VALDOSTA, Ga. --
Tue, 14 Mar 2006, 06:49 PM
Notes from Jim Luikens' Reporter's Notebook
by Jim Luikens
Photo copyright 2006 Roger Richards
at the Sixth Annual Eastern Spring Test Nationals
Nearly 100 professional race teams journeyed to the spectacular South Georgia Motorsports
Park (SGMP) in Cecil, Georgia for the Sixth Annual Eastern Spring Test Nationals. This year's
ESTN event features six days of free testing, Thursday through Tuesday, for those teams that
were willing to participate in a Chicago-Style match race on Sunday. SGMP is located exactly 100
miles northwest of Gainesville, Florida and the lure of a world-class drag facility along with
the timing of this event, which ends just before the Gatornationals begin, proved to be a strong
attraction for a number of NHRA teams. Also present was a large contingent of IHRA teams, whose
season begins next week in San Antonio.
One of the most popular paint colors for the race cars in attendance here was gray primer as
a large number of competitors struggled to finish their new cars in time for this event. If time
ran short it was the paint job that was sacrificed in order to make it to SGMP.
One of the primered cars was the "new" 1953 Corvette of Tim Krupa. Tim is a veteran
of Good Guys events on the west coast, where he finished second in Good Guys points with his
1941 Willys in 2004. He recently moved himself, his wife and their five children to Lincolnton,
North Carolina from California in order to race IHRA Pro Modified. Tim lost his new 'Vette, on
its first-ever burnout, when it powered from the left lane hard into the right lane wall just
past the 330-foot mark. Tim estimates that it will take two months and $50,000 to repair the
damage. He is undaunted by the setback however, and looks forward to joining the 2006 IHRA tour
as quickly as repairs can be made.
Art Hodges, another Californian, joined the IHRA tour last year for its final three
events with his Pro Stock Dodge Stratus. He was so impressed by the welcome he received and the
racing camaraderie that he is back, in a big way, for the entire tour this year. While he has
not made the move yet from California, like Tim Krupa and family have, Art has purchased 10
acres less than three miles from SGMP to construct an east coast shop. Over the winter engine
builder Jon Kaase conducted an engine development program for him and found 150
additional horses for Art's hemi powerplant. He believed hood scoop problems held back his
elapsed times here, but Art expects to have them rectified by the IHRA season-opener in San
It was all GTOs, all the time, as several made their debut here. Among the IHRA Pro Stockers
were new GTOs for Pete Berner
, Mike Bruno
and Dan Sweeney
, who replaced
their Mustang, Cavalier and Grand Am, respectively. Veterans Warren Johnson
had their NHRA Pro Stock GTOs here, while Scott Cannon
also showed well in his
new 2006 GTO IHRA Pro Modified.
Another new car here was the 2006 Chevrolet Cobalt Pro Stocker of Holdenville, Oklahoma's
. Cary is the son of Dean Goforth
and will make up one half of the
Haas-Goforth Racing Team in 2006. Well-known chassis builder Jerry Haas
will drive the
team's 2004 Chevrolet Cavalier.
Personable Tim Dooley, of Haymarket, Virginia purchased Mike Bruno's Cavalier and now
makes up one half of the new Bruno-Dooley racing team. Tim, a veteran of the 10.5 tire class,
wanted to move up to Pro Stock and struck a deal for Bruno's Cavalier at Budds Creek last year.
One thing led to another and now they are teammates. Both cars are powered by Sonny
Leonard Hemi-Chevys with Mark Niebes the crew chief for the new team. Jim
Pearson and Tim Dooley, Sr. make up the crew. Mike's new GTO features extensive
chrome plating and ran so well here that it would have been in the top half of the "field" if
real qualifying had been taking place and not just testing.
Veteran Top Sportsman competitor and devout Ford-man Bob Bertsch
ex-Pete Berner Ford Mustang and has also moved up to IHRA Pro Stock competition for 2006.
, who joined the Jim Oddy
team at mid-season last year, is back
for his first full year of Pro Modified competition. He is now driving the Summit Dodge Stratus,
which has been repaired following its crash at last year's Milan, Michigan IHRA national event.
The rebuilt Status is now a low-rider and features very unique shrouded wheel openings that are
similar to the ones seen on the Dodge Stratus funny car bodies. Steve did a masterful driving
job with the new car to close out Saturday's activities when something let loose and lubricated
the rear tires and the track.
Danny Rowe made an impressive return to Pro Modified with a new Corvette here that
was set-up by well-liked tuning guru Jimmy Rector. The new team immediately shot to the
head of "qualifying," recording the lowest P/M elapsed time during the first four days of this
event. Jimmy reports that the car is kept at his house/shop in Tennessee with Californian Rowe
flying in to the events. Junior Gossett and Karen Rector make up the rest of the
The new cars here weren't confined to just door cars. Both Dave Hedges
debuted brand-new Torco-sponsored, Mike Spitzer
-built supercharged Top
Alcohol Dragsters. Dave reports that they are identical cars, built side-by-side over the winter
in Spitzer's Indiana shop. They sport similar paint schemes and are basically candy red and
black with flames.
crashed his Pro Stock Ford Escort at San Antonio last year on its first
run of season. In fact, it was the first car down the track on the first run of the IHRA Pro
Stock season, period. After being forced to sit out the the rest of 2005, he made a triumphant
return here, vaulting to near the top of the leader board with his new Escort. The basically
orange and white car is also a looker, as is the repainted Escort of Elijah Morton
is now candy blue with darker blue ghost flames. Elijah expects to have his new car, a 2006
new-generation Mustang by mid year.
Other new cars debuting here included a Grand Am Pro Stocker for the team of David
Jane and Ed Buck, an '06 Cobalt P/S for Kenny Benso, a '62 Bel Air Pro
Modified for Alan Pittman, a '71 Cuda P/M for Troy Critchley and a Firebird TA/FC
for seventeen-year-old Dan Wilkerson, the son of Funny Car driver Tim Wilkerson.
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