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Wed, 10 Jul 2013, 11:46 AM

Hirata, Hool Take Upset-Filled Norwalk Race
Courtesy of NHRA Field Marketing
Photo copyright 2013 David Smith Photos

NORWALK, Ohio --

Dave Hirata (near lane) defeated Ray Martin in
Top Alcohol Dragster for his first since 2000.
At the wide-open Summit Racing Equipment NHRA Nationals in Norwalk, Ohio, Dave Hirata broke through for his first national event victory in 13 years and Kris Hool earned his second career title. Seven of the eight semifinalists in Top Alcohol Dragster and Top Alcohol Funny Car - everyone but superstar Frank Manzo - had combined for one NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series national event win since the turn of the century. Hirata, who last scored at the rain-delayed Englishtown race in September 2000, won Top Alcohol Dragster with an 18-second pass when No. 1 qualifier Ray Martin red-lighted in the final, and Hool ran a consistent 5.65 to take out Fred Tigges in Top Alcohol Funny Car.

Hirata was the only Top Alcohol Dragster driver still around for the semi's who'd ever won a national event before, though by that point Martin clearly was the favorite. Martin, at the wheel of Hugh Ridley's blown-alcohol dragster, had low e.t. of both qualifying sessions - matching 5.34s - and low e.t. of each of the first two rounds, back-to-back 5.39s against Canadian Jeff Veale and 2011 event winner Marty Thacker. With his second teen light in a row, Martin defeated ever-improving Robin Samsel on a semifinal holeshot, 5.47 to 5.42.

Hirata qualified just 15th but upset the most accomplished driver in the field, five-time world champ Bill Reichert, in the first round Saturday afternoon, 5.56 to a tire-shaking 5.67. He won all three rounds Sunday at the starting line, starting with Ken Perry in round two on a holeshot and his only run all weekend that would have been quick enough to advance, 5.46 to 5.42. To reach his first final since the 2007 U.S. Nationals, Hirata won the other semifinal match with a 5.54 when rival Brandon Booher red-lighted by the smallest detectable margin, .001 second, nullifying a quicker 5.42.

Martin had another .01 light in the final - unfortunately for him, it was a -.012, voiding his 5.50 and handing the win to Hirata, who collected his first Wally since the 2000 season, when he won three times (Atlanta, St. Louis, and Englishtown) and appeared in five finals.

Chris Hool (far lane) ran 5.65 seconds at 256 mph
to defeat Fred Tigges in the Top Alcohol Funny Car final.
Hool qualified No. 3, behind heavy hitters Tony Bartone and Manzo, who tied for the top spot with 5.594s (Bartone won the tiebreaker on speed, 262.33 mph to 259.91), and had by far the best car all weekend. His final-round 5.65 actually was his slowest run of eliminations. Every other one was between 5.61 and 5.64, highlighted by a 5.61 semifinal win over Manzo, who was coming off low e.t. (5.57) in the previous round. Hool opened eliminations with a 5.64 against John Bojec and took a come-from-behind win over early season point's leader Dan Pomponio in the quarterfinals, 5.62 to 5.71.

Tigges shut off to a 6.21 in the opening round against 2009 Norwalk runner-up Chris Foster, who banged the blower, and made his best run of the event, 5.65, in a second-round decision over Lance Van Hauen, who had taken out Bartone in the first round when Bartone got over the centerline.

Tigges idled down track on a semifinal single when Paul Noakes was shut off at the line with an oil leak following a between-rounds thrash. Both drivers had one previous final-round appearance, both against Manzo. Tigges, whose other final came in a barrage of 5.50s at the 2011 U.S. Nationals, cut a .015 light in the final and was ahead by a full tenth at the 60-foot mark but shook the tires and had to lift.

With the win, Hool, who was coming off five consecutive first-round losses, leaped back into the top 10 with his second career title and first since Brainerd in 2011. Martin is up to fourth in the Top Alcohol Dragster standings and has been to at least two fewer races than all three drivers ahead of him - Jim Whiteley, Chris Demke, and Rich McPhillips.

Robert Baily and Luke Bogacki added to their national event win totals as Baily grabbed his ninth and Bogacki his sixth. Baily ran down Brian Browll in the final of Comp Eliminator with a 6.676 second lap at 199.11 mph as Browell clocked in at 7.285, 183 mph. Bogacki took the Super Comp title when Tom Hunter broke out with an 8.889 second run on the 8.90 dial. Bogacki ran 8.934 seconds at 155.70 mph.

Jeff Pittman and Vince Musolino each captured their first NHRA national event wins this weekend. Pittman ousted Marco Abruzzi in Top Sportsman with a 0.008 second reaction time and a 6.717 second lap at 182.35 mph. Abruzzi who has won the last two national events clocked in at 6.835, 203.34 mph. Musolino was also 0.008 on the tree with a 6.712 second pass on his 6.70 dial for the win and the Top Dragster trophy defeating the quicker JB Strassweg, 6.548, 203.00.

Other racers visiting the winner's circle this weekend were Ray Connolly who led from start to finish in Super Gas over Steven Fields for his second win in a row, John Di Bartolomeo went seven rounds for the Super Stock win over Lenard Mattingly, and Randi Lyn Shipp had a 0.003 reaction time and a 0.014 package in Stock to beat out Ryan Richardson.

The following are the final results from the Summit Racing Equipment NHRA Nationals at Summit Motorsports Park:

Top Alcohol Dragster
Dave Hirata, 18.932, 22.40 def. Ray Martin, foul.

Top Alcohol Funny Car
Kris Hool, Chevy Monte Carlo, 5.658, 256.84 def. Fred Tigges, Dodge Avenger, 8.590, 107.53.

Comp Eliminator
Robert Bailey, Dragster, 6.676, 199.11 def. Brian Browell, Dragster, 7.285, 183.59.

Super Stock
John Di Bartolomeo, Chevy Camaro, 9.293, 138.64 def. Leonard Mattingly, Olds Achieva, 10.219, 131.34.

Stock Eliminator
Randi Lyn Shipp, Pontiac Firebird, 10.841, 119.60 def. Ryan Richardson, Chevy Camaro, 11.589, 106.52.

Super Comp
Luke Bogacki, Dragster, 8.934, 155.70 def. Tom Hunter, Dragster, 8.889, 172.30.

Super Gas
Ray Connolly, Chevy Corvette, 9.914, 155.63 def. Steven Fields, Pontiac Firebird, 9.902, 153.75.

Top Sportsman
Jeff Pittman, Chevy Chevelle, 6.717, 182.35 def. Marco Abruzzi, Chevy Camaro, 6.835, 203.34.

Top Dragster
Vince Musolino, Dragster, 6.712, 198.64 def. JB Strassweg, Dragster, 6.548, 203.00.

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