The Southern California Sand Drag Association (SCSDA) kicked off their 2018 season in late February at the Soboba Casino in San Jacinto, CA. Unseasonably cool temps greeted racers and fans alike, making for great horsepower weather. The increased horsepower, plus the addition of several truckloads of clay into the track surface led to one of the quickest & fastest weekends of 300’ sand drag racing we have seen in some time. Keep in mind this was Race 1 of the 5 race California Sand Drag Challenge points series, consisting of the three SCSDA events and two at Avenal Sand Drags. This is going to be a fun series to follow all season and several racers got off to a fast start.

Top Fuel

Nobody was itching to hit the track more than the Top Fuel teams on this weekend with the incredible track and weather conditions greeting them in Southern California. Day 1 was a bit of a struggle for both teams, but Saturday’s qualifying rounds showed us what these teams are capable of. Dennis Rieck and the Hammer Down team has been on a mission to lower the Top Fuel ET record over the past few years. During Q3, Dennis and the team hit on the setup to record a 2.201 blast, which was one-thousandth of a second (.001) quicker than his previous record of 2.202 set in Victorville, CA. On this run, Dennis was .892 to 60’ which showed that the track was certainly there for even quicker numbers. In the night session, Dennis had problems at the hit, but it would be the Pat Norris Racing team with driver Marcus Norris with header flames high in the air to a 2.300/142MPH pass. Norris was on an incredible pass with his Personal Best 60’ time of .928 but fell off over 20MPH at the finish line slowing to a still excellent 2.30 ET. This set the stage for the Sunday Noon time final round. Dennis’ Hammer Down & Marcus’ Pat Norris Racing/Worldwide Insurance Service Dragsters were both ready to rumble to decide the class champion on this weekend. Norris took a sizeable starting line advantage, but it would be the Hammer Down team with an incredible 2.21/153MPH lap in the heat of the day for the victory over Norris’ strong 2.33/153MPH run. Dennis recorded his Personal Best 60’ of .878 on this run, however he was unable to keep the power glued down track to better his 2.20 from Saturday. The 2.21 would serve as a backup to the new 2.201 Top Fuel World Record ET for the Hammer Down Racing team. Both teams gained valuable data, which should make the Top Fuel wars extremely interesting as the season progresses.

Dennis Rieck - Top Fuel Winner

Marcus Norris - Top Fuel Runner-Up

Top Alcohol

The Top Alcohol contingent was hit with a strange weekend of action to kick off the 2018 SCSDA Season Opener. A couple of the biggest contenders did not even make it to the starting line on this weekend as 2017 Champ Jake Morton & the Morton Racing team hurt their motor on their first warmup of the weekend taking them out for the weekend while perennial class performance leader Gary Mink had Motorhome problems on the trip down keeping him from attending the event. Those that did hit the track also had struggles in qualifying. Jim Hammond in the April’s Dream Dragster earned the top spot with a 2.55 lap, but a broken ring & pinon in Q3 meant his spare would go in for Eliminations. Pedro Villa’s new Express Dragster had starting issues, but finally put down a 2.83 lap in Q4 to earn the #2 position. Jimmy Depasse would qualify #3 with a 2.88, while Nick Januik piloted the Larry Minor Motorsports Jeep to the #4 spot with a 3.05.

Round One kicked off with top qualifier Hammond lining up against Januik in the Jeep. Hammond left first and used his BAE power to run Low ET of the weekend with a 2.48/140MPH lap to advance on. The next pair would see Depasse throw down his best lap of the weekend with a 2.78/113MPH in the Jeep to get around Villa, who shut off early with problems. The final round would end up as a single run unfortunately as Depasse had severe engine damage in the Pro Mod final round, leaving Hammond to single to the victory. Jim soloed to the win with a great looking 2.49/137MPH lap as he starts off the season and points chase with a nice victory at the Soboba Casino.

