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ET DRAG RACING
NEWS & ANALYSIS
There are times when it is possible to just see how determined an individual can be. There is a look in their eye, which in essence equates to “Im doing this come hell or high water.”
That was the look that was present in the eyes of Mr. Jason Rupert on Sunday morning, May 7, just prior to round one of eliminations at the 47th Annual Napa Auto Parts Ignitor, being held at Firebird Raceway in Eagle, Idaho. This event also coincides with the second stop for funny cars on the NHRA Heritage Series.
Intermixed with that look of determination were tears of fear. Not fear of driving his nitro funny car, it was the fear of the unknown. He had learned late Saturday evening that his beloved father, Frank Rupert, was lying in a hospital bed in Southern California suffering from some serious health issues.
“My dad has fluid in one of his lungs, and they are not sure how this is going to turn out,” said Rupert. He also explained that the fact his mom was able to get his father to even go to the doctor, let alone be admitted to a hospital, was reason for concern.
If that issue alone were not enough to fill Rupert’s plate, ever since the beginning of the 2017 season, Rupert and crew chief Brad Littlefield were attempting a new engine combination. One that failed to met expectations and this furthermore added frustration to Rupert’s life.
Eleven funny cars made the trip to Idaho to try for the eight-car field. Weather was being schizophrenic to say the least, raining and cold one minute, then it was sunburn hot the next. One more unknown thrown at the racers was an upgraded starting line area that track management had installed over the winter.
That variable quickly was quantified as word started to filter through the pit area during Thursdays test and tune. Teams who were running in the higher horsepower classes of Comp Eliminator, Top Sportsman and Top Dragster were reporting that the new surface was pool table flat and smooth with great traction.
Therefore, when the funny cars came up for their one shot at testing, many still didn’t seem to have enough power dialed up and some shook and struggled somewhat, not having any data on the new track. However, Rupert got out of the car at the shut down and told the crew, “Man I can’t believe how smooth that track is now!”
Many of the funny car crew chiefs who had attended the March Meet were making comparisons to runs made there and their runs at Boise. It was evident that the new surface was as smooth if not smoother than Bakersfield. Which meant that there were real possibilities for something extra special this weekend.
Unfortunately, on Friday morning tragedy struck the drag racing community as Dan Barton from Post Falls, Idaho, was killed when the trailer door of his hauler fell and crushed him. Track safety team members were on scene immediately, and tried to render aid to Mr. Barton, however the injury was to severe.
That seemed to take the wind out of many people’s sails, however, racers are racers, and they continued to move forward, albeit with heavy hearts.
As the teams rolled into the staging lanes for Q1 the clouds that had broken up and allowing the sun to poke through, were back, dropping the ambient temperature. However, the track temp was almost perfect and Bobby Cottrell was the first out.
Cottrell is the replacement of “Hollywood” Kris Krabill at the wheel of O’Brien and Austin Bardahl new gen Camaro. Cottrell’s 5.81 at 230.80 showed the rest of the flopper contingent there was plenty of racetrack.
Krabill just recently announced that after the split with Austin, he and his sponsor Dayton Superior will be jumping into the Big Show Top Alcohol Dragster wars at the wheel of an A/Fuel car in the stable of Anthony Dicero Racing.
Next up was Chris Davis, and his Old School Nitro Plymouth Arrow. Davis, who works hard at keeping his car as nostalgic as possible, has been running very solid as of late, making it into a tough show at the March Meet in Bakersfield.
Davis made nice check-out run, clocking a 6.30/225.48. Unfortunately, this is where things went bad for Davis. There was an issue with mounting the parachutes to the racecar. When the chutes deployed they essentially just pulled right off the car, sending Davis off the end of the track at a high rate of speed. It looked like the Spokane, Washington, driver was going to be able to save the car, but his luck ran out and the car hit a hole in the field and tipped the car onto its side and then onto its roof. Safety crews were on Davis within seconds and were able to turn the car over, and Davis got out on his own accord with just some minor cuts to his right hand.
The Chris Davis car after the crash.
