NHRA Pacific Division 7 – ET Finals
NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series
Pacific Division 7
Las Vegas Motor Speedway
October 4-6, 2019
by Kirk Walton / Photos by Johnson Photography and Kahea Woods
NHRA Pacific Division 7 – ET Finals
The finals for the NHRA Summit ET Pacific Division were held at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway on October 4-6, 2019.
48 bikes from most of the tracks from the NHRA Pacific division (D7) showed up. This year with the closing of Rocky Mountain Raceway in Salt Lake City, UT, the motorcycle/snowmobiles had to find another place to race. The majority went to Las Vegas and a few to Western Colorado. So it was a bit odd that the old bike crew was split up.
I have to thank everyone at Las Vegas from the bike class, to the crew, staff and track manager Jeff Foster for making us feel so welcome this year! It was difficult going from a 20 minute drive to the racetrack to 5 1/2 hours but it’s not so bad when you have a world-class facility and crew to race with as your new home track.
Team Las Vegas had Rick Newport back as two time defending “Summit Showdown” champion, along with newly crowned 2019 LVMS track champion Gary Oaks. Defending NHRA LODRS D7 champ Larry Mota. Kahea Woods fresh off his win at the Sportsman Motorcycle Bracket Shootout. Dave “Wheels” Wheeler, the runner up to Kahea and on a hot streak here at the end of the season. Jeremy March, who finished in the top 10 at LVMS. David Phillips doing double duty most of the year also racing his car in Super Pro and getting into the “Summit Showdown” as the 6th rider as the winner of the “perfect attendee”. Mike Cragun, former D7 ET champion. Rounding out team LVMS was the brother duo of Tracy Giles and Ken Giles.
THURSDAY – GAMBLERS RACE
On Thursday, October 3rd was the test and tune, then right after around 3pm was the Gambler races. Things got pushed back with four major oildowns, but the NHRA/LVMS crew did a great job cleaning up all the messes. They completed the schedule. We had 25 bikes/sleds enter. I ended drawing and winning against LVMS teammate Jeremy March. Jeremy was uncharacteristically late on the tree (.056 vs .165). Dave Wheeler, Rick Newport, Kahea Woods from team LVMS also advanced to the second round.
In the second round, I went out against Dan Martin when I did a rare wheelie. So I was done for the night. But Dave Wheeler and Rick Newport moved on. Bad part was Rick had to take out teammate Kahea Woods to do it.
Third round, Dave Wheeler was taken out by La Verk Harper, but Rick Newport had the bye run.
In the semifinal, Rick Newport lost to Aaron Pine on a reaction time difference (.084 vs .013), Newport ran 7.998 on the 7.98, Pine went 8.143 on the 8.11 dial. La Verk Harper beat Steve Norling in the other semi when Harper got just a bit off an advantage at the start (.116 vs .141) to beat Norling’s dead on run of 9.175. Harper was one above at 9.427 on the 9.41.
In the final, La Verk Harper beat Aaron Pine with a breakout by Pine. Harper was behind at the start (.076 vs .050) but ran 9.442 at 145.41mph to Pine’s 8.112 at 157.82mph on his 8.12 dial in time. Congratulations to La Verk Harper on the win in Gambler.
FRIDAY – RUN FOR THE MONEY
Friday, October 4th was time trials and the option to buy in for “Run for the Money”. For $20 on the second time trial you could put a dial in on your bike/sled and the top 16 closest to their dial would come back and race 1/8th mile. I wasn’t sure I would get in being .06 off but I got lucky and did. I was #12 and then find out I have to race Clayton Howey again! It’s kind of a running joke that if we’re at any NHRA D7 event we HAVE to race other. So the trend continues.
But this time I won. I went .007 and forced him to breakout. I ran a 6.889 at 103.94mph on the 6.82 dial in time. He ran a 5.775 at 124.45mph on his 5.79 dial. The other winners were, Kelly Queensberry over David Phillips but Kelly broke his bike and wouldn’t be able to return for the weekend, Mike Cragun over LVMS teammate Kahea Woods, Noah Penright over Matt Bluett, Tom Medlin over Trace St. Germain, Robert Mallory over Brian Stirrat, Gary Oaks over Dan Martin, and Tracy Giles won on a competition bye over Tyler Anderson.
