Fri, 21 Dec 2012, 14:07 PM
A New Champion Is Crowned
By Bob Frey
Photo copyright 2012 Auto Imagery, Inc.
The goal for every racer at the start of the season is the same.win the championship, and while a
lot of racers will vow that they weren't going to chase the points when the year started, they all
have that goal in the back of their minds. As we all know the process of crowning a Lucas Oil World
Champion is a little different and more complex than it is in the Full Throttle classes. There, all
you have to do is add up the points that each racer accumulates over the season or during the six
races in the "Countdown" and you have the champ. Sure there are bonus points and oil-down penalties
that come in to play but, for the most part, the scoring is rather simple. In the sportsman ranks
it's an entirely different thing. Score points, go to national and divisional (or regional races),
pick your best races, run some in and some out of your division and then figure out your total. Oh
yeah, then you have to wait for someone on the other side of the country to finish their
full-compliment of races before you know where you stand. In 2012 there was one racer who made the
process fairly easy because he went out and put a lot of points on the board early and let everyone
else try to catch him, and in the end, nobody did. That racer is Jeff Lopez, a first-time Lucas Oil
Super Gas World Champion.
Eli Lopez (near lane)
Like so many of today's racers Jeff Lopez is carrying on a family legacy. His father, Eli, was a
very good racer in the late 1970's and early 1980's and even won a national event in 1984. And
Jeff's mom also raced and she did it in the bracket classes, Super Street and some of the National
Open events that were held around their home state of Texas. "I remember going to the races when I
was five or six years old," Jeff said. "In fact, Indy was always the same week as the first week of
school and for years that meant that I missed the first days of school." Sounds like a racer who
has his priorities straight, doesn't it?
As good as Jeff's father was Jeff commented on how different the sport is today. "Dad bought the
World Championship car from Coleman Roddy and turned it into a Super Gas car," he said. "At that
time the car, which was very lightweight, was way ahead of its time in the class. Today, you
wouldn't stand a chance if you raced that car in Super Gas. It's just a whole different ball game
right now." Today Jeff races and wins with the classic Super Gas car, a 1963 Corvette that was
initially built for Heidi Robison. "It was built by B & B Race Cars and they don't do a lot of
Super category cars. They mostly do Super Stock cars and this is a one-of-a-kind car for them." And
Jeff Lopez in his Super Gas car.
it is a very good car, too, because in 2012 Jeff was virtually unbeatable, or at least he was
virtually unbeatable until the final round. "Yeah, it's funny. Before this year I never lost in a
final round and now this year every final round I went to I lost." Well that's not exactly correct,
he did go to seven finals and was runner-up at six of them, the lone exception being his big win at
Great Bend, Kansas. That win was part of three final rounds in a three week stretch that virtually
cemented the championship for Jeff. "That was a good time," he said in a major understatement.
The racers in Division 4 have a different schedule than most of the racers across the country and
that's because of the weather in their neck of the woods. "It gets really hot here in Texas in the
summer and we'll go from June to the end of August without having a race." During that time while
he wasn't racing Jeff admits that he didn't pay a lot of attention to the points. "There was not
much I could do about it at that point so I just figured I would take care of things around the
house." Those "things" included preparing the house for a baby that was expected in a few months.
Today Jeff is happy to say that baby Lucas Lopez joined the world a few days after he picked up his
trophy in California. "I was at the banquet and my wife, Elizabeth, was home and I kept waiting to
get the call that the baby was here." Fortunately Lucas waited until dad got home and now mom, dad
and Lucas are all doing well. "He's been really good but he did keep us up last night," Jeff said.
As a father of three I have a word of advice for Jeff, trying to figure out a baby's sleep schedule
is slightly easier than trying to figure out the Lucas Oil points system, but not by much. Good
Jeff and Eli Lopez
While he is a first time winner and this is his first trip into the top ten in the points Jeff has
been racing for quite a while. "I actually started racing when I was about fourteen. We raced at
this outlaw track and I was able to drive at the eighth-mile races." Later, when he got his
driver's license, he started racing full time, or as full time as you can when you have a job and
responsibilities. "I work with my father and my brother at our automotive shop, Lopez Auto Repair.
It's been in the family for over thirty years. I had always gone to the races with my dad and I
really enjoyed that and I knew I wanted to race and now I enjoy racing and working with him." A
stint behind the wheel of the family's Chevy II soon gave way to a better car and a more ambitious
schedule and he had a very good year in 2010 that included the rare "double-up" at the division
race in Noble, Oklahoma. "That was a great day. It rained and so we had to run on Monday and they
hustled us right through. It was almost like a round-robin and I think that was good because you
didn't have too much time to think or over think things between rounds." And while he has had
success in both Super Comp and Super Gas he says that he really prefers the 9.90 category. "It's
just a lot more fun than the dragster, you have to drive it a little more and that's why I like
Even though he put a lot of points on the board early Jeff didn't actually clinch the title until
late in the year. After the long lay-off in the summer he went back to the track and it looked like
he never missed a beat. "I just went out and did my job and it turned out to be good
enough." Jeff went on to say that the key to his championship wasn't as much what he did as what he
didn't do. "I didn't make a lot of mistakes," he said. "I didn't foul or give away too many races
and that was the key. I just said 'here's my best shot and if you can beat it good for you' and I
guess it worked out." I guess it did.
When asked about his plans for 2013 Jeff said they really aren't finalized yet, in fact, they
really aren't anything yet. "Everyone who knows me knows that I don't do a lot of advance planning.
Even when I proposed to my wife I just threw the ring into my pocket and headed out on the date."
Wow, what a romantic!! But apparently that has worked out well, too. "I couldn't be happier. I have
a wonderful wife and a beautiful baby (that doesn't always sleep through the night) and now a
championship." Sounds like all is well in the Lopez household. "Maybe when I put that number one on
the car it will sink in, but for now I'm just enjoying the baby." A baby who just might eventually
be the third member of the Lopez family to go racing and winning.
Jeff Lopez in his Super Comp car
"It was a very good year and I have a lot of people I'd like to thank including Greg Samuels at FTI
Transmissions and Converters, Jim Craig at Weldon High Performance, Faron Lubbers at Hoosier Tire,
Mallory's Screenprinting and Embroidery, all the employees at Lopez Auto Repair, my dad Eli,
brother Robby and especially my wife Elizabeth."
NHRA: 10 Most Recent Entries [ top ]
Nov 28- Steve Reyes Legends- Gone But Not Forgotten
Nov 24- One-on-One with Andrew Hines
Nov 22- One-on-One with Del Worsham
Nov 22- JEGS SPORTSnationals Returns to its Kentucky Roots in 2016
Nov 20- Severance, Lindberg, Lamb, Helms, Brannon and Elrod Lock Up Championships
Nov 19- POMONA 2 -- Through the Lens of Gary Nastase
Nov 18- Summit Racing Equipment Extends Title Sponsorship of NHRA Jr. Drag Racing League
Nov 18- NHRA Updates License Procedure to Streamline Process
Nov 18- Piper, Steffen, Hastings and Schwalm Earn Summit National Championships
Nov 18- McMillen and AMALIE® Motor Oil Extend Relationship through 2019