virtue of his number three status in qualifying, drew the last bye of the ladder in the semis, while Raygoza and Keller paired off to see who would meet him there. A glacial .549 light from Keller gave Raygoza every opportunity to get into the money round, but even a .066 reaction time wasn’t enough to overcome a 5.984-5.442 deficit. That put Jones and Keller together in the end, and Toaster had the dial set to “dark,” running a blazing 5.040 at 152.38 MPH versus Keller’s 5.419.