In the quarterfinals, I ended up losing to Noah Penright. I had him covered but had the fluke run of the weekend that just didn’t make any sense. I ran a 6.792 off the throttle at 110.43mph on the 6.82 on the breakout. Oh well I won $40 and got a couple of more runs.
In a LVMS matchup, Gary Oaks won when Tracy Giles redlighted. Robert Mallory got the competition bye, and the best race of the day was when Mike Cragun and Tom Medlin matched up. Both ran dead on with their times (6.456 for Cragun and 5.275 for Medlin) but Cragun had the better light of .017 to .030 for the win.
The semifinals saw Gary Oaks taking the win over Robert Mallory with a nice reaction time of .012 to Mallory’s .090. Mike Cragun cruised to a win when Noah Penright was a tenth off his dial.
LVMS had it covered in the final. Both Gary Oaks and Mike Cragun had great lights (.009 vs .016) but Cragun brokeout running 6.428 at 106.00mph on the 6.45 to Oaks run of 5.612 at 123.49mph on the 5.56 dial in time. Congratulations to Gary and Mike and the rest of the riders that qualified for the 16 bike field.
SATURDAY – TEAM RACE
Saturday, October 5th was the team race. This is the all run race and the team with the most round wins gets to be the team champion. Las Vegas had two teams but got beat by Famoso (Bakersfield) and Wild Horse Pass (Phoenix). But third place is good and with the two teams combined, we did a lot better than the other two team racetracks.
In the Motorcycle/Snowmobile class the 48 riders lined up in the team designated lanes to keep from racing team members until later in the race.
The first round was good for the Las Vegas team as Jeremy March won over Tyler Anderson’s redlight. David Phillips beat a slowing Patty Bluett. Larry Mota over John Gidcumb, Riverside, CA. I ended up winning by a redlight by Jason French, Weldon, CA. Gary Oaks beat Brian Stirrat, Vista, CA when Brian was well off his number. Dave “Wheels” Wheeler lost when he brokeout again Manny Taylor, Bakersfield, CA, Mike Cragun lost to Jeff Maddox, Tracy Giles lost to Marty Layton, Mesa, AZ when the bike wasn’t in gear. Kahea Woods redilighted against Terry Turner. All would buy back in to try and win to get back in the second round.
Those that made it out of the buyback were Tracy Giles beat Todd Kaempfer, Mesa, AZ on a double breakout. Ken Giles lost to Brian Stirrat when he couldn’t run close to the number. Dave Wheeler won over Allan Engvall, Antelope,CA with a reaction time advantage. Mike Cragun had to race Don Nielsen, West Jordan, UT who was representing Western Colorado. Nielsen forced a breakout by Cragun with an nice reaction time. Kahea Woods got back in when Glen Welcko, Vail, AZ couldn’t run the number.
The second round, with the added 11 riders from the buyback, totaled 38 riders. In a strange draw both Dave Wheeler and I drew the riders we faced in the first round.
I ended up losing to Jason French this time with a bad reaction time (.104) and brokeout by .004. Dave Wheeler beat Manny Taylor this time when Taylor had problems.
Tracy Giles lost to Terry Turner on a reaction time difference. David Phillips beat Paul Silvas when Silvas couldn’t run the number. Rick Newport had a huge reaction time advantage and cruised to a win over Jonny Stringer, Torrance, CA. Gary Oaks had a similar race and beat “Big Bruce” Lee, Los Angeles, CA. Kahea Woods forced La Verk Harper to breakout by .002 with the reaction time advantage. Steve Harrison had the better light against Noah Penright, Rialto, CA but broke out. Don Nielsen beat Jeremy March when March had a hard time launching and brokeout. Larry Mota ran right on with a two to beat a slowing Aaron Pine, La Mirada, CA.
Round 3 had 18 riders left in the team race. Seven from Utah/Nevada.
Trace St. Germain, San Jose, CA defeated Jason French. St. Germain had a big reaction time advantage (.011 vs .094) and ran 9.691 at 131.01mph on a 9.65 dial. French ran 10.396 at 126.21mph on the 10.32 dial.
