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The latest update as of May 11, 2023

5th annual West Texas Chaos Nationals

The second event on the Funny Car Chaos 2023 calendar went off without any trouble as 26 cars put on quite a show for the West Texas fans at Penwell-Knights Raceway in Odessa. Some familiar winners took home trophies, taking wins over a few surprising contenders. After a six week gap in the schedule due to the postponement of the State Capitol Raceway event (Baton Rouge, LA), the FCC season will be heating up over the next few months, with their next race in just three weeks at Eddyville Raceway Park with the inaugaral "Chaos in the Cornfield" doubleheader. That will feature not only the Funny Car Chaos regulars, but the Nitro Chaos contingent as they continue with their first four race championship season. It's guaranteed to be an event that you won't want to miss. And we'll be bringing coverage of the race courtesy of our stalwart photographer, "Big" Bob Snyder.

"A" Field - First Round

Keith Jackson - 'High Heaven' --- Lyle Greenberg - 'Cone Hunter'

(LEFT) Eliminations started with the "High Heaven" Camaro of Keith Jackson facing off against the "Cone Hunter" Corvette of New Mexico's Lyle Greenberg. After a rough time in qualifying, Jackson was able to muscle his way into the "A" field in the final session. He followed up that 3-second effort with a very good 3.963 - 168.22 pass here, but fell to a holeshot by Greenberg.

(RIGHT) Starting from the #6 spot in the field with a best of 4.010 - 188.68 in qualifying, Greenberg was able to push the "Cone Hunter" into the 3's with a great 3.982 - 189.47 to take the win over Jackson. Lyle left first by a .116 to .135 margin, and hung on for the win by a true win margin of just eight thousandths of a second. That had to be one of the closest races in Funny Car Chaos history.

Steve Griboski - 'Mile-High Express' --- Shayne Lawson - 'Man O' War II'

(LEFT) The unique early Mustang bodied "Mile-High Express" of Colorado's Steve Griboski held down the #8 position in the "A" field and earned a first round match with low qualifier Keith Zimmerer (not shown). Griboski gave it a good effort with a 4.023 - 189.31 but fell short of catching the quick leaving (.009 r.t.) Zimmerer. The margin on the scoreboards was just five hundredths, but the reaction times made the difference several car lengths at the finish line.

(RIGHT) The final pairing of the round featured Jeff Cameron (not shown), against Shayne Lawson in the gorgeous "Man O' War II". Lawson had lane choice by virtue of his #4 qualfiying 3.937 pass, but fell back a bit to a 4.002 - 190.60 to lose against Cameron's superior 3.847 - 199.56 (top speed of the meet) winning time. That set up semifinal pairings of Cameron against Zimmerer and Williams versus Greenberg, with Cameron and Williams holding lane choice.

"B" Field - First Round

Dustin Bradford - 'American Dream' --- David Stringer - 'Prairie Fire'

(LEFT) Leading off in the 3.92 indexed "B" field was Dustin Bradford in the very familiar "American Dream" Dodge Challenger, against Bob Alberty Jr. (not shown). Both drivers left with good reaction times (.043 to .047 in Bradford's favour), but Bradford opened up a lead quickly and held it all the way with his best run of the weekend, a 4.095 - 174.28 for the win.

(RIGHT) Making his competition debut in the Reinart's "Prairie Fire" entry, second generation racer David Stringer was a little too anxious and redlighted away a 4.491 - 155.33 effort. He pushed the tree too hard with a -.046 reaction against the top qualifier in the "B" field, "Nitro" NIck Poloson (not shown), who made his best run of the event at 4.061 - 190.27 for the automatic win.

Ray Stringer - 'Blown Cent-less' --- Don Knoblauch - 'Atomic Punk'

(LEFT) The father of David, Ray Stringer continued his hot streak in the "Blown Cent-less" Oldsmobile, taking the next winlight with a solid 4.253 - 180.51 pass. Following his "C" field victory at the season opener, that made four straight win lights for the New Mexico team.

(RIGHT) On the losing end of the pairing with Stringer was Washington state's Don Knoblauch with his Camaro-bodied "Atomic Punk". Knoblauch left first with a .025 reaction time advantage, but his good 4.299 - 172.94 wasn't quite enough to hold off Stringer's better run. The gap at the finish line was less than half a car length as the fan's were seeing some very good, close racing.

Tom Furches - 'Made in America'

Closing the round was the patriotically hued "Made In America" Corvette of Tom Furches. His opponent, Clay Cunningham isn't shown as the "Still Crazy" team was broken and unable to appear. Furches didn't take it easy though as he laid down a solid 4.148 - 173.75 on the competition bye. The win earned him a semi-final pairing with Stringer, while Bradford would face Poloson in the other matchup.

