By Brenden West Herald Assistant Sports Editor
The Clinton Herald
---- — CORDOVA, Ill. — Over the weekend, people in and around Cordova, Ill., may have felt a jarring rumble. This of course is what happens when two Top Fuel dragsters and other high-powered motor vehicles square off at the Cordova Dragway’s strip every year for the annual World Series of Drag Racing.
But another reason for this may have been caused by the roar diehard motorheads packing the stands. It turns out, drivers Melanie Troxel and Laura Johnson weren’t the only ones setting records over the weekend.
The official attendance total from the 60th Annual O’Reily Auto Parts World Series hasn’t been tallied, but public relations man Tazz Hines said Aug. 23 and 24 saw the most racing fans visit the strip in decades. Further evidence of this was a startling 400 cars piled up into the weekly amateur races hosted by Cordova.
“Saturday night was record setting, without a doubt,” Hines said. “We don’t have the totals for it, but for the first time in close to 20 years we sold out our parking. When all the numbers get in it’ll show this’ll probably have been the biggest World Series we’ve had.”
Cordova Dragway pulled out all the stops for its six-decade celebration. Organizers brought back racing legend “Big Daddy” Don Garlits, considered one of the greatest Top Fuel racers in history. Big names such as Troxel, Johnson and others added fuel to the top-of-the-line showcase.
It set the stage for a big weekend by Cruz Pedregon of Torrance, Calif., who won the 16-driver two-day DRO Funny Car competition be beating Justice, Ill., native Mike Minick by 0.42 seconds at 5.902. Minick’s car topped out at 240 miles per hour, second fastest for this year’s competition, but lost because Pedregon gunned it out of the gate in less than six-hundreths of a second.
That wasn’t even the fastest competition time clocked at the strip; that distinction went to Chicago’s Marc White and his qualifying time of 5.706.
The series offered plenty more in between the races, with legends taking part in exhibition matches. Hines said the strong turnout had as much to do with the races as it did with the nostalgia of being in Cordova.
“It’s the oldest race in the world,” Hines said, adding he’s met four generations of families still coming to the races. “Big Daddy Garlits was here. He made his name at this race. This was the race that got him out of Florida, and it was here where his legend was born.
“It’s just the history. The fact that it’s such an old race and everybody back in the day came to this race.”
After such a successful turnout, people in Cordova are already looking at next year’s offering.
“That’s the whole problem of putting out such a big show like (the World Series) is trying to top yourself,” Hines said. “I can guarantee you the 61st annual will be a great show.”