CONCORD, N.C. -- At the 4-Wide Nationals at zMax Dragway, five-time Top Alcohol Dragster world champ Bill Reichert earned his first national event title of the season and Dan Pomponio maintained his torrid pace in Top Alcohol Funny Car.
Reichert took the Top Alcohol Dragster final by default when rookie Rishi Kanick, competing his first national event and second race ever, left before the Tree came on. Kanick rolled in as soon as Reichert pre-staged, and when Reichert lit the staged beam, Kanick took off and received no e.t.
Reichert also won the semifinals at the line, defeating Gatornationals winner Rich McPhillips on a slight holeshot, 5.42 to 5.41. He qualified his Rislone dragster just eighth in the field with a 5.41 but erased Matthew Cummings in the first round with a much better 5.29 and Randy Meyer in the second round with what to that point was low e.t. of the meet, 5.25.
One pair later, Chris Demke edged reigning world champ Jim Whiteley on a holeshot in a matchup of the top two drivers of 2012, 5.26 to 5.21. Whiteley's run, one of the quickest in blown-alcohol history, held up for low e.t. but left him two-thousandths of a second short at the finish line.
Kanick, driving the ex-Sidnei Frigo Trinidad & Tobago dragster tuned by Anthony DeCero, reached his first career final with upset wins over many-time national event winners John Finke, Marty Thacker, and Demke.
"I've been drag racing since the late 1960s, early 1970s, and believe it or not, I attribute a lot of what's happening now to all the years I ran Super Gas," said Pomponio, who now leads the national standings by more than 100 points over Shane Westerfield. "I was running Super Gas when it first started, around 1980, and a lot of the things that mattered back then still apply today: focus, concentrate, and don't let anything take you away from what you're trying to do. My son Dan is doing a great job tuning the car, everybody on the team is doing their jobs perfectly, and it's just working."
The highlight had to be his second-round win over Frank Manzo, who invalidated a 5.51 with an aggravatingly close -.003 foul. Pomponio was right there with a .013 light and a career-best 5.54 and ran his lifetime record against Manzo in national event competition to 2-0. He beat Tony Bogolo in round one and Ray Drew, who enjoyed one of the best outings of his career, in the semifinals.
Brand qualified his Goalsetter Monte Carlo No. 2 with a 5.53 and clocked a 5.52 against Bill Naves in round one, a backpedaling 5.86 against Cassie Simonton in round two, and a 5.63 against Canadian Paul Noakes, who crossed the centerline in the semi's. Noakes reached at least the semifinals in national competition for the third time in a row with a quarterfinal win over U.S. Nationals winner Chris Foster, who ran a career-best 5.476 for the No. 1 qualifying spot and an identical 5.476 in the first round.
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