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The Sports Report: Seems like an eternity

Drew Skillman wasn’t able to defend his Pro Stock title at the Dodge Mile-High NHRA Nationals, but after a lengthy wait on the starting line, he made the most of the trip with a win in Stock Eliminator.
25 Jul 2018
Kevin McKenna, NHRA National Dragster Senior Editor
The Sports Report
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skillman2.jpgIn a sport were wins and losses are often determined by thousandths of a second, seven seconds is an eternity. Yet, that’s how long Drew Skillman had to sit on the starting line behind the wheel of his Cobra Jet Mustang in the Stock final before he had the opportunity to chase down opponent Lane Weber in his V/SA Buick. Technically, Weber chose 16.47-seconds as his dial-in while Skillman was wheeling one of the quickest cars in the field with a 9.38 prediction. That’s a difference of 7.09-seconds, which is longer than it takes Skillman to make a quarter-mile run in his Pro Stock Camaro, even in the thin air of Denver.

Oftentimes when there is a huge performance difference between competitors in Stock or Super Stock, one driver red-lights and it’s usually the one who has the most time to sit and watch his or her opponent drive to nearly half-track before their side of the Tree illuminates. In this instance, Weber missed the Tree with a .098 light while Skillman helped himself with a decent .036 reaction time. The finish was a double-breakout with Skillman under his dial by .001-second and Weber under by a more egregious .008-second.

“That was the second-longest spot I’ve had in Stock,” said Skillman, who now has 14-career wins as both a pro and sportsman racer. “One time in Phoenix I had to race a 17-second car in the quarter-mile. That is the one run that I was most afraid of and I called it the first of the weekend, I said, ‘Man, I hope I don’t have to race that guy in the first round’. That’s typically my luck. That guy has done a heck of a job all weekend. I was just in the right place at the right time. We had a double breakout and I just had the better reaction time.”

skillman3.jpgSkillman is one of a handful of Pro racers, along with Jeg Coughlin Jr., Erica Enders, Bo Butner, Shawn Langdon, and Leah Pritchett, who continue to double-dip in sportsman racing because they believe the additional seat time is beneficial. He also does it simply because he enjoys the thrill of competition and the unique comraderie that exists among NHRA’s sportsman racing fraternity.

“I love sportsman racing,” said Skillman. “I am a sportsman racer, first and foremost. I race Pro Stock just for fun. This [Wally] means just as much to me as a Pro Stock Wally. My Ray Skillman Auto Group Ford has performed really well. It’s been deadly this weekend; it varied only a couple of thousandths all weekend. I have to thank my whole team; the guys on our sportsman team really kicked butt this weekend. We put this car together at the beginning of the year and got it up and running and it’s good to be back in my old Stocker.”

The best of the rest: Five years ago, Don Thomas won Comp in Dallas. Thomas reached the final round again in Denver, and bagged his second national event win after low qualifier David Kramer fouled. Thomas was the No. 7 qualifier in the 10-car field but worked his way to the final with wins over Matt Harris and Christine Harris. Against Christine’s G/Altered Grand Am, Thomas was sharp on the Tree with a .002 light and a (-.623) 7.277 in his B/Econo Dragster. Harris had lost .12-second off his index before the final but that became a moot point after Kramer’s foul.

skillman4.jpgChris Chaney scored his third national event win in six final rounds after topping Comp racer Shaun Vincent in the Super Stock final. Behind the wheel of his GT/KA Camaro, Chaney won the double-breakout final with a 10.971 on his 11.00 dial after Vincent missed his 10.71 dial with a 10.658. There was a short field in Denver with just 17 cars making the trip but that doesn’t mean that Chaney had an easy path to the final round. His opponents included 104-time winner Dan Fletcher, Division 5 champ Tyler Wudarczyk, and Division 2 Allstar Jeff Adkinson. Chaney left first against all of them and also grabbed a significant advantage against Vincent in the final round.

David Hutchens (no relation to the former Pro Stock team owner) was brilliant in his drive to the Super Comp title with a string of great reaction times. Hutchens used a .004 light in the opening round to stop Kari Larson and took out Cody Perkins in the third round with a .002. After a narrow double breakout win over Butch Kleewein in the semi’s, Hutchens took on Bill Percival in the final and not surprisingly, it was one of the best races of the day. After an even start, .002 to .005, Hutchens claimed the double-breakout win. 9.453 to 9.412 on the 9.50 altitude adjusted index. Percival had been nearly unstoppable with back-to-back perfect .000 lights in the quarterfinal and semifinal rounds.

New Mexico’s Michael Miller has now won ten times in his career and four of them have come in Denver, including his inaugural win in 1999. Miller, who also competes in Super Comp, earned the title after final round opponent Kevin Moore fouled by a thousandth of a second. Miller, in his 27-T Ford roadster, used wins against Craig Maddux, Ryan Siffring, and Bradley Johnson to reach the final round. Against Siffring, Miller nailed the 10.50 altitude adjusted Super Gas index with a 10.505.

Four years after winning his first national event title at Bandimere Speedway, Brian Percival scored again in Super Street by taking down Michael Condon in the final round. Percival was nearly unbeatable in the final round with a .009 light and a 10.515 on the 10.50 index. Condon’s shot at the title ended with a 10.488 breakout. Percival also drove his ’69 Dodge Dart to early wins against Scott Carpenter, Trevor Larson, and Jason Schade.

skillman5.jpgLess than a year after winning in Dallas, Greg Lair made the trip to Denver to pick up his third career win in Top Sportsman presented by Racing RVs.com. The final round featured a battle of the top two qualifiers in the class with second-seed Lair taking on Monte Green, the low qualifier. Lair got off the starting line first with a .016 light and held on for the win with a 7.028 on his 7.02 dial after Green ran a 7.008 on his 6.99 dial. Lair, behind the wheel of his Camaro, stopped Sammy Gonzales, Wade Kiefer, and Bud Preuss to reach his fourth career national event final.

Top Dragster presented by Racing RVs.com celebrated another first-time winner after Rick Milinazzo defeated Josh Herman in the final round to earn his first national event Wally trophy. Milinazzo grabbed a .02-second lead at the start and then sealed the deal with a 7.480 on his 7.47 dial while Herman came up a few feet short in spite of a 7.444 on his 7.44 dial. Milinazzo worked his way to the final with wins against Darian Boesch, Don Knoblauch, Jeff Coron, and Jamie Caudill.