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The latest update as of November 7, 2010
"Las Vegas - Lucas Series Divsion Seven race"
11:00 AM UPDATE
Let's work from front to back today, and go immediately to the NHRA Division Seven Lucas Oil Series race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. It's the final event on the season-long 40 race Lucas series schedule and for a number of racers, particularly in the Top Alcohol categories, it's got some critical championship and top ten standings implications. The number of top ten racers in both the dragster and funny car categories are impressive for a divisional meet, with seven dragsters and six funny cars in attendance.
Top Alcohol Dragster
The fortunes of the racers here have been somewhat varied however, with the points leader in the dragster category failing to qualify in the ultra-tough 8-car field, slotting into the second alternate position with a very ordinary (for him) 5.447 - 254.14 mph best. The bump spot, by the way, was a very stout 5.408, and the last three cars in the field were all at 5.40 and change. Only one off the 16 entrants failed to put down at least a represntative pass during qualifying, that being the suddenly very troubled Gilmour Motorsports team from Calgary, Alberta, with young Ms. Ashley Bart at the wheel.
In five attempts over the past two weeks at Las Vegas, they've failed to get to the finish line with the engine anywhere near intact. On most passes they've hurt it early and often. This team really needs to take a long winter break and get things back in order before they use up all their money and parts and simply give up in frustration. Another Canadian team that's not ending the season on a real high note is the Vancouver-based Mundie's Towing team of Shawn and Ron Cowie, as they hurt an engine at the national event last weekend, then went out in the first round when they did a big wheelstand right off the starting line, landed hard and crossed the centerline for an automatic loss in the first round of eliminations.
This weekend saw them qualify near the bottom of the field, at a solid, but unspectacular 5.403 at 263.82 mph, but they also had one wasted run, in the final qualifying session yesterday that may have seen more engine damage. Their world championship aspirations evaporated suddenly with the first round loss last weekend, and now they're in tough to go deep into eliminations this week. With one more event left to claim Lucas points at Pomona next weekend, their best possible finish is in the #2 spot in Top Alcohol Dragster, but they'll have to hope that they can get past current second place runner, Chris Demke, in the semi-final round today (assuming they can get around Jim Whiteley in the first round) and hold him off at Pomona and win that event to retake the second spot in the standings.
Just to keep all this in perspective, here's the possible scenarios for the top four cars in Top Alcohol Dragster, as they're the only ones that can make a real up the charts or change places with each other over the next eight days. Current leader, Bill Reichert, is at 754 points and can't gain any more. All he can do is block other racers from gaining on him, and as previously reported on this page, he failed to do so this weekend. He will be at Pomona next week of course, and depending on how Demke and Whiteley do today (Cowie can't gain any further divisional event points) he may or may not have to fend off a challenge or two to his title hopes.
The #2 racer on the list, Chris Demke, can still gain points this weekend and next. His current total of 702 points could grow by 21 with a runnerup finish today, or 42 points with a win. Then at Pomona he could garner a further 11 points with a runnerup or 32 with the win in the final event of the season. His best possible points total would then be 776 with wins at both events, surpassing Reichert to claim the championship. A win for Demke and The Peen-Rite team today would take some of the championship pressure off, as they would only need to get the final round next week to take the title by ONE point.
Currently in the #3 spot, Shawn Cowie lost out on his hope to take the world title with his early loss last week, but still can gain 11 points, on his 691 current tally, with a runnerup next weekend, or 32 points with the Auto Club Finals win, for a maximum of 723 points for the season. Depending on how well, or not, Demke performs, Cowie could still overtake him for a second place in the Lucas Series National standings. A big step in that direction would be to take Demke out in the semifinals today, preventing Demke from gaining any points today, AND giving Bill Reichert the world (NHRA) championship for the fourth consecutive season. Pressure time, or what? Of course, all this speculation goes out the window if Cowie can't get past Jim Whiteley in the first round, and that alone will be one of the tallest tasks the Mundie's team has undertaken all season.
Speaking of Whiteley, the Grand Junction, CO veteran has nothing to gain, points-wise, today as he's already won six divisional events this season and has gained the maximum possible points from those victories. Like Reichert, he's only here as a blocker and to keep the tuneup fresh for the Pomona Fairgrounds next week. In stark contrast to his almost unblemished divisional record (he lost in the semis at one divisional race this year and won the rest), until last week's Las Vegas Nationals he hadn't visited a national event winners circle all year, or even appeared in a final round. Whiteley's possible points haul next weekend is 22 points with a runnerup finish or 43 points with a win, and depending on how Cowie and Demke fare, that could catapult him into second place, just 23 points shy of Reichert's final total.
