lead.jpgThe 2010 National Sand Drag Association (NSDA) season kicked off in March with the NSDA Spring Nationals at Dome Valley Raceway in Wellton, AZ. Warm weather and sunny skies greeted the racers in their first trip to the beautiful track operated by Ernesto Juarez and family. Ernesto kept the track in perfect condition throughout the weekend setting up the stage for some amazing on track action.

Top Fuel

The Top Fuel class rolled into Dome Valley with a four car field going for the first win of the season. 2009 NSDA TF class champion Scott Whipple kicked off the season where he left off, taking the top qualifying spot and setting a new track record in the process running a great 2.300. Dennis Rieck’s Hammer Down entry laid down an impressive 2.377 in the final qualifying session to head into race day in the number two position. Former track record John Cadzow sat third after qualifying was complete, running a 2.482 along the way while team mate Matt Ludlow in the Coldwater Kid Dragster struggled with some parts breakage to put him 4th on the order.

Round one kicked off with a match up between Whipple and Ludlow. The champ looked unstoppable in qualifying with all 4 passes between 2.300 and 2.391. In this first round match up, Ludlow would take nearly a tenth of a second advantage at the hit; however the Famous Amos Satterlee horse power would drive around for a close 2.34 to 2.58 victory. The next pair of the round would see Rieck and Cadzow face off. The Hammer Down car of Rieck would leave first, but he would over spin the tires and Cadzow would drive by with his best pass of the weekend to take the win with a 2.417/131mph shot. This set up a big final round match up between the current and former track record holders at Dome Valley Raceway.

Anticipation was high leading up to this final round. Conditions had gotten a little better since first round and everyone knew both teams would throw all they have at the track. The CANIDAE and Cadzow Motorsports teams pulled to the line with the cars loaded for bear. Whipple would take a slim starting line lead and both cars having nearly identical 60’ times of 1.01, but down track was a different story as the champ would be able to pull away from Cadzow for a 2.330/166mph to 2.441/106mph victory. This would be Scott and Team CANIDAE’s 12th NSDA Top Fuel victory and a jump start in their quest for four straight NSDA TF Championships.

Scott Whipple

John Cadzow

Dennis Rieck

Matt Ludlow

Top Alcohol

Scott Carroll had an up and down 2009 season, struggling a bit in NSDA competition, but coming out on top at the Heartland Nationals in Oklahoma and running personal best times in NSDA action. He showed the performance to win in 2009, and would head into Dome Valley looking for that elusive first NSDA TA class victory. Qualifying kicked off in Dome with 2009 NSDA TA class champion Gary Mink topping the sheet with a 2.529 in the weekend’s second qualifying session. Dan Allen slid in right behind him with a 2.536 and Carroll coming in third with a 2.576.

Eliminations started off with Gary Mink running his first round bye. Mink would set Low ET of the weekend with a strong 2.506/139mph pass. The titanic match up between Allen and Carroll would be next. Both cars are set up very similar and run close time wise each round, so everybody’s bets were on whoever could get off the line first. Unfortunately, for Allen’s Lucas Oil entry, he would break a blower belt just off the line allowing Carroll to cruise down the track to the round win with his best pass of the weekend, a 2.537/133mph.

This would set up a great final round between 2009 champ Mink looking for his seventh NSDA TA class win and Carroll going for his first victory. It was noticeable when Mink brought up the RPM’s on his entry that something wasn’t 100% right with his car and the problem didn’t fix itself causing him to click it off before 60’, while in the other lane Carroll made another nice clean pass with a 2.553/131mph to take his first NSDA Top Alcohol class victory and the early season point lead.

Scott Carroll

Gary Mink

Dan Allen

Super Eliminator

For the 2010 race season, the NSDA decided to add a new class to their program with a 2.80 Index Super Eliminator category. The hope was that this would create a new stepping stone class between Top Eliminator and Top Alcohol as well as have a class that would allow the 4-cylinder dragsters to run all out. At Dome Valley, six entries took to the track looking for that Inaugural SE class victory.

Qualifying indicated that the competition level in this new class is going to be amongst the highest in NSDA action. Paul Taylor was dialed in off the trailer as he would put his car in the top spot with a 2.808 pass in the first qualifying session of the weekend. Jim Rossi squeak into the #2 spot with a great 2.811 in the final session while the 2 Dolla’ Bill team of Billy Morris sat third going into race day with a 2.825. To show you how tight the competition in this class is, the #5 qualifier Sidney Payne ran a 2.847, just .047 off of the Index.

