The 2018 Avenal Sand Drags Fall Nationals lived up to the hype as the Season Finale on the west coast was filled with exceptional racing and story lines throughout the weekend. Racers and fans alike were blessed with incredible Central California weather for late October with high temps in the Mid 80’s & Sunny skies. This was also the last race of the season for the 2018 California Sand Drag Challenge Series points program that was comprised of the 2 Avenal & 3 SCSDA events to crown a champion in each category. Be sure to read on for the full Race Recap and don’t forget to scroll to the very bottom to view our complete NSDN Event Photo Gallery.

Top Alcohol

The Top Alcohol class featured two of the top competitors in this season as Jim Hammond’s April’s Dream team faced off with Morton Racing and driver David Morton. Parts breakage the previous month at the SCSDA event kept participation in the TA class down, but these two cars never disappoint with great competitive racing. In qualifying, Jim Hammond’s run in Q3 Saturday afternoon topped the Qualifying Sheet with a sizzling 2.44/133MPH lap. The Morton team wasn’t far behind as David recorded a best of 2.50 and was consistent putting down laps of 2.51 & 2.52 as well. This set the stage for a great battle Sunday at Noon to kick off the show. The final round would be an epic battle with Morton throwing down a psychic .006 RT and using a weekend best 2.49 ET to turn on the win light over Jim’s strong 2.48 with a respectable .079 bulb. Congrats to David, Garth, Bob and the whole Morton Racing team on their second win of the 2018 season. And a huge tip of the hat to the April’s Dream team; Jim, Leticia, Brian and crew for winning the 2018 CSDC TA Championship along with reaching all five final rounds (2 Wins / 3 Runner-Ups) in the series.

David Morton - Top Alcohol Winner

Jim Hammond - Top Alcohol Runner-Up

Top Eliminator

The 2018 Top Eliminator class championship battle heated up heading in to Avenal as season long leader Vickie Hall’s lead had closed to just 17 points after her second-round loss and Paul Taylor’s Runner-Up finish in September. This put the pressure on the leader for the first time this season, and a full field of contenders showed up in Avenal to mix things up. When the dust settled in qualifying, Paul Taylor closed the gap even further in the points race by Qualifying #1 with a great 2.953 on the 2.95 Index and earning the 5 Bonus points that go along with it. Vickie ran a nice 2.989 in qualifying, however in this incredibly tight field it would only be good enough for fifth. Paul Graham was #2 at a 2.971 followed by Vickie’s husband Damon Hall with a 2.976 and Jim Rossi’s 2.980. Amazingly enough the spread from 1st to 10th in qualifying was from 2.953 to 3.039, less than a tenth of a second. The competition level in this category has certainly reached new heights during the 2018 race season.

All eyes in Round One were on the match up between points leader Hall and #10 qualifier Ron D’Artenay. Ron had struggled in Qualifying, but the Red Warrior car is always plenty capable of putting down a winning lap. Hall and her “Farmer’s Twisted Daughter” Dragster left first .057 to .158, but her car would pick up more than anticipated leading to a 2.941 break out by just nine-thousandths of a second handing the win over D’Artenay and opening the door for Paul Taylor in the points chase. Taylor had the #1 Qualifier bye run in the opening round, where he recorded a 3.05. The closest run of Round One saw Marc Whitmore defeat Aaron Bailey by just .020 in a 3.01 to 3.00 hole shot decision. Damon Hall had the Best Run of the round with a 3.004 lap and a stellar .015 RT in his victory over Wes Gilmore.

Round Two started off with championship contender Taylor and his “Outta Control” Dragster lining up with #8 Qualifier Andy Olivera’s supercharged SBC-powered Altered. To pass Hall for the championship, Taylor had to win the next two rounds. Ultimately the championship would be decided on the starting line this round as Paul left early by .054 turning on the red bulb and clinching the 2018 CSDC TE Class Championship for Vickie Hall. Now with the championship drama decided, it was time to crown a Fall Nationals winner. In the next pair, D’Artenay continued his strong day be defeating Jim Rossi on a hole shot 3.01 to 2.96. Paul Graham’s “Excavator” Buggy had the competition bye in Round Two & ran a little too quick with a 2.93. In the last pair, Damon Hall threw down Best Run of the Round yet again with a 2.990 Lap to defeat Marc Whitmore, who had a stage foul in his lane.

The semis would see four racers desperate for a win, each looking to close a rough season out with a win to get some momentum rolling for 2019. First out, D’Artenay advanced to the final round with a 2.92 after Andy Olivera turned it red on the starting line. Next up would be a pair of fan favorites as the wild short wheelbased cars of Damon Hall & Paul Graham squared off. Graham got a little antsy and left way early, handing Damon the win with a 2.981 ET.

