After several years of near misses, Canadian Jeff Veale persevered and finally won his first NHRA national event title in Top Alcohol Dragster, and Sean Bellemeur drove Tony Bartone’s car to the Top Alcohol Funny Car win at the Dodge NHRA Nationals in Reading. The big story came in Comp, where former Pro Stock racer Tom Martino returned to the class for the first time in two decades and earned the title. Veale, Bellemeur, and Martino were joined in the Maple Grove Raceway winner’s circle by Byron Worner (Super Stock), Karl Martel (Stock), Lauren Freer (Super Comp), and Kevin Robb (Super Gas).
Although he set top speed of the event for the Top Alcohol Dragster class with a 281.13-mph run, Veale did not have an easy path to his first win. He defeated Rich McPhillips, Richard Bourke, and Robin Samsel before taking on defending Reading champ Jackie Fricke in the final. Veale had previously run as quick as 5.26 in eliminations but slowed to a 5.402 in the final. That, coupled with a .030 reaction time, was enough to stop Fricke’s quicker 5.384. The win was a dramatic turnaround for Veale, who did not qualify for three of his first four events this season. [Watch video]
Bellemeur won the Top Alcohol Funny Car title at the NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series regional event in Reading earlier this season and returned for a second win by stopping Phil Burkart Jr. in the final round. In one of the most competitive battles of the day, Bellemeur gave up four-hundredths at the start but made it up at the finish line with a 5.542 to 5.586 victory. The final margin of victory was just .002-second at the finish line. Bellemeur made his way to the final with wins against Steve Griboski, DJ Cox Jr., and Andy Bohl. Against Cox and Bohl, it took a slight starting-line holeshot for Bellemeur to turn on the win light. [Watch video]
Four years after he made his last competitive run in a Pro Stock car and more than two decades after he left the Comp class, Martino returned to take care of some unfinished business. Martino has five Pro Stock wins as a driver, but he had never won an NHRA national event in Comp. That changed when he wheeled Ken Voight’s Super Modified Cobalt to victory over Scott Benham in the final. Martino had his only bad light of the event in the final with a .104, but opponent Benham was also late with a .134. A (-.526) 8.68 was enough for Martino to claim his first Wally since defeating Erica Enders in the Pro Stock final at the 2006 Gatornationals. [Watch video]
One week after a disappointing final-round loss in Charlotte, Worner returned to his home track in Reading and wheeled his Camaro to the final round of Super Stock. Given a second chance at victory, Worner, the 2013 national champion, didn’t let it go to waste with a near-perfect performance in the final against 2002 national champion Anthony Bertozzi. Worner left with a .008 light and lit up the scoreboard with a 9.863 on his 9.85 dial for the win after Bertozzi broke out. [Watch video]
Martel’s A/SA ’69 Camaro is one of the cleanest and most competitive race cars in Stock, and it carried the Dover, Del., resident to his first NHRA national event victory. Martel faced off against Lenny Williams’ Oldsmobile in the final and earned the title with a .015 light and a 10.262 on his 10.24 dial. Martel had a bye run in the semi’s, but he also had to clear a couple of tough hurdles to reach the final round, including wins against past national champions Tex Miller and Lee Zane. [Watch video]
Having had success in the Top Dragster presented by Racing RVs class, Freer has admittedly not spent much time focusing on Super Comp racing lately, but that didn’t stop her from winning her fourth career national event title and third in the 8.90 category. Freer got the best of Jeff Kundratic in the double-breakout final, 8.889 to 8.869. Kundratic was quicker off the starting line with a .009 to .022 reaction-time advantage. Freer did not have an easy path to the final round with tough races against Amanda Boicesco and former Super Stock national champ Bertozzi. [Watch video]
Robb won his second national event title of the season and the fourth of his career when he drove to the Super Gas victory. Robb, who also won the Super Comp title in Englishtown earlier this year, won the double-breakout final round against Ray Sawyer with a 9.899. A round earlier, Robb prevented a rare father-son final when he downed Mike Sawyer, who also broke out. With the win, Robb still has an outside shot at a top-10 finish in Super Gas, and he’s also in line for a top-10 finish in Super Comp. [Watch video]