The 2014 Avenal Fall Nationals at Avenal Sand Drags in Avenal, CA was highly anticipated as the biggest west coast race of the Fall and it certainly did not disappoint. A nice turnout of racers from up and down the coast converged on the 300’ of Dirt/Sand in Central California. Sunny skies and reasonable temps greeted all setting up an awesome weekend of racing from start to finish. Here’s a look at all the action from Avenal.

Top Alcohol

A healthy contingent of Top Alcohol teams converged on Avenal with each striving to end up in the Winner’s Circle on Sunday. Qualifying was once again led by multi-time class champion Gary Mink. Mink unloaded an off the trailer 2.490/139MPH to earn the top spot. Gary ran a pair of 2.49’s and had a tenth on the field after qualifying. Jim Hammond ended up second in qualifying with a strong 2.59/132MPH with Washington’s Craig Mark right behind with a 2.60/132MPH for the third position. The Wild Bunch team of Jeff Hitchman qualified 4th with a 2.77 while Pedro Villa’s Express ran a Best ET of 2.84.

Sunday’s Round One of Eliminations saw one pair face off and three bye runs on the five-car ladder. The 4-5 pair would be between Hitchman and Villa. Both cars had struggled some in Qualifying, so everyone knew this could be a great battle. This would end up being an action packed battle as Hitchman drilled the tree with a great .025 RT to take a huge starting line edge on Villa. Pedro’s car, however, was on a mission with a 1.04 60’ time, but would promptly lose a blower belt as he was reeling in the Wild Bunch ride. Jeff would take the win with a 2.97/101MPH to Pedro’s quicker but losing 2.88/84MPH. After all that excitement, the bye runs would take the track. Hammond recorded another solid 2.61/131MPH while Mark had troubles on the way to a 3.13/101MPH in the Eruption Top Alcohol Dragster. Then came the run of the weekend as Gary Mink rolled to the line in the heat of the day on Sunday with the quickest run of the round to that point being Hammond’s .61. In typical Mink fashion, jaws dropped when the scoreboard lit up a 2.46/141MPH with a 1.01 60’ for the multi-colored Dragster from Fresno.

The semi-final round kicked off with a pair of local racers doing battle as top qualifier Mink paired up with the Wild Bunch entry of Hitchman. This one would be over at the starting line as Hitchman rolled the beams drawing a stage foul while Mink continued his torrid pace recording a 2.50/141MPH. Next up would be two teams that had been evenly matched all weekend as Hammond and Mark faced off. This one belonged to the April’s Dream team of Hammond as Jim cut a stellar .050 RT and ran his Best pass of the weekend 2.57/131MPH to edge out a game 2.64/138MPH from the Eruption team.

This set up a great final round between two of the top teams in Top Alcohol sand drag racing today. Mink had the performance advantage all weekend, but the gap had closed in the previous round as he had only been .07 quicker. Both racers were up for battle in the final round. Unfortunately, Mink was a little too wound up and made an uncharacteristic mistake going .011 red on the tree handing the win to Jim Hammond. Hammond had a solid .030 RT and recorded a smooth 2.600 for the win while Mink struggled after the red light to a 2.62/129MPH. This was a great rebound for the Ontario, CA-based April’s Dream team as they scored their first win of the season after their wild weekend in Oregon back in August. Congrats to the April’s Dream team on the big win at Avenal Sand Drags.

Jim Hammond - Top Alcohol Winner

Gary Mink - Top Alcohol Runner-Up (Mike Biel Photo)

Another look at TA Winner Jim Hammond. (Mike Biel Photo)

Top Eliminator

The races at Avenal always have a solid field of competitors in the Top Eliminator 2.95 Index category and that was once again the case for this season’s October event. Washington’s Carey Mahoney made some noise early in Qualifying bringing out his white Dragster for the first time since 2010 and sitting at the top of the order in both Friday sessions recording a 3.02 in Q1 and 2.96 in Q2. But it would be local racer Ron d’Artenay in the Red Warrior Hemi-powered Dragster jumping to the top spot in the next round with a great 2.958, which would hold up for the top spot. Mahoney’s 2.96 would hold up for second in the order with Jim Rossi’s 2.99 and Billy Morris’ 3.04 rounding out the top half of the list.

