VOLUME XXI, NUMBER 7 - JULY, 2019
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ET DRAG RACING
Funny Car chaos at Lufkin, Texas
Lewis & Gallegos Prevail at Pine Valley Chaos
Words by Chris Graves
Photos by Chris Graves, Russell Brown, Wes Ramsey
The fourth event of the 2019 Best of Texas BBQ Sauce Funny Car Chaos Championship tour presented by Red Line Shirt Club marked the debut of the series at Pine Valley Raceway in Lufkin, TX, on July 5-6. This event marked not only a memorable celebration of American freedom for the racing fans of East Texas, but also a celebration of grassroots American funny car racing! Eighteen cars were on hand to entertain the capacity crowd in this event presented by Dooley & Sons Hot Rod Shop.
Jeff Cameron pilots the Dooley & Sons car.
Ken Singleton came in atop the points standings with Jordan Ballew, Brandon Lewis and Clay Cunningham nipping at his heels as the inaugural Championship battle was heating up just as fast as the Texas summer temperatures.
Pine Valley Raceway opened its doors in 2004 and is the premier drag racing facility in east Texas located just under two hours northeast of Houston. For over a decade, the IHRA-sanctioned facility was used primarily for bracket racing and locals were buzzing in anticipation of the Funny Car Chaos event which many long-time track employees claim brought the biggest crowd ever through the gates. Spectators were parked clear to the elapsed time booth and tailgaters were set up past the quarter-mile markers, ready for heads up funny car racing under warm, humid, partly cloudy skies that would be capped off by between-round entertainment from the Dirty South Gassers, Ray Kelley’s “Game Xchange” jet dragster, index racing and a fireworks show on Saturday night.
The Dirty South Gassers did not disappoint, entertaining the crowd with some looks underneath the cars.
Over 100 racers were on the property by Friday afternoon and with the drivers’ meeting complete and the sun starting to set, it was finally time to fire up the floppers and let them battle for position in the Quick Sixteen.
After Friday’s sessions, Ken Singleton led the sheets with 3.84 at 197 mph blast in the “High Risk” alcohol burning Monte Carlo from Oklahoma. Nick Poloson wheeled the Gary Doak-owned “Bucket List” nitro burner to a 4.08 at 180 mph and most recent ‘A’ field winner Brandon Lewis’ 4.09 at 174 earned him the number three spot heading into the final qualifying session on Saturday afternoon. Nancy Matter and Ronny Young rounded out the top five in the Rodak’s Custom Coffee ‘A’ field while Jeff Cameron held the number one spot in the AlkyDigger ‘B’ field with a 4.63 at 150 mph.
All eyes were on number four in points, Clay Cunningham and the “Still Crazy” alcohol-burning Dodge Daytona from Dumas, TX, as battery issues plagued both his two qualifying attempts on Friday and he came into the final session with no time recorded. Finally, it appeared the gremlins were gone as Cunningham laid down a 4.53 at 124 mph to bump himself into the top qualifying spot of the AlkyDigger ‘B’ field.
Larry Bradford was the last car to run in the final qualifier in the “American Dream” from San Antonio and was outside looking in until his 4.69 at 154 mph moved him solidly into the program, bumping out Robert Slaughter’s “Smokey Bear” from Waco. A downer for Slaughter, but it was short lived, as Bradford returned to the pits to discover breakage that put an end to his weekend and Slaughter was inserted back into the field as first alternate.
Rodak's Custom Roasted Coffee & BBQ Grills 'A' Field:
1. Ken Singleton (Chickasha, OK) - 3.84 @ 197
2. Nick Poloson (San Antonio, TX) - 4.08 @ 180
3. Brandon Lewis (Tulsa, OK) - 4.09 @ 174
4. Nancy Matter (Lewisville, TX) - 4.11 @ 180
5. Ronny Young (Wylie, TX) - 4.15 @ 146
6. Keith Jackson (Lakewood, CO) 4.20 @ 174
7. Chuck Loftin (Seguin, TX) - 4.2882 @ 168
8. Kebin Kinsley (Arlington, TX) - 4.2886 @ 137
Alkydigger 'B' Field:
1. Clay Cunningham (Dumas, TX) - 4.52 @ 124
2. Jeff Cameron (Magnolia, TX) - 4.63 @ 150
3. Tod Barker (Marlow, OK) - 4.67 @ 129
4. Larry Bradford (San Antonio, TX) - 4.691 @ 149
5. Dave Gallegos (St. Mary's, KS) - 4.698 @ 154
6. Fred Farndon (Edmond, OK) - 4.72 @ 116
7. Jordan Ballew (Bartlesville, OK) - 4.80 @ 144
8. Eric Eoff (San Antonio, TX) - 5.10 @ 108
9. Robert Slaughter (Waco, TX) - 5.99 @ 84
10. Damon Kuhn (Houston, TX) - No Time
The ‘A’ field kicked off the first round of eliminations as Mo-Kan winner Nancy Matter came to the line in her Dale Pulde-tuned fuel flopper lined up against Ronny Young in the famed “Blue Max” guided by tuner Dennis Piranio. Matter blasted off the line with a .029 reaction time and used a 4.21 at 189 mph to take a massive holeshot win over Young’s 3.92 at 172 mph. Nick Poloson’s 4.04 at 185 mph defeated Amarillo ‘B’ field winner Chuck Loftin and most recent ‘A’ field winner Brandon Lewis clicked off a 4.08 at 184 mph to defeat Keith Jackson’s “High Heaven” Colorado based entry.
