It’s the oldest drag race in the sport’s history, with an incredible reputation that will never be surpassed. The World Series of Drag Racing at Cordova Dragway Park in Illinois brings an unforgettable treat to drag racing fans as it relives the old days of classic nitro powered match racing with names like “Big Daddy” Don Garlits, Shirley Muldowney, Chris “The Greek” Karamesines, Arnie “The Farmer” Beswick and many more having made appearances throughout the years.
Following up on the epic 60th Annual World Series of Drag Racing held last summer, this year’s 61st installment yet again lived up to it’s reputation. Despite two torrential downpours during the weekend, a capacity crowd packed Cordova Dragway Park and were treated with stellar performances from the booked-in match racers and exhibition machines.
Included in the line-up were professional NHRA stars like Tim Wilkerson, Clay Millican, Tony Pedregon, Bruce Litton, Dale Creasy Jr, Jack Wyatt, Warren Johnson and Larry Morgan. Also included in the action, a header flame-filled bout between Tom Motry’s “Drastic Plastic” AA/Fuel Altered with Joe Haas behind the wheel squaring off with John Lawson’s “Runaway” Nitro Funny Car. Plus, Scott Gaulter’s “Nitro Madness” AA/Fuel Altered with “Radar” Roger Lechtenberg driving, against the front engine A/Fuel Dragster of Beedy & Malloy.
They were joined by Dave Daunheimer in the “Frantic Fueler” Nostalgia Top Fueler taking on Dale Suhr’s “Orange Crate” Nostalgia Top Fueler with nitro Funny Car pilot John Hale behind the wheel to cap off the feature match racers. Arnie “The Farmer” Beswick was again in action making exhibition runs along with four, yes four, jet powered machines and four Outlaw Pro Mods.
If that wasn’t worth the price of admission, the DRO AA/FC Challenge was held with an eight-car field of nitro burning nostalgia Funny Cars along with the Victory Performance Parts Nostalgia Super Stock Series, nostalgia Gassers and the crowd favorite Midwest Super Stock Mafia series. A huge turnout of bracket racers capped off the entertainment with three days of big money bracket racing all under the voice of the one and only Bret Kepner, who was joined by Cordova’s Tazz Hines and Scott Gardner in the announcing booth. Friday’s “Pro” round action got started at 7 p.m. with two heads up qualifying rounds for the DRO AA/FC Challenge and exhibition runs throughout the night.
Those in attendance on Friday night experienced a special treat as Tony Pedregon brought the Tommy Ivo tribute “Rod Shop” Nostalgia Funny Car to the line for it’s first trip down a drag strip. Pedregon debuted the flawless machine at the Winternationals in Pomona earlier in the year and made a soft burnout and easy run until things got sketchy at the top end as the car drifted steadily towards and eventually smacked the wall near the finish line. It was reported that the steering wheel actually fell off the original bodied flopper, but thankfully minimal damage was done and Pedregon was uninjured.
2013 DRO AA/FC Challenge Champion Shawn Bowen wheeled the “Violator” entry to the top qualifying position with a 5.79 at 247 MPH followed by Paul Romine and Mark Sanders rounding out the top three. Tom Motry’s “Drastic Plastic” AA/Fuel Altered wowed the crowd with a stellar 5.49 at 262, defeating John Lawson in the first of a three round match race. Bruce Litton made a solid test pass preparing for his two round bout with Clay Millican on Saturday night, while the show was capped off with fire belching performances from four jets including Mark Smith’s dual engine fire truck and David Modder’s “Dragons Fyre” 1940 Ford truck.
Saturday’s sunrise was not to be seen as a line of severe storms blew through Cordova Dragway Park with winds up to 50 MPH, which wreaked havoc on pit areas and awnings throughout the facility. Drizzle continued for hours until early afternoon and by three o’clock the staff at Cordova had the pits and track dried and race ready. Match racers and nostalgia Funny Cars warmed up, filling the pits with nitro fumes as fans flocked from pit to pit to get their fix. The first round of eliminations for the DRO AA/FC Challenge opened the action with top qualifier Shawn Bowen, Mark Sanders, Brian Stewart and Doc Halladay all earning round wins.