Round one would see Top Qualifier d’Artenay get a solo as Marc Whitmore broke in Qualifying. Ron ran a 3.06 on this lap to advance on. Christian Payne did a nice job in Qualifying sitting #5 with a great 3.07/101MPH shot in the Last Minute Racing Nitrous fed BBC-powered Dragster. Payne would dodge a bullet in round one as he had a troubled 3.49 pass, but would advance on as two-time class champion Morris suffered engine damage in Qualifying and was unable to make eliminations. The first side-by-side battle of round one would see #2 qualifier Mahoney battle with local racer Adam Ross in the Fresno-based Ross Racing Blown Alcohol Rear-Engine Funny Jeep. Adam had a nice .055 light and threw down his best pass of the weekend with a 3.20/106MPH, but it would not be enough as the Northwest hitter Mahoney recorded a smart 3.09/103MPH pass lifting early for the win. Defending Avenal Fall race winner Jim Rossi was up next in the Bad Toy Dragster against Sid Payne’s Last Minute Racing Blown Alcohol BBC-powered Funny Car. Sid made some nice laps all weekend with this new combo in the short wheelbase entry and this would be his best with a 3.05/103MPH blast, however it would not be enough to stop Rossi’s great 2.975/108MPh with a .102 RT. This would set up the semi-finals like this: d’Artenay vs. C.Payne and Mahoney vs. Rossi.

The semi-finals started with the veteran versus the kid as d’Artenay squared off with class rookie Christian Payne. Christian may be new to TE racing, but this kid has done the job in the bracket classes learning how to race and that paid off here as he used a stellar .029 bulb to score a 3.17 to 3.15 hole shot win over the #1 Qualifier. Next up would be the Blown-BBC Dragster 2.95 killers of Mahoney and Rossi. These guys have lots of experience in this class and know how to make their cars run the number. This would be another titanic battle with Mahoney recording a nearly perfect 2.953 to defeat Rossi’s 2.961. These guys showed their tuning skills in this great race.

This set up a great final round. Payne recorded his first TE win in Kingman a few weeks earlier with his new ride while Mahoney has been racking up wins in TE & Blown Alcohol action across the country from Washington to Virginia since for many years. Experience aside, both are killer drivers so everyone was ready for an electric final round. This one went to the wily veteran as Mahoney carded a .037 RT and ran a 2.974/111MPH hit to defeat Christian’s game effort 3.11/106MPH. Carey certainly earned the win on this day with a string of killer RT’s 056, 031, and 037 along with ET’s of 2.95 and 2.97 in the last two rounds. Congrats to the Mahoney’s, Bill Matthews, and the Northwest crew on the great performance at Avenal.

TE Final Round: Carey Mahoney (Far Lane) takes the win over Christian Payne.

Carey Mahoney - Top Eliminator Winner

A/Fuel - Fast Fours

It was great to see three of the top A/Fuel cars make the trip to Avenal for the Fall Nationals. These cars always put on an excellent show. Class record holder Robert Skidmore made the hike from Phoenix to see what the Skidmore Racing Dragster could do in Central California. Skidmore laid down some nice runs in Qualifying, including a 2.765/114MPH blast to earn the top Qualifying spot. Escondido, CA’s Cronin Racing team also made the haul to Avenal, where brothers Art and John wheeled their respective A/Fuel rides. Art piloted the Meltdown car to a Best of 2.89/107MPH in Qualifying while John ran a best of 3.19/93MPH. All of these rides had a slight load of Nitromethane in the tank putting out some flames on the line for the crowd.

Round one started with a battle of Brotherly Love as the Cronin Racing entries squared off. John would take a slight edge off the line, but it would be the Meltdown car powering by for the win with another 2.89 at 112MPH to advance on. The Skidmore team chased down some issues from Saturday night and made a stab at it on Sunday on their first round bye run. Unfortunately, Robert rolled the beams on his bye run and had problems shortly after. Engine damage on that pass would put the Skidmore team out for the final round. The Cronin Racing Meltdown team tried a little different approach on their single pass to the win and Art carded his Best 60’ time of the weekend with a 1.11 on the way to a 2.94/104MPH for the former class champion. Congrats to the Cronin and Skidmore teams on a nice weekend of racing and bringing the A/Fuelers back to Avenal.

Art Cronin (Far Lane) was the A/Fuel Winner while Robert Skidmore was Runner-Up.

Another look at A/Fuel Winner Art Cronin in the Meltdown Dragster ready to face off with his brother John in round one action. (Mike Biel Photo)

Pro Bracket Classes

The Pro 1 class final round was a battle of two racers both on a hot streak this season. California’s Craig Durning would pull into the beams with his “Eugene the Jeep” BBC-powered entry coming off of Pro 1 wins this season at Dome Valley (January) and Kingman (September) against Washington’s Chris Wells in the all conquering Red SBC-powered Buggy who doubled up at the Oregon Sandstorm event in August winning in both the 3.5 Index & Sportsman 1 classes along with a Saturday Sportsman 1 win at this event. These racers would not disappoint as they had their “A Game” on in the final round. Both drivers would run Dead-On their dials with a 4 (.004) with the win light going to Wells on Reaction Time .035 to .049.

