The 2014 sand drag racing season kicked off over the last weekend of January at Wellton, AZ’s Dome Valley Raceway as they hosted the 5th Annual Top Fuel Shootout. This has become a big happening in the sand drag world as racers from across the country converge on Arizona to race on the world class track surface under chamber of commerce January weather. This year was no exception with Sunny skies greeting competitors from as far away as Michigan, Oregon, Washington, Oklahoma, and Texas that came to tackle the 300' in AZ. It was also cool to see the big group of racers from Hawaii and Michigan make the trip to vacation enjoying the Arizona racing & weather. Let’s recap all the action.

Top Fuel

Nitro was thick in the air at Dome Valley with three of the sport’s best Top Fuel teams taking the track. Dennis Rieck and the Hammer Down team threw down the early season gauntlet with a solid 2.26/138MPH blast to earn the first #1 Qualifying position of the season. Team Under The Influence with driver Billy Morris slid into the #2 position with a 2.43/124MPH shot. The Pat Norris Racing Team debuted a new Dragster at this event and Marcus Norris piloted the entry to 2.54/150MPH Qualifying best in the first few passes on the new chassis.

This would set up a round one battle between Morris in the Team UTI/Rialto Trophy ride and Norris in the Pat Norris Racing/Hammer Down/Worldwide Insurance Services/Genesis entry. Morris would get the advantage at the start with a .112 to .137 staring line edge and hold the lead past 60’ with a 1.04, but then the team’s blower belt woes continued as it snapped shutting the power off. Meanwhile in the other lane, Norris would power through the finish line with a big top end charge for the win recording a 2.59 at a booming 167MPH to the 3.20/65MPH early shut off for Morris. Next up the Hammer Down team was ready for its competition bye run. Dennis would slap the loud pedal and go .959 to 60’ before finishing the 300’ in 2.26 seconds at a little over 161MPH.

Sunday afternoon two Nitro-burning Hemi’s would line up to decide the 5th Annual Top Fuel Shootout winner. Both teams work closely together under the Hammer Down banner and would be looking to put big numbers on the board. Norris jumped out to a tenth of a second starting line advantage, but Rieck would have that made up by 60’ parlaying a .972 time to that point into a 2.29 ET at 159MPH for the win. Norris recorded a game effort 2.72/124MPH despite the parachute releasing by 60’ & dragging it through the lights. Congratulations to all three Top Fuel teams on putting on a great show for the Dome Valley crowd and a great representation for our sport.

Dennis Rieck - Top Fuel Winner

Marcus Norris - Top Fuel Runner-Up

Billy Morris - Top Fuel Semi-Finalist

Top Alcohol

The Top Alcohol class saw two tough competitors make the trip to Dome Valley. Unfortunately, the battle was over after the first session. Jimmy DePasse in the Otis/DePasse Blown Alcohol Jeep came into this race fresh off of setting a new A/Pro Jeep World Record with a 2.79 to end the 2013 race season. With a few tweaks and great conditions at Dome Valley, they looked to lower the record. Unfortunately, on the first qualifying pass after a hard launch the rear end broke, which in effect ended up resulting in engine damage as well taking them out for the weekend. That left Oklahoma’s Rod Trower with the class to himself for the rest of the weekend. With the B&J Transmissions crew on hand to tune the car, they tried some different things to increase performance on each pass and eventually Rod recorded his Quickest ET ever in the car with a 2.42/145MPH blast in Sunday’s final round solo.

Rod Trower - Top Alcohol Winner

Jimmy DePasse - Top Alcohol Runner-Up

Top Eliminator

A large contingent of tough racers made the trip to Dome Valley to compete in the highly competitive Top Eliminator category. Among them was Texas racer Courtney Stidham and his family operation, which made the trip to Dome Valley for the first time looking for a successful first west coast trip after picking up several wins in Mid-America Sand Drag Series action over the past two seasons with their small block Chevy-powered Twisted Dragster. But it would be Paul Taylor, who masterfully tuned his “Outta Control” Dragster to a 2.960 on the 2.95 Index to take the top qualifying spot. Defending class champion Billy Morris and Pat Headington ended up 2 and 3, both recording 2.961 ET’s. Stidham rounded out the top half of the field with a last ditch 2.987 after breaking out on the first three qualifying passes.

Ron D’Artenay’s “Red Warrior” nearly aced the dial in the Race-In Round (To 8) as he ran a 2.957 to defeat Israel Quintero’s Team 555 Dragster. There would be some great racing in round one of eliminations. D’Artenay backed down a little much to a 3.03, which was just short of defeating Morris’ 2.98. #1 Qualifier Taylor survived a first round scare as Dee Trower left first, but went a little too fast with a 2.918 break out. Stidham chopped the tree down with a .007RT to defeat the “Bad Toy” of Jim Rossi 3.01 to 3.03. The mysterious Jimmie Leggs finished out the round recording a 3.04 to defeat a red lighting Pat Headington.

