The third points race of the season for the Radial Tire Racing Association Pro Drag Radial and X275 classes was held July 24th-26th at Tulsa Raceway Park in Tulsa, Oklahoma. This marked the first stop for the RTRA tour at Tulsa this season and attracted big car counts in both fields. Entering the event, Rick Thornton held the points lead in the Pro Drag Radial category while Jared Johnston sat atop the X275 points standings after pure domination of the first two events this season. A stout sixteen car field in Pro Drag Radial and forty car field in X275 made for a very competitive night of racing in Tulsa that lasted long into the night.
Two rounds of heads-up qualifying were held on Friday night and Thornton earned the top spot in Pro Drag Radial with a 4.09 at 191 mph in his turbocharged 1965 Corvette. Kyle Huettel clicked off a 4.14 at 179 mph in his nitrous-assisted Camaro to secure the number two spot after two of four qualifying sessions. Rob Valden slid in the seat of DeWayne Mills’ famed “Golden Gorilla” 1968 Camaro for the weekend and his 4.17 at 196 mph took the third qualifying position on Friday night. Jeff Sitton and Marty Robertson rounded out the top five with two sessions remaining scheduled for Saturday evening.
Red hot Jared Johnston found himself in a familiar place, at the top of the charts in X275 qualifying after Friday night’s sessions. Johnston’s 1992 Ford Mustang posted a 4.64 at 156 mph and narrowly held off the 1974 Chevy Nova of Clint Downs, who posted a 4.65 at 154 mph, while Chris Groves secured the third spot with a 4.67 at 154 mph in his 1991 Ford Mustang from Albuquerque, New Mexico. Jason Hutcheson and Mike Genovese rounded out the top five qualifiers of the thirty six cars that made runs on Friday night in X275 competition.
The final two qualifying sessions kicked off Saturday evening in conjunction with the IHRA Sonic Rush Tour event held the same night at Tulsa Raceway Park, bringing an action-packed variety of drag racing entertainment to the fans who packed the stands in Oklahoma. Thornton was able to hold his spot on top in Pro Drag Radial action with his 4.09 from Friday night and Huettel’s 4.14 held strong for the number two spot, while Jeff Sitton moved up to qualify third with a 4.15 at 186 mph in the “Hyde” 2002 Camaro. Valden and Robertson didn’t improve, but remained in the top five after four rounds of qualifying with Mark Moore, Taylor Lastor and Mark Woodruff rounding out the top half of the sixteen car field heading into eliminations.
Chris Groves made a move to the top in X275 qualifying on Saturday with a 4.63 at 155 mph bumping Johnston to the second position. Downs and Genovese remained in the top five while Taylor Lastor, who was running in both classes, stepped up to a 4.66 at 154 mph to lock down the number five spot. Rob Goss, Jason Hutcheson, Chase Driskell, Odie Sturgeon and Tyler Stubbe rounded out the top ten after four qualifying sessions of X275 action. Rodney Whatley made the cut with a 5.03 at 143 mph to qualify in the number thirty two spot of the forty car field.
It was time to play for keeps as the pairings were set and the call went out to kick off the opening round of eliminations in Pro Drag Radial. Top qualifier Thornton snuck past the first round with a tire spinning 9.09 after his opponent, Odie Sturgeon, was unable to make the call. Woodruff was up against the wicked blown Corvette of Jason Michalak, who struggled a bit in qualifying after posting some stellar numbers in competition earlier this year. In a stellar drag race, Woodruff used a .096-second advantage off the starting line and a 4.38 at 182 mph to take out Michalak’s quicker-but-losing 4.29 at 185 mph — MOV .004 — in the closest race of the round.
As eliminations continued, Valden lit the scoreboards with a nice 4.15 at 199 mph to take out Justin Martin’s 4.60 at 175 mph. Marty Robertson advanced with a 4.38 at 179, defeating John Urist, who spun the tires at the hit after taking a massive starting line advantage. Justin Kalwei qualified number fifteen and knocked out number two qualifier Kyle Huettel as Huettel’s -.131 reaction time fell to Kalwei’s 4.55 at 162 mph. Number ten qualifier Barry Lutz knocked out the higher qualified Taylor Lastor as Lutz’s 4.51 at 169 took the nod over a tire spinning 5.27 for Lastor. Jeff Sitton posted low elapsed time of the round with a nice 4.14 to knock out Tyler Stubbe who was running in both categories and in the final pair, Mark Moore won with a 4.80 over Shannon Beeler’s off pace 7.10.
