This is a review of the top ten runs of the 2000 NHRA sportsman season. It is just an opinion, nothing more than that. Some of the runs I have witnessed in person, while some of them I read about on the Drag Race Central web site. So enjoy what was truly a memorable season in Federal-Mogul sportsman racing.
Side note one: Right after Hess made his historic pass SS/A racer George Baptiste took his Hemi Cuda stick car on a ride that most people will never forget, going from one side of the track to the other, never lifting but emerging without one scratch on the car. There is nothing like a Hemi SS/A class car, original, or "clone"!
Side note two: Ron Fruchey ran the quickest Super Stock time ever this year with his Turbo Buick SS/DX at the CSK Nationals at Phoenix at 8.338 seconds, therefore as we say here on the east coast he gets "mad props".
Run Number Two: There have been many runs this year in the Alcohol classes that have been spectacular but David Baca's 5.287 second 270.64 mph Federal-Mogul Dragster pass at the Auto Club of Southern California Finals was truly a grandslam. To be the first to run quicker than 5.3 seconds is quite an accomplishment considering how many great cars, mostly injected on Nitro, have tried to run fast this year. Dave Hirata, Bruce Bowler, Michael Gunderson, Arthur Gallant, David Wells and of course Rick Santos in a blown cars have all run 5.30's this year at various events. It was second generation racer Baca though to break the barrier, unfortunately for him he never made another pass within the one percent needed for a record back-up. Santos tried hard to set the record into the 5.20's at the finals after his superb 5.319 second pass in the semi's. He came back in the finals and still won the race on a very cold race track but slowed down into the 5.40's. Last year at the Fairplex also at the Auto Club finals Mark Woods set the record to a 5.303 with his injected Nitro dragster a record which will stand into the year 2001.
Side note one: This year at the Keystone Nationals Hirata took his yellow injected Nitro Dragster to the fastest run in class history at 270.86 mph. This eclipsed the previous fastest run ever by Keith Stark of 270 mph from 1996, considering all the rule changes for the Nitro cars Hirata's pass was truly a blast.
Side Note two: Keith Stark waited no time to claim his tittle of being fastest Federal Mogul Dragster driver when he ran 271.24 mph at Memphis to set the speed record. Just seeing Stark racing is always a thrill after witnessing his disastrous crash at Gainesville a few years ago.
Run Number Three: In this case it should be "runs" because just about anytime the Rick Santos driven Oakwood Homes Federal Mogul Dragster approaches the starting line there is a chance for a record setting performance. His 5.317 second pass at the CSK Nationals at Firebird Raceway is still the all time quickest run by a Blown Alcohol Dragster. He not only won the race and the Championship this year but at that event ran all his passes in the 5.30's during that event. Seven total, three in qualifying and four during elimination's for a truly dominating performance. Car owner Jack O'Bannon, crew-chief Norm Grimes and Santos are an unbeatable combination. There previously mentioned 5.319 second pass at the finals might be even more impressive considering the fact that after the runs in Arizona there would be a rules change regarding the supercharger. Santos the four time champ would do the class a favor if he would move up to Top Fuel. His team is that good.
Side note: There was other great Blown Cars this year like Jay Meyer, Gary Ormsby Jr. and David Wells. Meyer ran as quick as 5.415 at a Division Four event at Houston, Ormsby Jr. ran 5.410 at the same track later in the year at the Matco Tools Supernational's and Wells made a phenomenal pass at Dallas in the fall running as quick as 5.392 seconds. They should all give Santos a run for the championship next year.
Run Number Four: When you drive all the way from New Mexico to Pennsylvania to try to run fast in Stock Eliminator you have to be taken very serious. Maple Grove Raceway's Castrol GTX Dutch Classic has long been event for setting records. Cool weather and a great track has given fans some of the quickest non- altitude adjusted runs in Drag Racing history. Last year New York's Richard Todd took his A/SA Ford Fairlane to the quickest run of all time at 10.12 seconds. This year it would be A/SA class racer and record holder Bobby DeArmond of Gallup New Mexico who would provide fans with a run still talked about. On Friday of the event during record runs DeArmond would launch his car like a Super Stocker and travel down the quarter-mile in 10.110 seconds, as of today the quickest run ever at a non factored race track. The humble DeArmond was satisfied with his efforts and after other runs on Friday afternoon and Saturday morning loaded his 1969 Camaro back into his trailer and left for the New Mexico desert. The Grove and it's sponsor's posted thousands for the first nine second stock run but DeArmond was the only one to get close to a 10.0 pass.
