There were five Sportsman drivers who nearly doubled up during the Lucas Oil NHRA Southern Nationals in Atlanta, including David Rampy, who claimed his 94th career win in Super Stock while also posting a semifinal finish in Super Street. Super Gas champ Ray Miller III also enjoyed a deep run in Super Comp with a semifinal finish, and Top Dragster champ Joe Fisher was a quarterfinalist in Super Gas. The other two drivers who were around for Sunday’s late rounds were Steven Furr and Jeremy Hancock.
Rampy breezed through the tough Super Stock field with his Skillman Auto Group Camaro. In eliminations, he faced a tough roster that included Terry Emmons, Chad Taylor, Craig Couris, and championship contender Kevin Helms. In the final, Rampy was able to cruise to the win after opponent Jeff Longhany fouled by five-thousandths of a second. Rampy had a chance to win in Super Street, but a -.002 red-light in the semi’s ended his bid for a double. [Watch video]
At the 2016 Atlanta race, Jimmy “Cooter” Hidalgo Jr. nearly completed a double of his own with a win in Super Stock and a runner-up finish in Stock. The Louisiana-based Hidalgo obviously likes Atlanta Dragway because he returned this year and added the Stock title to his already impressive résumé. Driving his G/SA ’04 GTO, Hidalgo had to race his father, Jimmy Sr., in the third round. Youth won out over experience this time, and Hidalgo went on to defeat Wes Neely in a rematch of the 2016 final. In the title round, Hidalgo turned in one of the best driving performances of his career with a .002 light and a 10.849 on his 10.83 dial to stop Jerry Emmons, who broke out by two-hundredths after a late start. [Watch video]
Two weeks after winning the K&N Spring Fling Million event in Las Vegas, Luke Bogacki struck gold again when he won in Super Comp. The two-time national champion claimed career win No. 12 when he drove past Tony Helms in the final, 8.914 to a breakout 8.888. Bogacki also carded wins against Shannon Roberts and Greg Trew in eliminations. Bogacki has only entered two national events this season in Super Comp, and he has been to the final in both of them, so a run at a third title is certainly not out of the question. [Watch video]
Miller has won six national event Wallys, and three of them have come at Atlanta Dragway. Miller successfully defended his 2016 Super Gas title when he drove his Corvette to a final-round win against David Tatum III, who fouled. Miller also reached the semi’s in Super Comp. For Tatum, it was his second final round of the season following his runner-up finish to Sherman Adcock Jr. in Gainesville. Georgia-based Tatum, the 2010 Super Gas national champion, has gotten back on his feet after his entire racing operation was stolen a couple of years ago. [Watch video]
Super Street champion Doug Wood fulfilled a 15-year quest to win his first NHRA national event title. Wood was sharp in the final when he coupled a .020 light and a 10.908 for the win over Hancock, who broke out with a 10.848. Wood also topped Ronnie Maggart, Laurel Morris, and Ken MacNicol on his way to his first Wally. Earlier in the event, Hancock made his mark with a rare perfect run. Racing against Brian Funderburk in round two, Hancock coupled a perfect .000 light with a dead-on 10.900. Funderburk had almost no chance to win the battle despite a competitive .017 light. [Watch video]
Fisher, who is a title rights sponsor of the Top Dragster presented by Racing RVs class through his RacingRVs.com business, followed his quarterfinal finish in Super Gas with a win in Top Dragster. Fisher’s path to the final round included victories over 1987 Super Comp national champ Steve Cohen, Kathy Fisher, and Furr. In the final, Fisher cruised to the win after opponent Kevin Brannon slowed. Brannon was attempting to join his wife, Ivey, who claimed the Top Dragster title a week earlier in Charlotte. [Watch video]
A year after winning the Division 2 championship and posting a third-place finish nationally in the Top Sportsman presented by Racing RVs class, Sandy Wilkins won again. Wilkins, the 2015 Atlanta winner, drove a smart, consistent race, using a string of .02 lights to reach the final round. After an even start, Wilkins surged ahead of opponent Vince Hoda at the finish line and won with a 6.722 on his 6.72 dial while Hoda was slightly off the mark with a 6.892 on his 6.87 dial. So far in 2017, Wilkins has competed at four races and reached the final round at all of them. [Watch video]