Well-known West Coast racers Val Torres Jr., Kyle Rizzoli, Aaron Kinard, and Mike Ferderer were among the NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series winners crowned at the NHRA Arizona Nationals at Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park, but it was veteran George Stassi who stole the show with his win in Super Stock. Here's a look at final-round highlights and interviews with the event winners.
Stassi has been racing in Division 7 events for the last 50 years, but he had never won a national event, or even advanced to a final round, until he stopped Jody Lang in the final. Stassi broke an engine early in eliminations, but his many friends were quick to come to his aid, installing a replacement in time for Sunday’s final rounds. Stassi did his part with solid driving in his late-round wins against Abe Loewen and defending event champ Gary McGlasson. In the final, Stassi wheeled his SS/HA Camaro to a 10.62 on his 10.60 dial to earn his long-awaited first Wally. [Watch video]
Rizzoli bagged his fifth career win and his second in Stock when he downed two-time national champ and Pomona Super Stock winner Justin Lamb in the final round. While his numbers in the final were solid, Rizzoli wasn’t afraid to admit that he had some luck earlier in the event. In round one, Rizzoli and his ’69 Camaro were paired against John Cooper’s ’64 Ford Thunderbolt in a heads-up battle between AA/SA entries. Rizzoli figured he was facing a performance deficit of about four-tenths of a second, so he didn’t have much hope for a victory, but his fortunes turned when Cooper’s car was pushed off the starting line after developing a fluid leak. [Watch video]
California-based Torres also upped his career win total to five after driving past Marco Perivolaris in the Super Comp final. Torres, whose most recent win came last year in Sonoma, gave up a slight lead at the start, .002 to .023, but prevailed on a double breakout. Torres did not have an easy path to the winner’s circle, either. He had to overcome Trevor Larson’s perfect 8.900 run in the third round and later rallied to win his quarterfinal match against Jeff Connelly with a perfect .000 light. [Watch video]
Nearly three years after his most recent national event win in Las Vegas, Kinard visited the winner’s circle at a national event for the sixth time in his career. A three-time winner of the JEGS NHRA SPORTSnationals, Kinard faced off against Ed Olpin in the final round. Olpin, who was coming off a double win in Pomona, had won 11 straight rounds of Super Gas competition before a seven-thousandths foul ended his winning streak in the all-Corvette title round. Kinard, who entered the final on a hot streak of his own with reaction times of .000 and .001 in the earlier rounds, was ready in the final with a .014 light and a 9.909 for the win. [Watch video]
Much like the Pomona season opener, the Top Dragster presented by Racing RVs field once again featured a number of entries that flirted with the 6.00-second class limit. After three qualifying passes, the top-six qualifiers had all run 6.10 or quicker, including low qualifier Bob Button, who secured the top spot with a 6.001 at more than 233 mph. Finalists Grant Durie and Tom Koenen each qualified in the bottom half of the field but were consistent enough to win rounds. What promised to be a competitive final ended early when Koenen fouled out by .001-second. With the victory, Alberta-resident Durie joined an extensive list of Canadian drivers who have won an NHRA national event, including reigning Top Sportsman national champion Mike Williams. [Watch video]
By far the most accomplished winner at the Phoenix event was Ferderer, who collected career title No. 24 in the Top Sportsman presented by Racing RVs class. Ferderer, who claimed his first victory and the Super Gas national championship in 1985, was able to celebrate early in the final round when his opponent, Richard Okerman, fouled by two-thousandths. For the record, Ferderer drove his K&N Filters-backed ’06 Pontiac to a solid 7.254 on his 7.26 dial for the victory. It was Ferderer’s fourth win at Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park. He was also a winner at the Phoenix track in 1999, 2000, and 2009. [Watch video]