Records were shattered at the World Footbrake Challenge as four drivers took home five big checks over three days. Don’t worry, we’ll do the math for you.
BRISTOL, TN – The World Footbrake Challenge (WFC) has been a “must experience” race for footbrakers all over the globe since it’s inception. For the 14th event, two experienced drivers made the trip for the very first time and hit the jackpot. The other winners may have raced the WFC before, but this year they drove straight into the winner’s circle.
The racing action started on Thursday with a test and tune and what was originally scheduled as a $3,000 to win gamblers race. Jared Pennington and Steve Stites of Coalburg Racing Promotions chose to reward the racers by increasing the purse to $5,000 anticipating a record crowd.
An Unusual Start to a World Footbrake Challenge Event
The very first car down the track at this footbrake only event was Sarah Kidd in her Junior Dragster. BRODIX Long Distance Award winner, Bill Kidd, made the trip to Bristol from Tucson, Arizona (2190 miles). His plan was to stay until the next week so his daughter, Sarah, could run the Eastern Conference Finals (ECF) in her junior, but the event was moved to Charlotte.
The boys at Coalburg couldn’t leave her disappointed, so she was able to make a solo pass down Bristol Dragway to start a weekend full of “firsts.”
There’s a First Time for Everything
The first race of the weekend, Thursday’s gamblers race, had two first time World Footbrake Challenge racers facing off in the $5K final, Cam Murray and Corey Griffith. They may be new to the World Footbrake Challenge, but Griffith and Murray are no strangers to winning with 23 and 13 years racing experience, respectively.
Griffith, who has been no-box racing for the last few years, picked up a $5K runner up back in May as well as a $10K runner up at the No Box Bonanza in 2015. After practicing footbrake only twice before the WFC, Griffith says his goal was to just win one round at one of his bucket list events. Griffith and his wife, Christine, made the trip from Ohio along with a few racing friends.
After two years of being a crew member during the above mentioned ECF, Murray decided to get behind the wheel himself when his friend, Brandon Karaguezian, won an entry into the WFC. They estimated the haul to be about 14.5 hours from South Hampton, New Hampshire to Bristol, Tennessee. Unfortunately, issues with Murray’s tow vehicle prolonged the journey to nearly 25 hours.
Thursday’s gamblers race final round was a Mopar versus Chevrolet match up. Murray had the head start in his Volare with a 7.12 dial in as Griffith was dialed a 6.91 in his Camaro. Murray left the line .007 red to earn runner up honors. Griffith had a solid .025 reaction time to claim his first big check, for $5K.
According to Griffith, if you’re on the fence about coming to the World Footbrake Challenge, stop waiting and make the next trip.
Flock of Footbrakers for Friday’s Event
Friday’s main event first round had 547 entries race down the eighth-mile at the World Footbrake Challenge. This number shattered the 2019 record of 489 entries. This car count broke the 55 year record at Bristol Dragway as the largest single class of cars. It also scrambled the timing system computer which apparently has to be reset once a certain number of pairs run in one round…who knew?!
The large crowd forced the WFC team to postpone Friday’s gamblers race until Saturday. This allowed enough time for one time run Friday morning followed by the main event. Even with the best of intentions and nearly nonstop racing action, the curfew halted the chase for $10K with four cars left.
The semifinal round would be contested Saturday morning with Dan Smith, Lexi Pollard, Charlie Lockhart, and Corey Griffith still in the race.
Friday’s $10K Main Event with Familiar Faces
It may have been the late night/early morning combination, or possibly semifinal jitters, but Pollard and Smith both go red. That allows Lockhart and Griffith to advance into the final round. Lockhart is well known in the bracket racing world and won the Southern Footbrake Challenge $10K in 2013. Corey Griffith’s name should sound familiar since he just won Thursday’s gamblers race, remember?
Griffith locks out Lockhart with his .020 reaction time and dead zero run for a .020 package. Lockhart is .022 on the starting line and breaks out .012 on the big end, leaving him as the runner up.
