Bobby Cottrell and Bucky Austin Racing put their ’69 Camaro Funny Car in the Firebird Raceway winner’s circle despite a frustrating beginning to their race weekend. The team from Tacoma, Wash., did not find its groove until Saturday’s final qualifier when they slipped into the No. 6 position with a 5.76 elapsed time. As good as that was, it paled in comparison to the overall quality of an eight-car field that included Mike Peck, Jeff Arend, Tony Jurado, Geoff Monise, James Day, and Jerry Espeseth.
Paced by No. 1 Billy Morris’ 5.69, the field averaged 5.72, the quickest in Firebird Raceway history. Undeterred by this quality octet, the confident BAR team went to work on the competition on Sunday. First to feel their bite was Arend in the California Hustler. Arend got a huge starting-line advantage, but Cottrell ran him down with a 5.78 to Arend’s 5.86. In the semifinals, Peck left before the tree activated, gifting Cottrell a freebie into the final round against Espeseth. Earlier, Espeseth had gone 5.69 to knock off Morris, so this was a “pick ‘em” race. Cottrell took a slight lead at the green and just pounded the asphalt with a sublime 5.69 at 257.28 to Espeseth’s game 5.81 at 247.07.
Though few (just six), The Top Fuel dragsters all qualified with sub-six second elapsed times. Jim Murphy was the performance leader during qualifying with a 5.69 at 252.76 mph. Right on his heels was Bret Williamson driving Mike Fuller’s Forever Young dragster with a 5.72 at 249.86 mph. March Meet winner Pete Wittenberg, looking sharp with a new red paint scheme, slipped into No. 4 with a 5.84, just behind Bryan Hall, who also ran 5.84. Dusty Green and Tyler Hilton rounded out the field at 5.88 and 5.95, respectively.
Come Sunday, Murphy still looked like the one to beat. As the only competitor to record a five-second run in round one (5.77), Murphy got the single in the semifinals and a place in the final round. His competition was decided in what turned out to be one of the best side-by-side drag races of the weekend. Hall’s Nomad dragster took an advantage over Dusty Green off the line, but Green pulled even mid-track and held off Hall’s storming 252.99 with a 5.83 to Hall’s 5.85 (.009-second margin of victory).
In the final round, Murphy got a terrific start (.014 reaction), but raked the racing surface with a stream of tire smoke and could only watch Green streak by for the win at 5.83, 241.15.
The Fuel Altered field was cut-throat, to say the least. With four spots open for eight competitors, it took a 6.23 to race on Sunday. Tom Padilla led the quartet with a 6.10 at 227.19, followed by Jason Pettit (6.18), David Benjamin (6.21), and Randy Bradford (6.23). The non-qualifiers included Dan Hix (6.27), Johnny West (6.31), Shawn VanHorn (6.44), and Robert Winefsky (6.50).
In round one of eliminations, Padilla and Hix (replacing Benjamin) both had unremarkable reaction times and ran identical 6.04s with Padilla’s .166 light getting a win light. Nonetheless, a deserving Padilla won the event when finalist Pettit broke on the burnout. Padilla then ripped through the Idaho air with a 6.19 at 223.47 to put an exclamation mark on his victory.
Sportsman winners Sunday were Sean Page in Bracketeer, Brandon Umberger in Pro, Shannon Campbell in Heavy and Roy Barrera in Sled/Bike. King of the Track winners were Rayce Kidd (Bracketeer), Jesse DeBartolo (Pro), Shannon Campbell (Heavy), and David Wood (Sled/Bike).