So, it appears that there's a few key races at the Speedway today, in Top Alcohol Dragster, with the Demke vs. Nicholson and Cowie vs. Whiteley matches in the first round being very critical, then the semifinal battle between the winners of those two races being just as important to the season-long points battle being waged in Las Vegas. And the final round will again come into sharp focus if anyone, other than Demke or Whiteley, appears. Stay tuned for developments in a few hours time.
Top Alcohol Funny Car
The situation here is quite a bit more straight-forward, with Frank Manzo already winning the championship for about the 198th time in a row, but second place Mickey Ferro can add 21 points to his total today and end his points gathering season with a final tally of 787 points, just 21 behind Mr. Manzo. Close, but obviously no cigar. For Ferro to gain any points in this final Division 7 race, he would have to win the event, and he's in tough, starting from the #5 spot on the ladder and facing the very strong Jay Payne, without lane choice, in the first round. Still, he got to his current position on the national charts by winning a lot of races against a host of very good racers and cars.
Mr. Jay Payne can finish no worse than third in the final standings, and with an event win today and next week in Pomona, leapfrog over Ferro into the #2 spot on the world championship charts. That can only happen if he gets past Ferro in the first round today, and can hold him off next week too. Payne currently has 691 points, can gain 53 more today, and a maximum of 32 at the Auto Club Finals next week, for a grand total of 776 points, exactly ten more than Ferro already has. Again, the first round matchup with Ferro is ultra-critical, as if Ferro loses, that's the end of his points gathering for the 2010 season. Hang on for this one.
Further down the Top Ten funny car standings, the current #5 car of Tony Bartone and the #6 placed Sean O'Bannon, both qualified and oddly enough, meet in another very big first round race today. If Bartone wins the round, he virtually erases O'Bannon's chances to move up the list and puts Bartone into the #4 spot, ahead of the non-appearing Steve Harker. Assuming Bartone wins the first round, his maximum points haul today is 42 and next week is 43, for a final total of 691, possibly tying Jay Payne for the #3 spot on the final list. O'Bannon, by comparison could improve his current 585 points by 53 today, assuming he can get past Bartone in the first round, and 43 next week, for a total 681 points. Again, it's all dependent on the first round tilt between Bartone and O'Bannon.
At the bottom of the top ten, #9 Steve Gasparelli and #10 Clint Thompson are both here, and qualified, and meet in the first round also. Thompson starts from the top qualifying spot, while conversely, Gasparelli bumped into the show on the bubble but is less than a tenth shy of Thompson's best effort so far this weekend. It should be noted that this event's funny car qualifying was some of the toughest ever recorded, with Gasparelli anchoring the field at a very strong 5.698, and the first three alternates sitting at 5.702, 5.707 and 5.708. Incredible. Only one of the 15 cars in attendance failed to run 5.83 or better. Quite a show for the fans.
The outcome of the first round bout between Gasparelli and Thompson will move Thompson past Gasparelli if he can win, and Clint would overtake the #8 racer, Brian Hough, if he can make the final round today. With his current tally of 489 points and 53 more available today and a possible 54 on offer at Pomona next week, Thompson could end up with as many as 596 for his final total, a number could in theory put him past O'Bannon into the #6 slot for the season standings. While that scenario isn't too likely, it's quite possible for Thompson to move around Hough and finish the year in the #8 spot.
Gaparelli's last points earning opportunity is today and he has to go to the final round to gain anything, and if he could make the final, the 21 points he would gain would move him past Hough to that coveted #8 spot in the rankings. Of course, to do that he first must drive around the double tough Thompson car. If he does win today's event outright, then he would still only gain 42 points and be consigned to a finish no higher than eighth for the year. And all this should be playing out as I write this update. More updates to this page as the results come in from Las Vegas via our good friends at Drag Race Central.
2:00 PM UPDATE
The numbers from Vegas have just come in and at a glance it was quite a first round of eliminations. Leading off the round for the Top Alcohol Dragsters was Alan Bradshaw, in an injected car, and he merely ripped off low e.t. of the meet at a 5.31 - 265.64 mph to turn back a very strong 5.353 effort by Michael Manners in his A/Fuel car. Considering that the corrected altitude was just over 4200 feet, that's a pair of pretty stout numbers.
The big news, so far, is Shawn Cowie (in the next pairing) taking out Jim Whiteley, by a 5.397 (Shawn's best of the weekend, so far) to 5.601 verdict. Cowie left first, by an .029 to .039 margin, then legged it out to a four car length win, as Whiteley had to pedal the throttle early in the run and lost a lot of ground in the first half of the race. The net result of Cowie's victory means nothing, so far, as he can't gain any points at this event, and Whiteley couldn't gain any even if he won the race, but the next pair of cars (Demke and Nicholson) and the resulting semi-final matchups could have a bearing on the points chase.
