The Southern California Sand Drag Association (SCSDA) kicked off the 2016 in grand style as the west coast racers returned to the Soboba Casino in San Jacinto, CA for SCSDA’s Season Opener event. This would be the first sand drag race back at the fabled Soboba Casino venue since November of 2013, and the overall feel was extremely enthusiastic from all in attendance. A great turnout of racers showed to compete on the 300’ and put on a great show for a stellar spectator crowd that was in attendance throughout the weekend. A huge thank you needs to go out to sand drag racing legend Larry Minor, who put in a huge effort to ensure the return of sand drags to his back yard, the Hemet/San Jacinto area. Here’s a rundown of all the on track action for the weekend.

Top Alcohol

The Top Alcohol class had five strong entries ready to tackle the Soboba Casino dirt for qualifying action. Pacing the field after four sessions would be the Morton Racing TAD of Jake Morton recording a best ET of 2.489 in Q2. Jim Hammond’s “April’s Dream” Dragster ended up 2nd with a 2.603 followed by Pedro Villa (2.635), Derek Balcunas (2.776) and Jimmy Depasse (2.799).

Attrition would play a huge part in Sunday’s eliminations with two entries out before round one rolled into the ready box. Top qualifier Morton had a huge wheelstand in Q4 Saturday night suffering some damage that would take them out of contention. The Larry Minor Motorsports Jeep piloted by Derek Balcunas ran strong in Qualifying with a 2.77 ET best, but a broken supercharger shaft took them out in early Sunday Pro Mod Unlimited action. That would leave two bye runs and a single pass in round one of eliminations with Pedro Villa recording Low ET of the round with a 2.62.

The theme of the weekend continued to be attrition as only two cars would make the call for the next round. Jim Hammond suffered some engine damage on his round one single pass that would take him out for the day. This would leave just Villa’s “Express” Dragster and Jimmy Depasse’s “Otis Xpress” Jeep to battle it out for the win. The crowd witnessed an exciting pass with Villa taking the win recording a solid 2.67 ET while DePasse blew off a zoomie header, the force shooting his Jeep over to the K-Rail making contact with the wall downtrack. Thankfully Jimmy did an incredible job of driving to keep the Jeep upright and undamaged. Congrats to the Villa Racing Team on the great start to the 2016 season.

Pedro Villa - Top Alcohol Winner

Jimmy Depasse - Top Alcohol Runner-Up

Top Eliminator

Once again the cars and stars of the Top Eliminator (2.95 Index) class put on a thrilling show all weekend long in front of the So Cal crowd. Qualifying was ultra intense with everyone shooting for that perfect 2.950. Several racers just missed perfection coming within thousandths on the too quick side, but the top spot ended up with the same guy who swept the 2015 Season Finale Billy Morris. 2015 TE class champ Morris recorded a 2.959 ET in Q4 to earn the #1 spot in his first weekend with a new engine combo in the Morris Family Racing Dragster. Alongside Morris in Q4 was Terry Crawford, who turned a strong 2.967 on that pass to earn the #2 spot with his “Yabba Dabba Doo” Dragster. The real drama was further down the list as SCSDA made the decision to take just the Top 8 entries into eliminations in TE on Sunday. Las Vegas racer Mark Punos would bump into the show in Q4 with a solid 3.058 ET to take the 8th and final spot. With all eight competitors within a tenth of a second in qualifying, race day would be anyone’s game.

Round one of eliminations was filled with excitement. In the first pair out, top qualifier Morris would take lift early in the middle of a wheelstand to a 3.33 win over Punos, who suffered a broken rear end at the hit. Ron d’Artenay’s “Red Warrior” used a hole shot to take the win over Jim Rossi’s “Bad Toy” in a 3.00 to 3.00 decision. The big upset of the round would be up next as #7 qualifier Larry Snow in his Blown Alcohol Buggy had just enough starting line advantage to take the win over Crawford by just .001 in a 3.15 to 3.13 decision. Finishing up the round would be the battle of the Paul’s with Taylor and Graham doing battle. This would be another hole shot win with Graham’s “Excavator” Buggy turning on the win light with a 3.04 to Taylor’s 3.03.

The TE class continued on in round two with races decided by mere thousandths of a second. The first pair would be decided by just .003 as Morris nearly gave the stripe back to d’Artenay pedaling to a 3.07 to 2.97 hole shot win. Morris would face off with the winner of the Blown Alcohol Buggy battle between great friends Paul Graham and Larry Snow. When the dust cleared it would be Graham putting the “Excavator” in the final round with a 3.03 over Snow’s 3.09. This set up a classic final between Morris and Graham. These two have shared some great final rounds in the past with both competitors sharing victories. This one would be decided on the line as Graham jumped too soon turning on the red light handing the win to Morris, who ran a 2.99 ET on that pass. Congrats to Billy and the Morris Family Racing on a fast start to the 2016 season.

Billy Morris - Top Eliminator Winner

Paul Graham - Top Eliminator Runner-Up

Top Fuel / Fast Fours / Pro Mod Unlimited

The Pat Norris Racing Top Fuel Team with driver Marcus Norris made the trip to Soboba to do some testing as the only TF entry in attendance. Norris made solid laps all weekend with bests of 2.37ET and 154MPH for the Phoenix-based team. They are looking forward to returning for the Top Fuel Showdown at the SCSDA Soboba event September 30-October 2.

