STEPHENS AND HOWARD END LONG DRY SPELLS WITH WINS IN THEIR CLASSES
(Commerce, GA – April 9) It was a good day for racing. Not too hot, not too cold, a little overcast, but mostly sunny. Brad Howard, who experienced tire problems during the previous race, swapped his rear tires with friend Joe Haddon and immediately went to the front of the class in Super Pro points (and defeated Haddon during round one, on Haddon's tires). Kyle Stephens was very excited to win Pro, as his last win was in 1988.
Super Pro winner "Bad Brad" Howard mentioned it had been a long time since his last Super Pro win, and was happy to find a tire combination that worked with his Gainesville, GA based '02 Miller dragster. Howard took out Toccoa, GA racer Thomas Bell with a great 4.88 second pass at 141mph (4.87 target). Bell attempted to win by taking the finish line stripe first, but broke out with a 4.67 at 144.88mph (4.68 dial) due to Howard's better reaction time. Howard's car didn't work well during the April 2 race with the new Mickey Thompson tires he had bought, and Joe Haddon's dragster was not responding well to the new Hoosiers he had bought. After the swap, both cars immediately improved, with Haddon making it all the way to the quarter-finals. It might be a little while before those tires get returned. Ricky Page ('90 Mustang – Monroe, GA) held on to second place in points with a semi-final finish. Tommy Motes ('92 Undercover dragster – Loganville, GA) was the other semi-final finisher.
"What's the longest time between wins? I think I'm pushing the record," exclaimed Pro winner Kyle Stephens from Loganville, GA. Stephen's last win was in 1988, in what is now called Pro class. Stephens, who races a supercharged '75 Camaro, faced an even quicker Travis Bryant ('67 Camaro – Bowman, GA) in the Pro final round. However the race was over the moment Bryant left the dreaded cherry colored bulb glowing at the starting line with a -.007 second red light. Stephens ran his car all the way out, posting a 6.69, 104.78mph pass (6.71 dial) to Bryant's otherwise near perfect 6.289 at 108.53mph (6.28 dial). Stephens actually thought he had lost in an earlier round when he broke out against Team Ford Thunder racer Randall Roop, but a friend pointed out that Stephens, not Roop, was the winner of that round. Jeff Wagner ('71 Duster – Braselton, GA) and Howard Warren ('72 Maverick – Douglasville, GA) made it to the semi-final round.
"That was fun, I finally got to give Jay Bird a good race," commented Motorcycle runner up Paul Cavanaugh from Loganville, GA at the end of competition. Cavanaugh has met Motorcycle winner Jay Rhyne in four finals, but said something silly always happened to him, like a red light or spinning a tire. Rhyne took the win today courtesy of a better reaction time and breaking out less with his Athens, GA based '81 Kawasaki, carding a breakout 12.39 at 102.18mph (12.41 dial). Cavanaugh, who was campaigning on yet another borrowed '05 Hayabusa, broke out more with a 9.33 at 138.26mph (9.37 dial). Zach Hulsey ('91 Suzuki – Clermont, GA) was the lone semi-finalist. "That Jay is one tough bird," added Cavanaugh.
Sportsman winner Scott Reynolds, who comes from Cartersville, GA, usually runs in several classes, and does well. Today, he consolidated his efforts into the Sportsman class, and was rewarded with the final round win light. Reynolds was at the disadvantage in the reaction time department against finalist J.D. "Doc" Burford of Greensville, SC, but got the win light with a 14.21 at 91.62mph in his '90 Firebird (14.18 dial). Burford's '07 Corvette was just a bit too quick in the final, and while he did cross the big end stripe first, the breakout 12.96 at 103.66mph (13.00) was only good enough for the runner up spot. "He had me on the tree. I knew something was going on when he passed me," added Reynolds. Harold Wilson ('08 Tundra – Winder, GA) moved up in the Sportsman points with a semi-final finish.
The Good Time Charlie racing team definitely had one today, with a win in 8-12 Jr Dragster. Eleven year old Charlie Smith used a better reaction time to take the win with an 8.99 at 72.57mph (8.90 target) against Austin Solesbee (12 – Sautee, GA). Solesbee's 8.96 at 71.14mph (8.90 target) was closer to the mark, but he crossed the finish line 0.023 seconds after Smith. One of the Wilson Gang racers, Malone Wilson (11 – Tallapoosa), earned a semi-finalist trophy. Although "Pop Pop" Gary Smith has supported Charlie's efforts since the beginning, today was the first time he got to witness Charlie earn a win.
Maddie Lee, from Campobello, SC, is not a stranger to the 13-17 Jr Dragster winner's circle, and earned the chance to visit it again by running the tightest final round of the day (in all classes) by crossing the finish line 0.022 seconds ahead of competitor Jacquelyn Lastinger (17 – Lilburn, GA). Both racers dialed 7.90 seconds, and both posted a 7.91 second time, with Lee running 81.88mph and Lastinger 80.94mph. "She was just on a mission all day," added her mother Teresa Lee. Besides her mom, Lee thanked Papa Kenny and dad Scott for their help. Alex Yarini (14 – Lawrenceville) and Taylor Ramsey (18 – Commerce, GA) each won a semi-finalist trophy.