With a specific reference to the Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series, the Summit Racing Equipment Nationals had a bit of everything and almost none of it was expected. Years from now, it might still be difficult to explain an event where two different drivers doubled up, two former world champions dominated the competition, and the Super Gas champion won the race with a reaction time that was slower than the 9.90 index.
First off, regarding those doubles; one of them went to Jeff Strickland, who has lately become NHRA’s resident authority on twin killings. Last year, Strickland won the Top Dragster and Stock titles at the Amalie Motor Oil Gatornationals in Gainesville and he carried that momentum to the end of the season, where he was crowned the national champion in both categories. It was only the second time a driver has earned a season championship in two categories, joining 1994 Super Gas and Super Comp champ Scotty Richardson.
Strickland turned in an encore performance in Norwalk when he drove his GMPartsNow.com Camaro to the Stock title. Later in the day, he claimed a second Wally in Top Dragster presented by Racing RVs. Not to be outdone, 2016 Lucas Oil Super Comp champ Nick Folk secured his first career double when he drove to wins in Super Comp and Super Stock. As an added bonus, Folk became just the sixth driver to win NHRA races in six different categories, joining Justin Lamb, Peter Biondo, Scotty Richardson, Dan Fletcher, and Jeg Coughlin Jr., who has won in seven classes.
“I got close last week in Bristol and we came here to Norwalk with the idea that we needed to finish the deal instead of just getting close,” said Folk. “I knew I had two good cars. The Super Stock win was big because it was my sixth different class so I got ‘em both. Today was a good bucket list day.
“This [double] is what we do this stuff for,” Folk said. “We all want a chance to do something like that. I wanted to get overly excited for the Super Comp win but I had to keep my head on to make sure we got Super Stock done. My brother, Brian, picked me up after the first final and we talked about what we were going to do in the Super Stock final, not how we’d just won Super Comp. It was all about having the right mindset.”
Strickland could relate to Folk’s comment regarding mindset, even though he had been there before with his Gainesville double a year ago. Strickland won the Stock title first after veteran Jim Boburka spun the tires on the starting line and he returned a while later to finish the double by defeating Kathy Fisher in the Top Dragster final. Fisher was slightly quicker off the starting line with a .016 to .021 lead, but she broke out in her quick dragster with a 5.995 on a 6.00 dial. Strickland turned on the win light with a 6.338, matching his 6.33 dial.
If you’re a regular reader of The Sports Report, you’ve no doubt absorbed your fair share of information regarding national event doubles over the past few seasons and there is a good reason for that. After this weekend, there have been 38 national event doubles by 23 drivers. Incredibly, there have already been four doubles this season, and we’ve just reached the halfway point. For the record, the most popular combination for a double is Super Stock and Stock, which has been achieved 10 times. No other combination has yielded more than four doubles. Summit Racing Equipment Motorsports Park is also the 20th venue to feature a double. The only current national event sites to not have one are Houston, Bristol, Chicago, and Indy.
The best of the rest: Because of his burgeoning career as a television analyst on the NHRA FOX television broadcasts, Bruno Massel doesn’t get many opportunities to race his turbocharged DD/AT Chevy Cobalt but when he does, he tends to make the most of them. Massell won for the second time in three outings this season when he stopped former Pro Stock veteran Larry Morgan in the final. Massel won after Morgan fouled behind the wheel of his B/Altered Dodge Neon. Massel’s other win came at the NHRA Four-Wide Nationals in Charlotte, and he also has a quarterfinal finish at the JEGS SPORTSnationals in Bowling Green. Ky.
The craziest run of the day was almost certainly the Super Gas final, where Rob Kropfeld won without ever leaving the starting line. Going into the final, Kropfeld, a successful E.T. racer who was seeking his first national event win, already figured to have his hands full with multitime Division 5 champ Trevor Larson. Adding to the challenge, Larson’s Corvette runs well more than 160 mph, compared to Kropfeld’s Vega wagon, which runs in the mid-130s. The final ended when Larson fouled by four thousandths. Kropfeld sat motionless on the starting line for what seemed like an eternity before finally idling to a 27-second elapsed time for the win. Later, he explained the issue he was facing.
“Of all the crazy things that can happen,” he said. “We run a delay box and I put my jacket across it when I was getting in the car and [inadvertently] added 30 seconds [to the timer]. So, I was gonna sit there for 30 seconds before car did anything. Obviously, someone up there likes Vega station wagons. I’m happy with whoever decided that.”
A week after losing in the final round in Bristol by a thousandth of a second, Jeffrey Barker returned in Norwalk and finished the deal with a final round win over Ricky Adkins. Barker, the first national champion in the Top Sportsman class and a six-time Division 2 champ, combined a .019-light and a 6.599 on his 6.59 dial for the win after Adkins broke out by a thousandth of a second. Barker now has six Top Sportsman wins to his credit, including two this season. With four wins and a runner-up on his scorecard, Barker has now moved within striking distance of points leader Ed Olpin, who also has a double this year.