NHRA - National Hot Rod Association


Ten unforgettable Sportsman moments from the 2023 season

With thousands of racers and hundreds of events to choose from, it’s hard to pick just 10 favorites from the 2023 NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series, but once again, we’ve managed to sift through an entire year’s worth of data to pick 10 of our favorites.
27 Nov 2023
Kevin McKenna, NHRA National Dragster Senior Editor
Lauren Freer

With thousands of racers and hundreds of events to choose from, it’s hard to pick just 10 favorites from the 2023 NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series, but once again, we’ve managed to sift through an entire year’s worth of data to pick 10 of our favorites.


The annual Division 5 doubleheader in Topeka proved to be the worst of times and the best of times for Super Stock and Stock racer Jay Storey. During the first event, Storey suffered a pair of round-one losses with his matching COPO Camaro entries. Undeterred, Storey quickly regrouped and ran the table in the second event, winning in both classes. Storey won the Stock title by running right on his dial against Jared Swinehart and also earned the Wally in Super Stock with a double-breakout win against Ryan Montford. Doubles are not all that uncommon at Lucas Oil Series races, but winning 12 straight rounds in sweltering July heat takes a bit of extra effort, and Storey proved that he was up to the challenge.


Sherman Adcock Jr. has been racing long enough to know that points don’t become official until the final event of the season, so even after he won five of his first six starts in Super Gas, he knew better than to start writing a banquet speech. The Georgia-based Adcock topped 600 points by early June, long before many of his counterparts had even begun their season. Adcock eventually posted a robust score of 678 points, which is often more than enough to win the championship, but his third title was put on hold after Trevor Larson put together an impressive late-season drive to win by two points. Title or not, there aren’t many racers in any Sportsman category who wouldn’t happily take a season that includes five scored wins and a second-place finish.


“For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction,” so states Isaac Newton’s laws of motion, and in this case, the theory applies to Trevor Larson, who one-upped Sherman Adcock Jr. and his hot start with an equally hot finish that resulted in the 2023 Super Gas title. Larson didn’t start his season until the end of July, and by then, Adcock was nearly done earning points and had already put together a monster 678-point score. Three months and six final rounds later, Larson found himself in a position to win the title and completed the improbable comeback with a runner-up at the Division 7 event in Las Vegas followed by a round-three finish at the season-ending In-N-Out Burger NHRA Finals. There’s a couple of lessons to be had here as Adcock never believed the title was his, even after friends began to congratulate him, and Larson never gave up in his quest to catch-up, even with the odds clearly stacked against him.


The NHRA “Speed for All” campaign is not just some slick marketing slogan. It’s the very foundation of the world’s fastest motorsport, and perhaps no one better personified that in 2023 than Irvin Johns. A longtime Super Stock racer and one of the North Central Division’s most popular figures, Johns, at age 79, became NHRA’s oldest national event champion when he turned on the win light in the final of the Gerber Collision & Glass Route 66 Nationals presented by Peak Performance in Chicago. With the victory, Johns joined a distinguished group of drivers who have won national events in their 70s, including Marlin Snyder, Chuck Gallagher Sr., Mike Saye, and Ken Bowers. That list also includes Donnie Beeler, who at age 74 realized a lifelong dream when he drove to the Stock title at the Dodge Power Brokers NHRA U.S. Nationals, and he did it in a stick-shift car.


Lauren Freer made history in Norwalk when she won the Super Comp and Super Gas titles at the Summit Racing Equipment NHRA Nationals. Freer became the 30th driver to double up at an NHRA national event, but more significantly when she became the first woman to accomplish the difficult feat. Anyone who’s watched Freer during her career is well aware of her talent level, but doubles are among the most difficult feats in drag racing, which is why there have been so few. Freer tackled Super Comp first and notched her first win in seven years when she overcame Dave Dahlem’s .005 light to win, 8.91 to 8.94. A short time later, she returned in Super Gas and completed the perfect weekend with a very narrow win against Pat Martin, 9.911 to 9.916. Both drivers were tuned into the starting line with Freer holding a very slight .005 to .007 edge off at the start. The only other driver to double up at a national event this season was Anthony Bertozzi, who gets an honorable mention for winning two classes in Pomona.