Race day saw a couple of round one singles for Paul Taylor and Jim Rossi as their round one opponents were unable to make it to the starting line. The big match up of the round was the 3-4 pair between Morris and Art Cronin’s in his Meltdown Dragster. Cronin had made some very impressive qualifying passes running bests of 2.84 and 2.85. Art would lay down another nice pass running a 2.86, however it would not be enough as Morris would run a nearly perfect 2.806 to advance to round two. The second round would see Paul Taylor have the bye run, and he would run a tick too quick with a 2.797. The pair would see Morris and Rossi face off. Rossi would break the rear end right as he launched, while Morris had problems down track struggling to a 3.32/60mph victory.

This would set up a dramatic final round between #1 qualifier Taylor and Billy Morris. Taylor and his Outta Control dragster looked good heading into the final having to just back the car down a touch to the 2.80 Index. However, in the Morris pit, things were a bit more hectic as they had a thrash to get the car ready after some parts breakage in the semi-final round. Both cars would make it to the line ready to race. Morris would take a slight .476 to .487 lead and hang on running another almost perfect 2.803 to beat out Taylor’s 2.88. Morris and the 2 Dolla’ Bill Team look to have rebounded from a trying 2009 season and should be tough to beat in SE competition this year.

Billy Morris

Paul Taylor

Jim Rossi

Top Eliminator

Eight entries made the haul to Dome Valley Raceway to compete in the always tough Top Eliminator class. The class of the field in qualifying was 2008 NSDA TE champion Tim Martin. Martin sat out the 2009 season, but didn’t miss a step by qualifying #1 with a great 2.955. Steve Hoffman went into eliminations in the second spot with a nice 3.014. Mark Punos sat 3rd with a 3.044 with Bob Snow in the Fugowie Rear-Engine Funny Car 4th running a 3.075.

Round one saw Martin run a nice 2.979 to dispatch of Pat Heddington, who put up a game effort. The next pair would see Snow face off with John Cronin in his Cronin Racing 4-cylinder Dragster. Cronin left first by over a tenth of a second and Snow would have the power to run him down, however Snow would go too fast running a 2.896/111mph on the 2.95 Index handing Cronin the win with a nice 3.048. Steve Hoffman would advance with a single run, while an odd occurrence happened where both Mark Punos and Mike Erwin were unable to make round one with neither advancing.

The odd double no show in round one, gave Hoffman another freebie single and he would run a slightly too quick 2.921. The pair would see Martin face off with Cronin. Cronin would once again play the spoiler, leaving first and forcing Martin into a 2.943 break out with another consistent 3.04 out of the 4-cylinder dragster. This would set up an all 4-cylinder final between Hoffman and Cronin. Cronin would get just a little too antsy and red light by just eight-thousandths of a second (.008), handing Hoffman the win with a 3.080. The Smooth Sucka Team would take home the win and the early season point lead in the TE class.

Steve Hoffman

John Cronin

Tim Martin

Pro 1

The Pro 1 class put on a great show at Dome Valley Raceway. There were some big match ups in round one of eliminations. First pair out was 2009 NSDA Pro 1 champion Tracy Malan facing off with Todd Randolph in his Altered, sporting a blower for the first time. Randolph would take the win over the champ in a tough double breakout decision. Another great match up in round one would see long time top campaigners on the west coast face off as Keith Ahart’s Second Urge Dragster against “Wild Willie” Swim. Swim would leave first .442 to .468, but get forced into a slight 3.443 (3.45) break out allowing Ahart to advance.

Ahart would continue on to the semi-final round, where he would have problems allowing Mike Gazzeny to advance to face Israel Quintero in the final round. Gazzeny, runner-up in the 2009 NSDA Pro 1 championship race, would leave first against Quintero, however he would run slightly too fast with a 3.651 (3.67) handing Quintero his first NSDA Pro 1 class victory.

Israel Quintero

Mike Gazzeny

Pro 2

Steve Anthony kept up his winning ways in the Pro 2 class at NSDA’s Season Opener. Anthony lined up with Kevin Erwin in the Swag Racing Jeep in round one. Erwin stage fouled, advancing Steve to round two. Wes Johnson was the #1 qualifier giving him the bye run into the final round, setting up Anthony to race against Wes’ brother Charlie Johnson. Charlie would leave first by a few hundredths, but Steve would closer to his dial with a 3.911 (3.87) to move to the final round. In the final, Steve would take the win as Wes would red light by just .016. Interestingly enough, Steve also won the March 2009 NSDA event in Yuma, AZ. This was a great win for Steve on the day the sand drag community paid tribute to his good friend and fellow racer Frank Griffin, who passed away earlier this year.

Steve Anthony

Wes Johnson

Pro 3

2009 NSDA Pro 2 and Pro 3 champion Charlie Johnson got off to a rough start in 2009 with a semi-final finish in Pro 2, but he wouldn’t go home empty handed at all. Charlie would qualify #1 in the Pro 3 class with a .408 RT defeating Luz Malan. This would give him the bye run into the final round. The semi-final round match up would be a great one as Jim Clark faced off with Brendan Root. Jim would leave first by .035, but Root would chase him down and run closer to his dial by .047, coming out to a .012 Margin of Victory. In the final, Johnson would have an uncharacteristically late RT, but was able to overcome that with a dead-on 4.448 (4.44) for a .039 Margin of Victory.

