NORWALK, Ohio (November 8, 2013) – Only four drivers in the entire International Hot Rod Association visited more than six finals in 2013.
But only one of those drivers, Donalsonville, Louisiana's Jimmy Hidalgo Jr., came away a world champion.
Hidalgo was one of the winningest drivers in IHRA competition this season, visiting seven finals on the Summit Racing Equipment Pro-Am Tour with three wins campaigning cars in both the Stock and Super Stock categories.
Jimmy Hidalgo Jr.
Thanks to that consistently, Hidalgo qualified for the Summit Racing Equipment Tournament of Champions in both classes. And at the Summit World Finals at Memphis International Raceway, Hidalgo drove his most consistent and successful car to the world championship in Super Stock, claiming his very first title in IHRA competition.
"It sounds pretty darn good to hear the words world champion. That is what we came here to do and amazingly we got it done," Hidalgo said. "I had two shots at it and while I was hoping for two, it is a real blessing to get one of them."
And the really amazing part is that his car, a beautiful black with flames 2002 Pontiac Firebird, had never been in Super Stock competition prior to this season.
"The Firebird has been really good all year," Hidalgo said. "The cool thing is we built it as a Stocker at the end of 2006 and we just put a Super Stock motor in it at the beginning of this year. This is the first year I have run Super Stock with it and obviously that turned out pretty well."
Jimmy Hidalgo Jr.
On championship Sunday at Memphis, Hidalgo navigated a very talented field of Super Stock racers ending with a showdown with class veteran Mark Nowicki. Producing his own success story in 2013 with three wins, Gaylord, Michigan's Nowicki gave Hidalgo a race in the final.
With the coveted No. 1 in Super Stock on the line, Hidalgo beat Nowicki off the line with a .017 reaction time to Nowicki's .024 and ran a tremendous 9.820 second elapsed time on a 9.81 dial at 130.59 miles per hour, just holding off Nowicki who had a 9.609 on a 9.60 at 138.14 mph. The margin of victory at the line – just .006 seconds.
"The wind had picked up a little bit going into the final so I was a little concerned that that might slow the cars up, but other than that we were prepared," Hidalgo said. "I felt really good after my semifinal run. I hit the tree good and at that point I was really comfortable and confident. I just went up there and repeated again. The car ran what I thought it would run and we came away with a win."
Hidalgo's wild afternoon included wins over Marvin Dunahoo, Jim Reynolds and Tony Cowell on his way to the final, with one of those rounds giving him a particular scare. In his second round run against Reynolds, his opponent went red but finished out the pass only to lose control and tap the wall right in front of Hidalgo. Both drivers were uninjured in the incident, but it left Hidalgo a little on edge.
"When he went red I saw my win light come on so it was just a time trial at that point for me," Hidalgo said. "When I got to the finish line I shut the car off, looked down for a split second and when I looked back up he was coming across right in front of me. All I could do was get on the breaks, move to the center and watch where he ended up. Thankfully, he pretty much stayed where he hit the wall and we were able to drive away."
Super Stock Final – Mark Nowicki vs. Jimmy Hidalgo Jr.
Hidalgo's adventures continued in round one with two uncharacteristically later lights followed by two runs off the numbers. Thankfully for Hidalgo, Cowell broke out, preventing a potential pitfall in his afternoon. By the semifinals Hidalgo got the tree back, producing a .011 reaction time in a win against Dunahoo, propelling him into the championship matchup.
In the runner-up spot, Nowicki, representing Division 3, had wins over Pete D'Agnolo and Nick Chiles on his way to the finals. It was a relatively easy afternoon for the Michigan native as D'Agnolo couldn't make the call and Chiles went red in the semis, both sandwiched between a second round bye.
With the win Hidalgo caps an impressive year that saw him produce seven finals and two TOC spots. And while he didn't double up, falling short in round two of Stock, it was still a year to remember for the Division 4 favorite.