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Moving On Up: NHRA National Dragster highlights emerging sportsman stars

Get to know these names, especially if you happen to be a fan of NHRA Sportsman racing, because many of the drivers featured here are going to carry the sport well into the future.
19 Feb 2021
Kevin McKenna, NHRA National Dragster Senior Editor
From the pages of National Dragster
21 feature

Get to know these names, especially if you happen to be a fan of NHRA Sportsman racing, because many of the drivers featured here are going to carry the sport well into the future. The NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series is loaded with talented racers, and it’s not easy to identify those about to break through for their first national event wins or championships, but we’ve managed to come up with several emerging talents who appear well on their way to success. We polled a number of industry insiders and Sportsman racing aficionados from each of NHRA’s seven geographic divisions to get their input and generated an extensive and diverse list of drivers in every class from Comp to Super Street. In the first half of our two-part series, meet the first 21 of 42 talents who appear poised for breakthrough seasons in 2021.

Davy Markle
Hometown: Scottsville, N.Y.
Age: 34
Class: Super Comp/Super Street
Vehicle: Dragster/’67 Chevy II

Davy Markle went to two final rounds in Super Street last year and racked up an impressive score of 342 points, yet still finished fourth in the ultra-competitive Division 1 Super Street class. He had similar success in Super Comp, wheeling his dragster to several late-round finishes, which led to a No. 8 finish. Given his recent success, it doesn’t take a lot of imagination to think a division title or national event win (or both) might be in his future.

Christine Harris
Hometown: Littleton, Colo.
Age: 30
Class: Comp
Vehicle: H/A ’05 Grand Am

Little known fact: Just three women (Amy Faulk, Jacklyn Gebhardt, and Maryann Austin) have ever won a national event in Comp. That exclusive club could soon gain a new member if Christine Harris has her way. Racing alongside her father, Bill, and brother, Matt, Harris competed in just five divisional events last season but showed steady progress in each of them. She followed a semifinal finish at the Topeka doubleheader with her first final-round appearance at the season-ending event in Great Bend, Kan., which helped seal a fourth-place finish.

Peter D’Agnolo
Hometown: Rochester, N.Y.
Age: 34
Class: Comp/Super Stock
Vehicle: ’10 Cobalt/’67 Camaro

Pete D’Agnolo is not a newcomer, and he’s no stranger to success, yet there is every reason to think the best days of his career are ahead of him. D’Agnolo claimed his first national event title in 2014 when he won Super Stock at the Charlotte four-wide event. Since then, he’s landed a premium ride in Comp with Frank Affronti’s 104 Contractors team. Last year, D’Agnolo won both of the Division 1 races in Epping and just missed a Top 10 finish in the COVID-19-shortened season.  

Morgan Wilson
Hometown: Laurens, S.C.
Age: 21
Class: Stock
Vehicle: F/SA ’69 Nova

Like many of today’s rising young talents, Morgan Wilson got her start in the NHRA Jr. Drag Racing League, where she won a lot of races and a championship. In 2017, she crushed the competition in the 13-17-year-old age group, winning three of the first five events of the season. Now racing a Chevy Nova in Stock, she’s begun to find similar success, including a runner-up at last year’s Division 2 NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series event in Atlanta and a No. 5 finish in the division. She’s already got a big future planned, which includes an upcoming wedding to fellow racer Chad Taylor, son of Hall of Famer Jeff Taylor.

Ryan Mangus
Hometown: Rialto, Calif.
Age: 37
Class: Stock/Super Comp
Vehicle: E/SA ’70 Camaro/dragster

With a résumé that already includes seven NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series wins (including two doubles), a JEGS Allstars title, and five national event final rounds, Ryan Mangus hardly fits the description of an “up-and-comer,” but after a decade as one of the sport’s most versatile Sportsman drivers, he’s still searching for his first national event win and championship. Last year, Mangus drove to a double win in Stock and Super Comp in Tucson, Ariz., and finished second in both of those classes after the points were tallied at the end of the season.

Brooke Warren Foley
Hometown: Clinton, N.C.
Age: 30
Class: Top Dragster
Vehicle: M&M Dragster

Almost every member of Brooke Warren Foley’s immediate family has raced in Stock or Super Stock, including her grandfather, NHRA class racing legend Bobby Warren, and husband, current Stock driver Steve Foley. Given her apparent need for speed, Foley chooses to compete in the Top Dragster class, and so far, it’s been a successful ride. In 2020, she earned her second NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series title with a strong performance at Virginia Motorsports Park and finished second to world champion Anthony Bertozzi in the Southeast Division standings.

