ENNIS, Tex. – After battling persistent weather delays throughout the race weekend, the NHRA finally completed the sportsman finals on Monday. The event proved difficult for the sportsman competitors as they went days without seeing the track in some cases along with constant schedule changes and mudding pits. Even with all of the challenges, a handful of racers were smiling on Monday as they captured their first national event wins.
First time national event winners included Brandon Bakies in Super Stock, Jackson Collier in Super Comp, Casey Plaizier in Super Gas, Lance Rutland in Top Sportsman, and Darian Boesch in Top Dragster. Other winners included Clint Neff in Competition Eliminator, Brian McClanahan in Stock Eliminator, and Val Harmon in Super Street.
In our event preview article, view it here, we make pre-event picks for each class. For the fourth national event in a row, we picked at least one of the event winners. At Dallas, we correctly picked Leah Prichett to win the SAM Tech Factory Stock Showdown and Lance Rutland to win Top Sportsman.
A couple of stories developed at Dallas including David Rampy gunning for win number 100 and three of the top four in the national points making late round finishes. Clint Neff prevented Rampy from collecting his 100th Wally and along the way moved up to second place in the national points standings. Neff is now in great position to catch points leader Frank Aragona who is out of points earning opportunities. Rampy still has a shot at the national championship as well but will need to improve in his next two LODRS races in order to pass Aragona. Bourgeois, who reached the semifinals at Dallas, also improved on his total to keep his championship hopes alive.
The national championship will be decided soon as Neff, Rampy, and Bourgeois should hit the next couple of LODRS races which will determine their fate.
Brandon Bakies drove his late-model Camaro to his first national event win and in doing so, kept David Rampy from reaching the 100 win milestone. For those keeping score, Rampy went 0 for 2 in the final round at Dallas, something that is definitely a rarity for him. Anytime Rampy gets two shots in the final round at the same event, you can almost bank on him collecting at least one win. Number 100 will have to wait another day.
Bakies win propelled him into the national points chase as he now stands just 23 points behind leader Justin Lamb. Bakies has two points-earning races left to catch Lamb.
Chris Chaney came into the event with a shot taking over the points lead but a third exit didn’t improve his total. Chaney still has a great shot at the championship if he can make a late round finish in his next LODRS race.
Brian McClanahan was the story of the weekend as he made the long haul from California to Texas in hopes of passing points leader Justin Lamb in the national standings. McClanahan did just that after he won the race, his second national event win, taking over the points lead by a single point. In the final round McClanahan defeated a red-hot Cooter Hidalgo by about five feet at the finish line. Cooter has been in four finals in his last three events.
McClanahan knew coming in what he had to do and he made it happen on a weekend that included a ton of challenges for the sportsman racers. McClanahan drove a great race when the pressure was on.
SAM Tech Factory Stock Showdown
Leah Prichett captured the event win along with the season points championship at Dallas. After struggling somewhat during qualifying, Leah stepped it up during eliminations on her way to her third straight victory. After having a dominate car at the previous two races, Leah had to work hard at Dallas to keep up with low qualifier Kevin Skinner’s Mustang and the three Stanfield powered Camaro’s of Arthur Kohn, Steven Bell, and Aaron Stanfield.
The championship was decided in the semifinals when Steven Bell got loose down track allowing Prichett to advance to the final round while Kohn was stopped short of the final by Skinner’s Mustang. Kohn came up just .002 short against Skinner handing the national championship to Prichett and her DSR Dodge Drag Pak Challenger.
Leah pulled out her second straight win for team DragChamp as she was our pre-event pick to win the class.
Jackson Collier finally broke through for his first national event win after defeating Steve Williams and his K&N Filters sponsored dragster in the final round. Jackson and his Collier Family Racing teammates have won just about everything in Division 4 for the last few years so it’s surprising to learn this was his first national event win. Expect more wins to come as Jackson can flat-out drive both ends of the racetrack.
The big story of the weekend in Super Comp was Don Nichols and Mark Grame’s pursuit of the national championship. Nichols holds the best chance to surpass current points leader Chris Garretson as he has a number of races left to claim and several earlier round losses to improve on. Unfortunately for Nichols, he only gained 10 points at Dallas as he fell in round two leaving him 11 points out of first place. Although Nichols still has several races left to claim, he’s running out of races as the schedule winds down. Nichols will need a good showing at the upcoming Division 4 LODRS at Noble, Okla. in order to avoid traveling to Las Vegas next month.
Mark Grame, who made two finals the week prior in Great Bend, was looking for a late round finish to give himself a better shot at the championship. Like Nichols, Grame fell in round two which did little to help his championship dreams.
The only good thing about Nichols and Grame falling early is they were able to make it home before the weekend was over unlike a lot of sportsman competitors who were forced to stay until Monday.
Casey Plaizier also made the long trip to Texas payoff as the Canada native captured his first national event win after Joseph Lokhaug broke out in the final round. I met Plaizier at this race last year and watched him several rounds by outdriving his opponents at both ends of the track. In the last year, he’s won races and made tons of rounds all over the country in his Corvette roadster. The win gives Casey an outside shot at the national championship although he will need to win his next two events in order to have a shot.
The other story in Super Gas was the 100 mph, reverse throttle-stop, four-speed, manually shifted Camaro of Tim Nicholson who stayed hot with semifinal finish. Event winner Plaizier took Nicholson down in the semi’s with a 12-pack, .012 light and a perfect 9.900. Nicholson was game with a 9.904 pass but missed the tree to give the win to Plaizier. Although Nicholson didn’t see the track for three days in between first and second round, he laid down a 9.91 in round two on Sunday. Nicholson’s runs varied from a 9.903 to a 9.925 over a five-day period with varying weather and track conditions. To say Tim has his unique combination figured out would be an understatement.
Devin Isenhower still leads the national points but is out of races to claim. He’s trailed by five competitors who are running out of time and races to catch him. The championship should be decided once the next two points races are completed.
Val Harmon captured his third national event win at Dallas in his cool low-rider Chevy II. Val is a tough racer who can definitely drive the finish line, he once striped me by less than a “thou” to win a 9.90 to 9.90 race, so I’ve seen his skills up close and personal. Harmon defeated Division 3 veteran Barney Barnhart after both drivers ran well above the index.
Team DragChamp got on the board for the second time of the weekend when Lance Rutland, one of our pre-event picks, captured his first national event win after defeating Division 7 competitor Bryan Warr. We picked Rutland to win as he consistently makes tons of rounds in his ’63 Corvette. Rutland was a win waiting to happen and it was nice to see it finally happen at Dallas.
Another big story of the weekend was JR Lobner and his national championship hopes. JR lost yet another opportunity to overtake current points leader Doug Crumlich after he fell in the second round. Lobner needed just one more win light in order to take the national points lead. He’ll now need to get the fuel card out as some heavy travel looks to be in his forecast if he intends to surpass Crumlich.
While his first win didn’t count towards his national points total, Darian Boesch probably doesn’t mind as winning a national event is amazing whether the points count of not. Boesch took out Division 4 standout Mallori Rodgers in the final round to capture the Wally.
While it doesn’t look as though anyone will catch Paul Nero for the championship, Mark Jones did have an outside shot coming into the event. Those hopes were squashed after a second round exit.
While the event had its challenges, it did produce some championship drama and a number of first time champions.
For all the latest NHRA sportsman racing news and race results, visit DragChamp daily.