Noah Penright beat David Phillips on the tree (.110 vs .208) and ran a 8.915 at 149.22mph (8.86) to Phillips 14.035 at 93.23mph (13.97).
Clayton Howey forced Michael O’Neil, Sacramento, CA, into a breakout with a great light (.008 vs .097), running a 9.022 at 140.99mph (8.98) to O’Neil’s email@example.com on his 8.83 dial.
Kahea Woods got a competition single when Troy Gonzales, Chino, CA couldn’t make the starting line. Woods ran it out to a 8.826 at 150.16mph on the 8.86.
Larry Mota overcame a slight reaction time disadvantage (.038 vs .020) to Terry Turner, Bakersfield, CA and ran dead on with a zero. 9.210 at 144.47mph. Turner brokeout with a 9.250 at 133.53 on his 9.28.
Steve Norling, Elk Grove, CA won when Dave Wheeler redlight by -.004. Both ran it out, Norling running a 9.158 at 142.85mph to Wheels 9.238 at 149.00mph.
Another all Utah matchup when Rick Newport won when Don Nielsen redlighted by -.013. Newport ran it out to 8.005 at 169.21mph on the 8.03 dial, Nielsen shut it off.
Gary Oaks had a .039 reaction time to beat Brian Stirrat with a .113. Oaks ran 8.881 at 145.31 (8.82) to Stirrat’s 9.614 at 141.59mph (9.54).
Matt Bluett, Chandler, AZ beat another AZ resident, Jeff Maddox with a nice reaction time of .017 vs .102. Bluett dialed a 10.30 and ran 10.345 at 120.51mph, Maddox dialed 9.45 and ran firstname.lastname@example.org.
In the round four, four from team LVMS out of nine. Kahea Woods started round four off with a breakout win over Noah Penright. Woods had a slight advantage at the start (.042 vs .063) and forced Penright to breakout. Woods ran 8.872 at 147.67mph on a 8.82, Penright ran 8.866 at 147.50mph on the 8.88.
Larry Mota had a wholeshot advantage (.006 vs .030) against Matt Bluett and ran 9.263 at 132.82mph on the 9.20 against 10.357 at 121.57mph on the 10.30.
Trace St. Germain took out Rick Newport in a good race when he ran a 9.670 at 134.28mph on a 9.65, Newport was dialed 8.00 and ran 8.028 at 151.87. Reaction times were in favor of St. Germain .031 to a .045.
Gary Oaks won against Steve Norling with a reaction time advantage (.067 vs .168) and ran it to a 9.033 at 137.54mph on the 8.84 dial. Norling ran a slowing 9.235 at 146.51mph on the 9.07.
Clayton Howey got the bye run and ran it out with a .020 8.938 at 154.65mph on the 8.98 dial in time.
The quarterfinals had three of the five from Team LVMS but only one would advance to the semifinals. Clayton Howey took out Kahea Woods with a nice reaction time .019 vs Woods’ .037. Howey ran dead on with a 8.965 at 148.14mph, Woods ran a breakout time of 8.827 at 148.84mph on the 8.84.
Trace St. Germain got a break when Gary Oaks left way early (-.221). Both ran it out with St. Germain running 9.625 at 134.42mph on the 9.65, Oaks 8.883 at 147.34mph on the 8.84.
Larry Mota drew the bye and ran a 9.194 at 143.81mph on his 9.20 dial.
The semifinals had Clayton Howey vs. Larry Mota with Trace St. Germain with the bye run.
Howey beat Mota in a double breakout race. Reaction times were close with a .024 vs .036 for Howey. Howey ran just under his dial of 8.95 with a 8.947 at 147.81mph, Mota ran 9.177 at 144.00mph on the 9.19.
Trace St. Germain ran it out on the bye run, posting a 9.628 at 133.65mph on the 9.61 dial.
In the final, it was Team Famoso vs Team Sonoma. Howey representing Famoso was a bit later than St. Germain on the tree (.049 vs .016) but made up for it at the end in the double breakout. Howey ran closer to his dial of 8.92 with a 8.917 at 156.59mph. St. Germain took too much stripe running a 9.540 at 135.77mph on the 9.62.
