(Commerce, GA – August 10) Racers finally got to compete in the rain delayed (from July 13) National Dragster Challenge and Jr Dragster challenge events. In addition, all the "big car" winners in tonight's event also got to take their shot at winning the NHRA King of the Track event that was scheduled for this event. Rain did delay the event for two hours, but thanks to quick work by the Atlanta Dragway crew, the event was up and running as soon as possible. Matt Ward was most likely the happiest winner of the event. After winning the coveted National Dragster Challenge "Wally" trophy in Pro class, he then earned his second "Wally" trophy of the evening by winning the NHRA King of the Track competition with a dead-on 6.434 second pass on his 6.43 dial. The other four competitors broke out, carding elapsed times quicker then their dial-in times.
In spite of having to deal with an ailing MSD ignition box, Jim Onda from Toccoa, GA earned the Super Pro victory and his first every Wally trophy with his '96 Bolling dragster against Phillip Sexton from Hampton, GA after Sexton's fuel system broke midway through its final round pass, slowing his car greatly. Seeing he was way ahead, Onda lifted off his throttle and coasted to a 5.07 at 123.27mph (4.90 dial). Moments later, Sexton's '04 Miller dragster crossed the finish line with a 5.41 at 93.54mph pass (4.87 dial). Wayne Brooks ('98 RaceTech dragster – Between, GA) won the semi-finalist portion of the purse. Onda thanked Athens Y Camp and Advertising Unlimited for all of their help, and thanked his dad Joe for helping him race.
Pro winner Matt Ward from Fair Play, SC earned not one, but two Wallys for his night's work in the office of his stealthy '69 Camaro. Ward has won the King of the Track before, in 2011. Ward got the first Wally after defeating Braselton, GA racer Jeff Wagner's '71 Duster. Ward was on time with a 0.017 second reaction time and a dead-on 6.434 at 107.05mph. Wagner's react was good, but he broke out trying to stay ahead of Ward with a 7.81 at 88.73mph (7.84 dial). Chad Brewer ('67 Camaro – Canton, GA) was the lone semi-finalist. Ward kept his same dial for the King of the Track competition, and was rewarded with yet another 6.434 to win the King of the Track Wally. Making his feat even better was this was only Ward's second race of the year. His wife Crystal had their second daughter a few months ago, and he has been enjoying the family life. "I have two beautiful daughters, Ava (four years old) and Kate (six months old). I want to thank God first and also thank my crew chief and father in law Wayne. I also want to thank my mother in law Carolyn and wife Crystal for watching the kids so I could race," added Ward.
Gerald Wright of Ballground, GA was an Atlanta Dragway regular years ago, but has taken some time away from the sport. For tonight's action he entered his street car, a '68 Valiant, in Sportsman class, and was rewarded for his efforts with a National Dragster Challenge Wally. Wright met points champ Howard Warren in the final, and was already on his way to the finish line when Warren's Douglasville, GA based '72 Maverick slid through the starting line beams, causing the dreaded cherry colored foul bulb to light up due to a -0.033 second reaction time. Warren chose to run his car on out, carding a 7.52 at 89.46mph (7.54 dial). Wright's car ran for the first time in the 7.40 range, putting a 9.47 at 76.54mph on the scoreboard (9.54 dial). Sid Hopper ('84 $10 Blazer – Gainesville, GA) and Chris Thompson ('73 Vega – Murphy, NC) were the semi-final finishers. "This is unbelievable. I just came up here on a whim. I wanted to practice making some passes," added Wright.
Super Pro Bike points leader and race winner Jay Rhyne may have sealed his 2013 championship with tonight's win against Howard Bowman from Homer, GA. Rhyne's Athens, GA based '82 Suzuki was near perfect with 5.91 second pass at 105.14mph on the 5.90 dial. Bowman's '02 Harley fell off the pace a little, posting an 8.57 at 79.25mph (8.48 dial) Scott Saemisch ('80 Kawasaki – Dacula, GA) and Shawn Welch ('83 Suzuki – Waynesboro, GA) ended their day in the semi-final round. Rhyne brought his total count of National Dragster Challenge Wallys to four with tonight's win. After winning the Motorcycle event, he exclaimed, "Let's get it on!," when the King of the Track event was announced.
Street ET Bike winner and points leader Jimmy "ChaCha" Heisler has a number of wins under his belt, but had never won a Wally before until tonight's victory against Brian Livengood. Heisler's Woodstock, GA based '00 Kawasaki turned in a great 6.87 at 100.61mph (6.85 dial), crossing the big end stripe ahead of Livengood's '08 Yamaha from Snellville, GA, which posted a 6.90 at 112.34mph (6.70 dial). Randy Barnett ('08 Suzuki – Colbert, GA) made it to the semi-final round. "It was meant to be. When we filled up our generator gas tank, the total was $19.02 (Heisler's competition number is 1902)," added his wife Eeman. The Wally will be taking a prominent place on the mantel in their home. The Heisler's thanked Mattei Cycle Supply, Broward Motorsports, Motul Oil, Vanson Leathers and Traxxion Dynamics for their role in the win.
8-12 Jr Dragster Wally winner Nate Halsey's dad Jeff had to go to Idaho to help his dad, so Bill Gillen pitched in to crew for Halsey (10 years old – Gainesville, GA) this weekend. Gillen has a long history with championship winning drivers Matt Gillen and Russ Glover, and stepped into the role without a hitch. Halsey's car, which was built by Gillen several years and drivers ago, stayed right near the 9.00 mark all evening, and repeated the feat again for the final with a 9.003 at 69.64mph (8.99 dial). Halsey's opponent, first year racer Rachel Flowers (12 – Loganville, GA) did a great job getting to the final, and made Halsey work for the win with a 9.23 at 69.91mph (9.20 dial). Blaine Rogers (12 – Hiawassee, GA) and Jared Noel (12 – Westminster, SC) were the semi-final finishers. "I want to thank God, mom and dad, "Little Bill" Gillen, the Atlanta Dragway crew and Jackson Earwood," said Halsey. He then dedicated his win to the memories of Stephen Forrester and Amy Glover.
The winner in 13-17 Jr Dragster, Austin Carden, is well known at Atlanta Dragway having won many races and championships in his career. The 14 year old Carden met Maddie Lee (15 – Campobello, SC) in the Wally round, and barely won the event by crossing the finish line 0.004 seconds in front of Lee, in what could be considered as a dead heat. Carden reacted with a 0.022 time, and went 7.943 at 80.96mph (7.90 dial). Lee's react was 0.039, and her car went 7.926 at 82.82mph. Daniel Bruce (14 – Covington, GA) and Brittney "Baja" Hellemn (17 – Buford, GA) made it to the semis. "My parents couldn't make it, so Jeff had to tune the car," added Carden. He thanked Jeff, Shawn and Bailey Brown for helping with his win.
Congratulations are in order for Atlanta Dragway Jr Draster racer Shelby Nelson. Nelson recently won her class (14 year old) at the 2013 NHRA Eastern Conference finals which were held in Bristol, TN, bringing home a first place finish for the first time in several years for Atlanta Dragway. Her Atlanta Dragway team also came in second overall in the Eastern Conference weekend points. "This was definitely the most important race of my life," Nelson added. For tonight's event, Nelson went out early in competition, but her friends were there to help her celebrate her fifteenth birthday.