Side Note: Even though I did not see this run Robert Pond's A/S 10.16 second run at Sonoma this year DeArmonds description was enough, he said Pond's car launches like a monster with great wheelstands. The run was at 2000 feet corrected altitude and is another great performance by the current class record holder. Like DeArmond other racer's made great runs at the Grove like Todd who ran another 10.12 and Tom Baird's A/S Camaro which ran 10.16. Who said Stocker's were not "Way Cool".
Run Number Five: When NHRA announcer and certified Comp Eliminator guru Leo Taugher had to think for a second about a record breaking run you knew it was big. This past summer at a very humid Madison IL at the Sears Craftsman Nationals Ed Bennett let the clutch out on the baddest A/D in the country and ran a breathtaking 6.590 second pass in qualifying. For that moment the quickest run in the history of Comp Eliminator. The run at the time also was the first sub 6.6 second run in class history and eclipsed a mark of 6.60 that stood since 1973. The car is owned and some time driven by Robert and Suzanne Book of BRE Competition from Frankfurt IL. It is powered by a former Steve Schmidt Pro Stock motor with much work done by Book including his carburetors. Unfortunately for Bennett he lost in the finals to the worlds quickest Subaru dragster of New York's Frank Aragona Jr. Later on in the season Bennett the former Division Three champ would lose his ride in the A/D rocket-ship and other racers like Richard Bourke and Book himself would drive the quickest Comp car of all time.
Side Note: Book who also has an equally wild A/A 1932 Bantam Roadster drove his car to a 6.588 second pass at the Division Three National Open in October. The quickest run of all time at sea level. Since then David Cook dropped the record even lower in Meredith Haner's car at 6.54 seconds at Firebird Raceway in AZ. The record pass is altitude adjusted but still a nasty run anyway.
Run Number Six: Tony Bartone came to Maple Grove Raceway on a mission this year at the Keystone Nationals. To finally beat arch rival Frank Manzo. Survey says: "hey thanks for playing". Once again Manzo found a way to win leaving Bartone saying "What do I have to do to beat the -------". This was in a final round match-up that featured the quickest side by side FMFC race in class history with both cars running in the 5.50's. Manzo ran 5.586 to take out Bartone's 5.589. It was a phenomenal race, truly a work of Drag Racing art. The performance that qualifies as the number six run of the year would be Bartone's number one qualifying pass of 5.549 seconds which still holds the National Record. I saw the run from the bottom of the Maple Grove tower and it was as smooth as silk. The car never made any move other than toward the finish line. It is the quickest pass ever for a FMFC and could stand for quite a while thanks to some proposed rule changes. If Bartone goes to the WWF camp and drives a Fuel car it will take no time at all for his crew-chief Steve Boggs to get a handle on the tune-up. Manzo won the battle but Bartone has the time-slip that says he is the quickest ever.
Side Note: This year several driver's ran quicker than 5.60 seconds, Larry Miner, Manzo, Cy Chesterman, Bartone, and Steve Gasparelli joined former record holder Pat Austin as the classes only sub 5.60 second players.
Run Number Seven: Most fans know that Frank Manzo is one of my favorite racers of all time. He is someone I have watched since I was 14 years old at my home-track, Raceway Park, Englishtown NJ. His performance this season was almost perfect. He lost only two rounds at FMFC Divisional events at Gainesville and also at Cecil County. In National event competition he left Columbus early to attend to family matters but at every other race he entered this year he won. Like FMD champ Rick Santos Manzo had a perfect season. The run that stands out is his pass at this years Mac Tools Gatornationals in Florida to set the National Record at 5.572 seconds. This was during elimination's where Manzo ran three passes quicker than 5.60 seconds. It was truly a dominating performance taking out good friend and rival Bob Newberry in the final, 5.57 to 5.63. Until the Manzo and Bartone match-up at the Keystone Nationals that was the quickest side by side race ever. It is hard to believe the "Newb" has yet to run quicker than a 5.6 second pass.