Congratulations to Clayton Howey on winning his first ever NHRA “Wally”. The win also helped Team Famoso move ahead of Wild Horse Pass (Chandler, AZ) and Las Vegas Team 1.
SUNDAY – SUMMIT SHOWDOWN
In the NHRA Pacific Division the race of champions is on Sunday and the winner of the “Summit Showdown” is the representative for the National finals in Pomona in November. The top five points getters from each track qualify. There is also a sixth spot reserved for the racer with the perfect attendance and a drawing all of those by the track manager. Team LVMS had two time defending Summit ET champion Rick Newport, NHRA LODRS D7 reigning champion Larry Mota, 2019 LVMS track champion Gary Oaks, former champion Kahea Woods, David Phillips was the 6th man winner and I ended up moving up to the fifth and last spot when Jeremy King wasn’t able to make the race for the weekend. Steve Harrison was the only Utah rider that made 50% of the races at Western Colorado in Grand Junction, so he was their lone representative. I had a good feeling for our team when we woke up to a 25-40mph headwind that would last most of the day. Home track advantage for sure.
Thirty-seven riders lined up and Team LVMS had a good round. Rick Newport had a bad spin, had to back off and lost to La Verk Harper, Fontana, CA. Harper ran most of the way with a 9.615 at 136.65mph (9.43).
David Phillips on the ’07 Harley RG won by a redlight by Paul Silvas (.-039) and Phillips ran 14.537 at 82.12 (14.15)
Kahea Woods coasted to a victory when Troy Gonzales couldn’t run his number of 9.08 with a 9.364 at 139.86mph. Kahea coasted to a 9.194 at 136.57mph on the 8.92 dial-in time.
Larry Mota had an easy win when Jonny Stringer had problems leaving the line and just coasted to the end. Larry ran 9.399 127.16mph on the 9.32 dial.
I ended up winning against Tommy Brown, Fernley, NV ’02 Kawasaki ZX-6R with a .034 light vs his .076. I let off at the end and ran 10.534 at 125.93mph on a 10.35. Brown was at 11.584 at 104.83mph on the 11.38 dial.
Steve Harrison won when Todd Kaempfer, Mesa, AZ couldn’t run his number (10.28) with a 10.556 at 133.84 mph. He had a better light to Harrison (.008 vs .059) but the 9.722 at 132.67mph on the 9.69 was good for the win.
In round two, there were a few .00’s on the reaction times. Dan Martin, Wilton CA with a .009 and a win over John Gidcumb, Bakersfield, CA. Aaron Pine had a .005 to take out Allan Engvall, Antelope, CA on a breakout.
Tyler Anderson had a .002 taking out Saturday’s winner Clayton Howey. Also even though Aundrea Wilcox brokeout big time and lost to Trace St. Germain, she ran her quickest time ever at 9.959 at 134.54mph.
Team LVMS had David Phillips bow out against Matt Bluett with a slower reaction time (.208 to .042) running 14.303 at 89.17mph on the 14.19 dial. The ’00 Buell Cyclone of Bluett ran 10.637 at 101.68mph on the 10.53 dial.
Larry Mota advanced when La Verk Harper had a slow light for him (.119 vs .018) and both broke out. Mota ran 9.322 at 134.40 on the 9.33 and Harper at 9.497 at 141.13mph on the 9.57.
Kahea Woods overcame a reaction time deficit of .034 vs .019 of Brian Stirrat. The ’18 Hayabusa of Stirrat couldn’t run the number (9.60), running 9.715 at 139.78mph. Woods ran 8.993 at 135.33mph off the throttle on his 8.92.
Jeff Maddox and I had a great race. I had a bit of reaction time head start of .057 vs .078. I ran a 10.474 at 118.82mph letting off on a 10.45 dial. Jeff ran 9.621 at 134.23 on his ’06 Destroyer on the 9.61 dial.
Steve Harrison also moved on beating Steve Norling’s ’83 GS dragbike, running 9.763 at 133.46mph (9.71) against a 9.412 at 136.87mph (9.25)
In the third round, all of us won to move into the quarterfinals. I ended up racing Matt Bluett and had a .041 vs .051 reaction time advantage. I ran 10.468 at 127.81 to beat Matt’s 10.519 at 119.68 on the 10.47 dial.
