Multi-time division champion Top Dragster and Top Sportsman team Spradlin Motorsports with driver Casey Spradlin (above) entered into its first NOPI Nationals Supershow Sep. 19-21, and came away with its first “double up,” winning in both classes at Atlanta Dragway.
The Southeastern Hose-sponsored team from Ranburne, Alabama, decided to make the short trip over to Atlanta Dragway as a last-minute add on to its regular NHRA Lucas Oil division schedule to support the growing number of drag racing sanctions that are realizing the fan appeal of the sportsman ranks’ fastest classes.
The NOPI Nationals Supershow has not been the traditional place to find ultrafast door slammers and dragsters; however, for the 2014 events they have added Top Sportsman, Top Dragster and Pro Modified racing to offer the typical import car fan a peek at what eight-cylinder, large-cubic-inch, full-chassis racing looks and sounds like. With all the traffic in the pits and fans in the stands it seems to be a success.
“When we made the decision last week to give the NOPI Top Sportsman/Top Dragster race a try, we knew to expect a different fan base, and it was definitely different,” team driver Casey Spradlin said of the change from more-traditional Top Sportsman/Top Dragster venues.
“When we pulled in the gate, the pits were totally different from the NHRA national/divisional events we are used to at Atlanta Dragway. Instead of a sea of toterhomes, it was max capacity imports of all kinds. I even saw a right hand drive Nissan 300Z,” Spradlin continued. “It was an up-tempo festival atmosphere with live bands, DJs, lots of skin, burnout contests, a hydraulic car ‘hop off,’ and even a large drift course. It was wild and it was packed with fans.”
The NOPI format is eighth-mile qualifying on Saturday followed by the fastest in each class participating in a “Quick 16” race that night, then final eliminations on Sunday. At the end of qualifying the Spradlin team had grabbed its first pole in their beautiful, supercharged ’37 Chevy Coupe Top Sportsman car with a 4.51 elapsed time at 159 mph. Spradlin just missed the Top Dragster pole in his supercharged dragster by two-hundredths of a second, ending up second with a 4.15 E.T. at 166 mph.
“Getting our first pole in the coupe was a much-needed shot in the arm, especially in the wake of the early-season engine woes after changing from nitrous to a supercharged combination this winter,” Spradlin said.
The carnage continued, however, this time at the back of the car. During a first-round bye run the ring gear and pinion shattered on the launch.
“We were pretty pumped about the race prospects in both cars, especially with the first-round bye in the coupe. We were planning on making a full pass in order to get data for the dragster first round that immediately followed Top Sportsman. The rearend locked up on the track and I jumped out in full safety gear and said to dad, ‘I’m going to get the other car, you got this?’ Then I jumped on the scooter and took off! Meanwhile the track crew is looking around like, ‘Where in the world is this guy going?”
Spradlin returned with the dragster to win round one, then continued all the way to the final where he met local racer Brittney Vancica, also in her supercharged dragster. He was able to get the holeshot and forced Vancica under her index to start off the weekend with a win.
“The first win of the season always gets the monkey off your back and gives you confidence. I just hate it came so late in the season, but I’m not complaining. God continues to bless our team and we are very thankful,” Spradlin said.
The celebration was short lived as the team had to start work on replacing the coupe’s rearend, making an already late night go into the wee hours of the morning. Fellow Top Sportsman racer Craig Cain loaned the team his spare rearend.
“I can’t thank Craig enough for his generosity, we had no spare and would have been on the sidelines without his help,” Spradlin said. “Drag racers camaraderie is second to none.”
Most would consider it a successful weekend with one victory, but Spradlin Motorsports set its sights on two more. As the Sunday eliminations started, both cars were running great and both advanced to the semis. In Top Sportsman, a laddered bye run cemented the second final of the weekend. However, in the dragster a four thousandths foul start to fellow NHRA Southeast division competitor, Shannon Roberts, ended the Top Dragster sweep attempt.
Regardless, waiting to meet Spradlin in the Top Sportsman final was recent NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series winner Shawn Morrow.
“Shawn and I were parked right next to each other; he was also helping NOPI run the Top Sportsman/Top Dragster program, so like myself, he was running ragged by late Sunday night and was just glad to make it to the end,” Spradlin said. “I had never gotten both cars to the finals in the same weekend, so I was determined to get the win. I got the holeshot and was able to get the win with a dead-on-the-index pass.”
The Spradlin team plans to continue this momentum at the NHRA Southeast Division’s final two LODRS races in Gainesville, FL, and Reynolds, GA, in mid-October. They’re also hoping to repeat history, as in 2012, Spradlin was able to win the last two races in come-from-behind fashion to claim the division Top Dragster championship.