Race Coverage: The 5th Annual WOOOSTOCK At Darlington Dragway

The stars of heads-up racing and the no-time world are at Darlington Dragway for the mega-event known as WOOOSTOCK. This year marks the fifth anniversary of WOOOSTOCK and this could be the biggest race yet. We’ll be here all weekend long covering all the action, so stay tuned!

The Savage Is On The Prowl 

Chris Hardee doesn’t show up to a no-time event with the intention of finishing second, he’s there to bring home all the money. His 2004 stock-style suspension Mustang known as “Savage” lives up to its name thanks to a nasty small-block Ford with a 98mm turbo from Forced Inductions. This event is the first for Hardee and his new Ford mill.

“We had Billy Gordon go through the engine and freshen it up recently. The engine was having issues with hurting main bearings all the time so the solution was to have a new machine shop go through everything and try again because of the top-end oiling issues we were having. We also moved to a dry sump oil system to try and help keep the engine happy,” Hardee explains.

The change to a new engine package hasn’t been an easy one for Hardee and his team. They’ve faced a lot of challenges, but feel the worst is behind them and the car is starting to come around again.

“ I’m used to running at the front with this car when we had a small-block Chevy in it…this has been difficult. The move to a small-block Ford has been a tough transition because it’s been fighting us, but I think we’ve got it figured out now. We came here to win, it’s what we do, I don’t like being in the middle of the pack and we’re going to change that this weekend,” Hardee says.

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King Kong Returns 

If you’re going to go after the big money in the no-time world you better have plenty of confidence in your program and the horsepower to match it under the hood. Marques Hatton is the wheelman for “King Kong”, a 1978 Chevy Malibu that’s rocking a 484 cubic-inch Pat Musi nitrous mill between its fenders.

Hatton recently picked up a huge win at the Friday Night Frenzy 4.84 bore-space shootout against some tough competition. That victory was great for Hatton’s team, but they didn’t just rest on their hands, they’re back at it with a revised engine looking for more big-money races.

“We’ve made some changes to the car since that shootout win to make the car even faster. The car’s electronics got some upgrades to assist with making it easier to manage. Ryan McCain is our tuner and he got together with Pat Musi to make some changes to the engine so we can push it even harder,” Hatton says. 

Kong’s new heart is getting put through its paces this weekend at WOOOSTOCK. Hatton and his team take no-time racing seriously and they have a plan to win that works well at every event.

“We usually just grudge race Kong, but we do run the high-dollar no-time shootouts when we can, too. Our plan is to show up to the event early and get plenty of testing done so we’re as prepared as possible. We want to be race-ready before our competitors get to the event so they only see us in full race mode,” Hatton says. 

Youmans Moves From Pontiac To A HEMI

Tommy Youmans is a hardcore Pontiac fanatic and the 1970 GTO he races in Pro 275 is one of the nicest cars you’ll ever see. The GTO was one of the fastest Pontiac-powered machines in the world until recently, when Youmans made the switch to a Pro Line HEMI for power. This wasn’t done because the Kaufmann Racing Engines-built mill was slow, it just wasn’t fast enough to keep up with the insane elapsed times the Pro 275 class required to run at the front. 

“We wanted to continue to develop the Pontiac engine but we’re to a point in Pro 275 where it’s getting so fast and we want to race. This engine became available so we decided to switch to it and race the car. The 1964 GTO I own is going to get the twin-turbo Pontiac engine swapped into it. We can use that car with the Pontiac engine in it and develop the program more. That car is also a lot lighter and it won’t have to meet a Pro 275 weight minimum,” Youmans says.

The move to a HEMI will allow Youmans to be more competitive in Pro 275 and the engine is already showing plenty of potential. The team is still trying to figure out how to distribute weight in the GTO to maximize the power that’s available to them now. 

“We don’t have to rip on this engine nearly as hard as we did with the Pontiac. The weight of the car is 3,025 pounds and that made us really beat on that Pontiac engine. People don’t understand we’re the only one out here with that combination, so we had to figure it out with Kaufmann Racing Engines, who has been great to work with. We’re still trying to figure that engine out and develop the package more. There are other guys building similar engines now thanks to what we built and there’s more coming to push it further,” Youmans explains.

All Steel All Glass Fun

No-time racing isn’t just about the crazy high-dollar matchups or vehicles, there’s plenty of ways someone can get in on the action with a simple combination. The All Steel All Glass (ASAG) class is designed for racers who want to play with the clocks off on a reasonable level. Any vehicle that wants to enter must have all its OEM glass in place and it must be all steel except for the hood and trunk.

 Billy Burm’s 1995 S10 is the perfect example of what you’ll see in this exciting class. 

“We totally rebuilt this truck to run in the various ASAG events that different promotions offer. The truck uses a simple EFI small-block Chevy that’s controlled by a Holley dominator and has a nitrous system from Nitrous Outlet. Since they separated the boost and nitrous cars in ASAG, it’s made the racing a lot of fun. What attracts people to race in the class is the fact that it’s close and competitive racing,” Burm says.