As expected, Chris Demke got past Darren Nicholson with a runaway win, carding a very quick and fast 5.353 at 268.22 mph to easily cover Nicholson's all-over-the-track and shutoff 6.898 at just 133 mph. Demke's season is still alive and now he's got lane choice over Cowie in a HUGE, spelled with a capital H-U-G-E battle in the semifinal round. He's got to win that round or it's all over for his championship hopes. And lost in the shuffle is a new top speed of the meet turned by Chase Copeland, at 273.33 mph in another runaway victory over an up-in-smoke Joey Severance to close out the round.
The Funny Cars opened with Tony "The Noise from New York" Bartone taking out a red-lighting Sean O'Bannon with a crushing 5.613 at 257 mph (new low e.t. and top speed) to stay ahead of him in the points standings, and jump over the idle Steve Harker into the #4 spot in the national standings. Young O'Bannon's hopes to retake his position in the national pecking order is now down to slim and none... and you know the rest of that old joke. If Bartone wins the event today, then it's truly over for O'Bannon, but anything less than that by Bartone gives Sean a very faint ray of hope for next weekend.
The next serious competitive moment came in the next pairing, as the #1 qualifier, Clint Thompson, blew away an out-of-shape Steve Gasparelli, and Thompson punctuated his efforts with a timeslip that exactly matched his low qualifying 5.625 at 255.73 numbers. Great effort by the jovial Oregonian and even though it was only the first round, the resulting 11 point gain pushed Thompson in front of Gasparelli for the #9 spot in the standings, and put Brian Hough (#8) squarely in his sights if he can get past semifinal opponent Mickey Ferro.
And that pretty much lets the last bit of suspense out of the box, as Ferro closed out the round with a very close win over Jay "Thunderslug" Payne by a 5.678 to 5.689 margin. Factoring in the reaction times, the true win margin was a paltry twenty-fourr thousandths of a second, barely half a funny car length. As reported previously, nothing less than an event win today will do anything for Ferro's points totals, but first he's got to get past Clint "Bubba" Thompson in the semis to have a hope of making that happen.
Again, nearly lost in the shuffle was the Alexis de Joria vs. John Lombardo Jr. tilt, with Lombardo taking the winlight at a less than scintillating, and engine destroying, 6.98 to beat the blower-banging de Joria's 8.75 clocking. Lombardo moved close to the top ten, but still needs to reach the final round to jump over the already defeated Steve Gasparelli and bump them out of the elite group. All he has to do is get past low e.t. and top speed of the meet artist, Tony Bartone to make that happen. Where's Slim when you need him?
That's it for the first round, with more results expected in a little more than an hour. The four semifinal pairings are all significant for the championship standings, and none more so than the Demke vs. Cowie battle. Come back and see how it all plays out. It should be worth it.
3:00 PM UPDATE
While we're waiting for DRC to do their thing, I've failed to mention the fate of the other Canadian Top Alcohol Dragsters and Funny Cars in the show at Vegas. The other non-qualifying dragster was the Edmonton, Alberta A/Fueler of Don St. Arnaud, who laid down three fairly competitive runs, starting with a solid 5.471 at 263 mph on Friday evening. That slotted him into the #6 spot after the first session, but he was already down to the #9 spot and out of the field when he slowed slightly to a 5.52 - 261.47 in his second pass on Saturday morning. The final qualifying session, Saturday afternoon, saw St. Arnaud needing to pick up at least three hundredths of a second, and possibly as much as a tenth to have a hope of staying in the very tight field, but he fell short with another 5.52 effort at 261.78 mph. Close, but only good enough for the third alternate spot.
On the funny car side of the pits, usual qualifier Ken Webster from Red Deer, Alberta opened his weekend with a decent 5.79 pass at 250 mph - in nearly 5000 foot air - to slot into the #11 position after the first session. Saturday's first round saw the car improve to a 5.72 at 249 mph that temporarily moved him up one notch to #10, but by the end of the second stanza, he was back down in the #11 spot, but only three hundredths of a second shy of the bubble. The last qualifier saw a 5.74 at 250 mph come up on the scoreboards, and the team's weekend was done. Three good solid passes, but he was still a few hundredths shy of making it into the field at one of the toughest divisional alky flopper races every seen.
Our final Canadian contestant in the alcohol ranks, Ontario's Rob Atchison, with a new combination, experienced nothing but trouble from start to finish. In three attempts he failed to get the car down the track in representative fashion even once, and had nothing to show for his weekend other than a series of very shaky tire tracks in his wake on all three passes. Opening with an early shutoff 7.25 pass on Friday, where he nearly collected the guardwall, Rob improved to a 6.187 at just 184 mph when the blower popped at the 1000 ft. mark on his first run Saturday. His final effort was the worst of the bunch, an 8.30 at 112 mph that ended at the 1-2 shift when the car went into terminal tireshake. Maybe in Pomona, Rob. If that's on his agenda.
