GLENDORA, Calif. -- In 2005, Idemitsu Racing awarded more than $3,000 in bonus cash to pro and sportsman competitors as part of the Idemitsu NHRA Sport Compact Perfect Light program. Bonuses were issued to the drivers who recorded a perfect reaction time (.000) during qualifying or elimination rounds at each of the NHRA Xplod Sport Compact Racing Series events that comprised the 2005 schedule.
Idemitsu Racing awarded a $250 bonus to the first driver in each of the five championship classes (Pro RWD, Pro FWD, Modified, Hot Rod and All Motor) who recorded a perfect reaction time over the course of an NHRA Xplod Series event, and a $125 bonus to the first competitor in the sportsman classes (Sport RWD, Sport FWD, Quick 16, Street Stock and E.T. classes) to accomplish the same feat.
If neither a pro nor sportsman driver recorded a perfect light at an event, the bonus money from that event 'rolled over,' or was added, to the bonus program total for the following event. If no racer recorded a perfect reaction time at any of the events during the season, each of the inflated purses would be awarded to the one pro and one sportsman racer who came closest to a perfect reaction time at the season-ending Nitto NHRA Sport Compact World Finals at Pomona (Calif.) Raceway.
Over the course of the 2005 season, two professional drivers from the championship classes took home award money, while five sportsman drivers demonstrated their skills at the Christmas Tree and collected the extra cash from Idemitsu.
Shawn Hillier, the 2005 NHRA Xplod Series Rookie of the Year, was the first professional driver to pocket the bonus money, doing it at the second race of the '05 season (Las Vegas). Hillier, who was coming off a victory at the season-opening event a few weeks earlier, couldn't have selected a better time for a perfect light. Hillier advanced to the final round for the second consecutive race, this time doing it at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, and, also for the second straight race, he lined up opposite defending All Motor world champion Jesus Padilla. Hillier was on the throttle the exact moment the bulbs on the Christmas Tree flashed green, slapping a perfect .000 reaction time on Padilla, who left early (-0.29) and was disqualified. In addition to the Wally trophy and the event winner's check, Hillier pocketed an additional $500 from Idemitsu Racing, $250 for the season-opener, where no pro driver had a perfect light, plus another $250 for the Las Vegas event.
Following Hillier's perfectly-judged green light-launch at the at Las Vegas, no championship classes driver recorded a perfect reaction time at the next eight events By the time the NHRA Xplod Series made its final stop of the season at Pomona Raceway for the season-ending NHRA World Finals, the purse had ballooned to $2,250.
It would be Hillier's fellow All Motor competitor, Scott Kelley, who turned out to be the big winner in the Idemitsu NHRA Sport Compact Perfect Light bonus program in '05.
Kelley arrived at Pomona Raceway in late October, knowing it would take a near-miracle for him to overtake points-leader Jesus Padilla in the race for the NHRA Xplod All Motor world championship. As anticipated, Padilla clinched the series crown by winning his first round matchup, mathematically eliminating Kelley from championship contention and, for the second consecutive season, placing him third in the final point standings.
In his semifinal loss to eventual event winner Tony Shagday, Kelley was trying for a quicker reaction time than Shagday in order to get a head-start in his VW Fastback, considering Shagday's Acura Integra had an obvious performance advantage. Kelley's 429 reaction time wasn't enough of an advantage to hold off Shagday to the finish line, but it was quick enough for the Idemitsu NHRA Sport Compact Perfect Light Award. Kelley's reaction time of .429 was the quickest of the event among the drivers participating in the Idemitsu Perfect Light program. Kelley's unexpected bonus check totaled $2,250, an accumulation of $250 over nine events, which slightly eased some of the sting his semifinal loss.
2005 IDEMITSU NHRA SPORT COMPACT PERFECT LIGHT WINNERS (P) = Professional; (S) = Sportsman DRIVER LOCATION AMOUNT Ben Reaves (S) Moroso (Fla.) Motorsports Park $125.00 Shawn Hillier (P) The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway $500.00 Carlos Borges (S) Moroso Motorsports Park $500.00 Erwin Basgic (S) The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway $125.00 John Miller (S) Old Bridge (N.J.) Raceway Park $125.00 Scott Kelley (P) Pomona (Calif.) Raceway $2,250.00 John Russaruff (S) Pomona Raceway $125.00 Total = $3,750.00
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