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Menards NHRA Heartland Nationals Sportsman champion highlights

Sean Cowie and Shane Westerfield collected wins in Top Alcohol Dragster and Top Alcohol Funny Car, respectively during the Menards NHRA Heartland Nationals presented by Minties.
25 May 2018
Kevin McKenna, NHRA National Dragster Senior Editor

Sean Cowie and Shane Westerfield collected wins in Top Alcohol Dragster and Top Alcohol Funny Car, respectively, during the Menards NHRA Heartland Nationals presented by Minties. They were joined by a trio of first-time winners: Danielle Jaramillo-Miller (Super Comp), Kevin Theobald (Super Gas), and Dusty Meyer (Top Sportsman presented by Racing RVs). The other champions, who were crowned on Monday afternoon due to rain, included Mike Mans (Super Stock), Tyler Wudarczyk (Stock), and Phil Unruh (Top Dragster presented by Racing RVs).    

Cowie qualified No. 2 in Top Alcohol Dragster and faced off with Monroe Guest for the Wally. The pair left the line together and stayed glued throughout the quarter-mile with Cowie edging out Guest at the stripe, 5.235, 275.62 mph to 5.273, 272.83 mph. On Monday, Cowie was nearly unstoppable with the three best runs of the event, including a 5.204, 278.00 in the second round that held up for low elapsed time of the event. Guest was the only other driver in the 5.2s during the event. Cowie has now won 12 NHRA national event titles in the TAD class, including the last two at Heartland Motorsports Park. [video]

Westerfield collected his eighth career win and second win of the season in Top Alcohol Funny Car with a lap of 5.508, 268.87 after Doug Gordon shook the tires and slowed into tire shake off the line and recovered quickly, but he could not catch Westerfield crossing the finish line in 5.838, 261.17. Chris Marshall set the early pace when he qualified in the top spot, but he lost in the semifinals on a centerline violation. John Lombardo Jr. was also in the mix thanks to a 5.488 that held for low e.t., but he slowed in the semifinals and lost to Westerfield. [video]

Mans finally ended a seven-year win drought when he earned the Super Stock title in Topeka. Mans caught a break in the final round after his scheduled opponent, four-time Super Comp world champion Gary Stinnett, was a no-show. Mans caught a similar break early in eliminations when current world champ Justin Lamb elected not to stay for Monday’s rain-delayed final rounds. Although Mans had a few lucky breaks, he also did his part with a number of solid runs in eliminations. [video]

After winning the St. Louis event in 2014 and 2017, Wudarczyk banked his third career win in Stock when he drove past Marion Stephenson, who red-lighted. Wudarczyk, in his A/SA Firebird, benefitted from three foul starts by his opponents, but he also was sharp when he needed to be, particularly in his round-three win against Brent Voges, where he ran a 10.320 on his 10.31 dial. [video]

Topeka’s Jaramillo-Miller became the 83rd woman to win an NHRA national event title and the 21st to win in Super Comp when she defeated Don Nichols in the final round. Jaramillo-Miller left first and turned on the win light with an 8.920 after Nichols broke out by a narrow margin with an 8.897. It was her first NHRA event of the season. Following a single run in Monday’s second round of eliminations, Jaramillo-Miller worked her way to the final with wins against Jordan Pratt, Tim Ekart, and two-time national event winner and four-time finalist Larry Bernshausen. [video]

A new champion was also crowned in Super Gas after Theobald overcame a nearly perfect .001 reaction time by Bob Fuller to earn his first national event Wally. Theobald, in his unique Dodge Viper, ran closer to the index with a 9.927 to Fuller’s 9.956, with the difference at the finish line just .011-second. Theobald used back-to-back 9.901 runs in the second and third rounds to defeat Shane Herrman and Steve Collier and also got the best of a double-breakout battle against Scott Udenberg’s Dodge Challenger in the semifinals. [video]

The event’s other first-time champion was Meyer, who prevailed in the Top Sportsman presented by Racing RVs class. Meyer, in his Chevy S-10, got a free pass in the final after Phil Dion, who was also a semifinal finisher in Top Dragster, broke and couldn’t make the round. Meyer also had a bye run in the semifinals but earlier he stopped Jeff Staub, Todd Stallbaumer, and Monte Green. Meyer was able to adjust to the changing conditions in Topeka by lowering his dial from 7.04 in the first round to 6.91 in the second and matching that number with a 6.912 in his win against Stallbaumer. [video]

Versatile Unruh won in Top Dragster presented by Racing RVs over Steve Will, the father of former Top Fuel racer Hillary Will. Unruh won for the sixth time in his career when Will fouled by four-thousandths in the final. Unruh would have been tough to beat regardless with a .015 light in his Special Metals dragster. Unruh, who has won in Top Dragster, Super Stock, and Super Street, survived a tough battle against former world champ Matt Driskell and also logged wins against Mario Boesch and Rusty Baxter on his way to the final. [video]