2018 AAA Insurance NHRA Nationals Sportsman Winners
ST. LOUIS – The NHRA crowned sportsman champions on Sunday in eight different classes at the AAA Insurance NHRA Midwest Nationals at Gateway Motorsports Park. Winners were led by David Rampy, Competition Eliminator, who collected his 99th national event Wally, former Pro Stock driver Greg Stanfield in Super Stock, current Pro Stock driver Drew Skillman in Stock Eliminator, Rick Hughes in Super Comp, Tim Nicholson in Super Gas, Jennifer White in Top Dragster, Glenn Butcher in Top Sportsman, Leah Prichett in SAM Tech Factory Stock Showdown.
For the third consecutive national event, DragChamp accurately picked at least one of the sportsman winners in the sportsman preview article, you can read the AAA Midwest Nationals preview here. In St. Louis, DragChamp’s pre-event picks, Greg Stanfield and Leah Prichett, collected the hardware in Super Stock and Factory Stock Showdown.
Although we don’t typically cover Competition Eliminator at DragChamp, we have to pay homage to David Rampy’s 99th career victory. What David has been able to accomplish over the last thirty years is unbelievable. David has been at the top of his game for longer than most have even raced and he continues to prove he can get it done every week. Congratulations Mr. Rampy on your 99th and good luck on getting to 100 quickly.
Four-time Super Stock world champion Greg Stanfield rolled through the field at St. Louis to capture his 13th Wally. Stanfield, Bossier City, La., was driving his familiar red 3rd generation Camaro at St. Louis, the same car he drove to back-to-back world titles in the early 90’s. Although Stanfield’s son Aaron normally drives the Camaro, Greg took it to the winner’s circle one more time on Sunday.
While Stanfield averaged a .041 during eliminations, the worst light in the other lane was a .026 including a .000 and a .004 but Stanfield was steady at the top end overcoming his competitors strong reaction times.
Stanfield snuck by the first round after Mike Morgan took a .06 reaction time advantage but took a tenth at the stripe to go -.004 under. In his round two matchup with Division 4 ace Slate Cummings, Stanfield found himself trailing off the line again as Slate was .000. At the finish, Slate missed judged the stripe taking .030 to be -.005 under the dial. Stanfield won the double-breakout encounter with a -.001, 9.809 pass.
After taking a red-light victory over David Janac in the third round, Stanfield faced Korey Mawhee in the fourth round for a heads-up GT/IA matchup. Mawhee dropped a .004 light on Stanfield but it wasn’t enough as Greg pulled away on the top end for the 9.602 to 9.665 victory.
Stanfield posted his best package of the race in the semifinals against Division 3 hitter Ricky Decker. Stanfield combined a .012 light with a dead-on 9.936 for an .018-second package. Decky had a solid .021 light but broke out -.012 on the run.
In the final, Stanfield was paired with Brad Zaskowski, Grand Rapids, Mich., who was looking to take over the national points lead. Zaskowksi would need a victory to pass current points leader Justin Lamb. Zaskowski, who averaged a .016 light, defeated a number of top-tier drivers in route to his 10th final round appearance including Irvin Johns, Dean Mesenbring, Tyler Bohannon, and Tyler Wudarczyk.
Stanfield once again ran dead-on his dial in the final as his .025 light and 9.937 were enough to light the win lamp after Zaskowski dumped to a .035 over 10.075. Zaskowski looked to have been dead-on his dial had he not braked at the finish line but it looks like he dropped when he saw Stanfield drop. Stanfield dropped .03 at the finish line to go dead-on for the win.
Current Pro Stock ace Drew Skillman, Bargersville, Ind., picked up his second Stock Eliminator Wally of 2018 after defeating Daryl Bureski, Elgin, Ill., in the final round. Just as he did at the Mile-High Nationals earlier this summer, Skillman paired solid reaction times, .028 average, with a fast race car that allowed him to drive the finish line throughout eliminations.
Skillman opened eliminations with a close win over Joey Shipp. After both racers left with .01 lights, Skillman took control of the race on the top end after Shipp ran .062 over his dial. Skillman killed .08 to go .052 above his dial in taking just .008 at the stripe.
In round two, 2018 U.S. Nationals champion T.C. Morris tree’d Skillman, .016 to .044 but lost in a double-breakout when his -.042 was further under than Skillman’s -.026. Morris took .042 at the stripe on his all-out pass.
Skillman used an .018 light and a .028 over 8.818 to turn back Lyn Smith in round three after Smith posted a .082-second package. After a bye run in the fourth round, Skillman defeated a red-lighting Brett Candies in the semifinals. Candies was -.007 early sending Skillman to his 24th career final round.
Waiting for Skillman in the final round was Daryl Bureski and his Olds 442. Bureski, a six-time national event finalist, made his was to the final with wins over Todd Hoven, Tait Steines, Jim Hanlon, Slate Cummings, and Brett Speer.
