David Billingsley won for the sixth time in Comp eliminator, and Justin Jenkins and Brina Frank earned the fifth NHRA national event wins of their careers during the AAA Insurance NHRA Midwest Nationals. Jenkins won in Super Stock for the second time this season, and Frank turned on the win light in the Stock final in just her fourth race in her new COPO Camaro. They were joined in the winner’s circle by Christopher Dodd, who won in Super Comp, first-time winner Mark Buttrum in Super Gas, and Mark McDonald, who won his fourth event in Top Sportsman presented by Racing RVs.
Not much makes up for losing in the final round of the Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals, but for Billingsley, a Comp win in St. Louis is a good start. Billingsley, in his I/AA Camaro, stopped Travis Gusso in the Comp final round. Billingsley grabbed a big advantage at the start with a near-perfect .008 light and held on for the victory with a (-.487) 8.123. Billingsley’s road to the final round also included victories against Ray Skillman, Chase Williams, points contender Craig Bourgeois, and two-time world champion Bruno Massel. [video]
Following his second win of the season, it isn’t much of an exaggeration to suggest that Jenkins is having one of the best years of his career. The Nebraska-based Jenkins has had a tough year at NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series divisional races, but he’s batting .500 at national events with wins in Denver and St. Louis. Jenkins defeated Larry Hodge in the Super Stock quarterfinals to earn a bye into the money round, where he faced the SAMTech.edu Camaro of Brandon Bakies in Super Stock. First off the starting line with a .015 light, Jenkins rolled the throttle to a 9.561 on his 9.51 dial to cover Bakies’ 9.696 on his 9.66 dial. Jenkins, who was also a runner-up in St. Louis in 2012, turned in his best performance in the second round, where he ran a perfect 9.510 on his 9.51 to stop Darrin Christen. [video]
A little more than a month ago, Frank made her first runs in a new COPO Camaro that’s owned by Comp racer Jim Greenheck, but she managed to find the winner’s circle in just her fourth event when she stopped Brainerd winner Chris Knudsen in his four-speed ’69 Camaro in Stock. Frank ran a 9.306 on her 9.30 dial in the final round to turn on the win light while Knudsen was not far behind with a 10.585 on his 10.57 dial. Frank, who won her first national event title in St. Louis in 2008 and also won the Super Stock title in 2015, defeated Mike Lund in the quarterfinals to earn a bye in the semi’s. [video]
Dodd’s victory in St. Louis should be a case study in perseverance. Unable to advance past the second round in his first seven races this year in the ultra-competitive Super Comp class, Dodd never gave up, and he was rewarded with his second national event victory after stopping former Top Dragster presented by Racing RVs world champion Lynn Ellison in the final round with a .007 light and an 8.910. Dodd was exceptionally competitive in each round, including a perfect .000 light and an 8.909 in his round-two win over Kimbra Fuesting. Dodd also topped four-time world champion Gary Stinnett and Jeremy Demers on his way to the final. [video]
Buttrum, who lives just a few miles from World Wide Technology Raceway at Gateway in O’Fallon, Mo., won his first national event in just his third attempt when he stopped championship contender and Brainerd champ Vernon Rowland in the Super Gas final. In one of the closest races of the weekend, Buttrum drove his Chevy Lumina to a 9.920 to 9.910 holeshot victory and turned on the win light by .001-second. Buttrum made his way to the final round with wins against Charlie Stewart, Rodney Benson, and Alan Bush. [video]
McDonald extended his streak of national event victories to four consecutive years in the Top Sportsman presented by Racing RVs class thanks to a final-round win over Allen Firestone. McDonald didn’t let the pressure of a final round affect him with a .002 light and a 6.641 on his 6.61 dial that turned on the win light. Firestone, the current leader in the battle for the national championship, was just two-thousandths behind with a 6.611 on his 6.60 dial. McDonald got a free run in the quarterfinals when Benjamin Board was unable to show and earned his spot in the final by stopping Curt Fredrich in the semifinals. [video]