The Avenal Sand Drags crew once again raised the bar with a tremendous Fall Nationals event to wrap up the 2017 sand drag racing season on the west coast. A record racer turnout for Avenal Sand Drags led to full fields in most categories. This put on a great show for the Central California crowd. Let’s recap all the great on track action throughout the weekend.

Top Alcohol

The 2017 west coast Top Alcohol class battle has centered around Jake Morton and Jim Hammond with Morton coming out on top in the SCSDA points race. With parts breakage and other plans for the rest of the TA class, these two racers were left to duel it out at Avenal’s Season Finale. Qualifying showed how well matched these two racers are right now as Morton earned the top spot by just .001-seconds with a 2.508 ET to Hammond’s 2.509 best. This set the stage for a great final on Sunday afternoon. When the tree dropped, Hammond had the starting line edge .057 to .071, but the battle ended as Hammond’s car drifted to the center abruptly with the wheels up so the veteran driver wisely lifted to save the car conceding the round to Morton. Jake recorded a strong 2.51 after a .993 60’ time that would have been tough to beat anyways. Congrats to the entire Morton team on their great 2017 season.

Jake Morton - Top Alcohol Winner

Jim Hammond - Top Alcohol Runner-Up

Top Eliminator

As always, the Top Eliminator (2.95 Index) crowd came to Avenal set on kill in this highly competitive category. The name of the game in early round TE Qualifying was close breakouts with several 2.94 laps on the board. But it would be Paul Graham and “The Excavator” backing up his recent incredible performance at the SCSDA Finale by going to the top spot with a 2.965 in the final session. Paul Taylor’s Dragster recorded an off the trailer 2.968, which would hold up for the #2 position while Marc Whitmore & Jim Rossi’s 2.98’s rounded out the top half of the qualifying sheet.

Round One eliminations started with a massive upset in the first pair as top qualifier Graham rocketed to an incredible 2.823 Personal Best ET. This was both good and bad news for Graham as his great run was also a breakout on the 2.95 Index that would eliminate him as Wes Gilmore advanced on in his Blown Alcohol Jeep. Next out would be the closest race of the weekend in TE with the Dragsters of Jim Rossi and Ron D’Artenay squaring off. Rossi would leave first .111 to .125 and hang on for the win 2.989 to 2.977 for a .002 Margin of Victory. #2 qualifier Taylor would earn the win in the next pair with a 3.08 to get around Tristan Graham’s solid 3.23 effort. Finishing up the round was an all-Altered pair as Marc Whitmore turned on the win light with a 2.990 to defeat Andy Olivera’s 3.040 to finish Andy’s strong first weekend of TE action.

The semi-finals would start with Rossi’s “Bad Toy” Dragster against the Blown Alcohol Jeep of Gilmore. This was a bizarre race as Rossi’s dragster uncharacteristically dropped cylinders and slowed to a 3.16 ET, but that would be enough as Gilmore got out of shape and knocked down some cones for an out of bounds DQ. Next up would be Paul Taylor versus Marc Whitmore to see who would advance on to face Rossi in in the final. This was an exceptional TE run as Whitmore’s Altered used a .039RT and 2.961 for the win over Taylor’s solid .067RT and 2.965 lap.

The scene was set for a great TE final as the “Bad Toy” Dragster of Jim Rossi would roll into the beams against March Whitmore’s Whitmore Speed & Custom Blown Altered. This one was over at the starting line as Whitmore left early turning on the red bulb handing the win to Rossi, who had a nice .061 RT and 2.915 ET. Congrats to Jim, Pattie and the whole Bad Toy team on their Season Sweep at Avenal as they also won the April event.

Jim Rossi - Top Eliminator Winner

Marc Whitmore - Top Eliminator Runner-Up

Jim Rossi & Crew - Top Eliminator Winner

Pro Bracket Classes

In the Pro 1 category, Robert Watanabe had the hot hand on Sunday as he drove the Watanabe Racing Dragster to the final round victory with a 3.413 (3.40) defeating Wes Johnson. Watanabe survived an incredibly close race on his way to the class win as he defeated Chris Wells in Round Two with a finish Margin of Victory totaling just one ten-thousandth of a second (.0001). The Pro 2 final round was an all-Jeep battle as Justin Adamson put his Orange Jeep in the beams against Charlie Johnson on Sunday afternoon. Charlie left first .034 to .045, but it would be Justin at the stripe running closer to his dial with a 4.293 (4.25) for the victory. Johnson would hot lap his Mopar-powered Jeep around for the Pro 3 class final as he lined up against Stacy Bolton’s “Odd Duck” Jeep. Charlie wasn’t leaving anything on the table this time around with a .009RT and 4.520 (4.48) tightening it up to a .026 Margin of Victory. Props go out to Stacy, who had a solid lap in the other lane with a .044RT and 4.411 (4.38) but came up just a little bit short.