4:30 PM UPDATE
The semifinal rounds of Top Alcohol Dragster and Funny Car are now in the books and some of the possible situations have resolved themselves. In the first pair of the semis in dragster, Shawn Cowie left first on Chris Demke but was trailing the California car by the time they passed the 60 ft. clocks. To his and his team's credit, Cowie kept it close until the engine went sour at the 1000 ft. mark and he could only watch Demke sail away to an easy 5.330 at 269.03 mph victory over Cowie's slowing 5.605 at a hurting 210.90 mph. With the round win, Demke has virtually clinched second place in the national standings and can still overtake Bill Reichert for the championship. However, if he loses in the final round here in Las Vegas today, he has to win Pomona to take the title. Still lots of nail-biting to be done before it's over from all appearances.
The other semifinal for the long skinny cars was a pedalfest between two A/Fuel cars on the rapidly cooling track as they were both up in smoke at the hit. Alan Bradshaw recovered and posted an ugly 6.19 at nearly 265 mph to take the win over Chase Copeland and obviously cede lane choice to Demke in the final.
On the flopper side, Mickey Ferro continued his quest for back-to-back victories at Vegas - and he is on quite a roll, having won his last four races in succession - with a best of the weekend (for him) 5.60 to 5.70 win over Clint Thompson. With the loss, Thompson's points total stops at exactly 500, but he's still got a possible 54 to claim at next week's final event at Pomona. Ferro, on the other hand, is still sitting with 766 points and can only improve with a final round win here today. And just who might be that other finalist?
None other than Tony Bartone, who laid a real whupping on John Lombardo's fishtailing and shutting off mount, with a new low e.t. of the meet at 5.596 and a reasonably big speed of just under 257 mph. Bartone's got lane choice going into what should be quite a battle for the event title between two very powerful and evenly matched cars. Bartone is currently sitting #4 in the national points and could, with a win here today and next Sunday at the Pomona Fairgrounds, and another early exit next week for Jay Payne, ace him out, by ONE point, for the #3 spot in the final national standings. Even more drama!
Check back in another hour and we should have the final results from Las Vegas Motor Speedway and the effect those results have on the national points battles.
7:30 PM UPDATE
It ain't over until it's over, but it looks like it's finally over.... at least at The Strip in Las Vegas... for tonight. The final round results in Top Alcohol are in and the Top Alcohol Dragster championship is going right down to the wire at Pomona next weekend. Chris Demke did the deed in the final at Vegas, with another excellent 5.339 pass at almost 269 mph - his fourth straught low 30 lap, and third 5.33 in his last four runs. Awesome performance and the momentum is now with the Peen-Rite team as they head for Pomona and the final event of 2010 season.
Current points leader Bill Reichert failed to qualify this weekend and was unable to block Demke from closing the gap to just 10 points now. The situation facing the two contenders for the title is as follows: if Demke makes it to the final round, win or lose, he wins the championship by ONE point. Reichert can't do anything other than try to qualify on the same side of the ladder as Demke and take him out before the final, or hope that someone else can do the deed. It's going to be a very dramatic finish in just seven days at the Pomona Fairgrounds. Don't miss it!
Here's the points table for Top Alcohol Dragster as of right now, with the driver's current points totals, possible points to be gained at Pomona, and possible total after Pomona. Note that four of the cars are out of points and at this point, we're not sure exactly who is going to be attending the Auto Club Finals. We will update this page as the week progresses.
From left to right the columns are Position, Dirver, Type of Car, National Events Attended, Divisional Events Attended, Current Point Total, Possible Points To Be Gained, Possible Final Point Total
The funny car final at Las Vegas was no less drama-drenched than the dragster duel. After carding a low e.t. of the meet 5.596 in the semi-finals, Tony Bartone had to be feeling confident heading into the final round. But it was Bartone who faltered in the final, getting out of shape, smoking the tires and shutting off, while Mickey Ferro finished his points gathering season with a "raise you" new low e.t. of the meet, 5.595 - yes, one thousandth of a second quicker - to put an exclamation mark on a great ten day run in Vegas, winning the national and divisional events in succession and finishing the year just 21 points behind the king of alky funny car racing, Frank Manzo. Despite the loss, Bartone still has a mathematical chance to tie Jay Payne for third place in the final standings if he can win in Pomona next weekend. Similarly to the dragster standings, these points totals are up to date to the minute.
From left to right the columns are Position, Dirver, Type of Car, National Events Attended, Divisional Events Attended, Current Point Total, Possible Points To Be Gained, Possible Final Point Total
To see previous updates go to the What's Old page