Rylie Trumble (age 12), Braden Bettis (14), and LJ Grissom (16-17) joined the list of multitime champions when they outlasted the field in their respective age groups at the 2018 NHRA Jr. Drag Racing Western Conference Finals presented by Fairlife YUP!, one of two national events in the NHRA Summit Racing Jr. Drag Racing League. Abigail Wilson (6-9), Emmy Shepherd (10), Kennedy Hale (11), Kade Guidry (13), and Dylan Hough (15) were also victorious. Texas Motorplex Team 1 took home the team championship.
After watching brother Gage win the 10-year-old title last year, Wilson joined him as Western Conference Finals champ, defeating Brody Tigue in the 6-9 class final round. Wilson, a Thunder Valley Raceway Park runner who hails from Moore, Okla., got the lead on the starting line and carried the advantage to a 12.032 (11.90 dial) to 12.041 (11.90) victory over Euless, Texas’ Tigue, a member of Texas Motorplex’s team.
Shepherd won a battle of Osage Tulsa Raceway Park competitors for top honors in the 10-year-old age group. Shepherd, of Grove, Okla., left the starting line first by more than a tenth of a second in the final and parlayed the advantage into an 8.986 (8.90) to 8.953 (8.92) holeshot win against Norma, Okla.’s Colt Saum.
Gateway Motorsports Park’s Hale was the last racer standing in the 11-year-old class, outlasting SRCA Dragstrip’s Aiden Peres. Peres, who lives in Galva, Kan., got the slight lead at the Tree, but Pevely, Mo., runner Hale was able to drive around him and win, 9.005 (8.96) to 9.310 (9.23).
The 12-year-old title round was a battle of former champions that pitted 2016 10-year-old champ Trumble against last year’s 11-year-old titlist Jonathan McClain. Trumble, a Houston Raceway Park competitor who traveled from Pasadena, Texas, came out on top in the battle, getting the automatic nod when McClain, a Bosier City, La., racer who represented Texas Motorplex at the event, turned on the red-light. Trumble powered to a 9.637 (8.90) on his victory pass.
Red-light starts also determined the outcome in the 13, 14, 15, and 16-17 class finals. In the 13-year-old bracket. Tulsa team member Brianna Chancey, of Bixby, Okla., fouled, turning the win light on in the lane of Orange, Texas’ Guidry. Guidry, a Houston Raceway Park competitor, put together an impressive .004-second package on his final pass, pairing a .001 light with a .003-over 7.91. Guidry’s strong final-round run followed a perfect package earlier in the second round, in which he ran 7.910 after a .000 reaction.
A pair of Texas Motorplex racers made up the final in the 14-year-old bracket. DeLeon, Texas’ Bettis won the friendly battle when Midlothian, Texas, racer Trent Augustyn went red. Bettis, who was appearing in his third Western Conference Finals final round, posted a 7.885 (7.90) on the way to his second Wally.
Hough made the 32-hour haul from Junction City, Ore., pay off when he was able to go the distance in the 15-year-old category. Hough, the lone racer from Woodburn Dragstrip at the event, capped a strong overall showing with a 7.924 (7.90) run in the final. Conner Rivers, a Kauntze, Texas, driver who was part of host track Osage Tulsa Raceway Park’s team, made Hough’s job a little easier in the final when he left the starting line early.
Big Country Race Way’s Grissom added this year’s 16-17 championship to the one he earned in the 15-year-old age group two years ago, defeating Joplin, Mo.’s Tyler Lloyd, who was part of the Tulsa team, in this year’s final. Lloyd turned on the red bulb, giving the automatic win to Grissom, who hails from Odessa, Texas. Grissom clocked an 8.233 (7.95) on his victory lap.
Boosted by Bettis’ win and runner-up finishes by Tigue and Augustyn, Texas Motorplex Team 1 won this year’s team championship. The Dallas-area track finished with 19 points. Osage Tulsa Raceway Park Team 2 finished second with 16, followed by Houston Raceway Park Team 1 with 13 and Thunder Valley Raceway Park Team 1, Osage Tulsa Raceway Park Team 1, and Big Country Race Way Team 1 all tied with 10 points apiece.
A number of special awards were presented throughout the event. Winners were Michael Wood (Best Overall Appearing Car), Camden Teel (Best Appearing Theme Car), Levi Wilson (Coolest Car), Texas Motorplex (Best Appearing Track), and Big Country Race Way (Team Spirit).
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