Canadian Gord Gingles picked up the first win of his Top Alcohol Dragster career and Chris Foster of Davenport earned his second win of the year in Top Alcohol Funny Car over the weekend at the Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series Summer Showdown at Cordova Dragway Park.
Gingles was the picture of consistency throughout eliminations, running nothing but 5.30s in the summer heat to outduel a top-flight field that included some of the best cars in the country. The Winnipeg, Manitoba, driver strapped a holeshot on returning veteran Dennis Drath in the final round with a .016 reaction time and sped to a consistent 5.37 at 267 mph for the victory. Drath, down a couple of car lengths by the half-track mark, shut off to a 6.05 after running between 5.40 and 5.42 all weekend.
Drath qualified in the top half with a 5.42 and took out many-time national-event champions Marty Thacker and Chase Copeland in the preliminary rounds of eliminations. With a 5.34, his best run of the weekend, Gingles qualified No. 2 behind Randy Meyer, who set the low elapsed time (ET) with the only run in the 5.20s. Gingles was six-hundredths of a second behind Meyer but seven-hundredths ahead of the rest of the field in qualifying and never ran less than a 5.39 or slower than 266 mph all night.
Gingles established top speed of the meet in a 5.39, 269.51 win over Matthew Cummings in the first round. In the semifinals, his 5.35 was too much for Norwalk regional winner Ken Perry, who led at half-track before slowing to a 5.57 at just 208 mph.
In Top Alcohol Funny Car, Foster qualified No. 2 in a field that featured five drivers in the 5.60s, including No. 1 qualifier and defending event champ Dale Brand, who ran low ET of all three qualifying sessions — 5.69, 5.63, and 5.61 — in his first appearance anywhere all season.
"I saw Dale's trailer at the other end of the pits on Friday and thought, 'Oh, boy, he's going to be trouble,’ ” Foster said. “That car always runs good."
Foster was solidly in the 5.60s all weekend and eventually qualified No. 2 with a 5.64.
"The car would get loose in high gear and fishtail, but it ran good every time," he said. "Everybody was. A lot of other cars were right there."
Especially Brand. The Iowa driver established low ET of the first two rounds of eliminations, with a 5.61 in the first round, matching his low qualifying time, to eliminate Wayne Butler, and a 5.62 in the semifinals against two-time Cordova winner Kirk Williams, who had an .011 light.
Foster was just a tick behind Brand, with a 5.66 in round one against Scott McVey and a 5.65 against rival Ray Drew's close 5.68 in the semifinals. What might have been a great final ended anticlimactically when Brand had to shut off after the burnout because of a fuel leak. Foster coasted to an 8.07 at 114 mph for his second regional victory of the year, including the Norwalk event in May.
"I heard over the radio that he had some kind of a problem, but the starter wasn't saying anything for a while," Foster said. "I sat back there waiting, and finally he walked over and held up one finger for a single."
With the victory, Foster passed Mickey Ferro, who won the Chicago and Columbus regionals, for the North Central Region lead.
"Cordova's not too far from home, and I had aunts and uncles and people who've never seen us race before with us in the winner's circle," he said. "I try not to pay too much attention to the points because whenever you look too far ahead it messes you up, but it looks like it's all going to come down to the last race of the year, in Bowling Green."
In the first final of the day, defending event champion David Billingsley of Decatur, Ill., made it two in a row by defeating Travis Gusso in Comp Eliminator. Billingsley ran 8.738 seconds at 151 mph along with a starting line advantage for the win.
The Super Stock final was a heads-up faceoff of Minnesota runners as Brett Speer of Little Falls got the early lead only to watch Jason DeForrest of Andover drive around him for the win in his 1987 Camaro at 138.94 mph.
Monte Green and J.R. Lobner grabbed the trophies in the division’s Jerry Haas Race Cars Top Sportsman and the Fineline/ Madcap Top Dragster Series, respectively. Green, from Haxtun, Colo., beat Rick Wilson of Independence, Mo., in his ’95 Probe, crossing the finsh line in just over seven seconds at 195 mph. Lobner, who won earlier this year in Great Bend, Kan., knocked out Phil Unruh. The two had near identical reaction times, with Lobner taking the win at the strip in 6.897 seconds, 193.77 mph.
Other racers visiting the winner’s circle this weekend were T.J. Diekema over Nick Siebert in Stock Eliminator; Matthew Kreft in a double breakout — both cars ran faster than their index times — with Chris Brown in Super Comp; multi-national event winner Tommy Phillips defeating Marc Erickson in Super Gas; Steve Domingues beating Ted Ash in Super Street; and Joe Klemme taking the win in Sportsman Motorcycle presented by Harley Davidson against Kurt Clark.
Cordova Dragway Park will host another major event — the 59th annual World Series of Drag Racing — on Aug. 24-26. Three-day event super pass is available for $60 ($15 for children ages 6-12).
West Central Division racers head to Heartland Park Topeka for the next NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series event, Aug. 24-25.