The Top Alcohol Dragster numbers showed a tie at season's end between Gainesville, Texas, driver Copeland and fellow Texan Michael Manners; they each posted 278 marks but Copeland broke the tie with a better outcome at his counted Division 4 events.
Manners traveled south to start the season early and pocketed points for a win at Gainesville Raceway over final-round opponent and division rival Monroe Guest, who kept his own points meter ticking as he reeled in another runner-up at the first South Central event, held at Texas Motorplex. The victory was awarded to rookie Kristen Wootton, of Magnolia, Texas, who set career best numbers en route to her first trophy.
A quick trip up to Topeka for the Division 5 event yielded little reward, but Copeland drove right back to the title round when he returned to his home division for the meet at Belle Rose. David Brounkowski earned the crown and secured a top 5 finish in the region, but Copeland's runner-up marks were important to his eventual season victory. Shortly after the Belle Rose race, Copeland landed his first national event victory back home at the Motorplex, enabling a top 10 finish in the national standings.
Following the Tulsa win, Manners attended three more Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series events (Belle Rose, Noble, Okla., and the Division 7 event in Las Vegas), but he was unable to advance from the first round. Copeland finished the year without fanfare but with the title in hand, exiting in the second round in Noble and also at two out-of-division events (Reynolds, Ga., and Las Vegas). Guest was third in the division with three final rounds and 234 marks.
The Long Island City, N.Y., resident also visited two final rounds on the national event level and was fourth in national points driving the Rick Jackson Racing Centre Pointe Collision Center Ford Mustang.
The highpoint of the division chase for Foster was a runner-up at the event in Tulsa, and former Division champion Lee Callaway, of Channelview, Texas, enjoyed a portion of the glory when he went to the final round in Houston and was the titlist in Tulsa.
Glenwood, Iowa's Kirk Williams won the final meet within the division, stopping Sean O'Bannon in the final.
Ernest Watson won the first event in the region, where Thomas was runner-up and Tanksley accumulated an unpromising 30 points, but the dismal outing for the eventual champ was but a memory at the next event, Houston, where he notched a victory in his C/Dragster over local racer Adam White. He picked up a few more combined rounds at the Tulsa and Belle Rose events and went to the third round at the Division 2 race in Atlanta before finishing with a round-win at the Noble South Central closer. Then the waiting game began.
Thomas followed his title-round performance at Texas Motorplex with a trip to the semifinals in Houston and round wins in Tulsa, the Division 5 race in Topeka, and Noble. Taking a last shot at the title, the Amarillo, Texas, driver headed west to Division 7's meet at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway but fell in the first round, and the crown was secure in the possession of Tanksley.
Keith Hall, hailing from Ravenna, Texas, was third in the division on the basis of a runner-up and a trip to the semifinals along with a handful of round wins, and Watson finished fourth in the South Central standings.
The Lake Charles, La., racer tallied 378 points in his seven outings for an 86 point lead over second place Allen Firestone when every event was completed in Top Sportsman competition. Mark Pickens pulled in the No. 3 spot on 270 points over the course of seven races.
Raftery kicked off his season with a trip to the semifinals in Belle Rose and accelerated towards another championship with back-to-back wins in Dallas and Houston. Tulsa and the Division 5 race in Topeka were non-producers, but he wheeled his GTO to victory again in his return to Belle Rose to keep the competition at bay.
Firestone's best performance of the year came at the Topeka meet, where he was the victor over fellow South Central competitor Jerry Holt in the money round. Pickens' respectable season included a win in Tulsa and a semifinals visit at Division 2's Silver Dollar Raceway. Heidi Robison, of Gardner, Kan., won in Noble and came in fourth in the division.
Crown Point, Louisiana's Pete Vicari was hitting them out of the park in the first half of the season, though, winning the Dallas meet and then again in Houston. Jerry Story, hailing from Norman, Okla., was looking to be a threat as well. His runner-up in Dallas and trip to the semis in Houston put him on the radar, as did a Houston final round for Highland, Texas-based Mike Weaver.
But Raftery's wise journey to sin city was the decider; the double-up champ clocked out for the year with 346 marks on his Top Dragster scorecard to Vicari's 302 and Story's 282.
The ace multi-class competitor also enjoyed success on the national event trail, pulling in a victory over Dave Connolly at the Cajun SPORTSnationals in the Top Dragster category. Rounding out an awesome year, Raftery was a four-time division winner in five final rounds.
Sit tight. The South Central champion recaps will be continued soon.
Division Four Top Alcohol Dragster Top Ten Point Standings Pos Driver Points Events 1 Ryan Copeland 278 8 2 Michael Manners 278 7 3 Monroe Guest 234 6 4 David Brounkowski 181 4 5 Mark Taliaferro III 171 3 6 James Thompson Jr 170 4 7 Kristen Wootton 149 3 8 Forrest Fair 97 2 9 Buddy Domingue 96 3 10 Malcolm Wahle 75 2 Division Four Top Alcohol Funny Car Top Ten Point Standings Pos Driver Points Events 1 Tony Bartone 362 6 2 Chris Foster 236 7 3 Lee Callaway 181 3 4 Steve Burck 96 2 5 Bryan Brown 64 2 6 Ron Morrison 42 2 7 Ro Yale 33 1 8 Burl Brown 32 1 Division Four Top Alcohol Funny Car Top Ten Point Standings Pos Driver Points Events 1 Joey Tanksley 281 7 2 Donald Thomas 271 7 3 Keith Hall 260 5 4 Ernest Watson Sr. 259 7 5 Mike Trumble Jr 249 6 6 Charles Watson Jr. 238 6 7 Clark Smiley 216 7 8 Scott Cashio 207 4 9 Craig Bourgeois 205 7 10 Dennis Smiley 183 7 Division Four Top Sportsman Top Ten Point Standings Pos Driver Points Events 1 Keith Raftery 378 7 2 Allen Firestone 292 7 3 Mark Pickens Sr 270 7 4 Heidi Robison 248 5 5 Vince Hoda 239 7 6 Jerry Holt 238 6 7 Jeffrey Cummins Jr. 227 6 8 Bob Gulitti 216 5 9 Daniel Leibham 205 6 10 Kyle Firestone 194 6 Division Four Top Dragster Top Ten Point Standings Pos Driver Points Events 1 Keith Raftery 346 8 2 Pete Vicari 302 8 3 Jerry Story 282 8 4 Mike Weaver 249 6 4 Mark Jones 249 5 6 Robert Lejeune 238 6 7 Jimmy Lewis 237 9 8 Jimmy Arabie Jr. 227 6 8 John Garner 227 6 8 Scott Barker 227 7