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The latest update as of February 25, 2023

Western Regional - Wild Horse Motorsports Park - Phoenix, AZ

Starting with a single test session on Thursday for the Top Alcohol racers, action began in earnest yesterday with the first two, of three qualifying sessions. The dragster field featured 10 cars, while Funny Car was a little lacking with just six entries. However, there were some seriously fast floppers in the field, headlined by the current World Champion, Doug Gordon in what is planned to be his final year of driving the very familiar "BETA Motorcycles Camaro. His daughter Maddi is scheduled to take over the wheel next season.

In the dragster ranks, three of the top eight cars in the country from 2022 were starting the current campaign quickly. Leading the charge was 2022's #4, Shawn Cowie who blasted out a 5.270 at an early shutoff 248.80 on Thursday, then followed it up with back-to-back 5.209 passes during yesterday's qualifying. The second pass also saw him nearly top 280 mph with a 279.73 speed for the current Top Speed of The Meet.

Last year's NHRA World Champion, Joey Severance, put down solid efforts, at 5.250 and 5.257, but with speeds down a little at 272 mph. Those numbers were good enough for the #3 spot on the ladder going into today's final qualifying session. Sandwiched between friendly rivals Cowie and Severance, was last year's #8 finisher in the championship chase, Madison Payne, in the Duane Shields-owned "Muscle Milk" A/Fuel Dragster. Her 5.213 - 271.90 in the first session on Friday left her just a few thousandths behind Cowie on the list.

On the Funny Car side, Doug Gordon let everyone know that he was ready to back up last year's championship, by hammering out a 5.503 - 265.69 on his Thursday test pass. He blasted into the 40's with an excellent 5.487 - 266.53 in the first qualifying session, then dropped an absolute bomb on the rest of the field with a 5.398 - 271.24 in the second session. Incidentally, that was a new track e.t. record for Top Alcohol Funny Car. That put the Gordon team nearly two tenths of a second ahead of #2 qualifier Ray Martin's solid, but trailing, 5.571 - 246.26 effort. An expected challenger for the top spot, Annie Whiteley, was having trouble as her best was a great half track effort in the first session that ended with a 5.784 - 188.31 clocking, good enough only for the #4 spot in the 6-car field.

The final qualifying session and first round of eliminations is scheduled for today, with the semifinal and final rounds of competition on tap for Sunday. We'll update this section with results as they come in from Wild Horse. Stay tuned for updates here.

One very interesting sidebar news from Wild Horse was the official competition debut of an EFI-equipped Top Alcohol Dragster. NHRA made a rules adjustment over the winter to allow such a combination to race and Bob Button from Gulfport, FL was the first racer to use the EFI option on his dragster. He did appear at a number of Division 7 - Western Region races last year in test mode before NHRA legalized the new combination. His test pass on Thursday went well, and yesterday's first qualifying run was solid until just past half track before it smoked an engine. Unsurprisingly, the team didn't appear for the second session and we wouldn't be surprised to see them done for the weekend.


The final qualifying session at Phoenix is in the books. The dragsters came out first, and after blowing it up yesterday, Bob Button managed to get the engine back together and made it into the lanes. The bump spot after Friday's two sessions was a 5.453 (Casey Grisel) and the first pair in this final session matched Button against fellow non-qualifier Mitch Myers. When the scoreboards lit up, with Button's lane showing a 5.394 - 262.08 and Myers' lane a 5.359 - 267.59, it rearranged the qualifying ladder significantly. Ron Anderson and Grisel were out, and Eric Chesleigh dropped from #6 to #8, setting the new bump spot at a 5.409 e.t.

The second pair of the round featured Grisel in the Darien & Grisel A/Fuel car, and he did what he had, bumping his way back into the show with a 5.373 - 263.41 to move past Chesleigh and Button to the #7 spot in the field. The run bumped out Chesleigh and put Button on the bubble with his 5.394 clocking. Unfortunately, Chesleigh's 5.44 in the other lane left him on the outside looking in. The last racer with a chance to get back onto the qualifying list, Ron Anderson was next in line and he bumped his way back into the field in a big way, blasting out a 5.285 - 273.72 to jump all the way from #10 to #4 and first round lane choice over Chris Demke. in the "Peen-Rite" machine. That bumped out Bob Button and left his EFI car as a non-qualifier in his first race. The final bump for the 8-car field was set at 5.373 (Grisel), with Button and Chesleigh on the non-qualifier side of the sheet.

