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Mopar Express Lane NHRA Nationals Sportsman highlights

Troy Coughlin Jr. continued his recent hot streak with his fourth win of the season in Top Alcohol Dragster, and reigning champ Sean Bellemeur took another step toward a title defense in Top Alcohol Funny Car to lead the list of NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series champs at the Mopar Express Lane NHRA Nationals presented by Pennzoil.
03 Oct 2019
Kevin McKenna, NHRA National Dragster Senior Editor
News
Troy Coughlin Jr.

Troy Coughlin Jr. continued his recent hot streak with his fourth win of the season in Top Alcohol Dragster, and reigning champ Sean Bellemeur took another step toward a title defense in Top Alcohol Funny Car to lead the list of NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series champs in Reading. Coughlin and Bellemeur shared the spotlight with fellow event winners Christopher Piston (Comp), Herbie Null Jr. (Super Stock), Joe Santangelo (Stock), Kyle Bigley (Super Comp), and Ed Alessi Jr. (Super Gas). 

Coughlin has now been to nine final rounds in his second year in the Top Alcohol Dragster class, and he has won four of them after driving the McPhillips Racing-injected nitro dragster to a final-round win against current championship leader Megan Meyer. Coughlin ran as quick as 5.18 in his win against fellow championship contender Shawn Cowie and wrapped up the title with a 5.211 to 5.261 win against Meyer in the final. Coughlin also set top speed of the event at more than 280 mph. Despite the loss, Meyer remains a favorite to capture the national championship. [video]

Two of the top three cars in the country met to decide the Top Alcohol Funny Car title with reigning champ and current points leader Bellemeur winning for the fifth time this season in the Hussy Performance Camaro after beating Chris Marshall in the final. Bellemeur, who hadn’t won a national event since the Norwalk race in June, powered to a 5.419 for the win against Marshall’s 5.493. Bellemeur also ran 5.40 and 5.42 in eliminations with his Steve Boggs-tuned entry. [video]

Tom Martino’s bid for a third straight Comp win in Reading remained intact until the final round, where he lost to Piston, who was appearing in his first career final round. Piston, in a four-cylinder powered F/DA, ended Martino’s Reading winning streak at 14 rounds in the final with an (-.503) 8.117 that was boosted by a sharp .011 reaction time. Piston also drove to wins against Chip Ippolito, Pat Ross, and David Kramer to reach the final. [video]

Null now has six national event wins to his credit, including Indy and a pair in Reading thanks to an impressive final-round performance in Super Stock. Null was almost unstoppable in the final with a .012 light and a perfect 9.700 on his 9.70 dial that was too much for runner-up John DiBartolomeo to overcome. DiBartolomeo, coming off a win a week earlier at the rain-delayed Summit Racing Equipment NHRA Nationals in Norwalk, was very competitive with a .029 light and a 9.271 on his 9.26 dial. Null had a tough road to the final round with a quarterfinal race against points leader Santangelo and a semifinal bout against his buddy and traveling partner Bryan Worner, who fouled. [video]

Santangelo won his second race of the season in Stock when he defeated Randi Lyn Shipp’s Firebird in a classic battle of vintage muscle cars. Santangelo left first by a hundredth of a second and sealed his 16th career title by running 10.385 on his 10.38 dial while Ship broke out by five-hundredths. With two wins and four semifinals on his scorecard, Santangelo finished as the leader in the clubhouse with 644 points in Stock. Heading into the home stretch of the 2019 season, he has a 42-point lead over Jody Lang, who is in second place. [video]

After winning the Division 1 Super Comp championship last season, Bigley checked off another important milestone by winning his first NHRA national event title. In a rematch of the final round from Epping in June, Bigley got the best of Ken Moses when it mattered most with an 8.926 to 8.940 battle that was decided by just four-thousandths of a second at the stripe. Bigley, who was also a finalist at the Epping Division 1 Lucas Oil Series race, was .020 or quicker on the starting line for all six rounds and faced his own all-star cast that included Anthony Fetch and Super Gas winner Alessi. [video]

Nearly two decades after winning his first national event title at the 2001 Reading event, Alessi returned to the winner’s circle in Super Gas with his unique Chevy-powered ’63 Pontiac Catalina. Alessi was nearly perfect off the starting line in the final with a .001 light to a .048 for his opponent and good friend, Jake Barbato. With room to maneuver at the finish line, Alessi turned on the win light with a 9.937. Alessi had a perfect .000 light in his quarterfinal win against Richard Grenier, which set up a semifinal match against defending event winner Lauren Freer. [video]