"C" Field - First Round

Michael Neal - 'Burnin' Love' --- Jordan Ballew - 'Ballew Thunder'

(LEFT) Running on a 4.32 index, the "C" field eliminations started with Michael Neal in his Nova-bodied "Burnin' Love" against Randy Mueller (not shown). Neal left first by quite a margin, with a .038 reaction time against Mueller's much later .169 launch. But Mueller caught Neal early and ran away to a 4.565 to 5.148 victory over the Mississippi native.

(RIGHT) Originally scheduled to run against Tod Barker before two racers (Shane Blanton and Casey Geeslin) dropped out due to breakage, Jordan Ballew ended up facing Mike Buchanan (not shown) in his first round race. Ballew left first by quite a margin (.040 to .211) and opened the lead even further before the "Ballew Thunder" Camaro stopped the clocks at 4.569 - 154.53 to easily advance to the semi-finals.

Tod Barker - 'Back In Black' --- Smiley Cordero - 'Maximum Overdrive'

(LEFT) Setting low e.t. of the round was Tod Barker as he got the "Back In Black" injected nitro Corvette to run a much improved 4.418 - 154.00 for an easy first round win over Smiley Cordero.

(RIGHT) After qualifying well down the ladder in the #19 spot with a 4.66 best, Smiley Cordero saw the "Maximum Overdrive" Firebird drop off the pace to a 5.344 - 149.25 as he finished his weekend on a down note.

Alex Barker - 'Back In Black' --- Chance Biffle - 'Bad Intentions'

(LEFT) The round finished with the "Back In Black" GTO of Alex Barker taking a close win over Chance Biffle despite slowing on the top end to a 4.646 - 131.31 clocking. That was followed by a late leave, a .184 reaction time.

(RIGHT) Nearly taking advantage of Barker's slow reaction, and low trap speed was Chance Biffle in the "Bad Intentions" entry. His .058 r.t. gave him an instant lead of more than a tenth of a second, and his 4.790 - 145.21 made for a close finish. At the 660' mark, the gap was only .018, less than half a car length, in another very close decision. With Barker taking the win in the final pairing, it set up semifinals of Alex Barker versus Ballew and Tod Barker versus Meuller.

"A" Field - Semi-Final Round

Jeff Cameron - 'Jake's Speed Shop' (near lane) vs 
Keith Zimmerer - 'Penny Pincher 02' (far lane) --- Kirk Williams - '200 Proof' (near lane) vs 
Lyle Greenberg - 'Cone Hunter' (far lane)

(LEFT) It looks like Jeff Cameron (near lane) in the "Jake's Speed Shop" entry is out in front of opponent Keith Zimmerer (far lane) on the launch. He was, BUT it was due to a slightly early leave, as Cameron left an -.012 redlight glowing on the tree. Sadly, he wasted an excellent 3.850 - 194.38 effort, as Zimmerer, in his "Penny Pincher 02" advanced to the final round with a similarly great 3.887 - 185.34 clocking.

(RIGHT) In the other semifinal matchup, it was nitro vs alky, as New Mexico's Lyle Greenberg (far lane), in his Corvette-bodied "Cone Hunter" tried hard with a very good 4.037 - 186.49 pass, but it wasn't enough to hold off the 3.824 - 199.73 of the "200 Proof" team, with defending series champion Kirk Williams at the wheel. To add to the margin at the finish line, Williams left first by an .058 to .094 margin.

"B" Field - Semi-Final Round

Nick Poloson - 'Bucket List' --- Dustin Bradford - 'American Dream'

(LEFT) It was a solid burnout for "Nitro" Nick Poloson in the "Bucket List", but that's as far as it went as he broke shortly after this photo was taken, and could only watch helplessly as his opponent (Dustin Bradford) took the win on a competition bye.

(RIGHT) Taking the automatic win after Poloson's misfortune, Dustin Bradford, in the "American Dream" Dodge Challenger, didn't take it easy as he ran hard until just before the finish line, putting a 4.241 - 154.11 up on the scoreboards as he punched his ticket into the final round.

Tom Furches - 'Made in America' (near lane) vs 
Ray Stringer - 'Blown Cent-less' (far lane)

Closing out the semifinal round for the "B" field was a close battle between the nitro powered "Blown Cent-less" car of Ray Stringer (far lane), facing the blown alky "Made in America" Corvette of Colorado's Tom Furches (near lane). The result was close on the scoreboards, with Stringer taking the win with a 4.178 - 184.12 over Furches' close 4.211 - 152.91 effort. But the biggest difference was in reaction times, as Stringer won that battle with an .079 light to his opponent's later .151 leave.

