BROWNSBURG, Ind. – Joe Hessling, Toledo, Ohio, captured the Super Comp Wally over a 123-car field at the Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals on Labor Day. The win was Hessling’s second overall and first in Super Comp. Hessling, driving his 190 mph Advanced Product Design sponsored dragster, squared off against two-time INDY champ Gary Stinnett, Emporia, Kan., in the final round taking the win by just six-feet after he posted a dead-on 8.903 to Stinnett’s losing 8.912.
Hessling’s 190 mph dragster was one of the fastest Super Comp rides at INDY but Rob Moser gapped the field by 25 mph. Moser, as in Moser Engineering, had top speed of the meet when he posted a 216 mph charge in his Top Dragster…I mean Super Comp dragster. Moser was trailered in the opening round by a -.006 foul start.
Hessling was deadly on the starting line — he averaged a .016 light — and ran on or above the index in all but two rounds. Hessling’s path to the final was littered with top-tier racers including Koy Collier, Super Gas runner-up Steve Hoyt, Rob Kropfeld, Michelle Furr, Super Gas winner Devin Isenhower, Steve Eckerd, and the afore-mentioned Gary Stinnett.
Hessling opened eliminations on Thursday evening with a close breakout win over Division 4 runner Koy Collier. After both drivers posted .022 lights, the race was decided on the top end after Collier posted an 8.894 to hand the breakout win to Hessling’s dead-on 8.905. Collier, who looked to be setup around an 8.85, dropped hard at the finish line to take .011 in the breakout loss. Hessling, who was setup around an 8.89, only had to pedal once to post the dead-on pass.
After taking an easy round two red-light victory over Super Gas runner-up Steve Hoyt on Friday morning, Hessling posted his first of three-straight .00 lights and 8.91 elapsed times in the third round. In rounds two through four, Hessling was never worst than .005 at the tree and posted an 8.915 along with back-to-back 8.913 passes. Hessling’s dragster was nasty during that stretch as it was on an 8.89 or 8.90 pass each round.
Hessling combined a near-perfect .001 light with an 8.915 to easily defeat the .041 initiated 8.892 lap posted by Rob Kropfeld in round three. Hessling took out Division 2 hitter Michelle Furr in round four Saturday morning with a .005 light and an 8.913 to take the .009 (about two and half feet) win over Furr’s dead-on 8.905. Furr did a great job of dropping .02-second to go dead on the index but her .022 reaction time left her no chance at the win.
The race of the weekend for Hessling had to be his round five encounter with Super Gas champion Devin Isenhower on Sunday as both drivers posted .00 lights and 8.91 elapsed times. Hessling’s .017-package gave him the .004-second (1 foot) win over Isenhower’s .021 package. Isenhower, the Super Gas event champion, was one of DragChamp.com’s Top 5 picks to win INDY in both Super Gas and Super Comp. He came up just short in Super Comp before going the distance in Super Gas. You can find our INDY Top 5 picks here.
After racing his way to the Big Show on Monday at INDY, Hessling earned his spot in the final after semifinal opponent Steve Eckerd fouled by one “thou”. Eckerd, Pataskala, Ohio, was the last door car standing before his semifinal red-light. Eckerd drove his ’91 Oldsmobile to wins over Troy Stone, Alan Kenney, and Ray Miller Jr. in earlier rounds.
Waiting in the final was none other than four-time Super Comp world champion and two-time U.S. Nationals champion Gary Stinnett. Stinnett was on kill during the marathon that is INDY. He averaged an .011 light leading up the final round while consistently laying down nice laps in his 190 mph signature black dragster.
Stinnett defeated a red-lighting Nichole Medeisis in round one and received a huge break in round two when Chuck Ridenour fouled by -.006, just .002-second prior to Stinnett’s -.004 light. Third round opponent Phil Smida broke out with a 8.866 after Stinnett took a .011-second advantage at the tree and posted a dead-on 8.908. Troy Coughlin Jr., driving the Jeg’s sponsored machine, fouled by one stinking “thou” in his round four tussle with Stinnett. Stinnett would have been a tough out in the round anyway as he posted a .004 light with a 8.910 to move to the quarterfinals.
Stinnett had a huge fight on his hands in his fifth round matchup with Rick Hughes as Hughes laid down .014 total to challenge Stinnett. Stinnett responded with a 10-pack of his own to take the .004-second victory and move into the semifinals on Monday. So if you’re keeping score, Stinnett laid down .014 total in round four and .010 total in round five both of which were all-out passes. That is why he is a four-time world champion.
In the semifinals, Stinnett and Nichole Stephenson posted .015 lights and both ran well under the dial. Stephenson posted an all-out 8.854 to lose to Stinnett’s closer to the index 8.868. Stinnett looked to be setup on an 8.85 but made the correct call to whack the throttle in the lights to take the double-breakout win and move into another INDY final.
After both drivers had been killing the tree all weekend, both Hessling and Stinnett posted their worst reaction times of the event in the final round. Hessling left first with a .035 to Stinnett’s .047 and took the win after posting a dead-on 8.903 to Stinnett’s 8.912. Both drivers looked to be setup on high .89 passes in the final.
It was a popular win for Hessling who is well-known and respected in the sportsman pits. Congratulations Joe on your incredible win at the U.S. Nationals.
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