Both cars did their burnouts and pre-staged in front of the small but enthusiastic crowd. That is when the real drama started -- after both drivers pre-staged. Hale bumped his Camaro into the beams and his stage light went on. In the other lane, Romine moved in after turning on the Pre-stage but didn’t get the stage light. After what seemed like an hour the tree came down in the normal fashion to green which indicates that Romine had not "timed out" as he would not have got the win or an ET (with the stage beam in Romine’s lane still not lite) and Romine and Hale left together with Romine holding a very slight .0011 advantage.
The discipline and concentration shown by both driver in the final round was epic. They managed to pre-stage a nitro car then put them in the stage beam (Romine without the benefit of a working stage light)wait until the yellows came on not red light and leave together. I've never witnessed anything like it before in my career.
Romine held that advantage at every increment, but the race was very close until about 700 feet when Hale’s Camaro started spinning his tires hard and he had to lift. He coasted to a 7.96 ET while in the other lane Romine motored down track to the quickest ET of the meet, 5.8093/233.40, and the win, the money and the points lead for the 2017 DRO national championship.
Next stop for the series will be the DRO AA/FC Challenge presented by Hemi Parts King on July 14-15 at Cedar Falls, Iowa.
DRO National Championship Points after the San Antonio Event
1. Paul Romine, Indiana 108
2. John Hale, Texas 100
3. Ronny Young, Texas 89
4. Fred Farndon, Oklahoma 87
Eric Eoff’s Wild Weekend
You may not have heard of Eric Eoff or his dad before. They hadn’t raced the DRO AA/FC Challenge before the race at San Antonio. This family team represents the best traits and traditions of real drag racing. The father/son team builds their own chassis using a leveled cement garage floor and a couple of saw horses. The pair build every part they can on their own to save money so that they can race and what they build must be pretty good. The chassis in the car they brought to San Antonio was NHRA certified and the car passed tech without any issues (However, we did tell them not to bring it back without replacing the wet sump oiling system.)
They brought the car and spares to the track in an old horse trailer that the father told us they used to feed goats in until two years ago.
They pair are relatively inexperienced at Nitro Funny Car racing and that resulted in some major issues for them at the San Antonio event. The worst being breaking some connecting rods on the very first burnout they did at San Antonio. Eric told DRO’s Jeff Burk after that first burnout that he was DONE for the event. They had worked for several days to get ready for the race and breaking his motor was enough. He his dad and crew was going home and lick their wounds. Then something happened that restores one’s faith in the sport of nitro racing.
John Hale offers to help the Eoff team.
After saying he was done, Eric and his dad got an offer from a friend of theirs, NHRA Big Show Funny Car racer Terry Haddock. He offered the pair a complete new short block if they wanted to try and make the Saturday race program. They did. For the next 30 straight hours the Eofs aided by crew from the John Hale team worked to put all of their parts on the Haddock short block and get the car ready. But that is where reality raised its ugly head and the group just couldn’t get it finished in time for the first round of eliminations. They labored on and finished the job in time to run after the final round went off. Unfortunately, they again had issues and weren’t able to back up after the burnout and had to be shut off. A valiant effort with true camaraderie from all the racers.
What the Eoff family team and crew members from the John Hale team did represents why drag racing and drag racers remains the coolest in all of auto racing in my opinion.
The “Man O’ War” team working in the pits.
Qualifying was set with Hale first, Young second, Romine third based upon have the quickest eighth-mile time, Farndon fourth and Eric Eoff fifth. (See sidebar).
The weather Saturday was no better and no more teams showed up so Fairey and Burk opted for a two-round race with a pro ladder, 1 vs 4 and 2 vs 3, with the winners advancing to the final round at 9 p.m.
The first pair out saw the “Man O War” lining up against the “Blue Max”. At the flash of green Texan Ronny Young left first by .0938 of a second. Young drove his Dennis Piranio-tuned car to a 5.9553/242.46 timing but Romine was able to chase down the “Blue Max” and pass him in the “eyes” by just 12-thousandths of a second running a 5.8694/230.41 for the win.
In the other pairing Hale’s easy 6.20/180 covered a still struggling Fred Farndon to set up a classic final round between two former national champions.
Farndon and his “Play it Loud” Pontiac faced Young for third and fourth place money and points. Unfortunately, Farndon’s woes continued and Young eased down the track with a 7.0759/125 lap to get third place.
The final round between two former DRO national champions was a classic in many respects. These two drivers and team owners have raced each other many times over the previous seven years of the DRO series and both have won the National Championship twice. Whether they are lined-up against each other in qualifying or in the final round of a race both the drivers and teams put a lot of pressure on themselves to win. This final round where the winner would leave with the points lead had more than just the normal drama, it had serious drama and controversy.
After a couple of years of struggling to find a consistent tune-up “Blue Max” team owner Ronny Young hired veteran Texas Alky Funny Car racer/engineer/engine builder Dennis Piranio as crew chief. Young had Top Speed of the meet with a 242+ blast and went to the semi-finals without the engine carnage the team has sometimes experienced in past years.
Rain, or the threat of it, on raceday has been a common theme during the month of May for touring drag racing series. It was no different May 19-20 at San Antonio Raceway where the DRO AA/FC Challenge presented by Best of Texas barbeque sauce visited the Texas track. There they faced a 25-mph crosswind, rain and flooding in the area during the two-day race that was the opening event to determine the 2017 DRO nitro Funny Car series national championship.
The bad weather forecast combined with a long tow probably kept some teams at home but not former DRO national champs Paul Romine (2009-10) from Indianapolis and Texan John Hale (2011-12) from attending. Also on hand was Texan Ronny Young driving the “Blue Max” Mopar and Canadian Top Fuel racer Fred Farndon, who now lives in Oklahoma, driving the Pontiac-bodied car that Shawn Bowen drove to three DRO championships (2013-15).
Local San Antonio funny car racer Eric Eoff made his debut driving a 1978 ‘Vette that he and his dad built in their garage.
Despite all the adversity noted above, San Antonio track manager Bob Fairey and his crew did a great job of getting the track ready for the scheduled Friday night qualifying in front of 500 brave San Antonio nitro fans.
Due to the serious cross track wind on Friday, DRO series administrator, Jeff Burk, and track manager, Bob Fairey, decided to make the first qualifying lap on an eighth mile track for safety. Romine drove his Mike Cavalieri-tuned “Man O’ War” Mustang to a respectable 3.9865/191.82 clocking and Ronny Young in the Mopar-bodied “Blue Max” turned in a 3.9903/191.49 effort.
Fred Farndon had a starting line issue with his “new” Pontiac now named “Play It Loud”.
Eric Eoff in the “Shazam” Vette had massive failure and put parts of all eight connecting rods into his oil pan.
The second round of qualifying was conducted on the quarter-mile distance. There were no times in the fives. Hale had a 6.04 in his “One Bad Texan” and Young a 6.10. The Paul Romine driven “Man O’ War” had a small backfire when the rotor cap on the mag failed. Luckily it didn’t hurt the team's engine. Farndon, who had just half of his regular crew for this event, also had drivetrain issues and was unable to make a pass.
VOLUME XIX, NUMBER 5 - May 2017
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