Ken Singleton and Kebin Kinsley were the final pair of first round ‘A’ field action as Singleton just made the call with just seconds to spare after a mad thrash back in the pits where cylinder head damage nearly forced them out of competition. “All clear on the top end, fire em’ up!” was the call from race director Bubba Corzine as the cars came to life. In the quickest and fastest side by side race of the event, Singleton used a .019 reaction time and 3.86 at 194 mph to nose out Kebin Kinsley’s 3.80 at 202 mph, low elapsed time and top speed of the meet. What a drag race!
AlkyDigger ‘B’ field first round came to life with Eric Eoff’s “Shazam!” nitro burning Corvette lined up with top qualifier Clay Cunningham. A -.007 reaction time ended the weekend for team “Still Crazy” who’s 4.19 was low elapsed time of the round, but it was Eoff advancing with a 4.62 at 159 mph. Dave Gallegos posted a 4.47 at 165 mph to defeat Slaughter.
Tod Barker’s “Back in Black” flamed alcohol Hemi-powered Corvette laid down a 4.33 at 169 mph to defeat Fred Farndon.
Jordan Ballew entered the round number two in points behind Singleton and had just watched him advance on a holeshot as Ballew’s famous dry hops were underway while his opponent Jeff Cameron prepared to stage. At the drop of amber, Cameron’s -.044 light ended his weekend while Ballew posted a winning 4.81 at 145 mph to move into the semi-finals.
A prompt between round service and it was back to the lanes for the semi-final participants as the first pair of ‘A’ field competitors pulled into the waterbox. In a re-match of the Amarillo semis, Brandon Lewis and Nick Poloson fired up in an all nitro affair. Tuner Guy Tipton guided Lewis back into the desired position after the burnout and team “Bucket List” made their final adjustments in the opposite side as the cars pulled into the stage position, nitro fumes pumping thick in the stagnant Lufkin air.
Brandon Lewis in “Attitude Adjuster.”
With nearly identical reaction times, it was all up to horsepower as the cars thundered down the track tricking header flames from the pipes. At the stripe, Lewis’ 4.02 at 173 mph took the win over Poloson’s 4.16 at 175 mph. This marked the fourth straight ‘A’ field semi-final finish for Poloson, while Lewis was headed to his second final round in a row and hoped to become this year’s first repeat winner.
A battle between Ken Singleton and Nancy Matter would determine Lewis’ opponent as this time Matter made the call to the lanes with just seconds to spare. Matter, winner at Mo-Kan Dragway back in April, was ready to put the “Guardian” Chris Kyle Foundation Firebird back in the money round but faced a tough customer Singleton who came into Lufkin with back to back runner up finishes.
At the flash of amber, Singleton (near lane) took a slight starting line advantage and never trailed as his 3.87 at 193 mph nosed out Matter’s solid 4.06 at 187 mph.
It was Lewis and Singleton final round bound in Lufkin, an ‘A’ field final round re-match of the previous event just a month ago in Amarillo.
Dave Gallegos and Eric Eoff’s flip top fuelers came to life as the ‘B’ field semi-finals got underway. Gallegos’ “Nitro Clown” from St. Mary’s, KS, was steadily improving in performance and a 4.40 at 168 mph put the all-black Camaro into the final over Eoff’s 4.91 at 152 mph. At the stripe, Gallegos’ car erupted in white smoke with clear engine damage at the top end. Could he make it back for the final round? Only time would tell, as Tod Barker and Jordan Ballew fired up in the final pair of the semis.
Yet again, Ballew had just seen Singleton advance and the points were precious heading into this one. Ballew showed his focus as he blasted off the line with a massive starting line advantage, but ran out of ponies as Barker’s 4.37 at 167 mph drove around Ballew’s 4.91 at 141 mph as Tod Barker and the Oklahoma based “Back in Black” team were headed to their first ever Chaos final round to take on Gallegos.
In an unexpected turn of events back in the pit area, Barker gave word to Chaos officials that he was unable to make the call with a broken oil pump, when all indications prior suggested Gallegos was the one in jeopardy with the massive smoke show at the top end on his previous run. With Barker out, the thrash was on in the “Nitro Clown” pits to replace pistons and make the car simply able to fire and take the tree, which would anticlimactically earn them their first Chaos event win.
Meanwhile, ‘A’ field finalists Lewis and Singleton were in a smooth between-round service as the heavyweights prepared for their final round re-match. With a majority of the overflow crowd still in the house, the call went out for all finalists to return to the lanes to put this one in the books.
Gallegos and company were able to piece together their engine and bring it to life with the simple task of staging and taking the green. Although it wasn’t a side by side wicked fight to the end, a win for team “Nitro Clown” was a deserving reward for the hard working crew and budget racer from Kansas. Congratulations to Dave Gallegos on a wild first career win in Funny Car Chaos!
The last race of the night saw two of the top performing cars on the property, two of the top four in points, two hungry teams ready for a trip to the winners circle. In a shocking turn of events, Singleton’s “High Risk” entry went dead silent after the burnout and just seconds later he came popping out of the escape hatch and climbed over the wall, clearly aware his day was done.
As Lewis was guided back in his burnout tracks, the team had already started their celebration as they knew this one was in the bag. Surely hopped up for the last dance, knowing Singleton had the performance advantage on paper with a string of 3.80 range passes, Lewis’ car launched hard off the line and near the 330-foot mark went up in smoke. It was no doubt tough to visually swallow for Singleton, but an added sting set in when the team realized their engine damage was quite severe as a connecting rod stuck out the side of the engine block. Not the way Singleton and company planned to end their day, but none the less, precious points earned in their fight for the inaugural Funny Car Chaos Championship.
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