Next out were the big show Funny Cars where the two winners of this first round, would return to battle for the World Series title. The two losers from round one would also return in a consolation match-up. Dale Creasy Jr. was out first in his Tek Pak Inc. / Beaver Shredding flopper alongside Tim Wilkerson’s Levi, Ray & Shoup entry. Creasy Jr. took out Wilkerson securing his spot in the final, where he would race the winner of the next pairing featuring Tony Pedregon’s American Racing Wheels flopper against Jack Wyatt’s independent entry. Tally up another one for the underdogs, as Wyatt defeated Pedregon and advanced to the final to take on his good friend Creasy Jr.
Clay Millican and Bruce Litton brought their 8,000 horsepower NHRA Top Fuel Dragsters to life as the entertainment continued. Millican blasted off the line in his Dexter Tuttle-owned Parts Plus entry and used a 3.97 to defeat Litton in the first of two rounds. John Lawson clicked off his quickest elapsed time to date in the “Runaway” Nitro Funny Car with a 1/4 mile time of 5.50 at 246 to tie his opponent Joe Haas with one round remaining. Roger Lechtenberg and Dave Daunheimer also earned wins in their second of three rounds.
For the Pro Stock lovers, the “Professor” Warren Johnson and Larry Morgan were out next as two of the class’ elite took the line. Johnson took the win light in this first of two rounds. Down time between the pro rounds was filled with wheelstanding action from the Midwest Super Stock Mafia series, Nostalgia Super Stockers and Gassers plus of course, more fire belching action from the jets. In the semi-finals of the DRO AA/FC Challenge, Mark Sanders defeated a centerline crossing Doc Halladay and Shawn Bowen knocked out Brian Stewart.
Round two of the pro show kicked off with the NHRA Funny Car consolation round between Tim Wilkerson and Tony Pedregon. Wilkerson and Pedregon blasted down the 1,000 feet side-by-side with Wilkerson taking the nod. Dale Creasy Jr. and Jack Wyatt were up next to crown a World Series Champion. Longtime friends and match race partners, Creasy Jr. and Wyatt laid down side by side burnouts and brought their cars to the line. Creasy Jr. was off the line first and never trailed, clinching a moral boosting victory as the team looks to be climbing out of a slump after just missing the field in Brainerd. Creasy Jr. and company plan to make their final appearance of 2014 at the NHRA Nationals in St. Louis in September.
Millican and Litton fired up their big show fuelers as round two continued. Again, Millican took the stripe in a close drag race which brought the crowd to their feet. John Lawson again improved on his best numbers in the “Runaway” fuel flopper with a 5.40, beating Joe Haas in the “Drastic Plastic” 2-1 and joining Creasy Jr. and Millican as World Series Champions. Warren Johnson took another round win defeating Larry Morgan 2-0 with a 6.77 at 204 MPH pass. Some bumper dragging wheelstand contest action followed the pro passes with one pair remaining in the water box to close the show.
Shawn Bowen and Mark Sanders sat strapped in their Nostalgia Funny Cars eager to get the final round underway. Both top notch competitors, this race was a toss-up on paper as both teams were capable of 5.70 zone passes. The cars launched side-by-side with both drivers busy behind the wheel. Sanders pulled ahead at the top end as Bowen’s engine started eating itself, allowing Sanders to take the win light with a 6.08 at 248 MPH to Bowen’s 6.18 at 195.
The always exciting Sanders erupted in celebration in the winners circle to put a cap on the 61st Annual World Series of Drag Racing.
For those who have not had the opportunity to experience the World Series, it’s a true must for any die hard drag racing fan. The professionalism and organization of the show by the Cordova Dragway Park staff coupled with the on track action that can only be seen at the World Series, truly makes this event nothing short of spectacular. Keep an eye on www.cordovadrag.com and make plans to attend the 62nd Annual World Series of Drag Racing in August of 2015, you won’t be disappointed.