The action got even more intense in the semi-final round with more close action. Top qualifier Paul Taylor pulled to the line against Texas racer Courtney Stidham. Taylor would nearly match his qualifying time of 2.962, but it would not be enough to overcome a .017 to .105 starting line edge for Stidham, who took the win with a 3.016. Facing Stidham would be the winner of the Morris-Leggs battle. The front engine entry of Leggs put up a valiant effort, but Morris would take the win in a 2.99 to 3.09 decision.

Excellent Top eliminator racing led to a battle between the two winningest drivers in class action across the country in recent years. California’s Billy Morris in the Morris Family Racing “2 Dolla’ Bill” Blown BBC-powered entry has won the TE class title the past two seasons on the west coast while Texas racer Courtney Stidham and his dad Jackie have been tearing up the Mid-America Sand Drag Series with wins at Atoka Motorsports Park and Thunder Valley Sand Drags. This led to one of the best TE pairings we have seen in recent history. Stidham would continue his amazing string of RT’s taking the hole shot .010 to .054 and the small block power held on to take the win to Texas 2.97 to 2.96. Thanks to all of the TE teams for putting on an incredible show at Dome Valley Raceway.

Courtney Stidham - Top Eliminator Winner

Billy Morris - Top Eliminator Runner-Up

Paul Taylor - Top Eliminator Semi-Finalist

Jimmie Leggs - Top Eliminator Semi-Finalist

Fast Fours

The Fast Fours category saw the heavy hitters show up at Dome Valley Raceway looking to throw down big numbers in the Arizona dirt. After the dust settled in Qualifying, it would be Arizona’s Robert Skidmore placing himself atop the Qualifying List with an incredible 2.730/115MPH blast. This would be the second quickest Fast Fours run in history, only behind his 2.70 pass to end the 2013 season in California. The Pauter team and driver Mario Tavares laid down a nice 2.80/111MPH for the second position. Unfortunately, carnage was heavy among the Four-cylinder group as both Cronin Racing entries for Art and John as well as the King Family’s Animal Control could not make the call for round one. Both remaining entries, Skidmore and Tavares made the decision to line them up for the final round. In one of the wildest battles of all time, Skidmore would record the Quickest Fast Fours pass of all-time with a 2.684/121MPH. This would be the first ever 2.6-second pass for a four-cylinder Dragster, but the win light would turn on in the other lane for Tavares as Skidmore left early by .009. Mario recorded another solid 2.81/110MPH on that pass to take the first Fast Fours win of the 2014 sand drag season.

Mario Tavares - Fast Fours Winner

Robert Skidmore - Fast Fours Runner-Up

Pro Bracket Classes

Fifteen tough entries converged on Dome Valley on this weekend. The fastest of the car bracket classes with a time break of 3.85-Faster was hotly contested on Sunday. After incredible racing all day the final round came down to a pair of California-based Jeep racers as Craig Durning in “Eugene the Jeep” faced off with Justin Adamson in the “Raped Ape”. Craig would not be denied on this day as he used a .032 RT and 3.599 (3.55) to force Adamson into a big breakout as he recorded his quickest ET ever with a 3.781 (3.85).

Craig Durning - Pro 1 Winner

Justin Adamson - Pro 1 Runner-Up

The Pro 2 class also saw some great competition on Sunday. After round one was complete, the field was wide open as both of 2013’s class championship contenders Chris Adamson and Charlie Johnson lost close races. The final round would see another all-Jeep final as Yuma local Jose Beas squared off with California racer Al McKinney. This one would be decided on the tree as Al left too early turning on the red light handing another big win to Beas at Dome Valley Raceway.

Jose Beas - Pro 2 Winner

Al McKinney - Pro 2 Runner-Up

Another class that was a battle from start to finish was the Pro 3 category. There were countless side-by-side battles all day Sunday. For example, in the semi-final round Phoenix area racer Kenny Hayes in the “Flirtin’ With Disaster” Jeep faced off with Oregon’s Budy Palmer in the “Nightmare” Jeep. Both racers were ready with identical .049 RT’s on the line, but at the stripe Kenny would run a dead-on 4.420 (4.42) to edge Budy’s 4.404 (4.40) for a margin of victory of just .004. This would put Kenny into yet another all-Jeep final versus Chris Adamson in the California-based “Bounty Hunter”. Chris chopped the tree down as usual with a .014 RT, but Kenny was able to run close enough to his dial with a 4.459 (4.40) to take the Pro 3 class win by a margin of just .048 seconds.

