Drag Race Central - NHRA
Thu, 14 Feb 2013, 16:30 PM

Finishing Before We Start
By Bob Frey

Dave Weiss
By the time a lot of you read this the 2013 Mello Yello / Lucas Oil season will officially be underway. The Winternationals in Pomona begins today and the first Lucas Oil divisional race of the year starts tomorrow in Gainesville, Florida. That means by the end of the week we will have leaders in all of the classes and the long battle for the championships begin. Winning Pomona, or Gainesville for that matter, certainly isn't a guarantee of future success but it can't hurt. Several racers over the last few years have started well by winning the first race and then gone on to have very successful, as in championship, years. But before we start thinking about the 2013 champs I need to take care of some unfinished business and wrap up 2012. That said we'll take a look at a couple of the divisions that we haven't touched on yet and acknowledge some of the winners who may have gone under the radar at the end of 2012.

The folks in Division 6 always have a good time at their annual get together and this year was no exception. One of the reasons for all of the fun was the fact that they inducted six new members into their Hall of Fame. Among them were Hank Johnson, Jesse Jones, Dave Weiss, Frank Hall, Steve Denbo and Jack Shannon. While Hank's name is probably familiar to anyone who follows the sport the others may not be although they all had very distinguished careers in their own right. Jesse was the main crew guy for Hank and the two were virtually inseparable during their careers. Hank was a very familiar figure walking around the pits and he was always easy to spot while Jesse had one of those little idiosyncrasies that made him stand out. It seems that when ever he was in the pits working on the car he always wore a white lab coat. You know, like a doctor. There must be some story behind that and I'm sure anyone from Division 6 would be more than happy to share it with you. Dave Weiss drove a variety of cars during his career in Comp and the old Super Eliminator categories and he won the division championship in 1966. Frank Hall was one of the top racers to ever come out of the great Northwest, and whether he was running a dragster or a Funny Car, he was as good as they came. He won a national championship

Dave Weiss
and a pair of division titles, and any time you could do that in Division 6, the stomping grounds of Jerry Ruth, Ed McCulloch and others, you know you had a good year and Frank had lots of them. Steve was another of the many racers who distinguished themselves by doing well in the rugged D-6 area and he could always be counted on to go into the late rounds at every race. Jack Shannon was involved in every aspect of the sport but was most famous for his operation at a couple of the tracks in the division including Bayview Drag Strip and Arlington, both sites of some of the best racing in the history of Division 6. Other special awards at the banquet included Derrick Jackson picking up the "Mel Bresaw Memorial Award" and Gerald Devenpeck grabbing the "Rod Hoerner Memorial Rookie of the Year" award. Gerald had a great year and among the highlights was his Top Dragster win at the D-6 race in Woodburn.

Division 6 has always been blessed with a great group of women who support the races and the racers throughout the year. A few years ago a special award was named in honor of the late Janet Lang, Toby and Jody's mom, and this year the award went to Pam Gorman who has been a fixture at the Division 6 races for as long as I can remember and I mean that as a compliment. She does a great job and the award was richly deserved. Bob Sims grabbed the gold when he was named the "Ernie Hall Memorial Person of the Year." Bob is part of one of the great families that make Division 6 such a good and fun place to race. Woodburn Dragstrip carted off two awards, one for being the top Lucas Oil Track and another for being the top Summit ET Series track. Congratulations to everyone at the Oregon facility. I have always enjoyed my trips to the Northwest and whether it was the national event in Seattle, one of the big races in Boise or a quick weekend in Anaconda, Montana, Division 6 has always been one of my favorite places to go.

Jim and Annie Whiteley
Photo copyright 2013 Bob Johnson Photography
In the Division 7 area they also had a gala affair and lots of trophies, plaques and special awards were given out. It should come as no surprise that Jim and Annie Whiteley were given the "Persons of the Year" award. After all, she had a great rookie season in her Top Alcohol Funny Car and he won the Lucas Oil World Championship in his dragster. If that doesn't qualify you for "Something of the Year" I don't know what does. Aaron Kinard also had a great year and he finished as the Division Champion in Super Gas and he won the Jegs All Stars in his Super Comp car. If it weren't for those Whiteley's Aaron could have been the "Person." I'm not saying it was a first but when Tiffany Hoover was honored as the "Crew Chief of the Year" she joined a small and a very select group of women who have won that honor in any division. Working on any car isn't easy and working on one of those very quick Top Dragsters is extra hard. Nice going, Tiffany. Seth Polvadore took his car to the Summit Racing ET Series Championship in 2012 and for that he was named the D-7 "ET Racer of the Year." Not a lot of racers compete at the NHRA divisional and national events and run in the local ET series too, but Seth does and he does both very well. Albuquerque Dragway picked up the top honors as the "Most Improved Track" and Mountain Mike's Pizza was named the "Sponsor of the Year" for their great support of the Division 7 Comp Shootout program. Or maybe they got if for their pizza. Or both. If you want to eventually be named the "Person of the Year" you have to start somewhere and Hunter Walker did just that. He had a good first year on the divisional level and for his efforts he was named the "Rookie of the Year." Next up for Hunter is that "Person" award. Hey, it's a goal.

Justin Rosen
Photo copyright 2013 Robert Grice
The Division 4 banquet was a little unusual since its former Division Director, Craig Hutchinson, retired during the year and his replacement decided the job wasn't for him before the banquet was held. Still, as they always do, the folks in D-4 had a very nice evening and a good time was had by all. Craig did manage to pick up some nice parting gifts including one of the most prestigious awards in the division, the Lynn Nickerson award. Craig did a good job for many years in the division but now he and his wife, Sue, are off to pursue other ventures, as the expression goes. Justin Rosen, a third generation racer and future champion (remember where you heard it first) was tabbed as the division's "Rookie of the Year." Justin won the divisional event in Belle Rose in 2012 and it won't be too long before he joins his father and grandfather as NHRA national event winners. Jeff Hefler, as good and versatile a driver as you'll find in any division, walked off with the "ET Driver of the Year" award while Ben Tuttle was chosen as the "Track Manager of the Year" and Jim Anderson was honored with the "Good Guy Award."

There were many more, hundreds in fact, drivers and crew members who were honored at the division banquets during the year and we congratulate all of them. You often hear that the sportsman racers are the "backbone of the sport" and that is so true, and if you don't believe it just stop by your local track on any weekend and see what we mean. They race because they love it and we love it because they race. Now everyone go and have a Happy New Racing Year, a year that starts this weekend.

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