This set up a great final round between Central California’s D’Artenay in the Hemi-powered “Red Warrior” Dragster and New Mexico’s Hall in his “Krank-E” BBC-powered Fiat. This day would belong to Damon Hall, as he scored his first big TE Win driving it down to a Personal Best ET of 2.93, after his opponent D’Artenay left too soon fouling away the victory. A huge congrats goes out to the Hall Racing Team (Damon, Vickie, Karl and Family) on the Event Win and Class Championship.

Damon Hall - Top Eliminator Winner

Ron D'Artenay - Top Eliminator Runner-Up

Pro Mod / Fast Fours

Three Pro Mod entries made the trip to Avenal to do some racing and testing to ready for the new race season just around the corner. Jimmy Depasse was the man to beat in Qualifying with a 2.83 ET with the “Otis Express” Jeep. His teammate Dave Huffman was right there with him recording a Personal Best 2.88 in the Final Qualifying session. These two would square off in Sunday afternoon’s final round Depasse throwing down Low ET of the weekend with a 2.75/117MPH for the victory.

Jimmy Depasse - Pro Mod Winner

Two Fast Fours contenders attended the Avenal Sand Drags Fall Nationals to get some more seat time & testing on new combos as they prepare for 2019. John Cronin was extremely impressive all weekend in the “Meltdown II” Dragster as he ran a string of low 2.9-second laps, including a best of 2.906. Sally Rasmussen’s “Poison Ivy” was #2 Qualifier with a 3.27 ET best. Cronin would solo to the win during the final on Sunday recording a 2.93/105MPH lap.

John Cronin - Fast Fours Winner

Pro Bracket Classes

The Pro 1 points championship was decided in Round One as second place Chris Wells came up short against Jerry Watson, clinching the championship for Tommy Zavala. With the championship drama out of the way, Zavala was laser focused on his way to the final to face off with the always tough Craig Durning. This was a classic final between two veterans of the class with Durning using a .026 RT and 3.715 (3.67) to defat the champ by just .004 at the stripe.

Craig Durning - Pro 1 Winner

Zavala was going for a double-up championship season as he came into the Season Finale with a rather comfortable lead over Scott Hensley in the standings. That comfort went away quickly in Round One as Jack Bone ran dead-on with a 9 to defeat Zavala. This opened the window for Hensley to take the championship away from Zavala with the event win. Hensley earned Round Two bye run, which set up a Round Three battle against Washington racer Bone. This was an incredible race with Hensley doing his job on the tree leaving first .016 to .054, but much like the Round One match up Bone was dead-on 4.193 (4.19) to take the win by just .010 at the stripe. This would clinch the double-up Pro 1 & Pro 2 championships for Yuma, Arizona’s Tommy Zavala. Bone continued to the final round in an all-Jeep pairing against Chris Adamson and the “Bounty Hunter”. This was simply Jack’s day as he threw down an incredible five-pack (.002 RT and 4.193 on a 4.19 dial-in) to turn on the win light at the Avenal Sand Drags Fall Nationals.

Jack Bone - Pro 2 Winner

The CSDC Pro 3 championship was decided when Chris Adamson took the win at the SCSDA Hammer Down Nationals, ending any potential points drama for the season. Adamson looked to be the favorite to continue his winning ways at the Fall Nationals, up until he faced off with his son Justin in Round Two. The newly crowned champ turned it .010 Red handing the win to Justin’s strong .051 RT and 4.343 (4.35). Justin was on his game as eliminations wore on reaching the final round against Brian Phillips’ “Nightmare” Jeep. On this day, it would be Adamson Family Racing as Justin was .040 and 4.383 (4.35) to earn the victory by .041 at the stripe. Ironically, this would be a season sweep in Pro 3 for the “Raped Ape” Jeep as Justin’s dad Chris won the Spring event in this ride.

Justin Adamson - Pro 3 Winner

The MP1 CSDC points battle came down to incoming leader Brad Olson and second place Taylor Marchant heading into Eliminations. Olson, who had won in his three previous starts this season was trying to go for a sweep of the 4 events he entered. When Brad turned on the win light against Marchant’s teammate in Round Two, the battle was over as Olson clinched the 2018 CSDC Motorcycle Pro 1 class championship. Marchant, however got a small bit of revenge as he defeated Olson the next round in a nice race with a Margin of Victory totaling .057. This set up a final round between Marchant and Mark Ratliff, with the winner also earning 2nd place in the 2018 standings. Ratliff left first .097 to .123 and would not be caught as he recorded a 4.530 (4.49) for the victory.

