JOLIET, Ill. -
Booher, who qualified high at the first two races this season only to be upset in the opening round, paced an outstanding field (5.44 bump) with a career-best 5.32 at 271 mph and stayed in the 5.30s throughout eliminations, including a 5.38 in the final against Chris Demke, who smoked the tires, backpedaled, and lost with a 5.92 at 252 mph.
"Finally," said Booher, who had three previous runner-ups, including one in national event competition. "The car's been running well for a while now, but we could never put it all together in eliminations. Everybody was within a few hundredths in qualifying, and to win against this caliber of competition makes it even more special."
Fifteen drivers attempted to qualify for the 8-car field, and the top seven cars were within six-hundredths of a second of one another, from 5.32 to 5.38. Booher defeated 2012 Central Region champ Gord Gingles in round one with a 5.35 at 269 mph and veteran Ken Perry in the semi's with an almost identical 5.35 at 270.
"If Demke had stepped up to a .20-something in the final, there's not a whole lot we could have done about it," Booher said. "It's not like we could've just gone from a .35 to a .25 - doesn't work that way. If we knew how to run .20s, we'd be doing it, but 5.32 is getting down there. This car is a player now."
In Top Alcohol Funny Car, Foster, appearing in the final at this race for the fourth year in a row, edged Cassie Simonton in one of the best races of the season. Never have two finalists been more evenly matched: Both ran 5.64s in the first round and 5.62s in the semi's.
Simonton had lane choice by a thousandth of a second and had the better of two excellent reaction times, .056 to .057, but Foster was slightly stronger on the top end for a 5.63 to 5.66 win. "She almost beat me," said Foster, who earned his first career win at this event in 2009. "I got my head together just in time. I don't know why, but I'd been overthinking things. You know how people tell you to get your head in the game? I needed to get my head out of the game and do what comes naturally."
A .208 reaction time in the first round against Wayne Butler almost cost Foster the race. "I was thinking about stupid things, like how my foot didn't feel right on the clutch pedal, and I just wasn't focused," he said. "It's easy to short-shift when you see the other guy's whole car in front of you, but I kept telling myself, 'don't do it, don't do it,' and I didn't in either gear. I could tell I was catching him, but I was afraid I was going to run out of racetrack before I got there."
Foster tracked down Butler for a close come-from-behind win, 5.64 to 5.78. In the semifinals, he beat perennial rival Andy Bohl in a matchup of the season's first two winners, 5.62 to 5.67, crossing the finish line first by the exact same margin by which he'd beaten Butler a round earlier: 11 feet.
Simonton, who took out Ray Drew in the first round, won the other semifinal over Jay Payne, the second-most prolific driver in divisional/regional history, in an even closer race, 5.62 to 5.63. This was her third career final, including back-to-back national events last season, in Chicago and Norwalk.
Chicago based racer John Scali Jr. drove his '67 Camaro to the Brodix/Steve Schmidt Top Sportsman win as he held off the quicker Michael Jones, Montville, Ohio, and his '96 Beretta. Scali went 7.075 at 184.22 to Jones' 6.950, 196.59.
Marco Abruzzi picked up his third NHRA Wally trophy of the weekend when he knocked out Bill Riddle in the Spitzer Race Cars Top Dragster class as Riddle left early with a foul start. Abruzzi won in both Top Dragster and Top Sportsman for the postponed Lucas Oil Series event from Indianapolis that was completed earlier in the weekend. The Warren, Ohio racer beat Troy Stone and Billy Thoman respectively.
Mike Farrell, Louisville, Ky., also won for the postponed event over David Billingsley, Decatur, Ill., in Comp Eliminator.
The Route 66 Burndown at Sundown Comp Eliminator trophy went to Greg Kamplin who defeated Mark Kirkman in his '01 dragster for his second win in as many races taking the win last month in Norwalk, Ohio.
Also winning this weekend was Todd Frantz over Jeremy Duncan in Super Stock, Greg Hill beat out Brett Speer in Stock; Dave Crawford fell to Luke Bogacki in Super Comp; Pat Martin edged Tim Gillespie in Super Gas; and Ricky Shipp Jr. won on a hole shot over Connie Rudy in Super Street.
North Central Division racers are back at Route 66 Raceway at the end of the month when they will join the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series for the O'Reilly Auto Parts NHRA Route 66 Nationals June 27-30.
The following are the final results from the NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series Burndown at Sundown event at Route 66 Raceway:
TOP ALCOHOL DRAGSTER
TOP ALCOHOL FUNNY CAR:
3) Andy Bohl, Racine, Wis., '08 Mustang, 5.623, 256.16 def. 6) Paul Noakes, London, Ont., '02 Mustang, 5.784, 250.69
2) Chris Foster, Davenport, Iowa, '11 Mustang, 5.646, 255.63 def. 7) Wayne Butler, Forest City, Ill., '02 Firebird, 5.781, 250.00
1) Jay Payne, Claremont, Calif., '09 Mustang, 5.761, 254.38 def. 8) Todd Robertson, Harrison Township, Mich., '06 Monte Carlo, 7.248, 127.01
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