The 13th annual Greg Butcher Trucking Stick Shift Nationals went off without a hitch at North Carolina’s Piedmont Dragway in mid-June. A last-minute venue change forced the event to be moved from its normal home at Farmington Dragway due to a renovation project that is still ongoing.
[Editor’s Note: This story originally appeared in DI #184, the State of Drag Special Issue, in September/October of 2023.]
Event organizer Ken Regenthal was forced to search for an area track that had an available weekend, and Piedmont stepped up to host the event on short notice. “Rick Moore was very instrumental in working that out, so a huge thanks to him for his efforts,” says Regenthal.
Per usual, the completely free-to-enter event got kicked off on Friday night with the Scarlette’s Performance Gamblers Race. Amazingly, the last two racers standing on Friday night was a repeat meeting of last year’s main event, and with the same outcome as 2022, when Mark Charcalla got past his arch nemesis, Colton Kirchner, for the first payday of the event. These two racers have been battling it out for years and have met in the finals of many big events, especially within the Pro Stick organization, where both men have won championships.
For Saturday’s main event, racers brought their A-game as they battled it out for $10K to win, along with the coveted Stick Shift Nationals trophy. The growing oddity within the event’s 13-year history is the fact that there’s never been a repeat winner in the main event, and the streak continues in 2023 as Virginia’s Brandon White drove Steve McCreary’s 1957 Chevy to the winner’s circle, getting past the “Shagnasty” Plymouth of Jim Ward in the thrilling finals.
No surprise, this was the biggest win of White’s career. “I bracket race a lot, and I’ve won a few $5K races, but this is my biggest payday ever,” says White as he hoisted the custom trophy.
White endures a lot of good-natured ribbing at the track because he’s driving a different car at nearly every event it seems. “I’ve got a good friend, almost like a brother, who’s got an S-10 and a Camaro…they’re both bracket vehicles and we share them. I have my own car, and my uncle has a 1969 Camaro that I also race. And finally, my boss, Steve McCreary, has about 12 cars, and sometimes I race one of them too!” laughs White.
The Stick Shift Nationals-winning 1957 Chevy is a 4-speed Lenco-equipped car McCreary constructed in the 1980s. He used it for Pro Street events and would also drive it to local cruise-ins and car shows. “It’s just an old home-built car that still has a lot of the same parts and pieces from when it was built, and it just works great.”
White says the real secret formula that makes this car so deadly is the fact that it doesn’t have a whole lot of power. “Hey, 6.30s isn’t exactly slow, but this is a car that goes down the track every time – no matter what track we’re on – and that’s always been the goal,” says White.
The Second Chance race was won by Jimmy Hull, as the Mt. Airy, North Carolina, resident drove his “Bounty Hunter” Ford Fairmont to the win against the Chevy Nova of Jeff Smith Jr. Adam Hull picked up the Ram Clutches Dash For Cash #1 spot, while Doc Bilbrey clocked 4.88 at 144 MPH in his Corvette to receive No. 1 qualifier honors.
The success of the most recent Stick Shift Nationals continues to reflect the incredible sponsor support for this event. “We had 126 total sponsors for the most recent running of this event!” beams Regenthal. “Greg Butcher and Sandy Scarlette are the headline sponsors, along with all the other contributors who make this the richest stick shift gathering in existence!”
Regenthal is always quick to point out that his wife, Lisa, plays an intricate role in this event. “If not for Lisa, this event would not happen…and that goes back 13 years, not just the most recent running! She’s the one who keeps track of everything and reminds me of stuff that needs done. Sherri Gerringer is a huge help, along with Mark Joyce, LeAnn Flint, and William Regenthal,” concludes Regenthal.
The Stick Shift Nationals continues to be completely free to enter for car and driver, with payouts awarded to anyone who competes in eliminations, including first-round losers in the main event, as well as any racer who suffers the same fate in the Second Chance race. Basically, every driver who goes down the track in eliminations gets awarded for doing so. The most recent running saw a total of 124 entries make the trip to Julian, North Carolina, from all across the country.