The Funny Cars weren't facing any bump spot scenarios as the final session began, but lane choice(s) were at stake. In the first pair, Jake Guadagnolo climbed from #5 to #3 despite hurting the engine on the top end. His 5.577 - 250.41 was enough to put him in the top half of the field, pending the results from the other cars in the staging lanes. And it happened quickly as Annie Whiteley finally laid down a representative run from her usually hard-running car, a 5.544 - 263.26 to vault from #5 to the second spot on the list and first round lane choice. The final pair to run included Ray Martin, who tried hard to get back the #2 spot but just fell short with a solid, consistent, but not quite quick enough 5.565 - 259.41 to stay in the #3 slot on the qualifying list.


The first round of eliminations got underway with the #4 and #5 cars meeting, and in a bit of an upset, despite the lower qualifying position, Ron Anderson drove away from a tire shaking and driveline breaking Chris Demke with a 5.503 - 266.74 against Demke's coasting 7.603 - 115.29 effort. The second pairing resulted in a much closer race, especially if you ignore the reaction times. Joey Severance outran Johnny Ahten with a 5.349 - 269.46 over Ahten's 5.351 - 260.11. The reaction difference was four hundredths in Severance's favour, resulting in a one car length victory.

In the third pair of the round, Mitch Myers threw away whatever chance he had against Madison Payne with an oh-so-close -.002 redlight. It was all academic however as his 5.425 - 265.53 pass wasn't close to matching Payne's 5.259 - 272.94 winning numbers. Closing out the round were the #1 (Shawn Cowie) and #8 (Casey Grisel) racers, with Cowie winning, despite his "worst" run of the weekend, an otherwise great 5.231 - 277.60 to trainlength Grisel's second best 5.549 pass. That set up semifinal pairings of Cowie vs Anderson and Payne vs Severance.

Funny Car eliminations started with a close race between young Hunter Jones and Annie Whiteley. Jones left first by a few hundredths, but finished second by more than a few hundredths. The margin at the finish line was a little more than a car length, with Whiteley's 5.506 - 265.05 turning on the winlight over Jones' consistent 5.588 - 261.83 pass. The "Southwest Graphics" team had a great weekend despite the loss, with career best numbers for e.t. and mph that showed they were ready to be a competitive car in 2023.

With a bye to the final on the line in the next pairing, Mike Gordon simply ran way from Mike Doushgounian with another strong pass of 5.470 - 268.60 to easily outdistance Mikey D.'s pedalling 5.701 - 255.92 clocking. That moved Gordon directly to the final, assuming they would be able to start and stage the car in the second round. The first round closed with a pedal clutch vs torque converter battle, with the clutch of Alaskan Ray Martin coming out on top as Jake Guadagnolo ran into tire shake early and shut off to a mid 6-second clocking. Martin advanced with a consistent 5.632 - 259.76 that wasn't quick enough to secure lane choice over Whiteley in the semifinal.


With the sun setting and darkness descending, the semifinal round opened with the dragsters coming out of the lanes first. Leading off was Madison Payne facing the reigning world champion Joey Severance. Payne held lane choice by a 5.259 to 5.349 margin, but it didn't mean anything when the lights flashed. Severane left first by less than two hundredths, while Payne launched with the front wheels in the air. They kept getting higher and the car started moving out of the groove until she wisely lifted and coasted to a 7.299 - 123.05, while Severance motored away to another 5.20 pass, this time stopping the clocks with a 5.273 - 272.78 to move to tomorrow's final round.

The other semifinal dragster pairing was seriously anticlimatic, as Ron Anderson was unable to fire his injected nitro car, leaving Shawn Cowie with a bye run to the final. He didn't spare the horse(power)s as he pounded out another great 5.216 - 279.15 to take lane choice going into tomorrow's final round against what seems like his constant final round opponent, Joey Severance. The two best blown alcohol dragster racers in the world are going to yet another final round match against each other. Be sure to stay tuned to tomorrow's report to see the results.