Tyler Bohannon
Hometown: Louisville, Ky.
Age: 23
Class: Super Stock
Vehicle: GT/IA ’05 Sunfire

Tyler Bohannon has already been to a pair of national event finals in both Super Stock and Super Comp, and he’s won numerous big-bracket races, including a $30,000 victory at the 2019 Million Dollar Drag Race, but what sets him apart from other successful racers is his vision for the future. At 23, he’s already become a successful race promoter with a big-dollar Comp/Super Stock/Stock event planned for this season. The ability to see the sport from both sides of the fence should only add to his already impressive résumé.

Paige Coughlin
Hometown: Delaware, Ohio
Age: 20
Class: Super Comp
Vehicle: JEGS.com dragster

The latest in a long line of successful Coughlin family racers who fly the familiar yellow and black JEGS Mail Order colors, Paige Coughlin has quickly adapted the family’s winning ways. Currently enrolled at Miami (Ohio) University, Coughlin’s schedule is somewhat limited, but she tends to make the most of her opportunities. In 2019, Coughlin finished second in the North Central Division standings and also earned a spot on the Division 3 JEGS Allstars team. She’s also been able to hold her own against the tough competition in the world of high-stakes E.T. bracket racing.

Zack Fisher
Hometown: Dayton, Ohio
Age: 21
Class: Top Dragster/Super Comp
Vehicle: Chromeworx dragster 

A member of the successful Fisher family team that operates Racing RVs, 21-year-old Zack Fisher took his lumps in the Top Dragster class last year but made up for it in Super Comp, where he nearly earned the Division 3 title. Fisher went to late rounds several times in divisional competition and finished the season 11 points in back of division champ Chris Sullivan. It’s not difficult to believe his first NHRA win is on the horizon.

Marko Perivolaris
Hometown: Petaluma, Calif.
Age: 26
Class: Super Comp/Super Gas

Well-versed in all disciplines, including bracket and Super-class racing, Marko Perivolaris almost didn’t make this list, primarily because he’s already established himself with four national event wins in Super Comp and Super Gas since 2015. Regardless, he can easily be considered one of the sport’s brightest young talents, especially after a successful 2020 season that included a win at the Las Vegas event in November. Assisted by his sister and crew chief, Lela, Perivolaris also won the final Division 7 NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series event in Las Vegas and missed a Top 10 finish by just seven points.

Hayden Trumble
Hometown: Pasadena, Texas
Age: 17
Class: Super Stock
Vehicle: GT/KA ’67 Camaro

Third-generation racer Hayden Trumble made his Super Stock debut last season at 16 with a NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series victory at the Division 4 event in Tulsa, Okla. Trumble’s encore performance came later in the season when he earned his first national event win at the AAA Texas NHRA FallNationals. Facing world champion Anthony Bertozzi in the final, Trumble won with a .003 light. He raced in two national events yet still managed a very respectable 22nd-place finish. Hard to imagine he won’t soon challenge for a spot in the Top 10.

Robbie Gear
Hometown: Lee Summit, Mo.
Age: 35
Class: Top Dragster
Vehicle: Mullis dragster

Robbie Gear was only able to attend five divisional events last season but made the most of them with a runner-up at the Division 5 season opener at Heartland Motorsports Park in Topeka and a handful of other late-round finishes. He finished the season as the second-ranked Top Dragster driver in Division 5. Gear already has a solid reputation as one of the Midwest’s best E.T. bracket racers but figures to be a championship contender for the Top Dragster title again in 2021.

Matt Cheney
Hometown: Blaine, Minn.
Age: 35
Class: Super Comp
Vehicle: dragster

In his rookie season racing in the Super Comp class, Matt Cheney took his lumps early on but ultimately came through with a runner-up finish when he ventured to the Texas Motorplex for the South Central Division NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series doubleheader. Only a red-light start prevented what may have been his first NHRA victory. That showing helped lock up a top-15 finish in Cheney’s home division and provides plenty of optimism going forward.