Charlie Johnson

Brendan Root

Motorcycle Pro 1

Mark Ratliff would kick off an unforgettable day in the Motorcycle Pro 1 category. Mark would face off in round one against his son Garrett, and use a great .438 RT to advance on. That RT would place him as the #1 qualifier and give him maximum qualifying points. In round 2, he would give up the starting line advantage to Rob Winkle, but run much closer to his dial to put himself in the final round. Ratliff would face off with Heather Taylor in the final round. In the final, Mark would take no chances and run a 4.361 (4.36) with a .489 to take the class win and early point series lead.

Mark Ratliff

Heather Taylor

Motorcycle Pro 2

In the Motorcycle Pro 2 class, Mark Ratliff would continue on in his rare quest of a sweep of the Pro Motorcycle classes. Ratliff would advance on to the semi-final round where he would race off with perennial points contender Rob Winkle. Mark would couple a .507 RT with a 4.533 (4.50) for the win to advance to the final. The final round would be an all-Ratliff affair as Mark would face off against his son, Garrett for the class win. Garrett would red light by .095, ensuring a double win for Mark to start off the 2010 season. It appears as though Mark Ratliff will be the man to beat in the Pro Motorcycle classes this year.

Mark Ratliff

Garrett Ratliff

Pro Mod

The Pro Mod class saw two entries compete in Dome Valley. Clayton Record would qualify on top with a 3.51 and Todd Kinney would be right on his heels with a great looking 3.56. However, luck would not be on Todd’s side as he would break and only be able to stage his Jeep for points in the final round. 2009 NSDA Pro Mod Champion Record would run a sizzling 3.412/100mph pass on the mandatory 20.00’s to take the class win.

Clayton Record

Todd Kinney

Pro Outlaw

NSDA debuted another new class at the 2010 Season Opener. The Pro Outlaw class is a fast bracket class, that is unique in the respect that each racer’s Index (Dial-in) is set to the one-tenth (.1) of a second. Indexes ranged from Todd Randolph at 3.20 all the way up to Charlie Johnson at 4.40. Even though Johnson was the slowest Indexed car in the class, he was able to wade his way through the class to reach the final round on a bye run. In the semi-final match up, Brendan Root’s Jeep faced off with Al McKinney’s Blown Rear-Engine Jeep. Root would cut a brilliant .405 light and hold on to the lead for the win. The final round would foreshadow the next day’s Pro 3 Final Round with Johnson and Root facing off. The result would also be the same as Johnson would take the starting line advantage and come up with the win as both driver’s ran nearly dead-on their dials as Johnson ran a 4.411 (4.40) and Root 4.306 (4.30). Charlie Johnson looks like the man to beat in the Pro Outlaw class.

Charlie Johnson

Brendan Root

Sportsman Car

A change for 2010 is that the Sportsman 1 and Sportsman 2 car classes are combined into one Sportsman Car class. Rick Ross had a great .415 RT in round one to be the #1 qualifier; however he would fall to Fran McKinney in the semi-final round. McKinney would go on to face off with Kevin Erwin in the final round. Fran would cut a great light in the final, but could not run her number allowing Erwin to drive around her with a 3.863 (3.78) for his first ever Sportsman Car class victory in the Swag Racing Jeep.

Kevin Erwin

Fran McKinney

Motorcycle Sportsman

The Motorcycle Sportsman classes were combined for 2010, much as the Car classes were as well. This lead to some interesting match ups throughout the day in this class. Eliminations culminated with a big match up between 2009 Motorcycle Pro 2 & Motorcycle Sportsman 2 champion Joey Weaver and the next day’s big winner Mark Ratliff. In this race, Ratliff would red light by nearly a full bulb handing the win and early season point lead to Weaver. Weaver was also the #1 qualifier in this class with a great .412 light in an extremely close round one race against Ryan Winkle.

Joey Weaver

Mark Ratliff

Junior Dragster

The Junior Dragster class was highly competitive at the 2010 NSDA Season Opener. Michael Wright was the #1 qualifier in the class with a great .461 RT in his round one victory over Kyla Belville. Wright would continue on to face off with Kody Hoffman in the final round. With two of the best racers in the Junior Dragster class on the line, it was obvious the race would be won or lost on the tree. Wright would miss the tree by just .030 turning on the red bulb and handing the Season Opening race win to Hoffman.

Kody Hoffman

Michael Wright

Photos Courtesy Lone Star Graphics – www.LoneStarGraphics.com.

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