NHRA’s long-awaited return to Virginia Motorsports Park will be long remembered by the many racers and fans who attended the 10th NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series event of the season and particularly by Joe Tysinger, Randy Parker, Jeg Coughlin Jr., and Charlie Kenopic, who each left with a Wally trophy after winning their respective Sportsman eliminators.
Seven years after scoring his first national event win in Charlotte, Tysinger returned to the winner’s circle after driving his GT/NA Firebird to a final-round win over Division 1 racer Joe Lisa in Super Stock. Leading up to the final round, Tysinger drove what could easily be described as the race of his life, at least when it came to starting-line reaction times. Through the first four rounds, Tysinger was .013 or better on the Tree, and that helped secure round-wins against some of the toughest opponents on the East Coast.
Tysinger downed former world champ Byron Worner with a .022-second package in the third round and returned for the quarterfinals to defeat Worner’s twin brother, Bryan, with an even more competitive .013-second package. Tysinger’s highlight reel performance came in the semifinals when he cut a perfect .000 light and used a 10.627 on his 10.60 dial against three-time national event finalist Sterling Simmons. [video]
Randy Parker claimed his first national event title when he won the Stock title in Bristol in 1999. Nearly two decades later, in Stock, Parker coasted to a second win in Richmond after opponent Eugene Monahan broke in the final round. Parker, in his unique I/SA ’80 Dodge Mirada, made his way to the final after wins over James Perrone, Daniel Lynch, Adam Keir, and Jeannie Linke. Parker’s key round was his semifinal race against Linke, which was a heads-up, no-breakout battle between similarly classed I/SA entries. Parker, the No. 2 qualifier in the field, easily powered to the win over Linke, 11.35 to 11.44. [video]
One week after breaking a four-year drought, Pro Stock ace Coughlin scored again in Super Comp. At the JEGS Route 66 NHRA Nationals, Coughlin scored his first Pro Stock win since the 2014 season when he defeated Greg Anderson in the final. Coughlin’s hot hand continued in Richmond when he drove his dragster to the Super Comp title.
Coughlin suffered a quarterfinal loss in Pro Stock in Richmond, but he quickly changed gears, jumping into his dragster and nailing a .011 light to stop Dave Long in the semifinal round. In the fifth and final round, Coughlin earned national event win No. 78, and his third in Super Comp, after Rich Dorr fouled. Coughlin survived several other tough battles on his way to the final, including a close round-two race against Chase Fahnestock. Both drivers were almost perfect off the starting line, and Coughlin prevailed with an 8.922 after Fahnestock broke out by a thousandth of a second. Coughlin also put together a tidy package with a .012 light and an 8.903 in his quarterfinal win against Kent Hanley. [video]
The Super Gas final featured Canadian Kenopic and perennial top-10 finisher Mike Sawyer and, predictably, it was a side-by-side race that was decided by less than a hundredth of a second at the finish line. Kenopic, the winner of the 2013 Reading event, left first, .004 to .012, and turned on the win light by the same margin after both drivers ran matching 9.893-second elapsed times. Kenopic had a tough road to the final, including wins against Jason Kenny, Greg Slack, former world champs Iggie Boicesco and Dan Northrop. Against Boicesco, Kenopic was sharp on both ends of the track with a .010 light and a 9.909. Kenopic’s win over Northrop was also classic with a four-thousandths margin of victory. [video]