Jim Hammond - Top Alcohol Winner

Jimmy Depasse - Top Alcohol Runner-Up

Top Eliminator

The Top Eliminator (2.95 Index) category is often regarded as one of the toughest categories in all of sand drag racing. It’s a rarity that a driver new to the category jumps in and has success. The 2018 SCSDA Season Opener was one of those rare instances. Vickie Hall and her husband Damon made the haul from the Albuquerque, New Mexico area with Vickie’s recently acquired “Farmer’s Twisted Daughter” Dragster. The Hall Racing Team recently purchased the Twisted Dragster from the Texas-based father-son team of Courtney & Jackie Stidham. This car was a proven winner and proved to be a great combination with Vickie behind the wheel as she qualified #1 on her first ever full pass in the car with a 2.951 ET. Terry Crawford ended up #2 qualifier in the “Yabba Dabba Doo” Dragster with a nice 2.966 in the final session. The top half of the 10-car field ended up with a Personal Best 2.97 for Bill Peterson, Paul Taylor at 2.98 and Jim Rossi’s “Bad Toy” recording a 3.00.

The best race of Round One saw #9 qualifier Paul Graham get past his qualifying struggles with a great 2.959 lap to defeat #2 qualifier Terry Crawford. Other winners from Round One were Vickie Hall (3.02), Russ Bailey (3.07), Paul Taylor (2.99) and Jim Rossi (3.00). The closest race of Round Two saw Missouri’s Russ Bailey advance on with a great hole shot win 2.98 to 2.96 over Paul Taylor by just .008 at the finish line. Jim Rossi ran a strong 2.99 to get around Paul Graham while Vickie Hall ran a 2.980 on her quarter-final round Bye.

The semi-final round started with a big matchup between Missouri’s Bailey and New Mexico’s Hall. Both had run identical 2.980’s in the previous round. When the tree dropped, Hall left first .104 to .136 then held on for the victory 2.98 to 3.00. Hall’s opponent in the final round would be Rossi, who ran a 3.03 on his semi-final round solo lap.

This set up a great final round matchup between TE rookie Hall versus class veteran Rossi coming off a season sweep at Avenal Sand Drags in 2017. Rossi had greatly improved Reaction Times all weekend and that trend continued in the final round as he left first .052 to Hall’s .120, but the “Bad Toy” would be a little too tuned up with a 2.88 breakout handing the win over to Hall with a solid 3.01. Vickie accomplished the rare TE weekend sweep being #1 Qualifier & winning the race made even crazier in that it was her first ever event in the class. The competition was great all weekend and there’s no doubt this class is going to be a ton of fun to watch all season long.

Vickie Hall - Top Eliminator Winner

Jim Rossi - Top Eliminator Runner-Up

Fast Fours

The Fast Fours class came to the SCSDA Season Opener fully prepared to take advantage of the excellent conditions and throw down some incredible numbers. Qualifying saw Michigan racer Adam Roe end up as #1 Qualifier with a 2.710 lap. 2017 class champion Robert Skidmore was right behind Roe with a 2.723 while Daniel King ran a great 2.789 in the “Animal Control” Dragster to round out the top half of the 6-car field.

The performances really got fast in Round One as Roe, making his yearly cross-country trip ran an incredible 2.688/117MPH to lower his 2.70 record set last season. Skidmore also had a bye run in Round One and ran a solid 2.74/114MPH to advance on. Mario Tavares escaped with a narrow Round One win over Darrel Roe’s Buggy in a great wheel-to-wheel 2.93 to 2.95 battle. Finishing up the round was Daniel King with a 2.85 on his Round One single as Art Cronin was unable to make the call. 

Round two kicked off with top qualifier Roe lining up against Tavares in the Pauter Rods entry. Mario got a big jump .118 to .203, but it would be Roe using his big power to set a new ET World Record with a 2.668 lap for the win over a 2.77. Adam was an amazing 1.000 to 60’ on this pass. He would head to the final round against Robert Skidmore, who ran a 2.71 to defeat King’s 2.83.

This set up a final round between the two quickest & fastest cars of the weekend. When the tree dropped, Roe had a sizeable RT advantage, but he would have mechanical issues at the hit opening the door for Skidmore to take the win with a 2.72/116MPH blast. What a huge weekend for the Fast Fours class with so many teams making great runs and a new World Record for the Roe Racing team. We are looking forward to seeing what the Fast Fours class has in store as the season progresses.