VOLUME XIX, NUMBER 5 - May 2017
Then came the real fireworks as Dan Horan and Ryan Hodgson pulled to the line. The cars left the starting line and to about half track the two were door handle to door handle. Then the Bob Papernick tune up flexed its muscles and Hodgson gapped Horan, who ran a very respectable 5.80/250.13, but was overshadowed by the Canadian’s stellar 5.66 at 259.51 mph.
One other pass that got people’s attention albeit for a brief moment was the run of Mike Peck at the wheel of Don Nelson’s California Hustler. Peck’s Q1 effort brought up a 5.51/237.92. Which got everybody looking around, but it was determined that his -.365 redlight actually tripped the beams with the rear tires! Crew Chief Ron Swearingen later stated that he figured that run would have been about a 5.79 for so. But for a second, there was a great deal of wonderment about what could be done on this surface.
Q2 saw further improvements as Hodgson continued to dominate the field as he picked up six hundredths, going 5.60/260.97 miles per hour. Peck showed that Swearingen’s cyphering was pretty darn close as Peck waited for the tree and ran a very solid 5.75/248.43. Horan picked up three and went 5.77/251.95 for third. Cameron Ferre, driving father-in-law Tim Boychuk’s Happy Hour Camaro, was on the bump at 6.16/189.34
Q3 was filled with anticipation. However, much of that was dissipated as Hodgson crew chief Bob Papernick made the decision to sit out Q3 and get ready for race day. Everybody who made attempts in the finals session stepped up except for Peck, who was bumped to third by Horan.
Using Dale Pulde’s tuneup, Horan moved in to second with a 5.72/251.16.
Cottrell stayed fourth with his 5.80/241.71 and Rupert was mired in fifth with a 5.87/246.62.
Bill Windham ended up sixth at 5.88/238.05. He and Rupert are driving cars with pedal clutches.
Goodguy’s CEO Marc Meadors slotted into 7th with a 5.91/238.80.
Improving and making it an all 5-second field, but still staying on the bump was Cameron Ferre at 5.93/239.40.
Those on the outside looking in were Wally Giavia at 5.99/245.23; Chris Davis; and Jon Rice in the Nitro Spud Corvette, 6.48/216.27.
Jon Rice’s Nitro Spud.
After Q3 it appeared to be routine servicing of the race cars except for Rupert. Both he and Littlefield had had just about enough of their experiment. The two decided to scrap the entire deal so they pulled the entire engine out of the car and went back to the block and cylinder head assemblies they knew the best, which had worked so well for them last year in winning the IHRA Championship for a third time, except using an NHRA-legal fuel pump, which flows slightly less fuel.
The team labored hard into the night and finished the assembly, fired the engine, and then returned to their hotel for a well-deserved night’s sleep. Except for Rupert, who was on the phone speaking with his mother about the condition of his father.
As noon on Sunday approached the sun was out and in and the spring wind was still howling intermittently. The first pair up was Horan and Meadors. Horan was first off with an .032 reaction time parlayed that into a 5.70/255.53 win over Meadors’ 5.87/241.67 effort.
Next up it was Rupert and Cottrell. Rupert had the look of a man determined and at the light it was Rupert out first .100 to Cottrell’s .174. Rupert drove the wheels off the red, white and blue Camaro and took a holeshot win, 5.75/252.33 to Cottrell’s vastly improved 5.69/244.03.
Cottrell was understandably hard on himself. “I let these guys down and I feel awful about it,” he said of his crew, “but they all said we win and lose as a team.”
Then it was time for Hockey Night in Canada, as Ryan Hodgson from Edmonton and Cameron Ferre from Orange County, California: Ironically, this was the NHL Playoff match up. The outcome was the same as the Oilers ran over the Ducks 7-1. At Boise Hodgson set a new track record going 5.56 at 254.52 mph to cover Ferre’s 8.42/97.49 effort. Hodgson’s 5.56 bettered the track record set by Mitch McDowell in a big show funny car years ago.
In the final pairing was activated giving Michael Peck the win at 5.98/236.42.
A determined Jason Rupert was on a mission this day.
Round two saw the matchup of brute power and absolute determination. As Hodgson and Rupert pulled to the starting line in this contest. Rupert had a look of “I will carry this car across the finish line if I have to.”