"C" Field - Semi-Final Round

Alex Barker - 'Back in Black' (near lane) vs 
Jordan Ballew - 'Ballew Thunder' (far lane) --- Randy Mueller - 'Crazy Randy'

(LEFT) Leaving first by a full tenth, Jordan Ballew (far lane) launched the "Ballew Thunder" Camaro into an early lead over Alex Barker's "Back In Black" GTO (near lane). The difference was an .018 r.t. for Ballew and .121 for Barker. But the gap closed quickly as Barker took the lead before the 330' mark and crossed the finish line first with a 4.423 - 159.01 to take the win over Ballew's 4.584 - 153.17 clocking. The true win margin was less than six hundredths of a second, or about a car length at the stripe.

(RIGHT) The hopes for an all-Barker family final round were dashed very quickly in the second pair of the semifinal, as Tod Barker in the injected nitro powered, Corvette-bodied "Back In Black" left the starting line before the tree was activated. Taking the automatic win was "Crazy" Randy Mueller as he took it easy with a slowing 6.292 - 73.03 pass enroute to his first final round in nearly a year, but second straight at Penwell-Knights Raceway.

"C" Field - FINAL Round

Alex Barker - 'Back in Black' (near lane) vs 
Randy Mueller - 'Crazy Randy' (far lane)

With the 4.32 index lifted for the final, it was time to see if Alex Barker (near lane) could unleash all the power lurking under his Pontiac GTO body. He laid down his best numbers of the event, running 4.341 - 162.28, and leaving first by an .096 to .164 margin to take the win. Giving it a very good effort, was Randy Meuller (far lane) as he ran a 4.597 - 146.10 that was well back at the finish line. The win was Barker's third in a row at an FCC event, following last season's finale at Ennis and this year's season opener, also at the Texas Motorplex. The win moved Barker up from third place to the top of the list at #1 after two events.

"B" Field - FINAL Round

Ray Stringer - 'Blown Cent-less' (near lane) vs 
Dustin Bradford - 'American Dream' (far lane)

Following a forgettable 2022 season, failing to qualify at the season opener and parking the car for the balance of the year, Ray Stringer (near lane in the photo) started the 2023 campaign strongly, winning the "C" field at the season opener. He went back-to-back here, as he eked out a small advantage over opponent Dustin Bradford in reaction times (.057 to .078) and pounded out his quickest run of the weekend at 4.096 - 181.97 over a very competitive 4.177 - 170.39 from Bradford. With the "B" field win, Stringer moved from a tie for third in the points standings into second place.

"A" Field - FINAL Round

Kirk Williams - '200 Proof' (near lane) vs 
Keith Zimmerer - 'Penny Pincher 02' (far lane)

It was only fitting that the two quickest cars of the event met in the "A" field final. In the near lane it was Kirk Williams who was looking for his first win of the season after an early (first round loss) at the first event of 2023. Although he qualifed #2, the "200 Proof" team had turned the best e.t.'s of eliminations and blasted out low e.t. and top speed of the meet at 3.765 - 200.09 to take the win. Williams jumped way up in the points standings from #23 to #3 with his dominating effort at the second event of the season.

Giving it a great try in only his second Funny Car Chaos race, after moving over from Outlaw Fuel Altered racing, was Keith Zimmerer in his "Penny Pincher 02" entry. Zimmerer was low qualifer at 3.800, then kept in the 3's in the first two rounds of eliminations before laying down his best run of the evening at 3.838 - 189.87 for the runner-up finish. Worth noting were the reaction times in the final, as Zimmerer's great .020 was overshadowed by Williams' telepathic .003 effort. The margin between the two cars at the finish was little more than a car length, as Zimmerer made a big improvement on the points table, advancing from #19 to #5 and showing that his team will be a real contender for the FCC championship in 2023.

There were quite a few major changes in the points after the second of nine events on this season's calendar. Among the big gainers were Dustin Bradford, up fro #16 to #4, Jeff Cameron from #15 to #7, and Randy Mueller, all the way from #37 to #9. A number of racers dropped out of the Top Ten, as winners at the season opener, Joey Haas and Kebin Kinsley didn't come to this event, and it's unlikely that either will be appearing at more than one or two more events this year. The reality for both of those teams is the cost of campaigning what amounts to an NHRA "Big Show" nitro car without a big show budget.