Chris Wells - Pro 1 Winner

Craig Durning - Pro 1 Runner-Up

The Northwest wins just kept on coming as the Burris-Wells team put another car in the Winner’s Circle on Sunday. Scoty Burris put the team’s Dragster in the final round against the always tough Brian Chapman in his Orange Jeep. This one was over at the tree as Chapman went .005 Red throwing away a 4.04 on a 4.00 while Burris took the win with a 3.76/83MPH. Burris was the track champion at Albany Sand Drags in Albany, OR this year in Pro 1 Cars and was the winner at Sandstorm 2014 in that same class so he definitely capped his season off in style with the Avenal victory.

Scoty Burris - Pro 2 Winner

Brian Chapman - Pro 2 Runner-Up

Pro 3 had a healthy field of competitors make the round one call looking for white time slips each round. When the dust cleared, it would be a pair of Jeeps squaring off to decide the class winner. April Soares & Jack Weddle rolled into the beams on Sunday afternoon to crown a champion. This one would belong to Soares as she left first with a .097 bulb and recorded a 4.327 (4.26) to score the Avenal Fall Nationals Pro 3 class victory.

April Soares - Pro 3 Winner

Jack Weddle - Pro 3 Runner-Up

A common theme on Sunday at Avenal was seeing the Northwest contingent in the Winner’s Circle. The Motorcycle Pro 1 category would be no different with Oregon’s Kevin Tennison taking the win. Tennison, riding for the Palmer Racing team, squared off with Robert Garnas as the two quickest entries in the field raced in the final round. Reaction Time was the deciding factory as Tennison had nearly a tenth of a second on the tree and held on for the win with a 3.671 (3.65) forcing Garnas into a breakout recording a solid 3.498 (3.50). This was a big win for the Palmer team as they also took the Motorcycle Sportsman 1 class victory on this weekend with Budy Palmer.

Kevin Tennison - Motorcycle Pro 1 Winner

Robert Garnas - Motorcycle Pro 1 Runner-Up

Motorcycle Pro 2 final round saw Craig Wright square off with Nikki Bailey to determine who takes home the trophy and cash. Bailey took a .06 starting line edge, but Wright would chase her down running a closer to the dial 4.719 (4.67) to take the Avenal victory.

Craig Wright - Motorcycle Pro 2 Winner

Nikki Bailey - Motorcycle Pro 2 Runner-Up

Sportsman Bracket Classes

Saturday’s Sportsman classes always are fun to watch at Avenal and that was once again the case on this weekend. Washington’s Chris Wells battled through a converter swap during eliminations & fuel pump problems to throw down a .005 RT in the final of Sportsman 1 to defeat Fern McKinney. Sportsman 2 was ultra competitive with Arizona’s Mike Williams doing a masterful job piloting Kenny Hayes’ Flirtin’ With Disaster Jeep to the class win over a red lighting Dave Parker in the final round. Barbara Ervin once again took home the trophy in the Sportsman 3 category. Oregon’s Budy Palmer used a nearly perfect .003 RT in the Motorcycle Sportsman 1 final round to defeat Jason Sanchez. The California Kid Austin Thomas kept up his winning ways as he collected top honors in the Motorcycle Sportsman 2 as he defeated Brett Sanderson of on the Bracket Hustler in the final round. Ryan Rodriguez remained hot in the Junior Dragster class as he took yet another win while Rori Montgomery (Kids) and Axel May (Youth) took the remaining Junior class victories.

Chris Wells - Sportsman 1 Winner (Mike Biel Photo)

Mike Williams - Sportsman 2 Winner

Barbara Ervin - Sportsman 3 Winner

Budy Palmer - Motorcycle Sportsman 1 Winner

Austin Thomas - Motorcycle Sportsman 2 Winner

Ryan Rodriguez - Junior Dragster Winner

Gambler Bracket Classes

Friday Gambler action was a fun addition to the Avenal race weekend. The Pro Gambler final round saw Oregon’s Jim Smith in his Jeep line up with the great looking Blazer of Michael Abatti. This would be an excellent race with Abatti using a .154 to .181 RT edge to hang on for an eight-thousandths of a second (.008) Margin of Victory. Tim Wilson was killer all afternoon on the tree en route to the Motorcycle Pro Gambler class victory over Austin Thomas. Kevin Williams did a stellar job driving his Larry Minor Motorsports-built Jeep to the Sportsman Gambler class win over Dave Parker.

Michael Abatti - Pro Gambler Winner

Tim Wilson - Motorcycle Pro Gambler Winner

Kevin Williams - Sport Gambler Winner

Photos Courtesy

Mike Biel (Contact Info: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.)

Event Photo Gallery - Courtesy NSDN

Event Photo Gallery - Courtesy Mike Biel


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