Marcus Norris - Top Fuel Winner

Robert Skidmore once again set four-cylinder history as he blistered the Soboba track with a 2.662 ET during Saturday’s qualifying. The 2.66 is quickest run in 4-cylinder history, surpassing his own 2.68 set at Dome Valley in January 2014. This would obviously be the #1 qualifying ET. Skidmore would face John Cronin in the final round on Sunday afternoon. All eyes were on this race as Skidmore tried to back up the 2.66 for a new World Record. Robert’s phoenix-based Dragster would turn on the win light, but would fall short of a back up recording a 2.81 ET. This makes it five straight Fast Fours wins in SCSDA competition for the Phoenix-based Skidmore Racing team.

Robert Skidmore - Fast Fours Winner

The Blown Alcohol Jeeps once again put on a spectacular performance in the Pro Mod Unlimited class at Soboba. Saturday’s crowd was treated to some incredible passes by the short wheelbased rides, paced by Derek Balcunas with a 2.79 in the Larry Minor Motorsports Jeep. Jimmy DePasse wasn’t far behind with a 2.89 while Wes Gilmore joined the Pro Mod class for the first time recording a solid 3.27 as he got quicker each pass with his new Jeep. Depasse would run low ET of round one with a 2.85 as he got by Gilmore’s 3.45. Balcunas would break on his bye run, which would take him out of competition handing the class victory to Depasse and the “Otis Xpress”.

Jimmy Depasse - Pro Mod Unlimited Winner

Sunday Bracket Classes

2015 SCSDA Pro 1 Champion Craig Durning started off 2016 right where he left off as he piloted “Eugene the Jeep” to the Winner’s Circle. Craig faced off with Farmington, New Mexico’s Steve Jackson in the final round. Durning would throw down a great 18 package for the win with a .018 RT and dead-on 3.680 (3.68).

Craig Durning - Pro 1 Winner

The Pro 2 final saw a pair of Hemet area Jeep racers square off for the victory. When the dust settled, it would be Mike Williams Sr. in his “White Lightning” Jeep turning on the win light over Wes Johnson. Mike had the starting line edge with a .080 RT and recorded a 3.897 (3.85) for the win.

Mike Williams Sr. - Pro 2 Winner

The biggest Pro Bracket class on Sunday was Pro 3. In the final round would be a pair of Orange Jeeps in Justin Adamson against Kevin Williams. Williams, who won the Friday night Pro Gambler, kept up his winning ways using a .036RT and 4.298 (4.26) to turn on the winner picker over Adamson.

Kevin Williams - Pro 3 Winner

The Motorcycle Pro bracket classes saw a rare sweep on this weekend at Soboba as Phoenix racer Mike Brock got the job done in both classes. Brock paired up with Robby Stancliff in the MP1 final round. Robby would stage foul handing the win to Mike immediately. Brock still had a solid .062RT and 3.601 (3.54) for the victory. In the MP2 final, Mike would face off against the always tough Randy Mings as two veterans of the sport waged war once again. Just like in the other class the race would be decided at the tree as Mings turned it .008 red handing the win to Brock, who had a .097RT and ran a little too fast with a 5.418 (5.44) for the win. Congrats to the whole Brock Racing team on the big day at Soboba.

Mike Brock - MP1 Winner

Mike Brock - MP2 Winner

Gambler Classes

A new feature for the 2016 season would be the addition of Friday night Car & ATV Gamblers to go along with Saturday night’s traditional Gambler classes. Friday night’s Pro Gambler came down to an all-Jeep battle between Kevin Williams and Mike Record. Williams had the lucky rabbit’s foot in his pocket on this night as Record had the starting line edge .063 to .147, but took way too much stripe on a 4.165 (4.20) break out handing Kevin the Friday night win. Saturday night’s prime time Pro Gambler came down to two of the very best racers on the west coast as Phoenix racer Kenny Hayes rolled into the beams in his Jeep against Washington’s Chris Wells in the Wells/Burris team’s trademark SBC-powered Buggy. Hayes would have the starting line edge .045 to Wells’ uncharacteristically late .117 and hold on with a 3.485 (3.48) to a breaking out 3.899 (3.92) for Chris. Friday night’s Motorcycle Gambler final was a double breakout affair with both racers dialed at 3.79 and Sonny Fricia taking the win with a 3.733 to Chris Carlson’s 3.717. Carlson would redeem himself on Saturday night as he threw down a solid .020RT to defeat Christy Garnas.

Kevin Williams - Friday Pro Gambler

Kenny Hayes - Saturday Pro Gambler Winner

Sonny Fricia - Friday Motorcycle Gambler Winner

Chris Carlson - Saturday Motorcycle Gambler Winner

Sportsman Classes / Junior Classes

The great looking “Sidewinder” Jeep piloted by Fred Russo ended up in the Sportsman 1 winner’s circle over Cody Winn. Jeep winning ways continued as Steve Winn defeated Jim Larr in the Sportsman 2 final round. Ole “JW” Joey Weaver turned on the win light in the Motorcycle Sportsman 1 final over Steve Fricia while Mike Renand took the Motorcycle Sportsman 2 victory over Marcus Riedel. Defending Junior Dragster champ Leonardo Villa started off the new season hot taking the win over Levi Suggs. Another top performer in 2015 was Drake Montgomery & he also started off in the winner’s circle taking the Juniors class win over Delaney Browning. As of press time, we have not received the Peewees & Mini Junior Dragster winners, if you know who the winner’s of these classes are send us an email to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Fred Russo - Sportsman 1 Winner

Steve Winn - Sportsman 2 Winner

Joey Weaver - Motorcycle Sportsman 1 Winner

Motorcycle Sportsman 2 Final Round: Mike Renand (Far Lane) takes the win

Leonardo Villa - Junior Dragster Winner

Drake Montgomery - Juniors Winner

Photos Courtesy NSDN

Photo Gallery - Courtesy NSDN

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