race reports

Tucson Dragway Reunion

A Chilly Start in the Desert

Words by Brian Losness and Jim Baker

Photos by Jim Kelso and Brad Baker

Ryan Hodgson


Good Vibrations presented the United Nitro Funny Cars opening race of their 2019 season. They were paired with the Western Fuel Altereds and together they put on a stellar show. Friday night, April 12, was scheduled for one hit from the featured fuel-burning cars. They all made a pass in spite of very cold conditions, but not one was able to complete a full pass under power.


Seven UNFC cars traveled to Arizona: Bobby Cottrell in “Uncle” Bucky Austin’s Bardahl Camaro. The Canadian invasion was headed up by Tim Boychuk in his “Happy Hour” Camaro tuned by Twig Zeigler, flanked by Ryan Hodgson in the Bob Papernic-tuned Oceanus-backed “Pacemaker” Camaro. Former IHBA Top Fuel stand out Eddie Knox had his Billy Morris-driven “Problem Child” Camaro in attendance. Jeff Monice in the “Quarter Pounder” made the trek to Tucson along with Danny Gerber in the Jon Wurtz-tuned “Wasn’t Easy” Trans Am.

Rounding out the field was Tucson’s own Jim Broome-owned and -tuned Speed Sport Omni. This chassis used to have the Candies & Hughes tribute body on it, however as many of you know that met a dramatic demise at the March Meet, and Broome quickly purchased the Omni body that started life as Will Martin’s car a couple of years ago. Broome made a decision to pay tribute to Arizona drag racing legend Gary “Red” Greth, whose Speed Sport roadster at one time set a world’s record at 169 mph at the old Tucson Dragway. The funny car is painted the same bright orange and using the classic Speed Sport font. 


Jim Maroney normally drives this car, however he was competing in Top Fuel at the Houston NHRA national event, so Broome reached out to two-time March Meet and multiple IHRA Funny Car winner James Day to drive the Speed Sport car.

The most spectacular run on really wasn’t a run. When Tim Boychuk backed up from his burnout in Q1, the engine started to make whacky sounds as it got behind the starting line, then the engine simply blew up with a flash of fire, and parts laying on the ground. 


Performances picked up in Q2, as most teams were able to step up. Eddie Knox was able to tune Billy Morris to a 5.83/244 mph run to take the provisional pole. Bobby Cottrell slid into the number two spot with a 5.87/234 lap; and Ryan Hodgson took the third spot at 6.07.


Q3 was held about 3 p.m. local time, and the slight increase in temperature and some more rubber being applied to the surface was conducive to increase on track performances.


Going low was Ryan Hodgson, as the Hall of Fame tuner Bob Papernick twisted the right knobs, and turned the right adjusters to send his driver to a 5.77/240 run. Number two was Morris and his previous 5.83, third was Cottrell with a 5.84/244 lap in Q3. Rounding out the field was Day in the Speed Sport Omni.




Round one first pair featured James Day in the Speed Sport and Billy Morris in “Problem Child.” On paper this should be a walk over by Morris. But we don’t race these things on paper. At the green Day, who is arguably one of the best leavers in any nitro car, proved it with a .065 light to Morris’ .135 that gave Day a three-quarters of a car length lead at the Christmas tree. But the Eddie Knox tuneup gave Morris just too much steam and he was able to nip Day in the lights 5.93/241 to take care of Day’s 6.01/224.


Ryan Hodgson had the first-round bye and ran a 5.81 at 251 miles per hour.

This brought Bobby Cottrell and Danny Gerber to the starting line. Gerber knew he was in the deep rough and had to make something happen. The thought was there, just missed on the execution as he red-lighted giving Cottrell the win. Cottrell still ran a stout 5.85 second run at 244 mile per hour lap. 


The final pair in round one pitted Tim Boychuk and Jeff Monice. This was an interesting contest. Both cars left the starting line like they were tied together they stayed that way to the finish line; this is where it is weird. As the cars hit the finish line, visually and on video it is evident that Monice’s scoreboard came on first, and then Boychuk’s came on second along with the win light. Both cars ran 6.05, with Monice’s speed at 229, and Boychuk at 225. However, when the small math was done, it was Boychuk with the win by five thousandths of a second.


Round two was to pit both Canadian runners, Hodgson and Boychuk in the first pair, and Morris and Cottrell in the second. Hodgson would get the single as Boychuk could not make the call.


In the other semi it was Morris and Cottrell. At the green it was Cottrell looking like he was pulling Morris out of a mud hole as Cottrell daylighted the “Problem Child” and never looked back running 5.92 at 223 mph to cover Morris’ 6.61/155 effort.


This put the two Camaro’s in the final, and the last two Heritage Series Funny Car champs running for the win.


It was nearly 11 p.m. local time when the cars pulled into the water box. The air temp and track temp had fallen off, which would affect the outcome. But the two drivers did not disappoint what was left of the crowd since cold weather returned when the sun disappeared.


At the hit it was the California runner Cottrell who moved first, but then again it was Papernick’s tune up that ate up that advantage early and Hodgson took the win 5.84/242 to cover the shut off effort of Cottrell’s 6.38 at 172 mph.


Western Fuel Altereds

The companion featured Western Fuel Altereds did not disappoint either. With a full field of eight cars and several alternates, the action was tough all night.

Sheldon Lofgreen and Art Nolte were the favorites after having won twice at Tucson during the 2017 campaign. However, Gregg Holman in the “Carbon Copy” from Kingman, AZ, had other ideas. The 2017 WFA Champ laid a strong 6.73 ET on Lofgreen, who smoked the tires at the hit and shut off.


Action was halted halfway through the first round when Robert Winefsky driving the Coyote Express lost a motor at 700' and compromised the track. He was uninjured in the incident... but that is Fuel Altered racing.


The event was much larger than just the two great features as it offered Team Summit NHRA action for sportsman racers, a car show, and a nostalgic cacklefest for fan entertainment.

One of our favorites from the past, Larry Huff was represented by two fully restored FED’s.




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