Corey Griffith earns his second big check, now totaling $15,000 during his first trip to the WFC. While you can’t deny the talent involved, Griffith states, “No matter what, I want everyone to know I’m just an average guy. I came to the WFC to have a good time, but I was blessed with extraordinary circumstances. If I can do it, [that is] proof that you don’t always have to be that big name to find success at the bigger events.”
Independence Day Tribute
Saturday started with the WFC Salute to the Fourth of July. The ceremony was courtesy of the Patton-Crosswhite VFW 6975, as well as present and past service members in attendance. Only new entries received a time run and then began the second $10K main event of the weekend. The car count rose to 550 entries first round Saturday, once again breaking any Footbrake entry amount in history.
Saturday’s Winner Goes From Street to Slicks to ‘Strip
Saturday’s semifinal round included Brent Hyatt, Tim Griffith, Kevin Blevins, and Andrew Adkins. Hyatt was .005 red and .004 under his dial in to advance Adkins to the final round with his .027 reaction time. Blevins broke out .001 less than Griffith to earn his spot in the finals along with an .018 reaction time.
Kevin Blevins made his second trip to the WFC from South Carolina to his first big money final round. He found his rhythm starting in round seven. His reaction times were .005, .002, and .018 leading up to the finals in his Chevrolet S-10.
Andrew Adkins also returned for his second time at the WFC at only 22 years old. He grew up around the sport, but only began racing five years ago. Andrew’s racing style is straight up old school cool. Adkins drove his primer gray ’71 Plymouth Duster, named Gypsy, 5.5 hours and 320 miles from Ohio to swap feet in Tennessee. Once at the track he changed the street tires over to slicks and his 7.90 car was ready to go.
In the finals, it was Adkins’ .013 light and dead on with a three pass that turned on the electricity. Blevins had an .03 reaction time and .002 breakout for the runner up. Adkins became every “low budget” bracket racer’s hero as he claims $10,000 during the largest footbrake race in history.
Andrew Adkins would like to thank his father, Johnny, and his brother, Robert, for all their help and support. Together they built Gypsy from scratch and according to Adkins, “[It is] proof that you don’t need the big truck and trailer, or high dollar car, just faith and put in the hard work every weekend!” It’s also notable that Adkins made it to six cars in Sunday’s $10K main event. A pair of identical reaction times only left him .005 behind at the finish line.
Curfew Causes Pause for Quarterfinals
As mentioned earlier, Friday’s $5,000 to win gamblers race began on Saturday due to time constraints. The 192 entry race began after round five of the main event and continued in between the $10K until curfew. The remaining six cars were scheduled to run Sunday after church service. Those drivers were Francis Reynolds, Kalieb Cordill, Chris Plott, Jordan Wilhelm, Lexi Pollard, as well as Thursday’s runner up, Cam Murray.
Similar to Saturday’s completion round, Sunday morning had a red light reaction time in each pair to determine which three moved on. In the semifinals, Chris Plott’s .019 reaction time and .007 under was enough to defeat Francis Reynolds during a double breakout pass. Jordan Wilhelm’s .012 reaction time earned the bye run into the final round for $5K.
The Friday Gamblers Race with A Sunday Morning Winner
Multi-time World Footbrake Challenge winner Chris Plott from Winston-Salem, North Carolina finds his way back into the finals on Sunday. He’s a well known name in the footbrake pits and has been attending the WFC since 2007. Plott was also one of the faster cars on the property wheeling a Mustang in the 5.30 range.
Ohio native Jordan Wilhelm has been competing at the WFC since 2017. He’s made a habit of getting to the late rounds a handful of times, but wasn’t able to seal the deal until the Southern Footbrake Challenge last year. In Mississippi he took home a runner up in the gamblers race on Friday, the gamblers race win on Saturday, and finally a runner up spot in Sunday’s $10K main event. Although, Wilhelm was still longing for that win at the original World Footbrake Challenge at Bristol.