In the final, Skillman posted a .007 light, his best of eliminations, to Bureski’s .032. At the finish line, Skillman took .022 stripe to go win the double-breakout encounter by just .003. Skillman killed .03-second at the stripe to go -.016 under while Bureski drove it out-the-backdoor posting a losing -.019 under. Skillman collected his 15th career Wally with eight of those coming in the sportsman classes. Skillman continues to prove he can flat-out drive a racecar as he came one win light short of doubling up, just missing the double with a runner-up in Pro Stock.
SAM Tech Factory Stock Showdown
After a dominating performance at the recently completed U.S. Nationals, the Don Schumacher Racing Dodge Drag Pak’s ran all over the field once again at St. Louis. After INDY, the NHRA technical department issued parity adjustments for the SAM Tech Factory Stock Showdown cars by adding weight to the Dodge’s and taking weight from the Camaro’s and Mustang’s.
The weight changes did little to slow down the DSR cars as Mark Pawuk took the pole with a 7.92-second blast with Leah close behind with a 7.93. The three Stanfield Power cars of Steven Bell, Arthur Kohn, and Aaron Stanfield rounded out the top five although they were a tenth behind the Dodge’s.
As expected, and predicted by DragChamp, Leah Prichett was unstoppable in collecting her second straight FSS Wally. Prichett, Danville, Ind., opened eliminations with an impressive 7.94 lap and followed it up with three straight 8.0-second passes paving the way to the winner’s circle. In the final, Prichett defeated Steven Bell, Shreveport, La., with an 8.001 after Bell had problems and shut off.
Joe Welch was notably absent from the Midwest Nationals after his double-DQ at INDY. With one of the fastest cars in the class, it will be interesting to see when he returns to competition and how he performs.
After fifth round finish at the U.S. Nationals a few weeks ago Rick Hughes, Fishers, Ind., went the distance in St. Louis to pick up his first NHRA national event Wally in his first final round appearance. Hughes defeated noted Crew Chief Pro guru Don Higgins, Mapleton, Ill., in the final, 8.921 to 8.884.
Like INDY, Hughes was solid on the tree averaging a .017 light during eliminations which included two .00 reactions. Hughes also had his dragster setup around an 8.89 throughout eliminations.
Hughes used a holeshot in the first round to turn back Christopher Mullins, 8.912 to 8.908. In round two, Chuck Ridenhour posted a .101 light which allowed Hughes to take the easy win, 8.937 to 8.932.
In the third round, Hughes survived a close double-breakout race with Doug Wegner when his 8.881 was -.005-second closer to the index than Wegner’s 8.876. Hughes had a .03-second reaction advantaged but almost gave the race back when he took .029 at the stripe. He found just enough brake pedal to find some electricity in his lane.
In the fourth round, Hughes used a killer .008 reaction and a 8.925 to lock out Eddie Cook’s .022 initiated 8.922 by .011 at the finish line. In the semifinals, Hughes posted his second-straight .00 reaction to win his second double-breakout race of the weekend over Scott Cook. Hughes used a .006 and a 8.888 to defeat Cook’s .044 light and 8.877 E.T.
In his first national event final round, Hughes drove a great race in defeating Higgins. Both racers posted .02 lights but it was Hughes who found the brake pedal at the finish, turning Higgins loose to take the break-out victory.
Higgins path to the final was interesting in that he defeated a number of veteran racers but he also posted three reactions of .070 or worst. First round opponent Jacob Elrod broke so Higgins took the free pass. Higgins posted back-to-back .016 lights in the next two rounds defeating Dave Dahlem and Jackson Collier. In round four, Higgins trailed Dusty Meyer by .055 off the line after he posted a .085 light but at the finish, Meyer took a tenth stripe to lose the double-breakout encounter 8.854 to 8.898.
In the semi’s, Higgins posted another .08 reaction time but go away with it one more time after Cole Cummings was .083 beside him. Higgins moved into his fourth national event final round after posting a 8.908 to Cummings on the brakes 8.939-second pass.
For the second national event in a row, a top-end throttle-stopped car made the final round in the Super classes. After Chris Garretson’s runner-up finish in Super Comp at Reading, running 125 mph, Tim Nicholson, Concordia, Kan., went a step further by winning the Midwest Nationals running an incredibly slow 100 mph in St. Louis. The win was Nicholson’s first in Super Gas and third overall. Mitch Withers, Pratt, Kan., took home runner-up honors after appearing in his first national event final round.
Nicholson’s unique full-bodied ’67 Camaro is unlike any other in Super Gas. It’s a small block powered, Lenco stick-shifted Camaro that runs all-out until hitting the throttle stop in high gear and basically coasting to the finish line at a whopping 100 mph. Although his combination is unique, Nicholson is very skilled with this car as evidenced by his 7th place finish in the national standings last season. Check out this cool video about the car and driver.
Nicholson averaged a .019 light and paired it with a 9.915 average to take down the field. Nicholson ran dead-on the index in three of the six elimination rounds.
