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Five Takeaways from ‘No Prep Kings’ at National Trail Raceway

It took six events, but Street Outlaws: No Prep Kings finally saw its first repeat winner of 2024. Giuseppe Gentile won the Invitational at National Trail Raceway in Hebron, Ohio – his second victory in as many weekends.

While Gentile stole the headlines, there were intriguing stories to be found everywhere. Whether it was upsets (Ryan Martin, anyone?), crashes (Tim Brown), or drivers making their season debuts (Brad Eglian, Tony McKinney), Ohio was not short on excitement.

With that being said, let’s jump right into my five key takeaways from No Prep Kings this past weekend at National Trail Raceway.      

Giuseppe Goes Back-to-Back

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The first five races of the NPK season featured five different Invitational winners. That streak ended at National Trail Raceway, as Giuseppe Gentile won for the second consecutive weekend. 

Heading into the event, Gentile was tied for first in points with Justin Swanstrom. And as luck would have it, the two met in the finals to see who would leave Ohio alone at the top. For now, Gentile has that honor.  

“We knew Justin could pull off a run; he’s done it to us before,” Gentile said in his post-race interview. “He struggled all weekend and got us in Virginia. We made sure we put enough in it that if he was gonna pull something off, we’d have enough for him this time, and we did.”

Gentile won the coin toss in the finals, allowing him to choose the preferred left lane. It’s hard to say whether it would have mattered, though, as the Gucci Nova was on rails all day long. He defeated top contenders Clay Cole, Kayla Morton, and Robin Roberts on his way to the finals against Swanstrom. 

Chris “BoostedGT” Hamilton even quipped after the race that he’d heard a rumor Gentile could let go of the button and not even touch the steering wheel on his runs. While that got quite a few laughs, the performance so far this season by Gentile and his team is no joke. He’s made the finals in three of the six races so far this year. 

According to “Stat Guy” Chris LeCLoux, Gentile is also only the fifth driver in NPK history to win back-to-back Invitationals – joining James “Birdman” Finney, Ryan Martin, Lizzy Musi, and Kye Kelley. While I don’t know if he can keep up that type of torrid pace, Gentile has to be considered the favorite right now to win the championship, and he’s got all the pieces in place to do just that.  

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“Chris Michael owns the car, and he put this team together for this bad ass hot rod, made sure we had all the right parts,” said Gentile. “The tuner that’s tuning this thing from home, Job Spetter, has never even seen this car, and he’s doing an awesome job. We’ve been working our asses off, and it’s paying off.”  

Martin Switches Cars, Wins Second-Chance Bracket

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Ryan Martin was full of surprises this weekend – and not all of them were good. After a final-round appearance last weekend in Kansas City with the screw-blown Fireball Camaro (which he’s driven all season), Martin arrived in Ohio with his ProCharger-powered Gray Car. 

I’m not entirely sure what prompted the change – the Fireball Camaro has performed well this year – but the initial results certainly weren’t what I expected. Martin fell in Friday’s qualification round to Clay Cole, meaning for the first time this year, he found himself in the “loser’s bracket” on Saturday. 

If I was shocked to see Murder Nova competing in the second-chance race last week at Flying H Drag Strip, I’m not even sure what word describes my reaction to seeing Martin in it. It’s simply not something you see from this team. But much like Murder Nova did a week ago, Martin made the most of the situation, turning a setback into a win.

Martin ran through the field, defeating Tony McKinney, Scott Taylor, and Birdman to win $5,000. He also earned 12 points, allowing him to remain fourth in the standings, 55 points out of first.  

Bobby Ducote Continues to Impress

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Perhaps the most impressive driver I’ve seen raise their game so far this season is Bobby Ducote. With a semifinal finish in Ohio, Ducote elevated himself into fifth place in the point standings. And with the way his car is performing, I wouldn’t be surprised to see him continue battling for a top-five finish this year.  

“Man, we have been the underdog for so long that we used to have to guess (the light) to try and win,” admitted Ducote. “That reputation stuck with us, but now people are seeing we have a hot rod that will finally compete. It feels freaking awesome to see myself in the top five of the baddest SOB’s out there.”

Ducote is easily recognizable in his bright orange Pontiac Firebird, powered by a Henson Racing Engines Hemi with a ProCharger and Suncoast 3-speed transmission. During the offseason, he installed a lot of upgrades to try and keep up in the ultra-competitive NPK series, and they’re paying immediate dividends.    

“Merillat Racing built me a nice, safe hot rod with an awesome drivetrain capable of running with the rest of these guys,” Ducote said. “Having my buddy Scott Taylor on the laptop along with all my crew guys – Tony, Gio, Pops, Bobby Sr., Joe, and Marty – has helped a ton. We have put the dollars up and the work in to be able to compete. We will continue to push forward until we win one repping Team NOLA.” 

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Consistency is Key for Roberts

David Hilner photo

Speaking of points, one driver who is quietly inserting himself right into the thick of the points battle is Robin Roberts. Despite not having an Invitational win under his belt yet this season, Roberts’ consistency has him currently sitting third in the standings, behind only Giuseppe Gentile and Justin Swanstrom.

Roberts made it to the semifinals in Ohio, where he fell to eventual event winner Gentile. In the three points races contested this year, Roberts has two semifinal appearances and one quarterfinal finish. 

Perhaps most impressive is that Roberts is one of only two drivers this season – along with Kye Kelley – who has yet to lose in the qualification round. That means he has been in Saturday’s winner’s bracket at every event this year, allowing him to earn maximum points. 

That’s the type of consistency needed to win a championship. Roberts is no stranger to winning the Invitational, and I believe it’s a matter of when, not if, he does it again this season. But regardless, he’s already put himself in a great position to contend for the $150,000 prize at the end of the year.      

B-Rad Makes Long-Awaited Return 

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One of the best stories to come out of Ohio was the return of Brad Eglian – better known as B-Rad – in “Luminasty,” his Chevy Lumina. Always a fan-favorite, this was Eglian’s first NPK appearance since his horrific crash in last year’s season finale. 

Eglian suffered numerous injuries in the incident at the Texas Motorplex, including ten broken ribs, a fractured shoulder, and a broken leg. Issues with his oil line caused the fluid to spray under his car, sending him across the center line and directly into the wall. Eglian was knocked out by the impact, stating he doesn’t remember anything after that point. 

While Eglian has a passionate fanbase, he does not have the financial means to field a backup car like some other teams do. For months, he’s been recovering while he and his team worked on rebuilding the car themselves. In fact, the car wasn’t even running yet when they pulled into National Trail Raceway.

“What an amazing feeling of accomplishment getting this car ready to race,” Eglian said. “We are not chassis builders. We spent the last 10 weeks building this thing. Many said it would never be finished, but that was my driving force. We finished the car at the track Friday, so we missed the two test hits. My first pass in the car since the crash was first round.” 

Despite an opening-round loss to James Goad (“Reaper”) and another defeat in the second-chance bracket to Birdman (Eglian shut off early both passes), just seeing B-Rad back at the track was an incredible moment. 

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“We made some adjustments (on Saturday) with the four-link and moving weight around,” said Eglian. “We made it to the 330, and wow, was it straight and fast already! I think we are ready next week to make full passes and tune this thing in.”

Next Up:No Prep Kings heads to Beech Bend Raceway Park in Bowling Green, Kentucky this weekend for the fourth points race of the season.

This story was originally published on June 4, 2024. Drag Illustrated

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