NHRA - National Hot Rod Association


Lucas Oil NHRA Winternationals Sportsman Highlights

There were a dozen different Sportsman champions crowned during last week’s season-opening Lucas Oil NHRA Winternationals presented by ProtectTheHarvest.com, and most of them didn’t need directions to find the winner’s circle.
18 Feb 2020
Kevin McKenna, NHRA National Dragster Senior Editor
Aryan Rochon

There were a dozen different Sportsman champions crowned during last week’s season-opening Lucas Oil NHRA Winternationals presented by ProtectTheHarvest.com, and most of them didn’t need directions to find the winner’s circle. With the exception of first-time Top Alcohol Funny Car champ Aryan Rochon and Super Comp winner Parker Theobald, who bagged his first title following a final round against his brother, Travis, each of the other champions had previously earned multiple wins in national event competition. That list included heavy hitters like five-time world champion Justin Lamb and Doug Lambeck. 

Shawn Cowie scored career win No. 19 and his second straight in Pomona when he defeated Garrett Bateman in the Top Alcohol Dragster final, 5.35 to 5.43, in a battle of the class’ top two qualifiers. Cowie was particularly impressive in the semifinals, where he scored a 5.20 to 5.29 win against Duane Shields. [video]

Rochon made the trip to Pomona from his home in Florida pay off with his first victory. Using a consistent string of 5.5s, Rochon upset past world champs Jay Payne and Shane Westerfield to earn a bye into the Top Alcohol Funny Car final, where he faced Doug Gordon, the low qualifier. Gordon fell off his earlier 5.4-second pace, and that was all Rochon needed to cruise to his first victory. [video]

Lambeck has now won 14 national events, and half of them have come in Pomona. Lambeck stopped former Stock ace Tibor Kadar in Comp. Lambeck, in his D/SMA Pontiac, sacrificed .11-hundredths in index during his round-two win over Art Hodges but maintained enough of an advantage to stop low qualifier Kadar, who was down .14-hundredths in the final and fouled by three-thousandths. [video]

Lamb has been a consistent winner since his arrival on the NHRA scene in 2006, and he now has 26 wins in just 38 final rounds, making him one of the best “closers” in the business. A winner in six different classes, Lamb’s most recent win came in Super Stock, where he emerged from a stacked field that included eight former world champions. Lamb staged his Silver State Plumbing Cobalt against Tod Haste’s GT/LA Nova in the final. Lamb left little room at either end of the track with a .002 light and an 8.873 on his 8.85 dial. [video]

For many hardcore fans of NHRA class racing, the Stock eliminator final was worth the price of admission since it featured a heads-up AA/SA contest between Brian McClanahan’s ’69 Camaro and Robert Pond’s ’64 Thunderbolt. Following a pair of towering wheelstands, both cars ran deep into the nine-second zone, with McClanahan squeezing out a 9.721 to 9.795 victory. [video]

There were a number of great storylines to emerge from the 60th annual Pomona opener, but it was hard to top the Super Comp final that featured the Theobald brothers. Each seeking their first national event Wally, Parker, 19, the reigning Div. 7 champ, got the best of older brother Travis, 34, who turned on the red-light by eight-thousandths in the final. [video]

Val Torres Sr. now has seven national event Wallys, including two from Pomona after his latest victory in Super Gas. Torres trailed opponent Greg Ventura off the starting line by two hundredths but turned on the win light by running a 9.929 to Ventura’s 9.899 breakout. Torres, who last won the 2017 fall Las Vegas event, also scored wins against Damon Bustamante and Marko Perivolaris. [video]

More than a decade after his last national event win in Seattle in 2009, Gary Ericksen visited the winner’s circle again when he wheeled his Ford Probe to the Super Street title. Ericksen, who also won in Seattle in 2005, held off final-round opponent Kevin Houmard, 10.924 to a 10.891 breakout. Erickson hit the 10.90 bullseye twice during eliminations, including his semifinal bye run. [video]

Two years removed from a Top Dragster presented by Vortech Superchargers championship, Paul Nero is still going strong and earned his fourth career win in the class by stopping Chuck Phelps in the final round. Nero gained a sizable lead at the start with a .013 light and held on for the victory with a 6.981 on his 6.97 dial. Nero was remarkably consistent throughout eliminations, including a perfect 6.96 on his 6.96 dial in his quarterfinal win against Ed Olpin. [video]

Don Meziere made a triumphant return to Auto Club Raceway at Pomona, where he claimed his first national event title in Super Comp in 2014, and this time, he earned career win No. 4 in the Top Sportsman presented by Vortech Superchargers class. Paired with Richard Okerman, last year’s fifth-ranked Top Sportsman driver, Meziere drove his Chevy Cobalt to a 6.945 on his 6.92 dial to secure the win while Okerman was just two-thousandths of a second behind with a 7.042 against his 7.03 prediction. [video]