That brings us back to the final round of the $5,000 gamblers race on Sunday. Wilhelm finally earned that prestigious WFC win. His .033 reaction time and dead two pass left Plott with only air to work with at the finish line. Plott’s .035 reaction time and .005 breakout left him with the runner up finish.
Wilhelm went on a winning streak during the gamblers race that followed into Sunday’s main event. He was able to win 16 passes straight until losing both entries in 5th round of the $10K. When talking about his win, Wilhelm states, “It honestly hasn’t even sunk in [yet] that it happened. [I’m] looking forward to trying to win a $10K at WFC 2021.” Jordan has a large support system and would like to thank his father, Jerry Wilhelm, Hoyt Wilhelm, Larry Shupperd, Joe Pickett, his girlfriend, Mariah Hunter, Josh Pickett, Daisy Bennett, and Derek Simon.
Sunday’s $10K Final Breaks Ohio’s Winning Streak
The final day of any multi-day big money bracket event usually loses a few entries due to cars breaking or broken wallets. Sunday’s main event first round fell to 495 entries, although that impressive count surpasses last years record.
The semifinal round came down to three competitors with each coincidentally driving a Chevrolet Camaro; Shawn Pitts, Adam Davis, and Austin Alvey. Alvey’s .009 reaction time from the previous round gave him the solo pass into the finals. Pitts was able to use his .009 reaction time and .057 above the dial in to win. Davis as he was uncharacteristically a few hundredths behind at the starting line.
The final pairing was between first time WFC racer Austin Alvey from Kentucky and Shawn Pitts from Ohio. Alvey had not raced at Bristol since winning the ECF in 2016. He moved up to a big car in 2017.
Pitts has attended the WFC for five years and has made it as far as the quarterfinals. He even kept both entries down to 12 cars in Sunday’s main event. He’s no stranger to intense finals either as he’s staged up for the NHRA Division 3 Bracket Finals as well.
Pitts is set to leave first with a 6.64 dial in to Alvey’s 6.36 dial. Both drivers turn on the red light, giving NHRA racer Alvey one of the most prestigious big money bracket wins today.
When asked about his previous wins, Alvey says, “I’ve gotten to the final at a NHRA National Event, won a NHRA Divisional, and a runner up at another divisional.” He continues, “I’ve never really raced at too many big bracket races so I’d say this is probably my biggest win so far.”
He’s also thankful to God, his family and friends, and his girlfriend, Savannah.
Looking Forward to the Footbrake Labor Day $100K
The next event on the schedule for Coalburg Racing Promotions is the BTE Labor Day $100K September 3-6 at Bristol Dragway. One lucky and talented footbraker will go home with $100,000 which is by far the largest top prize for a foot-feeder.
When I asked the most recent WFC finalists about returning in September, the response was mixed. Two time winner Corey Griffith would love to come back, but the busy season at his full-time job may keep him in Ohio. Cam Murray’s local points finale falls on the same weekend so he will have to decide which avenue looks best for him at the time.
Charlie Lockhart is already doubled on the pre-entry list and I’m sure Chris Plott will return as well. Andrew Adkins has already made plans to drive the Duster back to Bristol for his chance at the $100K. Kevin Blevins and Shawn Pitts will both be back to battle their way towards winning that big check.
Jordan Wilhelm is planning on running local big money races 3 out of the 4 weeks before Labor Day, so he will decide based on his performances. Austin Alvey is currently planning on competing at the NHRA US Nationals in his Nova Stocker, but he’s not ruling out a return to the WFC.
As always, DragChamp is your source for Sportsman drag racing. Be sure to stay tuned for more updates and race results. To find out the results of the biggest top bulb payout race so far, look no further than the SFG 1.1 Million.
Jessica was born into a family of drag racers and fell in love with the sport at a young age. She began competing at 13 and has been hooked ever since! She even met her husband at the World Footbrake Challenge VII. Jessica works full time as an Ultrasound Technologist but spends almost every weekend chasing win lights at IHRA and NHRA bracket races.