race reports

The Ignitor at Boise, Idaho

Worth the Wait

Words and photos by Brian Losness

For years Don Hudson and his “California Hustler” team was that team you never took lightly. All the other teams knew the possibility of the Hustler running hard was always there. But for some reason or another the team could not reach the brass ring.


This year brought another driver change to the team. Canadian transplant Jeff Arend joined the team and brought with him experience of winning four times in the big show, and a quiet confidence, which is what crew chief Ronnie Swearingen always has. Not to say this is a match made in heaven, but it might be said that the two have a very good understanding of one another.


The two showed flashes of this at the March Meet in their first outing together. But an uncharacteristic tardy light by Arend gave Ryann Kohno a first-round gift. So, as the team made their way to Boise for the 48TH Annual NAPA Auto Parts Ignitor, the second stop of the Heritage Series, many did not have this team on their radar for winning the event.


That honor fell to Bucky Austin and Bobby Cottrell as they had taken the wins at the March Meet along with the NFCA Event in Tucson.  They were on a roll and had no intentions of stepping off the gas.

Tim Boychuk


After Q1 that domination seemed to be fully intact as Cottrell ran a 5.81/242.71. His final-round opponent in Tucson, Tim Boychuk, was second at 5.98/241.76. Arend was fourth at 6.15/178.83. Rounding out the eight-car field was Idaho’s own Jon Rice at 10.74/75,82




The afternoon brought warmer temps and still with heavy broken clouds.


This seems to be in Swearingen’s wheelhouse as Arend hammered out a stunning 5.68 at 255.78. The quiet, shy Mark “Mr. Explosive” Sanders slid into the number two slot at 5.77/226.58. Three-time DRO AA/FC Challenge champion Shawn Bowen was third at 5.78/250.18. Jon Rice still held down the bump spot, however he improved three seconds to 7.16/197.92.

Scott Stanger


Saturday evening in Q3 was the run that really got everybody’s attention and just made everybody in the stands, in the timing tower, and in pit area stand up and cheer. Scott Stanger from West Point, Utah, has one of the most period correct funny cars in all of nostalgia drag racing. No forty-inch nose, no aero-inspired rear spoilers, no tucked in fenders -- none of that. Stanger, to the delight of a great many, does things the old school way, and with a lot of hard work from his crew (and reportedly some phone call advice from Dale Pulde). The beautiful blue white and yellow Plymouth Cuda named “Bad Manners” pulled up into the right lane in Q3. At the hit the Cuda went straight and true and stopped the clocks with a 6.04 at 232.31 mph. The entire place erupted in applause. The best run by the team by nearly half a second.


To say that Stanger’s budget is small, would be an understatement. It could be said that his budget would not equate to some of the bigger team’s catering bill for the weekend. However, his team works hard and they have loyal and dedicated crew members. So, it was great to see the team’s joy and enthusiasm when the car made such an outstanding pass. That run moved Stanger into the number six slot for eliminations.




Sunday was a bit warmer, but the high heavy overcast gave way to a broken ceiling and some gusty winds.


Round one did not have any upsets. Stanger’s day came to an end unceremoniously as the parachutes shook out of their packs on the burnout. A bad break, but a great weekend for the team.

Can you guess that Jon Rice is from Idaho?


The most interesting aspect of round one is that all the quicker cars took the right lane and won, except for one, Ronnie Swearingen. Swearingen walked the left lane for quite a while as the track crew prepped the lanes. He pulled Arend into the left lane. He knew he had the Jon Rice but he did not overlook the team from Idaho.


“Yeah, we should win this, but I have been beat from the number one position by a slower car, so you don’t take anybody lightly. I just like the way this (left) lane looks,” Swearingen explained.


Arend was second off the starting line, but by 60 feet had run down Rice and set low ET of the round by six hundredths, a 5.72/247.66 to cover Rice’s 6.37/218.87.


Round Two


There was going to be no gimmies with this group as Arend and Cottrell face off, but first it would be Sanders and Bowen.

Shawn Bowen


However, this one would be over way before it started, as Sanders for some reason went -.323 red giving the win to Bowen his 5.89/206.46 to cover Sanders 6.55/152.78.


When asked back at the hauler why Dad was so early, crew chief Jake Sanders’ response was an understandably short “I have no idea. I just need to load the trailer so we can get out of here.”


The other match up in round two was the battle of the titans. Cottrell and Arend, Austin vs Swearingen. Arend was up on the wheel all weekend, and Swearingen had found his grove. Cottrell was on a winning streak and was confident. However, the Bardahl car was acting more like Dr. Jekyll, and Mr. Hyde this weekend, so it was going to interesting which car was going to show up to meet the “California Hustler”.

Bobby Cottrell


At the green it was Cottrell out first, but Mr. Hyde reared his ugly head and at 200 feet the bright green Camaro started to spin and shake, and not act happy. While in the other lane it was Arend setting low ET of the round and going two hundredths quicker than round one, 5.70/251.58 to Cottrell’s troubled 7.09/163.65.


The finals were set, and the teams were doing routine between round maintenance when a weather anomaly stopped the racing and actually gave the teams some more time. A brief but heavy rain shower blanketed just the racetrack and pit area. It rained for about 5 minutes with the sun shining. However, it did cool down the air temp and when the track dried it was time for finals.


