Up in Flames: 8 Tire-Shredding Drag Feats From the 2016 Funny Car Nationals
The pressure was on during the highly-anticipated 12th Annual Funny Car Nationals held at Martin, Michigan’s US 131 Motorsports Park. Low, dark clouds periodically whirled by as a threatening reminder: The heat is on, and one run could make or break a win. It all could come down to a fraction of a second. Each pass down the strip felt like a lightening strike, arm hair standing on-end and all, and an eager, powerful energy filled the atmosphere.
1. 'Parts Chaser' Nostalgic Racer Comes Back for More
Davin Reckow, owner, builder and fabricator of The Chassis Farm and Slingshot Dragsters, brought his nostalgic dragster nicknamed “Parts Chaser” out to play. And play he did, by laying down an old-school smoky burnout, followed by a rip-roaring run; but like any racer, he craved another round.
"Just one more," said Reckow, nervously glancing at the sky.
2. 1969 Camaro Face-Off
The weather affected everyone’s times, including three-time and reigning IHRA World Champion Jason Rupert, who has held the national IHRA quarter-mile record time of 5.522-seconds since last August. Rupert and his 1969 Camaro “Rolling Thunder" shook the stands while rumbling past John Hale’s 1969 Camaro “One Bad Texan” on Saturday morning. A time of 5.725 seconds at 252.53 mph made Rupert a repeated champion at US 131 Motorsports Park.
In an attempt to break Rupert’s time, Hale came back that evening to shred the track one last time, which brought the second-best number of the event, 5.843 seconds at 253.09 mph.
3. 1970 Dodge Challenger 'Violator' Gets Runner-Up
Michigan favorite Shawn Bowen played hard for the home team and earned a runner-up position with a best time of 5.888 seconds at 207.85 mph in “Violator,” his recognizable 1970 Dodge Challenger. There’s no doubt that Bowen will be back to battle for the record.
4. Jr. Dragsters American Race Cars Shootout
Jake Foster won a $1,200 gift certificate toward a purchase from ARC Chassis Works in Millbury, Ohio, in the Jr. Dragsters American Race Cars Shootout. It was a close race, but rival Evan Muchler was called on a breakout foul. A $500 gift certificate toward purchase of an engine from Blossom Racing Engines of Sand Lake will encourage Muchler to keep working towards his next best time.
5. Quick-Draw ET Challenge
The 2016 Top ET Champion, Scott Taylor, went head-to-head with previous Modified Champion Jeff Green for the big win: Engine Pro’s Engine Give-Away — made possible by Engine Pro, Pro-filer and Performance Engineering. It all came down to reflexes: Taylor’s near-perfect .002 reaction time beat-out Jeff Green's impressive .009. Taylor won a $17,000 racing engine, all because of .007 of a second.
Meanwhile, the new Top ET race winner, Bill Swain in his 2015 American Race Car Dragster, had an agile .003-second reaction that won his title by .008 of a second, which put the reigns on local driver Kennan Conner.
6. Blown-Alcohol Funny Car 'Susie Q'
Sue Christopherson was able to get one run in with “Susie Q,” her nostalgia blown-alcohol funny car, just an hour before thick, black clouds billowed over the stands. It was her first year running at US 131 Motorsports.
"This is a great location and well-maintained track," said Christopherson. "We look forward to coming back during better weather so I can put rubber down, full-force, for multiple runs.”
7. You’ve Never Seen a PT Cruiser Wheelstand Like This
As the sun made its way to the horizon, lightning lit up the distant skies. Right on queue, Nitro Mike’s wheel-standing, Nitro-burning PT Cruiser revved up the crowd. Mike received his certification as an NHRA licensed exhibition wheelstander driver in 2008, and in August 2012, he became a Guinness World Record holder, achieving the longest traveled wheelie by a car — a well-balanced half-mile.
This is one (and maybe the only) PT Cruiser that can blow your socks off. Specially designed for wheelstands, the car features a cutout in the floorboards to allow for a safe, proper view while he navigates down the track.
8. Motz's 'Original Jet Truck' Makes a Final Run
Soon after Mike’s spark-igniting PT Cruiser cleared the runway, the sky grew darker, the fast-moving clouds swirled even lower, and Bob Motz unleashed “The Original Jet Truck." It was like a scene from a horror movie: The jet engine’s power rocked the 7,000 pound truck each time it inched towards the tree. Flames from the stacks lit up the night, and right before Motz put the petal to the metal, the track crew made a run for their lives.
In an explosive cloud of bright white smoke and fire, the alive and angry 200 mile-an-hour 1998 Kenworth shook the earth’s core and jetted down the track with ease. They don’t call Motz the “King of Quake” for nothing, and it was an honorable feeling to know that I was there for what may have been his last run before retirement.
The low, dangerously dark storm clouds remained suspended overhead, too heavy to blow past, as if about to burst at the seams. The temperature dropped and the air pressure changed, but the drivers pressed on. Soon the risk wasn’t worth it: Just as the announcer disappointingly reported rain at the end of the track, there was an explosive downpour that sent everyone, except for a handful of hopeful drivers and supporters, running for their cars.
A Lasting Impression
It was a day of suspense, adrenaline and burning nostrils — the kind of day that leaves bits of rubber and tar in hair and clothing for weeks, and we are counting down the days for the Nostalgic Drag Racing League’s return to the Midwest's US 131 Motorsports Park.