The list of Sportsman drivers who have topped 700 points is fairly small, and every single one of them who has achieved that lofty goal has won a championship because if it. The most recent, and 17th member of the “700 Club,” is newly crowned Super Stock champion Wyatt Wagner, who entered some rarified air with a staggering 743-point score. Wagner drove his Camaro to 13 straight round-wins to finish the season and close out the championship. His final score has only been tied or bettered three times, and all of them by Hall of Famer Peter Biondo, who has scores of 792, 765, and 743 in winning three of his seven titles. Almost every Sportsman class featured at least one massive score as champions Kyle Rizzoli, Trevor Larson, and John Labbous Jr. finished with 699, 680, and 677, respectively.


All four members of the Cuadra family has at one time or another been a threat to win an NHRA national event title, and David managed to beat his father, Fernando Sr., and brothers Fernando Jr. and Cristian when he won the Right Trailers Top Sportsman class at the Betway NHRA Carolina Nationals in Charlotte. Cuadra made his Pro Stock debut in 2023 and performed well in limited appearances, but he also remained loyal to the Top Sportsman class. When he defeated Tyler Caheely in the Charlotte final, Cuadra made history as the first Mexican-born driver to win an NHRA national event title. He also just missed an additional bit of history as his ProCharger-equipped Mustang was dialed 6.17 in the final round. That’s’ the second-quickest dial in a final round, just behind the 6.16 of Larry Larson, who wheeled his street-legal S-10 to the win in Topeka in 2015.


Division 4 Comp racer Chase Williams accomplished a lot in 2023, and he was rewarded handsomely for it. First off, Williams drove his dragster to a win at the biggest event of the season, the Dodge Power Brokers U.S. Nationals. Williams also won the JEGS Allstars title, which was held in Dallas for the first time. Oh, and for an encore, he scored $100,000 as the winner of the Rooftec Division 4 Bonus Fund Championship. The nine-race series includes all Division 4 Lucas Oil divisional events as the national events in Indy and Dallas. Every race in the series produced no less than five-round races, and for the second year in a row, there were no two-time winners in a season. Rodger Brogdon, the series founder, finished second and won $25,000 for his effort. As for Williams, he also finished runner-up to Don Thomas during the $50,000 Rooftec Competition Eliminator Cash Clash, held in Indy.


Rusty Cook seems to enjoy the annual JEGS Allstars event because he continues to come back to the special event year after year. This season, Cook, who races out of the Southeast Division, won his third straight JEGS Allstars title and fourth overall when drove his Ohio Crankshaft Corvette past Steve Parsons of Division 7 in Super Gas. Cook rose to the occasion in the final with a .003 light and a 9.909 that was nearly unbeatable. As the defending champion, Cook is also eligible to return for next year’s JEGS Allstars race at the Texas Motorplex as a blocker, so he’ll have a shot at a fifth title.


Brad Burton finished No. 2 in the Super Stock standings and a very respectable No. 13 in Stock, so he naturally won a lot of rounds in 2023. Burton is generally solid in his driving, so he makes a lot of competitive runs, but his final-round performance at the NHRA Arizona Nationals stands out from the rest. Facing newly crowned world champ Kyle Rizzoli in the final round of Super Stock, Burton put together an unbeatable combination with a perfect .000 light and a 9.332 on his 9.33 dial. Burton pulled a similar trick on Jody Lang with .003-package in the semi’s of the recent NHRA Nevada Nationals in Las Vegas.

Burton had plenty of company when he came to perfect (and near-perfect) runs. Division 6 Stock racer Barry Sheasgreen put together a perfect run in the opening round of the Seattle event.