Robert Skidmore - Fast Fours Winner

Adam Roe - Fast Fours Winner

Pro Mod Unlimited

Three entries made the show in the Pro Mod Unlimited at the SCSDA Season Opener. Jimmy Depasse ended up as #1 qualifier with a 2.91. Nick Januik piloted the Larry Minor Motorsports Jeep to the #2 spot with a 2.94/111MPH as he filled in for regular driver Derek Balcunas. Dave Huffman rounded out the field with a 3.26, but unfortunately had parts damage in Qualifying and was unable to make Sunday race day. This left Depasse and Januik to square off for the class title. This was an eventful run as Depasse suffered major engine damage as he brought the RPM’s up opening the door for Januik to take the win with his best pass of the weekend by far 2.83/123MPH.

Nick Januik - Pro Mod Unlimited Winner

Pro Bracket & Specialty Classes

The Pro 1 final round was quite a tree with both racers killer on the tree as Craig Durning in “Eugene the Jeep” took a .019 to .024 starting line edge, but it would be Washington’s Chris Wells closer to his dial with a 3.529 (3.47) for the win. Wells came back a few minutes later in his SBC-powered Buggy for the Pro 2 final round, where he faced off with Arizona’s Tommy Zavala. This race was decided at the tree as Well turned on the red light by the slimmest of margins (.001), while Zavala ran a stellar 3.761 (3.75) with a .011 RT in victory. KC Springer kept up his winning ways by backing up his big Dumont 4.25 Index class win with the Pro 3 class win at the SCSDA Season Opener. KC used a .093 RT and 4.402 (4.27) to take the final round win over Mike Forester. Brad Olson turned on the win light in an ultra-close Motorcycle Pro 1 class final round as he used a 4.023 (4.00) to defeat Joey Weaver by just .017 at the stripe. The Motorcycle Pro 2 final was a double breakout affair as Randy Mings took the win breaking out by less with a 5.369 (5.42) over Mark Ratliff’s 5.048 (5.20). Friday night’s 3.95 Index class saw Scott Whipple get the job done running a 4.06 to get the win over #1 qualifier Wes Johnson, who turned on the red bulb in the final. Wes would come back Saturday night and defeat his brother Charlie in the Larry Minor Jeep Shootout final round. Wes used an .011 RT to get to the finish line first by just .006.

Chris Wells - Pro 1 Winner

Tommy Zavala - Pro 2 Winner

KC Springer - Pro 3 Winner

Brad Olson - Motorcycle Pro 1 Winner

Randy Mings - Motorcycle Pro 2 Winner

Scott Whipple - 3.95 Index Winner

Wes Johnson - Larry Minor Jeep Shootout Winner

Gambler Classes

There was some incredible action in Friday night’s Pro Gambler class. The all-Jeep final round was no exception as Kenny Hayes used a nearly perfect .002 RT and 3.479 (3.43) to defeat Chris Adamson by just .007 at the finish line. Saturday night’s Pro Gambler final round ended up as a Jeep versus Dragster battle as Kevin Williams’ Jeep used a .057 RT and 4.013 (4.02) to turn on the win light over Tommy Zavala’s Dragster that left -.000 Red.

Kenny Hayes - Friday Pro Gambler Winner

Kevin Williams - Saturday Pro Gambler Winner

Sportsman Bracket & Junior Classes

Mike Record pulled some huge wheel stands in his great looking Jeep early in the weekend, but he was able to get it calmed down enough to earn the Sportsman 1 class victory on Saturday. Mike used a .002 RT and 4.036 (4.00) to take the win over Chris Wells in the first final of his three-final round weekend. The Sportsman 2 final round saw Rob Plumb get the win with his “Complete Idiot” Buggy after opponent Jaime Ochoa went .111 Red in his Maximum Diesels Dodge. Caleb Mings ran closer to his dial with a 4.333 (4.25) to take the Motorcycle Sportsman 1 class win over Mark Ratliff. Ratliff came back a few minutes later on his other ride to run a 5.193 (5.10) en route to the Motorcycle Sportsman 2 win as Marcus Riedel turned it red by .022. The Junior classes were combined to two classes, where Isaac Gonzales earned top honors over Troy Adamson in the Juniors class while Audrey Williams got the win over Jax Gazzeny in the Peewees class final.

Mike Record - Sportsman 1 Winner

Rob Plumb - Sportsman 2 Winner

Caleb MIngs - Motorcycle Sportsman 1 Winner

Mark Ratliff - Motorcycle Sportsman 2 Winner

Isaac Gonzales - Juniors Winner

Audrey Williams - Peewees Winner

Photos Courtesy NSDN


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