Graeme Rufenacht earned the second NHRA RightTrailers Western Conference Finals Wally of his career to highlight the 2022 edition of the national-level event for racers in the NHRA Summit Racing Jr. Drag Racing League. Rufenacht outlasted the field in the 16-17 age group. He was joined in the winner’s circle at Bandimere Speedway by first-time champs Oakley White (6-9), Aiden Rizner (10), Blaine Denunzio (11), Kane Kern (12), Justice Brown (13), Parker Stewart (14), Jamie Johnson (15), and Ayden Pires (Jr. Comp). Houston Raceway Park Team 1 claimed the team championship.
Tecumseh, Okla., racer White outlasted Erie, Colo., driver Eli Johnson to claim top honors in the 6-9 age group. In the final, Johnson had the slight advantage at the starting line, but White was able to drive around him and win on a 12.651 (12.60 dial) to 14.760 (14.48) count.
Rizner, from Longmont, Colo., got a reaction-time advantage of more than six-hundredths in the 10-year-old bracket final, and he turned it into a 9.026 (8.92) to 9.703 (9.55) win against Lehi, Utah’s Bentley Clement.
Denunzio made the long haul from Corona, Calif., pay off when he outlasted Sedgwick, Kan., competitor Karson Roberts in a great title round match in the 11-year-old category. Roberts had the slight lead off the starting line, .010 to .016, but Denunzio outmaneuvered him downtrack, getting the win with an 8.954 (8.92) vs. the 8.998 (8.91) of Roberts.
Kern, a runner-up at the 2020 Western Conference Finals, was able to go the distance this year, wheeling his Pierre Part, La.-based dragster past Jackson Melchert, of Owatonna, Minn., in the 12-year-old age-group final, a heads-up match in which both drivers dialed 8.90 seconds. Kern left the starting line first, and he turned the advantage into an 8.961 to 8.968 victory.
A reaction-time advantage of nearly one-tenth helped lift Yermo, Calif., driver Brown to victory in the 13-year-old class. Casper, Wyo.’s Kody Havens ran right on his 8.02 dial, but it wasn’t enough to make up the difference Brown got at the start. He clocked a 7.967 (7.93) to turn on the win light.
Herriman Utah’s Stewart put together a .007-second package to turn on the win light in the 14-year-old class final. After cutting a .005 light, Stewart ran a 7.902 (7.90) to defeat Sugarland, Texas’ Mario Gonzalez, who didn’t go down without a fight, pairing a .003 reaction with a .001-under 7.969.
Johnson, who hails from Palisade, Colo., nabbed the 15-year-old class Wally when he bested Pearland, Texas, driver Camron Nelson in the title round. Both drivers broke out with Johnson’s 8.675 (8.70) getting the win against Nelson’s 7.889 (7.93).
Rufenacht added this year’s 16-17 age-group Wally to the one he earned in the 12-year-old bracket in 2017, defeating Lakewood, Colo.’s Andrew Hushman in the final. Rufenacht got off the starting line first and never looked back, defeating Hushman, 8.082 (8.00) to 7.970 (7.98).
In Jr. Comp, it was a battle of California racers vying for top honors. When the dust settled, Madera’s Pires got the better of Bakersfield’s Ethan Williams. Pires and Williams left the starting line within .002-second of one another and stayed glued together all the way downtrack with Pires’ 7.114 (7.10) turning on the win light against Williams’ 7.161 (7.10).
Bolstered by Rufenacht’s win in the 16-17 age group, Houston Raceway Park Team 1 claimed the team championship. This is the third team title for the Texas track, which tallied 20 points to claim the top spot. Thunder Valley Raceway Team 1 finished second with 17, followed by Houston Raceway Park Team 2 and Western Colorado Dragway Team 1, who each earned 14 points. Famoso Dragstrip’s Team 1 and Team 3 each tallied 13 points to round out the top five.
Oakley White, Tecumseh, Okla., 0.289, 12.651 (12.60 dial) def.
Eli Johnson, Westminster, Colo., 0.275, 14.760 (14.48)
Aiden Rizner, Firestone, Colo., 0.023, 9.026 (8.92) def.
Bentley Clement, Lehi, Utah, 0.089, 9.703 (9.55)
Blaine Denunzio, Corona, Calif., 0.016, 8.954 (8.92) def.
Karson Roberts, Sedgwick, Kan., 0.010, 8.998 (8.91)
Kane Kern, Pierre Part, La., 0.092, 8.961 (8.90) def.
Jackson Melchert, Owatonna, Minn., 0.109, 8.968 (8.90)
Justice Brown, Yermo, Calif., 0.022, 7.967 (7.93) def.
Kody Havens, Casper, Wyo., 0.109, 8.028 (8.02)
Parker Stewart, Herriman, Utah, 0.005, 7.902 (7.90) def.
Mario Gonzalez, Sugarland, Texas, 0.003, 7.969 (7.97)
Jamie Johnson, Palisade, Colo., 0.027, 8.675 (8.70) def.
Camron Nelson, Pearland, Texas, 0.058, 7.889 (7.93)
Graeme Rufenacht, Round Rock, Texas, 0.079, 8.082 (8.00) def.
Andrew Hushman, Lakewood, Colo., 0.167, 7.970 (7.98)
Jr. Comp (7.10 Index)
Ayden Pires, Madera, Calif., 0.011, 7.114 def.
Ethan Williams, Bakersfield, Calif., 0.009, 7.161