At the green, it was Rupert again out first at .071 followed by Hodgson’s .147, Rupert then stretched out his advantage taking the win in a minor upset 5.66/251.86 over Hodgson’s 5.69/249.44.
Horan and Peck lined up for the other semifinal. The two drivers had nearly identical reaction times .137 for Horan and .142 for Peck. But by two hundred feet it appeared as though Peck had a nose on Horan, but Horan’s Dale Pulde tune up moved back past to take the 5.67-259.26 win over Peck’s 5.72-255.43.
In between rounds before the finals, the two teams who were parked right next to one another had completely different level of activities going on. For Horan it was routine maintenance, no issues everything was neat and orderly.
However, it was another story in Rupert’s pits as the car came back with oil all over it and in the diaper. There were pieces of metal in the bottom of the oil pan, and a couple of journals on the crankshaft had some discoloration to them. Crew Chief Brad Littlefield, who also does the clutch maintenance, seemed to be having issues getting the clutch can out of the car. But for all the activity, nobody was panicking. The journals on the crank were cleaned up and a new rack of pistons and rods were installed into the motor along with a new clutch pack.
As the cars rolled up for the finals Rupert’s crew were still wiping oil off the underside of the body. Rupert still had that 1,000-meter stare of determination. Horan was a picture of calm.
At the light it was Rupert out first by over a tenth of a second, .075 to .184 and Rupert was going to leave nothing on the table as he ran 5.60/256.80 to cover Horan’s 5.76/247.52.
Back at the hauler, Rupert was changing out of his firesuit and said somewhat emotionally, “That was for my dad.”
COMPETITION: Brian Hyerstay, Eugene, Ore., ’09 dragster, G/D, 9.166, 139.78 def. Ryan Warter, Olalla, Wash., ’92 Camaro, H/A, 8.944, 151.27.
SUPER STOCK: Jody Lang, Puyallup, Wash., ’81 Malibu, GT/NA, 11.111, 113.14 def. Alan Falcone, Olympia, Wash., ’05 Cavalier, GT/EA, 9.520, 140.93.
STOCK: Scott Burton, Golden, Colo., ’70 Formula, B/SA, 10.732, 120.67 def. Jody Lang, Puyallup, Wash., ’81 Malibu, L/SA, 12.332, 105.54.
SPORTSMAN MOTORCYCLE/SLED: Jacob Wood, Eagle, Idaho, ’16 Arctic CAT, 8.816, 138.77 def. Dan Patridge, Kennewick, Wash., ’03 Suzuki, 8.183, 153.39.
TOP SPORTSMAN: Ken Ratzloff, Idaho Falls, Idaho, ’53 Studebaker, 7.147, 194.02 def. Don Sefton, Port Orchard, Wash., ’12 GXP, 7.275, 189.76.
TOP DRAGSTER: Dave Jackson, Poulsbo, Wash., ’14 Mullis, 7.401, 179.30 def. Jessica Juel, Spokane, Wash., ’06 Mullis, 7.318, 179.95.
SUPER COMP: Michael Dalrymple, Sunnyside, Wash., ’09 Mullis, 9.151, 170.51 def. Mike Shannon, Kelowna, B.C., ’15 American, 9.185, 160.92.
SUPER GAS: Chris Cannon, Bothell, Wash., ’63 Corvette, 12.000, 88.68 def. Steve Laskowske, Tigard, Ore., ’63 Corvette, foul.
BACK TO TOP
SUPER STREET: Larry Miner, Sedro-Wolley, Wash., ’69 Camaro, 11.070, 137.86 def. Matt Kielman, Vancouver, Wash., ’70 Nova, foul.
SUPER PRO: James Warden, Santa Ana, Calif., ’04 Worthy, 9.220, 144.81 def. Casey Compton, Boise, Idaho, ’04 Qkiss, foul.
PRO: Kristi Shawver, Meridian,Ida., ’68 Camaro, 11.107, 118.92 def. Chad Campbell, Eagle, Ida., ’88 Mustang, 10.152, 126.90.
HEAVY: Darrick Ellam, Ridgefield, Wash., ’76 Pinto, 16.704, 78.83 def. Rex Petersen, Boise, Ida., ’99 Vette, foul.