Second round of Pro Drag Radial got underway with Thornton and Woodruff pulling to up the stage beams. Thornton laid down a stellar 4.06 at 192, low elapsed time of the round, to take the win over Woodruff’s 4.33 at 184 mph. Valden took the starting line advantage over Robertson and never trailed as Valden’s 4.14 at 199 mph took the nod over Robertson’s 5.04. Kalwei benefitted from yet another red light, this time from Barry Lutz who was -.249 as Kalwei’s 4.51 at 162 mph advanced to the semi-finals. In the final pair of round two, Sitton and Moore squared off as Sitton’s 4.80 at 179 mph snuck past a tire spinning Moore.
Sixteen cars returned to action for round two in the X275 category and in the opening pair, Jason Brock eliminated the top qualifier Groves when Groves went -.076 red. Driskell posted a 4.76 at 147 mph to get around Jason Wheeler and Lastor’s 4.70 at 154 was enough to hold off Chris Wilson’s close 4.74 at 150 mph. Genovese blew up the scoreboards with a stout 4.58 at 153 mph to take out Randy Matlock and number thirty one qualifier Justin Carey’s 5.00 at 142 advanced over Martin’s 6.54. Carey was going rounds after becoming the first man of the season to defeat Jared Johnston in RTRA competition, when in round one Johnston blew the tires off at the hit, ending his Tulsa outing far earlier than expected. Downs posted a 4.65 to advance past Fred Silbernagel and Goss won a pedal fest over Kit Luong to close the round with eight cars remaining.
Semi-final action in Pro Drag Radial kicked off with a powerhouse match-up between Thornton and Valden. Thornton was going rounds and looking to keep his points lead intact but blew the tires off at the starting line, while Valden posted a strong 4.12 at 200 mph to move into the final round. Kalwei was a no-show in his semi-final pairing with Sitton, as Sitton soloed to a 4.13 at 186 mph and an epic battle between Valden and Sitton was set in the final round of Pro Drag Radial.
Round three of X275 brought Brock and Driskell to the line in the opening pair. Brock had issues while Driskell’s 4.68 at 147 mph sent him to the semi-finals. Lastor drilled Genovese off the line and posted a 4.66 at 154 mph to take the win light and Carey’s winning streak continued when Stubbe lit the red bulb with a -.037 reaction time, sending Carey’s 4.97 to the semis. Downs took the starting line advantage over Goss in their match-up, but Goss’ 4.62 at 150 drove around Downs’ 4.70 at 152 as four cars remained in X275 competition.
In the semi-finals of X275, Driskell and Lastor did battle in the opening pair. Lastor was unable to make the call with mechanical issues, allowing Driskell to advance to the final round with an off-pace 5.74. Driskell would face the winner between Carey and Goss in the final round. Carey, from the number thirty one qualifying spot, knocked out Goss in a pedal fest, as Carey’s 5.83 at 137 held off Goss’ 6.38 at 145 mph. Carey was final round bound, set to take on Driskell, as both were looking for their first RTRA X275 event wins.
As the sun rose in Tulsa, Oklahoma an extremely long night of racing was about to come to a close as the finalists returned to the staging lanes for the final time. Valden undoubtedly had the most consistent car in the Pro Drag Radial field but Sitton had posted several strong runs as well. As the cars fired up and did their burnouts, it was time to crown a winner. Valden got over a tenth of a second advantage off the starting line and never trailed as his 4.13 at 200 mph held off Sitton’s 4.28 at 171 mph. This marked the second straight RTRA Pro Drag Radial victory for the “Golden Gorilla” team from Sand Springs, Oklahoma.
Final round action in X275 brought the giant killer, Carey, to the line ready to take on Driskell, the number eight qualifier. At the flash of amber, Carey was off the line first with a half a tenth advantage, but Driskell quickly closed the gap and pulled ahead with a 4.67 at 156 mph to defeat Carey’s 5.02 at 142 mph. Driskell and company from Pasadena, Texas scored their first RTRA X275 class victory which helped them climb the charts in the points standings. Cecil Whitaker defeated Brian Wise in the X275 second chance race capping off the event in Tulsa.
The Radial Tire Racing Association returns to North Star Dragway on September 10th through the 12th for the fourth points race of the season will be contested. The RTRA Championship Finals and Shootouts will be run at the season ending event at North Star Dragway October 22-24th.