Side Note: Manzo ran 5.50's also at Richmond and had even more impressive runs at Divisional races in Englishtown and Maple Grove this year. To run sub 5.60 second passes at points races is simply unfair to his fellow competitors.
Run Number Eight: Since NHRA took away the penalty for running really fast in qualifying in Comp Eliminator it has been quite a season watching some of the numbers that have come up this year based on index. From what I can tell, based on what I have seen, and have been able to check out this year I would have to give the all time index blast to Dave Dupps and his J/A 23 T- bucket. The "Heads Up" cylinder head sponsored race car runs as fast as anyone based on index but his -.825 second pass at this years Prestone Nationals at Route 66 Raceway stands as the quickest run possibly of all time against a class index in Comp. The run was 7.925 seconds down the quarter mile but on his index of 8.75 it was a terrific pass. The Dave Layer owned and Dupps driven car is actually for sale in the current issue of National Dragster.
Side Note One: On the same run Jon Powers ran .823 seconds under the index in the Bob Phelps AA/A Corvette and actually took the stripe first to unofficially become the first man to run .80 under in Comp Eliminator. What makes the story even more fun is that neither won the race that weekend!
Side Note Two: This year at Memphis the two time national event winning Subaru Dragster of New York's Frank Aragona Jr. ran .817 under in G/ED on a 9.10 second index. Comp might be the most misunderstood class in Drag Racing but if you are a hard core fan it is awesome.
Run Number Nine: Jeff Taylor is a consummate Drag Racer. He is a three time Winston Champ, twice in Super Stock and once in Stock, and this year for the first time won in Comp at the US Nationals. That gave the North Carolina veteran his 26th career victory. It was his incredible run in D/A that puts him in my top ten for this season at the Autozone Nationals at Memphis Motorsports Park. Sure the conditions were as good as ever in the history of Drag Racing, but to run 7.824 with a small block, automatic transmission equipped Rick Jones built Camaro was outstanding. Only .726 under the index but the quickest pass ever for a D/A. Since I have paid particular attention to this class over the years I could really appreciate the religious meaning of this run. A very nice run for car owner Arnie Martel and crew-chief Willie Evans. Taylor would go on to lose in the finals like the previously mentioned Bennett to Aragona's Subaru.
Side Note: At this years Auto Club Finals Martel took his G/SM Pontiac Grand Am took a win over two time Federal Mogul Super Stock champion Jimmy DeFrank. Martel using a splayed valve V-6 motor built by former Winston Champ Bob Kaiser also has .80 under horsepower and won a wild one over DeFrank who unfortunately crashed in his first ever Comp Eliminator final at a national event. DeFrank who is one of the top five bottom bulb racers in the country said the next day at the Federal Mogul award ceremonies that he had made a "mistake". DeFrank will be one of the favorites to win the championship next year if he has a ride in Comp.
Run Number Ten: It is always great to be the first at something. Like Bob Newberry and Steve Faria the two men who were the first to run quicker than six seconds in the Alcohol classes. Those record breaking runs will not be forgotten. This year Larry Miner gets the nod for his 260.81 mph pass at the CSK Nationals. The first Federal Mogul Funny Car to run over 260 mph. It's amazing how fast Firebird Raceway is, remember Tony Schumacher ran over 330 mph there last season. Miner was an early favorite for the FMFC championship but runs the very tuff Division Seven Federal Mogul series. He even failed to qualify at a race this year in divisional competition but still won as an alternate. He ended up winning two national events this year, not bad in a year of some very competitive competition. The Miner brothers have a rich tradition in the FMFC class and will always enjoy the fact that they ran over 260mph before anyone else did.
Side Note: When Cy Chesterman set the speed record at 259.71 mph at the Prestone Nationals this year it showed why he is still one of the best in the class. He is as "cool" as they come and races for the fun of it, even though he is still very competitive. If he would make a full assault on the championship he would give Manzo and others a pretty good run for there money.
That's my top ten for the year. Have a great year and enjoy your
holidays. I can only think of the possibilities for next season. Drag Racing
is still the most exciting motorsport in the world. What other sport would
have a guy named "Bucky" as one of its stars!