Shawn Cowie and John Lombardo Jr. earned wins in Top Alcohol Dragster and Top Alcohol Funny Car, respectively, but the real story of the Menards NHRA Heartland Nationals presented by Minties was Super Comp champ Austin Williams, who claimed a win in Topeka for the fifth-straight year. Williams successfully defended his title in Super Comp when he defeated James Repka in the final round; previously, the talented Texan won three-consecutive Stock titles from 2013-15.
Since 2013, Williams has raced two cars in Topeka, and he has compiled an amazing 40-5 record in elimination rounds. In Super Comp, he’s 18-3, and his record in Stock is even more impressive at 22-2. Racing for the Super Comp title, Williams finished the job with a .009 reaction time and an equally impressive 8.907, while Repka broke out with an 8.883. [Watch video]
Cowie took over the lead in the battle for the Top Alcohol Dragster national championship following his third win of the season. Coming off a victory at the recent NHRA Four-Wide Nationals in Charlotte, Cowie qualified his supercharged dragster in the No. 1 spot in the quick field with a 5.214, then proceeded with wins against Gary Cooper, former champ Chris Demke, Jackie Fricke, and rookie Rachel Meyer in the final. In the final three rounds, Cowie was amazingly consistent with runs of 5.230, 5.222, and 5.215. [Watch video]
After going winless in his first three starts of the season, Lombardo and his NAPA Auto Parts team have impressed lately with back-to-back victories. Following a win at the NHRA Division 7 event in Las Vegas, Lombardo returned to the winner’s circle after a final-round win against Annie Whiteley in Topeka. Starting from the No. 1 spot after a 5.437 run, Lombardo was even quicker in eliminations with a 5.403 in his first-round win against Steve Burk, and a 5.398, 274.16-mph blast in his second-round race against Doug Gordon. Both drivers encountered problems in the final, but Lombardo was able to recover quicker than Whiteley and turned on the win light with an off-pace 6.261. [Watch video]
After winning his first two national event titles in Las Vegas in 2015 and 2013, Jason DeForrest added the Topeka Super Stock title to his record. In a double-breakout final round, DeForrest got the best of Pete Peery with a (-.016) 9.164 to a (-.029) 9.461. DeForrest, in his GT/EA Cavalier, topped past national event winners Larry Hodge, Gene Bichlmeier, and Justin Jenkins before taking a bye run into the final. Peery, a three-time national event winner and 2015 Topeka champ, got a free pass to the final after Ryan Montford was a no-show in the semi’s. Interestingly, DeForrest was competing in his first event of the season. [Watch video]
Jeff Lopez, the 2012 NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series Super Gas champion, won his fifth national event title when he stopped Randi Lyn Shipp in the Stock final. Lopez, behind the wheel of his COPO Camaro, defeated Shipp’s vintage ’68 Firebird. Lopez gave up a slight lead at the start, .033 to .014, but got the best of a double-breakout race with a (-.020) 9.200 to Shipp’s (-.041) 10.519. Lopez, who was appearing in just his second event of the season in Stock, also scored wins against John Cooper’s vintage ’64 Thunderbolt and Verne Buchanan’s equally classic G/SA ’73 Mustang in the semifinals. For Shipp, the loss marked her first in a national event final after four victories. [Watch video]
Moments before watching his son, James, race in the Super Comp final, Jim Repka raced against Roger Warren for the Super Gas title. Warren, the winner of Super Comp at the 2003 Houston race and 2011 Atlanta event, added a third title when he used a nearly perfect 9.901 to stop Repka, who broke out with a 9.882. Warren reached the final round after a 9.957 to 9.885 win against Daniel Gamblin. A month ago, Warren was the runner-up at the NHRA SpringNationals at Royal Purple Raceway near Houston. [Watch video]
Former Jr. Dragster racer Afton Swanson had one of the quickest cars in the Top Dragster presented by Racing RVs class in Topeka, and she was the last one standing on Sunday after a final-round win against 2013 Topeka winner Larry Piper. Swanson wheeled her Spitzer Race Cars-built dragster to wins against Mallori Rogers, Bill Swann, and Bob Henry before taking on Piper in the final. Swanson earned the first Wally of her career in style with a 6.202 on her 6.20 dial, while Piper wasn’t far behind with a 6.399 on his 6.37 dial. [Watch video]