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The “Big Go” at Huntsville’s Bracket Racing U.S. Nationals

Touring pro bracketeer Ken Sullivan of West Carrollton, Ohio, took home the Pro Bracket winnings on Friday driving his and partner Bubba Womack’s digger.

Story and photos by Dale Wilson

High gas prices and the tragedy that Hurricane Katrina wreaked on parts of the deep South didn’t deter some 200-plus bracket racers from vying for big bucks at Huntsville (Alabama) Dragway over the Labor Day weekend. Even the weather cooperated --- deep blue skies, somewhat mild temperatures and slight winds lessened the pain that many felt for their Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama racing brethren.

Race promoter and bracket entrepreneur George Howard did his best to make things better for those who missed his 7th-annual U.S. Nationals of Bracket Racing because of the hurricane, dispatching several of his own trucks to Mississippi and Alabama to carry relief to those who needed it. “I know of several of my racers who are stranded and need help, so I’m trying to do what I can for them,” he said before the big three-day race began.

He sent two refrigerated trailers to fellow racing promoter and racer Tommy Castenado of Gulfport, Mississippi, who works for Gulf Power Corp., to be supplied with ice, food and water for Mississippi hurricane victims. Howard also sent two trailers to a friend and member of the Central Baptist Church in Crestview, Florida, which loaded up supplies for distribution to Mississippi and Louisiana, and he sent seven new generators plus gas and diesel fuel to friend Mike Whitlow of New Orleans. He donated $1,000 from the each of the race’s three-day run-for-the-money jackpots to the American Red Cross.

“I’ve got friends in New Orleans and Mississippi who have been good friends who are now in need,” Howard said. “My two daughters, Mashone and Brandy, were out this morning (Friday) to buy staples and toiletries, and they delivered it all to the Summit Shopping Center in Birmingham for distribution. On Monday, we’ll do the same.”

Now on to the racing, which posted $2,500-to-win for Pro on Friday, $5,000 for the Pro winner on Saturday, and $10,000-to-win on Sunday. Footbrakers, about 75 in number, went off for $2,000-to-win each day. Buy-backs were available for both classes after the first or second round all three days.

Friday’s Pro winner was semi-pro racer and perennial favorite Ken Sullivan of West Carrollton, Ohio, who took his “Sullivan and Womack” big-block dragster to Huntsville Dragway’s winner’s circle over another Southern bracket toughie, Tracey Guffey of Shelbyville, Tennessee, in his big-block-powered ’04 Worthy. Sullivan got there first by just a wheel, typical of the whole Labor Day weekend’s racing. “This thing (his dragster) has been mean all day,” Sullivan said. “But this also has been one of the best tracks I’ve been to as far as hooking up. Now I have some gas money to get home on.”

(A note here: Huntsville Dragway’s time slips have the numbers carried out to four digits --- George Howard recently changed over Huntsville’s timing system to Accutime, giving racers much more information about their runs than the previous system, and with far fewer glitches, too.)

In Friday’s Footbrake program, “Wonderkid” Adam Davis of Cullman, Alabama, won in his ’76 Nova, most recently owned by bracket, engine-building and racing reporter-great Luke Bogacki, over Jeremy Ellis of Phenix City, Alabama, in his ’69 Camaro. Both racers had good stories to tell. “I won in my car here last weekend,” Davis said. “Well, I had school this morning, so I only got one time shot,” countered Ellis. “Oh yeah?,” Davis said in a come-back, “Well, I quit my job yesterday just to come racing here. That was hard. This is easy.”


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