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JEGS Allstars biggest stars

13 Jul 2016
Kevin McKenna, National Dragster Senior Editor
The Sports Report

In the 32-year history of the JEGS Allstars event, no driver had ever won two classes, but the laws of probability didn’t prevent Division 5 ace Trevor Larson from scoring the event’s first double with victories in Super Comp and Super Gas. In another feat that was equally as impressive, Slate Cummings was the star of the show for the Division 4 team when he drove to the Allstars Super Stock title Saturday before returning a day later to win the Stock final at the K&N Filters Route 66 NHRA Nationals. For good measure, Cummings threw in a semifinal finish in Sunday’s Super Stock battle for an impressive 14-1 record in eliminations rounds during the weekend.

The JEGS Allstars features the most talented Sportsman racers in North America, so even though it only takes three rounds to win, they are often three of the toughest and most pressure-packed rounds of a driver’s career. That might go a long way in explaining why no driver has been able to double up for more than three decades. First, it’s a long shot just to qualify for the team in two separate classes. Moreover, the odds of a single driver winning in two eliminators are nearly overwhelming, yet Larson was standing tall Saturday night with a pair of trophies in his hands after a tough day’s work.

It probably isn’t fair to suggest that Route 66 Raceway owed Larson a thing or two, but it’s worth pointing out that two years ago, his chances of winning the national championship in Super Gas were dealt a crippling blow when he lost in the semifinals to Luke Bogacki, the eventual champion. Bogacki went on to post a monumental points total of 731 to Larson’s 688, so there is no way of knowing if that one heads-up race made the difference in the points battle, but it certainly didn’t help Larson’s chances.

This year, Larson returned to the JEGS Allstars as the Division 5 representative in both Super Comp and Super Gas, and he ran the table to win both classes. In the Super Comp final, Larson defeated Austin Williams, who would win Sunday’s 8.90-class title. A few minutes later, Larson jumped into his Corvette roadster and staged alongside Division 7 hot shot Mike Wiblishouser in the Super Gas title round and emerged victorious for a second time.

Looking at the bigger picture, Larson’s six round-wins were a key component in the West Central Division’s second JEGS Allstars overall team title in the last three years. Not surprisingly, Larson was also a vital part of the Division 5 team’s first title in 2014, when he won the Super Gas title.

“I am on the road home and reflecting on such an incredible weekend. I have dreamed of the time I could get both cars in the winner’s circle; it was the icing on the cake to be able to do it in the JEGS Allstars,” Larson wrote on his Facebook page. “I want to extend a special thanks to all of my family and friends for all the help, cheers, and congratulations throughout the weekend. All of your calls, texts, and Facebook posts have been truly amazing. Lastly, I want to thank JEGS and the entire Coughlin family for putting on such a great event. I can't wait for next year!”

Much like Larson, Cummings is no stranger to the annual JEGS Allstars race. In fact, with four wins in the last six years, he’s among the most successful competitors in the history of the special event. Cummings' performance in 2016 very closely resembles his JEGS Allstars debut in 2011. At that event, Cummings put forth a combined effort that included two wins and a runner-up finish during the weekend. The Moser-backed driver won the JEGS Allstars Super Stock title and was a runner-up in Stock on Saturday. A day later, Cummings earned the Stock win for his second title of the weekend. Because his wins were in two classes, it didn’t count toward the JEGS double-up bonus, but the weekend still counts as one of the most successful weekends of Cummings' career in terms of finances and personal gratification.

Cut to this season, and Cummings returned for an encore performance that was in some ways even more impressive than his 2011 effort. Cummings survived a close final-round battle against 1990 Stock national champ Don Keen to win his fourth JEGS Allstars title Saturday. At that point, he was still alive in eliminations for the K&N Filters Route 66 NHRA Nationals titles in Super Stock and Stock. On Sunday afternoon, Cummings lost in the semifinals of Super Stock when his .002 reaction time wasn’t enough to hold off Bryan Worner. Returning to his B/SA Corvette, Cummings bagged national event win No. 2 when he defeated Ryan Herem in the Stock final. This time, Cummings’ record for the weekend was an impressive 14-1 in both of his race cars.

“One or two rounds away from a perfect weekend, that’s all,” said Cummings. “I’m not sure what it is about this track that makes me do so well, but I’m not complaining. I do feel like I see the Tree very well here, so that probably has something to do with it. To come here and almost triple up, that’s about as good as it gets, and the best part is that now [because of the Allstars victory] I get to come back as the blocker again next year.”

98 and counting: Dan Fletcher’s quest to join John Force and Frank Manzo in the exclusive 100-win club took another step forward in Chicago when the traveling pro racked up career victory No. 98. Fletcher drove his Peak-backed ’15 COPO Camaro to the Super Stock title at the K&N Filters Route 66 NHRA Nationals by beating fellow Division 1 racer Bryan Worner in the final round. The win was Fletcher’s 51st in the Super Stock class but the first Super Stock victory behind the wheel of something other than his familiar ’69 Camaro.

“I almost feel guilty winning a race in something other than my dad’s ’69 Camaro because that car has so much sentimental value to me,” said Fletcher. “Then again, as far as I know, this is the first time a COPO Camaro has won in Super Stock, so that’s a pretty special accomplishment.”

Fletcher entered the season with 94 wins, and he has maintained all along that he didn’t plan on waiting until 2017 to bag win No. 100. With the season at the midway point, Fletcher has four wins, and because he races two cars at almost every event, it’s entirely possible that his next race could yield wins No. 99 and 100. Also of note, Fletcher’s four wins this season have come in four classes: Super Stock, Stock, Super Comp, and Super Street. The only other driver to pull off that feat is Jeg Coughlin Jr., who won in Pro Stock, Comp, Super Stock, and Super Gas in 1997, his first season as a Pro.