Robert Watanabe - Pro 1 Winner

Justin Adamson - Pro 2 Winner

Charlie Johnson - Pro 3 Winner

Robert Watanabe & Crew - Pro 1 Winner

Justin Adamson & Crew - Pro 2 Winner

Charlie Johnson & Crew - Pro 3 Winner

The Motorcycle Pro categories were dominated by Team Marchant on this Sunday at Avenal. It was an all-Team Marchant final in the Motorcycle Pro 1 category as Taylor Holmes faced off with Cole Foy to decide top honors. Holmes saved up his best light of the day for the final with a .044 and ran a 4.205 (3.90) to turn on the win lights. Taylor’s brother Dylan Holmes, also on a Team Marchant ride was a finalist against multi-time class winner Jack Vandigriff. This was a hard-fought race as Jack had the RT edge, but at the stripe in a double breakout decision the win light shined in Dylan’s lane. Holmes was closer to his dial with a 4.787 (4.80) to Jack’s further under 4.849 (4.90). Congrats to Kyle, Taylor, Dylan, Cole and the entire Marchant team on their great victories at the Avenal Sand Drags Fall Nationals.

Taylor Holmes - Motorcycle Pro 1 Winner

Dylan Holmes - Motorcycle Pro 2 Winner

Gambler Classes

Chris Adamson started his weekend off strong on Friday with that day’s Pro Gambler class victory. Chris piloted his “Bounty Hunter Jeep” to the final round win with a 4.245 (4.23) over Kenny Hayes with a Margin of Victory totaling just four-thousandths of a second (.004) at the stripe. Saturday’s Pro Gambler class featured a field 33 strong in Round One action. The final round boiled down to Charlie Johnson’s Mopar-powered Jeep up against the Red Jeep of Tony Soares. Both racers had been putting down great laps all day long to reach the final. In the last race of the night, Johnson would put his Jeep in the Winners Circle with a .052RT and 4.711 (4.50) lap. This Saturday Pro Gambler victory combined with the Sunday Pro 2 triumph equated to a highly successful weekend for Johnson as he took home nearly $4000 in purse money from the 2017 Avenal Sand Drags Fall Nationals. This event also marked the return of the 3.95 Index class open to any Car. Kevin Williams swept the class as he qualified #1 with a 4.004, then went on to win the final round with a 3.959 to defeat Chris Wells, who red lighted away his shot by just .004.

Chris Adamson - Friday Pro Gambler Winner

Charlie Johnson - Saturday Pro Gambler Winner

Kevin Williams - 3.95 Index Winner

Chris Adamson & Crew - Friday Pro Gambler Winner

Sportsman Bracket / Junior Classes

In Sportsman 1 competition, Bill Meaney was a man on a mission with his Dragster. Bill capped off a great day of racing with a .030RT and 3.664 (3.60) to defeat Leon Wilmot’s “Blue Mule” Jeep in the final round. Joey Urena was another racer dialed in on Saturday as he used a nice .064RT to put his Chevy step side in the Sportsman 2 Winners Circle over Paul May. Daniel Bailey emerged victorious in the Sportsman 3 class with his UTV getting around “Super Dave” Stidham, who turned on the red light in Doug Thompson’s Jeep. Kevin Ruiz hit the tree solid with a .054RT en route to the Motorcycle Sportsman 1 class final round victory over Robert Garnas. Rowdy May was nearly dead-on his dial as he soloed in the Motorcycle Sportsman 2 final round after his opponent Dylan Taylor was unable to get his bike started. A huge congrats goes out to Chaylene Pintor, who piloted her awesome Junior Truck to her first ever win as she took the Junior Dragster class title over Grady Reynolds. Tessa Nunes used a string of low 5-second laps on her neat Junior ATV to take the Juniors class victory over Hailey Young. Jhett Montgomery represented for Team Hardcore as he blistered the track with 24-second ET’s en route to the Youth class final round victory over Killian Schlater.

Bill Meaney - Sportsman 1 Winner

Joey Urena - Sportsman 2 Winner

Daniel Bailey - Sportsman 3 Winner

Kevin Ruiz - Motorcycle Sportsman 1 Winner

Rowdy May - Motorcycle Sportsman 2 Winner

Chaylene Pintor - Junior Dragster Winner

Tessa Nunes - Juniors Winner

Jhett Montgomery - Youth Winner

Photos Courtesy NSDN

Event Photo Gallery - Photos Courtesy NSDN

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