Nicholson cruised through the first three rounds after Vernon Rowland and Carl Root both fouled and receiving a bye run in round three. Rob Moser put up a killer .007 light against Nicholson in the fourth round but couldn’t run the number posting a 9.970 to Nicholson’s dead on 9.909.
In the semi’s, Larry Bernshausen had a shot to take out Nicholson but misjudged the finish line to go -.004 under the index. Bernshausen left first, .015 to .022, and had some room as Nicholson posted his slowest run of the day, a 9.928, but couldn’t tighten it up at the stripe as he took .039 to go -.004 under.
Nicholson’s final round opponent, Mitch Withers was appearing in his first national event final. Withers was superb at the tree averaging a .012 light in eliminations. He also wasn’t afraid to hold some E.T. as he was typically setup .05 or .06 fast but also held as much as a tenth in the last couple of rounds on Sunday.
Before falling in the final round, Withers defeated Steve Hayes, Sarah Becker, Alan Savage, Cole Cummings, and Michael Miller. In the final, Withers posted a near-perfect .004 light to Nicholson’s .017. At the finish line, Withers took .061 to go -.044 under the index handing the win to Nicholson’s dead-on 9.904. Withers was holding around a tenth in the final which should have allowed him to roll up on Nicholson a little sooner to help judge the top end better but it didn’t work as Withers still came around Nicholson at a 47 mph difference.
Jennifer White, Conroe, Tex., collected her second national event victory when she defeated Afton Swanson, Denver, Iowa, in the Top Dragster final round. Although the Top Dragster bump was an impressive 6.371, it wasn’t as quick as expected after weather delays only allowed for one qualifying session. White drove an exceptional race in an extremely quick 6.1-second car as she averaged a .020 light and consistently drove the finish line like a bracket racer on Saturday night.
White was unchallenged in the first two rounds as Jeff Strickland broke in round one and J.B. Strassweg ran .03-second above his dial in the second round. In the third round, White left on Jim Thorp .015 to .022 and as they approached the stripe, White dropped to go .034 above her dial while Thorp broke out with a 5.980 on his 6.01 dial.
In the semifinals, White threw a .021-second package at the world champ, Lynn Ellison which ended his day one round shy of the finals. Ellison posted a .056 light and a 6.249 on his 6.25 dial in the losing effort. It looked as though White killed .02-second to go dead on with a two in taking .034-second stripe.
The final was anticlimactic as Swanson missed the tree with a .102 reaction while White posted another solid .028 light. White once again dropped at the finish line to get there first by .034-second posting a 6.164 on a 6.14 dial to capture her second national event victory in her third final round appearance. Swanson posted a -.016 under 6.104 in the losing effort.
While the Top Dragster class received most of the pre-race attention, it was the Top Sportsman cars that impressed the most at St. Louis. The quick field was led by recent Northwest Nationals winner Bryan LaFlam in his beautiful ’67 Mustang which posted a swift 6.193 at 231 mph. The bump was Steve Jaeger’s 6.909.
Glenn Butcher, Doylestown, Ohio, collected his first NHRA national event Wally after defeating four-time national event finalist Bill Yates Sr. in the final round. While Butcher was decent at the tree, he averaged a .041 light, he more than made up for it with impressive runs from his ’69 Camaro. In the first four rounds, Butcher posted runs of .01 over, -.001 under, -.014 under, and .01 over to reach his second national event final round.
Butcher took an easy first round break-out win after Kyle Dumke was -.058 under his dial. Tommy Turner gave Butcher a great race in the second round as Turner had the better light .018 to .027 and both drivers ran it out-the-back-door. Butcher claimed the win with his -.001 under 6.479 to Turner’s -.004 under 6.586.
Butcher received another break in the third round after Mark McDonald posted a -.153 under 6.687 on his 6.84 dial sending Butcher to the semifinals. Against Phil Unruh in the semi’s, Butcher used a .068 light and a .010 over 6.520 to take down the .083 light and -.001 under 6.389 of Unruh to move into his second final round.
In the final round, Butcher trailed Bill Yates .010 to .034 but as they moved down track, Yates couldn’t run close to his dial which gave Butcher enough room to slip past him for the .014-second victory. Butcher combined a .034 light with a .024 over 6.534 to take down Yates’s .010 light and .067 over 6.717.
Yates took down an impressive list of racers to reach his fourth final round as he defeated former national champ Mike Williams, two-time 2018 champ Dusty Meyer, Troy Finner, and two-time 2018 champ Don O’Neal.
Although the event did face some weather challenges which limited the sportsman classes to just one pass on Friday, the event turned out well and was completed on schedule. Weather and schedule changes are to be expected at NHRA events as the sportsman schedule can change on a dime but that’s what makes these races so hard to win. For those that adapt the best, they get to hold the Wally on Sunday afternoon. Congratulations to all of the winners from the AAA Insurance NHRA Midwest Nationals.
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