First-time winners for the Summit Racing Mid-West Drag Racing Series presented by J&A Service prevailed in seven of eight official MWDRS classes May 8, in the 29th running of the Osage Casino Hotel Throwdown in T-Town at Tulsa Raceway Park.
Headlining the winners list were Jon Stouffer and Bill Bernard, who each scored their first MWDRS race titles in Stroud Safety Pro Modified and Top Alcohol Funny Car presented by J&A Service, respectively, while Tony “Sandman” Williams took home his first MWDRS trophy after winning the consolation Pro Mod Slammers class.
“We just had everything kind of come together at the right time,” said Stouffer from his Neosho, MO, home. “Larry Jeffers built us one heck of an awesome Cuda, and between Scott Palmer, Rick Ducusin, John Goade, John Deal, Bobby Cardoza, Todd and Ty Tutterow and all the guys, we had a whole pit area full of good help. So I’ve got to really commend every one of them. They did one heck of a job in getting that car to the final and to the win. I really can’t thank everyone enough.”
Similarly, Bernard thanked backers DMP Awnings, Chase Copeland Race Cars, Backyard Gearheads and Mile High Crankshafts, along with everyone at B&A Automotive, the shop he owns with his wife April back home in Englewood, CO.
“My crew chief, Tony Eben, he did a great job, and so did our crew guys, Jeff Flythe and Ryan Flythe,” Bernard stressed. “And then I’ve got one guy that works on the car at home that doesn’t travel with us and his name is Andy Eben. I couldn’t do this at all without any of them.”
Meanwhile, Colton Wheeler won his first Race Star Wheels Top Dragster trophy and in Pat Musi Racing Engines Top Sportsman, 61-year-old Cody Draper earned the first-ever event win of his career.
And after registering more than 30 total entries, both MWDRS Jr. Dragster categories delivered first-time victors with Jonathan McClain finishing on top with a win over Kaylee Shepherd in an all-Oklahoma Summit Racing Pro Jr. final and Kale Moberlly of Wallington, KS, beat Karlee Brundidge in Zimmerman Properties Construction Sportsman Jr.
Only Landon Hobbs in the new Outlaw Atomizer Fuel Systems No Time class had been to a Mid-West Series winner’s circle before, as he repeated his win from the season opener two months ago in Texas.
Stouffer qualified his screw-blown ’71 Cuda seventh in the 16-car field at Tulsa, then raced his way through Williams, Jerry Hunt and Jim Whiteley to reach the final round against fifth-place starter Ed Thornton, who beat Robert Gallegos, Tulsa track co-owner Todd Martin, and number-one qualifier Joey Oksas in the semis.
Thornton’s twin-turboed ’70 Camaro left first with a .012 holeshot, but ran a tenth off his qualifying time at 3.79 seconds, while Stouffer put together a 3.74 at 198.44-mph winning pass.
“When we won our semi-final race I thought, ‘Man, this is going to be awesome. You know, win, lose or draw it was just cool to be in the final. But man, if we can pull this off, this is going to be the biggest win we’ve all ever had,’” Stouffer said.
“I was just trying to keep cool and keep focused and just do my thing,” he continued. “I had a .036 light, but he was just a little bit quicker off the line than me, but we made it up, I believe by about 60 foot. So we were ahead of him, but I could see him right there, the whole way down. I knew we were neck-and-neck and it was going to be close and right at the finish I saw the win light come on in my lane and I’m like, ‘Oh my God, we did it!’”
The Funny Car final was similarly compelling for Bernard, who started on top of just six entries, giving him a first-round bye before downing Shane Westerfield in the semis and defending MWDRS class champion Sean Bellemeur in the final round.
“I was late, I had a .125 light and I didn’t realize that Sean had actually red lit (by one-thousandth of a second). So at that point I was just trying to hit my shift points and hope he makes a mistake–which he already had,” Bernard said. “And then it ended up, we did outrun him with a 3.64 to his 3.65. But I didn’t even know we’d won until after the chutes were out and I saw the win light on my side as we came up on the scoreboards.
“So we got very lucky on that. As far as lights, I mean, I had been .029, .030, .036 and .039. So pretty consistent, but that one there, I don’t know where it came from,” Bernard added. “But it doesn’t matter now. We’re all thrilled to win here. It’s a great series they’ve put together in short time.”
Wheeler rose all the way from 15th on the all-run, 17-car Top Dragster qualifying list by driving his blown 565 c.i. TNT-built dragster through Bob Henry, Steve McDermott, a third-round bye, and Danny Nelson in the semis, to reach 16th-place starter Chase Huffman in the final.
It resulted in a close run to his first Mid-West Series race title, as Wheeler dialed in at 4.46 to Huffman’s 4.49, then left with a .030 light and ran 4.461 seconds at 152.73 mph to take the win by .013 over Huffman’s .019/4.515/151.58 package.
“I know Huffman is a real tough competitor, so I was definitely striving to be the best I could, but I missed the tree a little bit and still ended up winning. So I definitely got lucky there, but it was an awesome moment,” Wheeler said.
The Top Sportsman final saw another racer rise from deep on the qualifying ladder to take the win, as Draper started 10th of 14 entries led by Kelvin Brown in the number-one slot.
Draper and his naturally aspirated, 632-equipped ’01 Chevy S-10 truck made their way to the final with wins over Shannon Smith, Jeremy Johnson and Michael Chitty, while seventh-place starter Terry Pope downed Kirk Piepke, Travis Leach and James Ogden to create the opposition.
“It’s actually been about 30 years since I’ve been in a door car and I just needed things to be as least complicated as possible. All I need is to get in the field ” Draper explained. “I’ve been in dragsters on and off and some Top Alcohol Funny Cars and A-Fuel Dragsters through the years , but I’ve always loved these old Pro Stock Trucks. It’s mainly just me and my wife, Cindy, and my niece, Bri Ramirez, that go to the track, so we keep it simple.”
For the final, Draper dialed in at 4.79 seconds, then put together a solid run with a .010 light leading to a 4.791 pass at 146.18 mph that handily beat Pope’s 4.508 at 157.83 against a 4.44 dial.
Draper said he watched video of the final round later and saw Pope’s car moved around quite a bit off the start and probably lost time there, while his truck planted and ran just as expected.
“I never looked back because I just had faith in the truck that it was going to do what I thought it was going to do,” said Draper, who added with a laugh that he races with the number 401 K because it represents his retirement funds. “But I was still pretty excited when I looked up and saw the win light come on. I’ve won races before as a crew guy, but that was my first win ever as a driver, so it’s definitely pretty special.”
Following the Throwdown at T-Town, the Summit Racing Mid-West Drag Racing Series presented by J&A Service will resume June 4-5, with the MWDRS Texas Tango Nationals at Houston Raceway Park in Baytown, TX.