by Kevin McKenna
Nearly a week after it began, the 2009 Kragen O’Reilly NHRA Winternationals came to a conclusion with the completion of final eliminations in Comp, Super Stock, Stock, and Super Gas Wednesday afternoon. Dan Fletcher (Comp), Shane Studley (Super Stock), John Calvert (Stock), and Justin Lamb (Super Gas) each carded victories, joining the Pro and Sportsman champs who were crowned yesterday. Jim Whiteley (Top Alcohol Dragster) and Tony Bartone (Top Alcohol Funny Car) were the only Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series champions crowned at Auto Club Raceway at Pomona Tuesday.
Fletcher, the reigning NHRA Lucas Oil Comp champ, picked up where he left off in 2008, beating former Mac Tools U.S. Nationals champ Doug Lambeck in the final round. Driving Rick Braun’s Chevy Cobalt, Fletcher scored national event win number 57 with an 8.03 on the 8.66 index. Fletcher has been to the Comp final at the last three Pomona events, banking two wins and a runner-up to Jim Cowan at the 2008 season opener.
Studley picked up his first NHRA victory with a stellar final-round performance against two-time national champion Jimmy DeFrank. Driving his GT/TB Dodge truck, Studley was almost perfect on the starting line with an .005 reaction time and posted a 9.916 on his 9.88 dial for the win, holding off DeFrank’s eight-second Cobalt by .0003-second at the finish line.
One of the highlights of the 2009 Winternationals was the competition debut of the Ford Mustang Cobra Jet package cars, which were designed specifically for NHRA racing. Four of the new Fords debuted in Pomona, all of which were owned by noted collector Brent Hajek. In a scene reminiscent of the debut of the original Cobra Jet Mustangs in 1968 (when Al Joniec captured the Pomona title) former national champion John Calvert wheeled the new A/Stock entry to a final-round victory against Division 6 racer Tom Gaynor, who fouled.
Lamb became the latest driver to win national events in four classes when he topped drag racing school instructor Thomas Bayer in an extremely close Super Gas final. Lamb, already a national event champion in Super Stock, Super Comp, and Top Dragster, added a Super Gas Wally to his collection with a 9.907 to 9.906 win against Bayer. At the finish line, the margin of victory was just .0018-second.