Alana Haas
Hometown: Novi, Mich.
Age: 27
Class: Super Comp/Super Gas
Vehicle: Haas & Carouthers dragster

Alana Haas’ father, Rock, has appeared in a half-dozen national event finals in his career, and it appears likely that she’s soon to follow. A registered post-partum nurse, Haas began racing in the NHRA Jr. Drag Racing League and later moved into Super Comp. More recently, she was licensed in Super Gas and plans to begin driving the Haas & Carouthers Corvette this season. Far from a hired driver, Haas works to maintain the team’s race cars and often drives their rig to and from events.

Chris Barton
Hometown: Spokane Valley, Wash.
Age: 43
Class: Super Comp
Vehicle: dragster

Racing just two seasons in the Super Comp category following success in Super Stock and E.T. racing, Chris Barton backed up his eighth-place finish in 2019 with a second-place showing last year. That impressive performance included a win at the season-opening Northwest Division race in Seattle followed by a solid outing at the Division 7 doubleheader in Sonoma a few weeks later. Barton closed out his Seattle win with a perfect .000 light in the semifinals followed by a .001 in the final against Randy Beck.

Matt Kielman
Hometown: Vancouver, Wash.
Age: 31
Class: Super Street
Vehicle: ’69 Nova

Truth be told, Matt Kielman should have been on everyone’s radar in 2019 when he won his first national event title at his home event in Seattle and added a divisional win. During the COVID-19-shortened 2020 season, Kielman only competed in the Seattle divisional event and also won that. Racing a street-legal Chevy Nova that is not equipped with a throttle stop or a delay box, Kielman is more than able to hold his own in Super Street or E.T. bracket events.

Parker DeVore
Hometown: Blanchard, Okla.
Age: 33
Class: Stock
Vehicle: I/SA ’80 Volare

While he didn’t win a national event or a championship, it would be hard to call Parker DeVore’s 2020 season anything other than a success. DeVore, who races alongside his wife, Brittany, who competes in Super Street, won a pair of NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series events in Indianapolis and Dallas, went to the final round of the Denso Spark Plugs NHRA U.S. Nationals, and finished the season as the No. 2 ranked driver behind long overdue champion Jody Lang. A veteran bracket racer who is just two years invested in Stock, one has to figure the best is yet to come.

Alison Prose
Hometown: Terre Haute, Ind.
Age: 22
Class: Super Comp/Super Street
Vehicle: dragster/’69 Camaro

Alison Prose got a Jr. Dragster for her 10th birthday and has been on the throttle in pursuit of drag racing glory ever since. A recent college graduate with dual majors in accounting and finance, Prose also pulls double-duty on the track with entries in Super Comp and Super Street. Last year, Prose managed to complete a full season in both classes, finishing No. 21 in Super Comp and a very respectable No. 6 in Super Street. Don’t be surprised to see a Super Stock, Stock, or possibly even a Top Dragster ride in her future.

Kevin Motter
Hometown: Anaheim, Calif.
Age: 22
Class: Super Comp
Vehicle: dragster

The list of racers who have made the successful jump from the NHRA Jr. Drag Racing League to “big cars” grows every year, and one of the latest to make that move is California’s Kevin Motter. Just 22, Motter bagged his first NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series victory this season at Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park near Phoenix and added a couple of late-round finishes in Sonoma and Las Vegas. The Pacific Division is overflowing with tough Super Comp racers, and Motter more than held his own with a sixth-place finish.

Todd Stallbaumer
Hometown: Seneca, Kan.
Age: 48
Class: Top Sportsman
Vehicle: ’90 Camaro

There are few things in drag racing more difficult than bracket racing a six-second Top Sportsman car, but Todd Stallbaumer seems to have gotten the hang of it. Stallbaumer went to back-to-back finals at the Division 5 event in Topeka in 2018-19, and last year, he put together a handful of strong finishes at divisional events that led to a fourth-place finish in the division. Stallbaumer didn’t attend a single national event in the COVID-19-shortened 2020 season, but had he been able to complete a full scorecard, it’s not difficult to imagine he might have been in contention for a spot in the Top 10.

Taylor Iacono
Hometown: Shamong, N.J.
Age: 22
Class: Super Street
Vehicle: ’99 Chevy S-10

Last year, Taylor Iacono did just about everything but win the Division 1 Super Street title. Born into a racing family that includes her aunt, Top Alcohol Dragster racer Jackie Fricke, Iacono won back-to-back divisionals in Epping and Richmond and led the standings for much of the year until Brian Sawyer completed a late-season rally. For good measure, Iacono also got to race in the JEGS Allstars event held in Indianapolis.