Kenny Hayes - Pro 3 Winner

Chris Adamson - Pro 3 Runner-Up

Motorcycle Pro 1 was a battle as always with ATV’s dialing 4.49-Faster waging war on the 300’ in Arizona. 2013 class champion Brad Olson made his way through the tough field to square off with fellow California racer Christian Payne in the final round. These two were on the tree with Brad taking a .016 to .054 RT edge, which would be enough for him to take the win with a 4.247 (4.20).

Brad Olson - Motorcycle Pro 1 Winner

Christian Payne - Motorcycle Pro 1 Runner-Up

MP2 had some stellar competition at Dome Valley as well with the 4.50-Slower Pro ATV’s going to war. The final round saw a pair of California racers Mark Ratliff and Jack Vandigriff settle the class win. When the tree dropped, Jack was a little too quick reacting and went .022 red handing the first win of 2014 to MPC Racing’s Mark Ratliff.

Mark Ratliff - Motorcycle Pro 2 Winner

Jack Vandigriff - Motorcycle Pro 2 Runner-Up

Saturday Bracket Classes

Saturday’s Open Pro category is always a highlight of the weekend with a huge field of bracket cars shooting for a big purse. The field was 28 strong was eliminations started. It’s starting to sound like a broken record, but it was yet again another all-Jeep final round. This time around it was Yuma local Israel Quintero in the 555 Racing Team ride against Tony DeNunzio in the DeNunzio Racing Engines/Team UTI entry. This was one of the best races of the weekend. Quintero got the slight starting line edge .013 to .017, but it was DeNunzio recording a 4.078 (4.05) to take turn on the win light by just .014. These guys put on a spectacular final round for the Dome Valley crowd.

Tony DeNunzio - Open Pro Winner

Competition was also fierce in the Motorcycle Open Pro category with seventeen entries. The final round saw veteran racer Mark Ratliff square off with Austin Thomas. Austin had been hot in the previous two rounds running within thousandths of his 4.99 dial-in with 4.991 & 4.995 ET’s. But the final round would be all Ratliff’s as Mark used a .058 RT and 4.505 (4.40) to take the Saturday class victory.

Mark Ratliff - Motorcycle Open Pro Winner

The Sportsman 1 final round saw Forrest Hudson driving Bill Meaney’s #24 Jeep take the win with a great .036 RT over “The Sheriff” Leon Wilmot. James Varnadore took the Sportsman 2 victory over a red lighting Jennifer Carlson. Aaron Bailey used a 4.62 (4.49) to record the Motorcycle Sportsman 1 title over Budy Palmer. Jeff Coale used a solid 4.527 (4.50) to take the Motorcycle Sportsman 2 class win over Jennifer Shuck. Ryan Rodriguez (Junior Dragster) and Taylor Cameron (Kids) both emerged victorious in their classes, and then faced off in a match race with Ryan recording the win. Keagan Lemons took the Youth category victory over TJ Siewers.

Forrest Hudson - Sportsman 1 Winner

James Varnadore - Sportsman 2 Winner

Aaron Bailey - Motorcycle Sportsman 1 Winner

Jeff Coale - Motorcycle Sportsman 2 Winner

Ryan Rodgriguez - Junior Dragster Winner

Taylor Cameron - Kids Winner

Friday Bracket Classes

Friday’s headline class was the PTN-sponsored Pro Truck category. This class that was started in the Midwest competes on the west coast once a year, at this Dome Valley event. With that in mind, racers are always ready to battle it out to take that one Pro Truck class victory on the season. Charlie Johnson was the #1 Qualifier with a .013 earning the PTN Top Qualifier Plaque while Bill Meaney recorded the Quickest ET with a 3.63 earning the PTN Low ET Award. After some great racing all day, the final round came down to another all-Jeep final as Al McKinney and Kenny Hayes would settle it amongst themselves. Obviously both racers went on to other final rounds in the weekend, so this was a great start for them. McKinney would use a .056 RT to hold on for the win by just .024 at the stripe for the 2014 PTN Pro Truck class victory. Congratulations to Al McKinney and the whole Pro Truck class for a great job at Dome Valley.

Al McKinney - Pro Truck Winner

Kenny Hayes - Pro Truck Runner-Up

Charlie Johnson - Pro Truck #1 Qualifier .013 RT

Billy Meaney - Pro Truck Low ET 3.63

In other Friday action, New Mexico’s Steve Jackson in the Nas-T Altered scored the big Pro Shootout class win when “Wild Willie” Bill Swim suffered a stage foul. Jeff Coale took the Pro ATV class victory over Heather Taylor, and then he came back around for the Sportsman ATV class final where Jack Vandigriff ended up taking the win when Coale went red by just .004.

Steve Jackson - Pro Shootout Winner

Jeff Coale - Pro ATV Winner

Jack Vandigriff - Sportsman ATV Winner

Photos Courtesy
Max Cackle Photos - -

Event Photo Gallery - Courtesy Max Cackle Photos

Event Photo Gallery - Courtesy NSDN

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