The Funny Car semis opened with a bye run by Doug Gordon. All he had to do was start the car, idle up to the starting line, stage the car and shut if off to advance to the final round. However, the Gordon clan don't even know how to spell "idle", let alone do it, and Doug ripped off another great run, stopping the clocks at 5.425 - 269.94 to almost certainly earn lane choice for Sunday's final round. The one pairing of the round saw an upset as Ray Martin holeshotted his way to the final round with a very close win against Annie Whiteley. Martin cut a very close (.023) light to Whiteley's decent .089 reaction, and parlayed that .066 advantage into a .007 winning margin at the finish ine. His very consistent 5.569 - 259.11 just held off Whiteley's very close 5.510 - 265.53 charge. It wasn't quick enough to take lane choice from Gordon but it was enough to move into his first final round at a regional event in more than two years.

Nitro on The Bayou - No Problem Raceway - Belle Rose, LA

Participation among the alcohol ranks was a "little" less than at Phoneix, as only five dragsters appeared, and just three Funny Cars. It appears that most of the eastern racers decided to wait until next weekend's Eastern Regional at Gainesville to start their season. Despite the low number of competitors, there were some seriously quick and fast cars in attendance, ranging from championship contender Bob McCosh in his Funny Car, and Julie Nataas and Aaron Cooper in their A/Fuel Dragsters.

Leading the dragsters was Julie Nataas in the Randy Meyer Racing entry, with a second session 5.231 - 281.11 taking the top spot. Her speed was pretty impressive, but Wichita's Aaron Cooper carded the top speed (he's also the national record holder in the class at 286.62) with a 283.86 mph run, coupled with his #2 qualifying 5.251 e.t. times. With the odd-sized field, Nataas earned the first round bye, and if Cooper advances over rookie Prescott Dean in the first round, he will earn the semifinal bye.

Funny Car qualifying was drama-free with just three cars in the field, but all three laid down some good passes. Leading the way was Kyle Smith with a solid 5.506, with Bob McCosh sitting half a tenth back with a pair of 5.56 passes for the #2 spot. Well back in e.t. was the "Family Fued" car of Christine Foster, but her early shutoff 5.738 - 217.72 showed that there were competitive numbers lurking somewhere under the Camaro body.


The Funny Cars opened eliminations, with the Christine Foster versus Bob McCosh pairing running first. After a strong burnout, Foster had to be pushed back to the starting line, but had no problems getting it into a forward gear. Despite running a career best (?), at 5.558 - 264.22, Foster lost to McCosh's slightly slower 5.585 - 261.35 time due to a late leave. McCosh left first by a full tenth (.056 to .156) and held on for a win of more than car length. Earning the bye run into the final due to his low qualifying effort, Kyle Smith ran hard to half track before shutting off to a 6.249 - 162.48 and advancing to the final round, albeit without lane choice.


With the (very) short field of Funny Cars, the final round was run in mid-afternoon. Holding lane choice was Bob McCosh since Kyle Smith had shut off at half track on his semifinal bye run. When the tree came down, McCosh left first by two hundredths, but the converter equipped car of Smith made up that gap - and more - before the 60' timers. He lengthened his lead to eight hundredths by the 330' clocks, then opened it up to three car lengths at the finish line. Oddly, both cars clicked it a little early, with Smith's 5.513 - 258.92 winning decisively over McCosh's 5.658 - 258.32 times.

The dragsters followed, with Aaron Cooper taking it easy on his bye run, shutting off to 7.277 - 123.68 clocking to move into the final. In the only pairing of the round, two women faced off, with New Jersey's Jackie Fricke taking the win over Julie Nataas when the Randy Meyer car was forced to pedal early and fail to catch up with a 5.646 - 254.94 clocking. Fricke took the winlight with a solid 5.370 - 276.72 pass, good enough to hold lane choice over Cooper for the final round.


In the dragster final, Aaron Cooper finished off a great weekend with another solid pass, a 5.302 - 283.25 to take the event win over New Jersey's Jackie Fricke in the John Finke owned and tuned A/Fuel car. Fricke left first by 14 thousandths, but her 5.385 - 267.35 wasn't enough to stay close to Cooper. The gap at the finish line was more than a car length as Cooper took his first win at No Problem Raceway after his runnerup performance here last year.

We'll be back tomorrow with some updates on the Good Vibrations Motorsports March Meet, the World Series of Pro Mod, and the Eastern Region "Baby Gators" at Gainesville Raceway. They're all happening next weekend. And we'll have the final round results from the Wesern Region race at Phoenix. Stay tuned for those updates.