As the call went out for the funny cars to pull to the lanes, there was a vital part of the “California Hustler” team missing. The owner, Don Nelson, had promised to take a close friend back to the airport to make a flight.


As the cars rolled into the staging lanes a white golf cart was tailing the team with the car. It was Nelson who had arrived just as they were pushing the car back.


As the teams got ready, it would be a first-time winner taking the Wally. “California Hustler” had made it to some finals, but Shawn Bowen, driving the Bartone and Lebor Camaro, had never reached the finals at a Heritage Series event.


At the green it was Arend out by three thou on Bowen, and it was close for the first 300 feet then Arend started to pull away as Bowen lost a cylinder then a connecting rod, and that was that.


Arend at the other end good naturedly told the crew when they went to pick him up, “See, that wasn’t that hard.” Two starts for Arend and a win. One of the most heart warming things was that Don Nelson didn’t know he had to meet the car in the winner’s circle. He was waiting for them at the trailer. But when he got to the winner’s circle, he got a hold of that Wally and would not let it go.


Arend said in a post-race interview, “I didn’t find out till yesterday (Saturday) that Don had never won a Heritage Series race before. All those years of trying … well I decided after hearing that, I was going to make it happen today.”


At the end of the evening Nelson was still hanging on to that Wally. Sometimes things are worth the wait.


In a personal note, this was one of the cleanest drag races I have ever attended. There were zero oil downs all weekend. The track surface was spectacular, as the Brothers New over the winter went out and purchased a tire rotator and new power broom in addition to obtaining a FOD BOSS sweeper mat. They also removed all the old wooden bleachers and replaced them with bleachers taken out of Daytona and Las Vegas. It was a shame more floppers didn’t make the trip to Idaho -- however there is August and the Nightfire Nationals.




Justin Cooper took home not one but two trophies as he pulled off the double in the NHRA Lucas Oil Series. Cooper, Medical Lake, WA, knocked out Mike Hiatt, Fallon, NV, in Super Comp running 9.159 seconds at 161.56 mph with Hiatt posting a 9.171/161.56. In Super Street, Cooper met up with Al Quigley out of Aldergrove, BC.


Cooper’s ’67 Chevelle covered the quarter mile in 11.140 seconds at 129.79 mph to Quigley’s 11.114/140.91 in his ’98 Mustang.


Jeff Lane and Norman Lapointe joined Cooper at the top of the Lucas Oil Series winners list. Lane, North Bend, WA, continued to rack up wins in Comp Eliminator as he held off Ralph Van Paepeghem in his ’10 Cobalt with a lap of 8.143 seconds, 159.70 mph to Paepeghem, Garden Valley, ID, at 7.414, 177.49 in his ’32 roadster.


Lapointe, out of Sherwood Park, Alberta, won in Super Stock over Idaho racer Joe Turner from Lewistown. Lapointe crossed the finish line at 9.883/132.33 with Turner at 10.856/119.00.

STOCK: Darrick Ellam, Ridgefeild, WA, '76 Pinto, W/SA, 16.737, 78.30 def. Mick Alley, Eagle, ID, '69 Camaro, A/SA, 10.626, 123.59.


SUPER GAS: John Dalrymple, Sunnyside, WA, '04 Corvette, 10.161, 160.18 def. Jason Heard, Battle Ground, WA, '86 Mustang, 10.152, 153.37.

TOP SPORTSMAN: Jake Neibauer, Billings, MT, '63 Corvette, 6.978, 191.84 def. Dan Lafferty, Wendell, ID, '69 Camaro, 7.081, 184.07.

TOP DRAGSTER: Craig Blaisdell (far lane), Anderson, CA, '18 Miller, 6.869, 155.78 def. Dave Jackson, Poulsbo, WA, '14 Mullis, foul.


SPORTSMAN MOTORCYCLE: Rick Newport, Bluffdale, UT, '95 Suzuki, 8.309, 149.73 def. David Wood, Eagle, ID, '16 Arctic CAT, 9.173, 132.91.


SUPER PRO: Juliet Barnhart, '00 Soran, 7.604, 173.85 def. Chris Jaggers, '02 Soran, 7.962, 166.11.


SUPER PRO CONSOLATION: Tanner Theobald, Saint George, UT, '14 Trick, 9.247, 161.11 def. James Warden, Santa Ana, CA, '04 Worthy, 9.311, 151.10.


PRO: Levi Burlile, Nampa, ID, '63 Falcon, 10.289, 127.70 def. Carl Youngstrom, Caldwell, ID, '70 Trans Am, foul.


HEAVY: Rex Petersen, '99 Corvette, 12.542, 111.15 def. Zak Pedraza, Boise, Idaho, '89 Chev S10, 12.395, 98.59.


SUPER COMP SHOOTOUT: Mike Shannon, Kelowna, BC, '15 American, 9.179, 164.93 def. Justin Cooper, Medical Lake, WA, '06 Undercover, 9.133, 168.85.


SUPER GAS SHOOTOUT: Steve Laskowske, Tigard, OR, '63 Corvette, 10.177, 161.98 def. Chris Cannon, Bothell, WA, '63 Corvette, broke.


SUPER STREET SHOOTOUT: Todd Sims, Puyallup, WA, '66 Nova, 11.163, 134.64 def. Christopher Northup, Boise, ID, '68 Camaro, 11.136, 132.75.



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