It was a historic weekend in more ways than one at the Radial Tire Racing Association Texas Radial Round Up, held at North Star Dragway in Denton, Texas this past weekend. This event was presented by Evolution Custom Auto, Quality Air Inc. and Nitrous Outlet. For starters, this marked the debut for the newly formed RTRA series, which is the first points series of its kind and will host six events this season between North Star Dragway and Osage Casino Tulsa Raceway Park.
The RTRA has made a big splash in a short time, gaining support from the biggest names in radial racing including Jared Johnston, Jason Michalak, Rich Bruder, Shane Fisher and many more. Contending for points championships in Pro Drag Radial, X275 and Limited 275, racers of the RTRA series crave the intensity of drag radial racing at his level, but now feel the added pressure of making every round count in the series points chase for each class.
Four straight days of incredible small tire action took place with two test days before the event officially began on Friday night. During testing on Wednesday and Thursday, Shawn Ellington (aka Murder Nova) made a big splash as a limited set of eyes caught the first attempt at sending this famed Street Outlaws competitor down the drag strip beneath a set of Mickey Thompson 275s. Ellington made five passes, with his quickest time clocking a 4.60 — not bad for some street racers! Ellington returned to Oklahoma City after testing was completed but we hope to see him in RTRA action this season.
Thursday testing was halted when Justin Curry went into a huge power wheelstand and desite three pedal jobs, ended up putting it on it’s side, making slight contact with the wall and ending the Curry effort earlier than planned. Curry walked away from the wild ride with no harm done, except to his pocketbook. Despite a downpour Friday morning, the staff at North Star Dragway battled forward to dry and prepare a safe track hoping to get in two sessions of qualifying on Friday.
Shortly after the first qualifying session of Limited 275, a shower moved in and halted qualifying for the rest of the night. Travis Thomason slid his hot rod to the top of the charts in Limited 275 qualifying with a 4.87 at 142 mph in a strong 24-car field. Given the rain, track officials put together an intense schedule for Saturday, which included three qualifying sessions and complete eliminations for this massive field of radial machines. Action would kick off at 10 am Saturday morning under party cloudy skies with temperatures in the low sixties, which would prove to be record setting conditions for the elite teams that packed the pits in Denton, Texas.
A thirty one car field of X275 machines battled through the morning and early afternoon on Saturday with three qualifying sessions. Jared Johnston of Raymore, Missouri, fresh off his win at Lights Out 6, led the sheets with an X275 world record elapsed time of 4.46 at 161 mph — but he wasn’t done breaking records yet. Rich Bruder was right in the mix with a stellar 4.47 at 160 mph to qualify second while Clint Downs turned heads in a big way, posting an impressive 4.49 at 155 mph to qualify third in his black 1974 Nova from Yukon, Okla. T.J. Gatlin (4.57), Kit Luong (4.59), Chris Shortridge (4.60), Jason Brock (4.60) and Odie Sturgeon (4.60) rounded out the top eight qualifiers in X275.
Pro Drag Radial brought fourteen cars to North Texas to battle for the first event win of the series. Jason Michalak wheeled the blown Bad9er Racing 2008 Corvette to a 4.11, 4.07 and 4.03 in his three qualifying rounds to lead the charts heading into eliminations. Rick Thornton posted a strong 4.05 in his 1965 twin turbocharged Corvette to qualify third, and Taylor Lastor’s best of a 4.18 qualified him fourth, but his day would end early with a wild top end incident. Lastor ran into brake issues going through the traps in the first qualifying session when the brakes actually locked up due to a mechanical failure, sending Lastor spinning into the wall. The car remained upright and slid to a stop, where Lastor climbed out uninjured; but his day at the Texas Radial Round Up was over.
Travis Thomason held his top qualifying spot through two more sessions for Limited 275 while Gary Robbins tripped the clocks with a 4.92 at 140 to qualify second in his 1968 Barracuda. Duane Thomas took the third qualifying position with a respectable 4.93 at 141 mph. Jim Staples (4.93), Eric Tobar (4.95), Jason Flowers (4.95), Matt Afshari (4.97) and Benny Wilmeth (4.97) rounded out the quick eight qualifiers in the twenty four car, all-run field.