Larry Mota had to overcome a reaction time disadvantage (.056 vs .038) against Trace St. Germain. Both broke out but Mota ran closer, 9.298 at 139.13mph (9.31) to a email@example.com (9.85).
Kahea Woods had the best reaction of the round with a .001. He beat Tyler Anderson with who had a .035 and ran 9.616 at 136.90mph (9.58), running a 8.972 at 143.80mph (8.92).
Steve Harrison won by a redlight by Dan Martin (-.015) and had a good one with a .018. Both just coasted to the finish.
Terry Turner and Aaron Pine both had problems with reaction times and running the number. Turner came out on top though, making him the last California rider in the field.
The quarterfinals saw Larry Mota and fellow Utah County resident Steve Harrison pairing off together. Reaction times were close with Harrison getting the slight edge (.047 vs .050). It was a double breakout with Mota running a 9.266 at 141.88mph, Harrison ran 9.721 at 134.43mph.
Terry Turner had a slow reaction at the line and I coasted through but almost breaking out at 10.455 at 117.33mph on the 10.45. Terry broke out running 9.318 at 137.23mph on the 9.33.
Kahea Woods had the bye and ran it through at 8.98 at 144.64mph on a 8.92.
In the semifinals, teammates on the Newport/Woods/Mota-sports team matched up to see who would meet me in the final. It would be Larry Mota moving on when Kahea Woods brokeout. Woods had the advantage at the start with a .025 vs .054 reaction time. Mota ran 9.274 at 141.12mph on the 9.26. Woods ran 8.983 at 131.57mph on the 9.00.
I decided to run it out even though the bike was hot. I ran right on the 10.45 with a 10.453 at 138.16mph. When I got back to the pits, Rick Newport and Mike Cragun came over and asked if I needed any help. The bike was getting too hot and they could hear the clutch slipping. It was a good thing since I didn’t hear it or even felt it. They came over with fans to cool it off for the final. Thanks to those guys and others that came over to help! We got it cooled down and ready for the final against Larry Mota.
In the final, I don’t what it was? Maybe it was because I have been used to running LVMS all year or that it was Larry Mota in the other lane, but it felt just like a regular race. This was Larry’s third shot in the finals against my second. I’ve been to Pomona in 2003 and that helped take a lot of the pressure off me. Besides, if I lost, my LVMS teammate would go to Pomona and run for the Summit ET championship. So it was a win/win for me.
When I got up to the line, I swore I lined up where I had all day. But apparently I shallow staged it and had a horrible reaction time (.097 to Larry’s .049) and brokeout by a tenth! Rick and Mike were worried that putting the fans on cooled me down too much and cost me the race. I assured them it was all on me! I just didn’t deep stage correctly and it cost me big time. The numbers looked like they had all day, so if I would have lined up right, I probably would have been right there. But it wasn’t to be, and Larry (or AKA “Hairy”) ran a 9.231 at 142.60mph on his 9.26 dial. With the 4 wide, it’s almost impossible to tell who wins with the lights. I didn’t know I’d lost for sure but figured I probably did. I beat Larry to the time slip shed and thought I wouldn’t give it away and let him see for himself. Plus I wanted to see his reaction. It was worth it. I’m happy he gets to go to Pomona this year. That makes 3 years in a row for Newport/Woods/Mota-sports to head to the World Finals.
I really couldn’t ask for a better weekend, great racing, great food, and the best people around. Thanks to all those that made it such a fun weekend! Special thanks to the LVMS/NHRA crews and staff for a lot more work than we all hoped for this weekend. Thanks to Jeff, Nate, Freddie and everyone at LVMS for making us racetrack orphans from Utah feel so welcome this year! With the bikes doing well, we helped win the “Manager’s Challenge” for the Showdown for LVMS, winning the most round of all the tracks. Thanks Bob Johnson photography for the pictures. Here’s his link to the event: https://bobjohnson.zenfolio.com/p350391872
Best of luck to Larry and Tiffany Mota in Pomona!
– Kirk Walton