Mark Ratliff - Motorcycle Pro 1 Winner

Points were also a big part of the story in Motorcycle Pro 2 at the Fall Nationals. Caleb Mings came into the event leading the standings, with Marcus Riedel having a mathematical chance of passing him. Mings did his job in Round One getting around multi-time class champ Mark Ratliff in a phenomenal battle by just .008 at the finish line. Caleb’s victory put him into Round Two with an opportunity to clinch the championship with a win over his dad Randy. Randy would leave way early turning on the red light, which would sew up the championship for his son. Caleb would advance to the final against Tessa Nunes, in her third final round of the weekend. Tessa showed how tough she is by turning on the win light over the champ, who went .008 red in the final round.

Tessa Nunes - Motorcycle Pro 2 Winner

Pro Gambler Brackets

Friday’s Pro Gambler was 35 entries strong going for the top spot. The final round ended up seeing this season’s 3.95 Index class champ Wes Johnson in his Jeep rolling into the beams against Chris Pintor’s consistent square body Chevy Truck. Johnson would leave early in this one turning on the red bulb and handing the win to Pintor, who ran a 5.022 on the 4.99 dial-in. Earlier on Friday was the Motorcycle Gambler category, where Tessa Nunes raced to her first final round of the weekend and scored the victory over David Markle in an extremely close race by just .019. Saturday’s Pro Gambler would be another Truck vs. Jeep match up as Ken Cypert’s Master Blaster Dodge Truck squared off with Kenny Hayes’ Larry Minor Motorsports-built Jeep. Much like the Friday final round, it was decided on the starting line as Hayes left .014 too soon turning on the win light in Cypert’s lane.

Chris Pintor - Friday Pro Gambler Winner

Ken Cypert - Saturday Pro Gambler Winner

Tessa Nunes - Motorcycle Gambler Winner

Sportsman / Junior Classes

The Sportsman 1 class CSDC title was locked up heading into the Avenal Fall Nationals with Washington’s Chris Wells earning the title after his win at the September SCSDA event. The champ would turn it red by .002 in Round 2 opening the door up for a new winner on this day. In the final, Kenny Hayes used a brilliant .005 RT and 3.586 (3.50) to turn on the win light over Clark Harris. The most wide-open title chase heading into the Season Finale was in the Sportsman 2 class as four racers had legitimate chances at the championship. After Round One, there were only two contenders with a shot still as incoming leader Luz Malan and Rob Plumb both advanced on. But in Round Two, the title was decided when Plumb bowed out of competition with a .063 red-light making Malan the class champion. When the dust settled, the Sportsman 2 final round was a battle of the clean white Jeeps between Dave Parker and Jack Weddle. Parker had a much better RT with a .073 bulb and that’s what he needed to take the victory. Two racers had a shot at the Motorcycle Sportsman 1 championship heading into the Avenal Fall Nationals, with Caleb Mings leading Joey Weaver. Mings exited in Round One opening the door for a dramatic finish, but Joey would fall short in the semi-finals against Gerrit Willard ending his championship hopes. The final round would see Mark Ratliff throw down a solid .052 RT and 4.529 (4.48) to not only defeat Willard for the victory but also pass Weaver for second in the final points standings. The Motorcycle Sportsman 2 championship battle boiled down to a Winner Take All Round 2 match up between Mark Ratliff and Marcus Riedel. Ratliff was just a bit too aggressive on the tree in this battle and turned on the red bulb by just .025 allowing Riedel to not only advance but also earn the 2018 CSDC Motorcycle Sportsman 2 championship. The final round would see a great race between two up and coming stars of sand drags as Tessa Nunes & Tyler Hanrahan decided the victory. Nunes had the starting line advantage, but Hanrahan would closer to his dial with a 4.670 (4.57) to eek out a .008 Margin of Victory. The Junior classes were impressive as always with the future of sand drags taking to the track. In the Junior Dragster class, Blake Adamson scored the win for Adamson Family Racing defeating Lily Garcia in the final. Maddox Pena continues to impress as he took the Juniors class victory over Corbin Cress. The Youth final saw yet another Pena-Cress final as Jacob Pena turned on the win light over Karsyn Cress.

Kenny Hayes - Sportsman 1 Winner

Dave Parker - Sportsman 2 Winner

Mark Ratliff - Motorcycle Sportsman 1 Winner

Tyler Hanrahan - Motorcycle Sportsman 2 Winner

Blake Adamson - Junior Dragster Winner

Maddox Pena - Juniors Winner

Jacob Pena - Youth Winner

Photos Courtesy NSDN

Event Photo Gallery - Courtesy NSDN

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