The first round of eliminations brought more records and some intense side-by-side racing to the starting line under the eyes of a capacity crowd at North Star. In X275 action, Jared Johnston rocked the radial world with an incredible 4.44 at 160 mph, which re-set his own world record from earlier in the day. Al Tucci almost fell out of his chair in the announcing booth when the scoreboards lit up as news soon went viral of Johnston’s record lap. In the closest race of the opening round, Chase Driskell and Shane Fisher pulled to the line. Fisher used a .033 reaction time and 4.624 to narrowly defeat Driskell’s slightly quicker 4.623.
A powerhouse matchup between Todd Moyer and Rich Bruder came to the line as the round continued. Moyer, who had fought problems throughout qualifying, only able to post a 5.23 that qualified him last, now had to take on the number two qualifier in Bruder. Moyer improved to a 4.63 at 150 and cut a .010 reaction time, but it was no match for Bruders’ stellar 4.46 at 160, which would have been a world record had Johnston not stolen the spotlight.
Pro Drag Radial first round action played witness to more incredible numbers, this time from top qualifier Jason Michalak who ripped off an intense 4.007 at 190 mph which put jaws on the ground and brought the fans to their feet. Number two qualifier Rick Thornton also advanced past first round with eyes set on the prize.
Limited 275 first round action saw a massive field cut in half with Travis Thomason (4.87), Jim Staples (4.96) and Derek Lewis (4.98) posting the quickest winning passes of the round. In round two of Limited, Brent Gibbs stepped up to a 4.89 to advance to round three, along with Duane Thomas, who also used a 4.89 to move into round three. Gary Robbins, Jim Staples, Eric Tobar and Travis Thomason also earned round two victories.
The second round of X275 competition was highlighted by Rich Bruder’s stout 4.45 at 160 mph, which put Dustin Mewborne’s 4.53 at 158 on the trailer. Bruder and Johnston were now in a battle for the record while still trying to make sure they go down the track to get the round win, as well. Jeff Colletta stepped up to a 4.57 at 159 to take down Kit Luong and Jason Brock pulled off the upset of the round by defeating Shane Fisher. Eric Moore closed the round with a 4.59 at 145 to defeat the higher-qualified Chris Shortridge. Kenny Hubbard, Clint Downs and Mike Kelley also advanced.
Pro Drag Radial round two found Mario Gonzalez, Rick Thornton, Kyle Huettel and Jason Michalak earning round wins and a trip to the semi-finals. Michalak posted a 4.02, proving to be the car to beat, with Huettel posting his best elapsed time of the event to that point with a 4.21 at 178. The semi-final would see some awesome pairings, including Huettel versus Thornton and Michalak against Mario Gonzales.
Round three of X275 competition brought the remaining eight cars to the line as points were tallying up for the drivers in this round and the pressure was on. Kenny Hubbard almost pulled off the upset of the event as his 4.65 gave Jared Johnston’s off-pace 4.58 a solid run, but Johnston got the win light and was the first driver to move into the semi-finals.
Mike Kelley used a 4.63 to take down Jeff Colletta and Clint Downs snuck past Eric Moore as Moore’s car broke loose, sending him into a sideways move for the wall. Some awesome driving kept the car off the wall, but Moore’s day was over, as Downs was moving on. Jason Brock quickly made it clear he was in it to win it as he took down Rich Bruder, as his 4.60 earned the nod over Bruder’s off-pace 4.72 at 160 mph.
Brent Gibbs marched on in Limited 275 action as his quicker reaction time sealed the deal against Duane Thomas as both drivers posted 4.92 elapsed times. Thomas Thomason used a 4.91 at 142 mph to narrowly defeat Jim Staples’ 4.92 at 143 mph. Gary Robbins took out Eric Tobar with a 4.93 as the three remaining Limited 275 racers moved into the semis, separated by only .026-seconds.
Johnston and Mike Kelley were up first in the X275 semi-final round. Johnston showed no mercy, tripping the clocks with a 4.46 at 161 mph to Kelley’s 4.61 at 153 mph. Johnston was final round bound looking to claim his third win of the year and second straight at North Star Dragway. Brock was off the line first and posted a 4.61 at 153 mph to defeat Clint Downs, who had a very impressive outing at the RTRA season opener. So Johnston and Brock were set to duke it out for the X275 title.
Pro Drag Radial semi-final action was highlighted by Michalak, who posted low elapsed time of the event and top speed of the meet with his 4.002 at 191.65 mph, defeating Gonzalez’s 7.61. Kyle Huettel was at a definite disadvantage in his semi-final round against Rick Thornton. Huettel hadn’t found the tune up in his nitrous-assisted Camaro yet, while Thornton had been 4.05 earlier in the day. Both cars struggled, but Huettel’s 4.84 at 148 took out Thornton’s 8.94 as the Bad9er Racing Team headed to the final round of Pro Drag Radial with both entries.
Semi-final action in Limited 275 saw Brent Gibbs use a 5.00 at 142 to take the nod over Gary Robbins’ 5.03 and Travis Thomason posted a 5.04 in a bye run to set up the final round between Gibbs and top qualifier Thomason. In the final, Thomason took the starting line advantage and never looked back, taking the win with a 4.92 at 143 to Gibbs’ 5.13 at 136 mph. Thomason took a well-deserved victory after more or less dominating the Limited 275 field.
All Jared Johnston had to do was win the final round to complete his pure domination and record-setting day at the RTRA Texas Radial Round Up. Brock was not favored on paper, but had successfully taken down both Shane Fisher and Rich Bruder, and was looking to complete his giant killing rampage and lock down the first X275 win of the season series. At the flash of amber, Johnston took the starting line advantage and never trailed, winning with a 4.49 at 161 mph to Brock’s 5.10 at 103 mph. It was nothing short of a perfect weekend for Johnston and company, as they will lead the RTRA points, hold the X275 elapsed time record, and move into the next event looking for more victims.
The Pro Drag Radial final round saw an all-Bad9er Racing battle between Jason Michalak and Kyle Huettel. Michalak owned this one from start to finish and posted his sixth straight lap in the 4.0 range with a 4.01 at 191 mph taking the nod over Huettel’s 5.50. Michalak’s win will place him atop the class points standings and his 4.002 at 191 mph time slip will stand as the RTRA class record, for now.
Second chance races were contested in Pro Drag Radial and X275, where Eric Stubbs claimed victory in X275 second chance over runner up Derek Lewis. In Pro Drag Radial second chance, Bobby Kruck took the win over Ron Hamm.
Fans and racers alike enjoyed the RTRA season opener being commentated by none other than the voice of radial racing, Al Tucci, who was joined by Chris “Dinger” Dingman to call the action over the weekend.
Tucci had this to say about the RTRA action at North Star Dragway, “I’ve announced races for many years since street car style racing started in the early 1990s. I’ve watched changes of ownerships and rules in the same venue. I believe the Radial Tire Racing Association is needed to govern the rules and give all drag radial racers the fair chance and the great competitive racing series they deserve.
“We all know by now that track preparation is at least 75% responsible for providing the incredible elapsed times and mile per hour we are seeing today at these events. The RTRA hit it out of the park with its season opener at North Star Dragway. All I can say is it was awesome! The records broken in the fastest classes, the spectators were treated to the best action you could ask for in radial racing. I wish the RTRA a great longevity and am confident North Star Dragway and Tulsa Raceway Park will see success as the first host tracks this season.”
North Star Dragway track owner and RTRA co-founder Gene Nicodemus wrapped up the weekend, thanking all the racers and fans for their support of the new program.
“We have invested countless hours in making the RTRA dream become a reality and I’m committed to providing the quickest and safest track possible to keep those records in Texas. I want to give special thanks to the racers and fans, because without them the RTRA wouldn’t exist. Evolution Custom Auto, Quality Air Inc. and Nitrous Outlet also were a big part of making the Texas Radial Round Up event possible. We’re looking forward to the remaining five events, it will be some awesome racing throughout the season as these drivers compete for the first points Championships in history,” said Nicodemus.
The next stop on the 2015 Radial Tire Racing Association tour brings the series to Tulsa Raceway Park where the Pro Drag Radial and X275 classes will compete as a part of the spectacular Throwdown In T-Town event May 14-16th. The Limited 275 RTRA class will host its next event at North Star Dragway on Saturday, May 2nd.