Bracket Racing Fun At WOOOSTOCK

Bracket racing is the backbone of drag racing and there are plenty of number chasers here at WOOOSTOCK. Cameron Bradham, the owner of Cameron’s Torque Converter Service, brought his 1970 Camaro out to WOOOSTOCK for some fun. The Camaro is powered by a big block Chevy that Cameron built himself and is backed by one of his powerglide transmissions.

Cameron has a couple of race cars in his fleet, but this one has a unique story and is a family project car too.

“I got the car from a friend of mine after he and another friend had and swapped the car back and forth several times over the years. When they got tired of swapping it, I bought it for the chassis. It came out of North Carolina and has been a race car its entire life. The reason I bought the car is I wanted my son to have a car to race. This has turned into something fun that my son and I can use to spend time together,” Cameron says.

Bracket racing is something that Cameron enjoys because of its pace and the fellowship time it offers with friends. 

“I like to go bracket racing when I can because it’s just more laid back than when we go heads up racing. We get to spend the day outdoors enjoying the weather with friends and family doing something that’s fun. You have plenty of time to cook out with everyone and just have an enjoyable day at the track,” Cameron states. 

Learning Is Half The Battle At WOOOSTOCK

No time racers are always hunting for every possible performance advantage they can find within their vehicle. Hank Williams and his tuner Josh have been hammering away at his 1988 S10 to get it fully sorted out after making some changes. The truck is powered by a LS-based engine and is fed boost by a 98mm turbo. The combination is showing a lot of potential so far, but the truck is also putting up one heck of a fight. 

“No time racing is fun because you’re really just racing yourself to try and go faster. You don’t know what the person in the other lane has and you really can’t worry about it. This type of racing is all about pushing yourself and trying to understand what it takes to get the most out of your race car,” Williams says. 

Williams mostly runs no time shootouts like the Carolina N/T series, but the truck can also run 28-inch slick tire events, and Williams isn’t afraid to lock in a grudge race either. This weekend Williams and his team are chasing a few small issues, but the truck is starting to come to them. 

“We’re still learning the truck and what it wants. The truck debuted at this event last year and we’ve been making changes to improve it. Right now we just want to get it figured out so it will go A to B and then we’ll turn it up,” Williams explains. 

Luís de Leon Works Towards Perfection 

Radial vs The World isn’t a class for the faint of heart, you have to be committed to a path of constant improvement if you want to run at the front. Luís de Leon is in his second season of racing in RVW and his team came into 2021 ready to fight. The Camaro that de Leon drives went through a massive amount of changes coming into this season and the team is still trying to sort the car out.

“We’ve been working with Nelson on the engine, we changed the intake, we’ve been working with Switzer on the nitrous system, just lots of changes. The four-link is different, the shocks have been changed, and we made changes to the gear ratios in the transmission. We took a lot of weight out of the car so it’s closer to the minimum weight for the nitrous rules,” de Leon says.

The improvements that the team has made to the car have come with their share of growing pains. At the first event of the year, de Leon and his crew were chasing a lot of issues, but they have solved the problems and the car is now mechanically sound. The team is now trying to get baseline data so they can start dialing the car in.

“We’re going to look at the data to try and figure out how to get the car in a good place to make an A to B pass. We thought the previous set up in the car would max out in the mid 3.50s, but we want to go bottom 3.50s or even 3.40s. The goal is to be even quicker upfront while gaining more on the back half of the run,” de Leon explains. 

Buginga Hunting For First Pro 275 Victory

Manny Buginga rolled into WOOOSTOCK ready for battle in Pro 275. The first day of qualifying went well for Buginga and he found himself sitting in the number one spot, however, that 3.73 pass came with a hefty price. The engine was mortally wounded after a long run under the hood of the Mustang, so it had to come out. Buginga’s crew worked until 3:00 am pulling the hurt engine out and got the car ready for the next round of qualifying.

“I can’t thank my great team of Jimbo, Ben, and Francis enough for their hard work. These guys put our A-game engine in and made me look like a hero the next round. The car did everything it was supposed to and went right down the track, you wouldn’t know how much work they did based on how well the car ran,” Buginga says. 

Buginga will be the first one to tell you that his team has given him a great car at each event, but he hasn’t done well as a driver. The goal at WOOOSTOCK is to change that.

“When you have a great team behind you that’s what happens, things go right. The car has been on point thanks to the team, the driver has been the weak link, but we are working on that this weekend. We’re here to win so I can get my first victory behind the wheel of Fred,” Buginga explains.

Final Qualifying 

The clocks-on classes at WOOOSTOCK ran five hard rounds of qualifying to set the field for eliminations. In Pro Mod, Stan Shelton ripped off a 6.756 in his screw-blown Mustang to take the number one spot over “Tricky” Ricky Smith’s 3.677 lap.

Stevie “Fast” Jackson put some laps in on “The Shadow” in Radial vs The World trim trying to get the car back into fighting shape. During testing, Jackson laid down a 3.54 pass and went number one during qualifying with a 3.62. Luís de Leon was able to finally get a clean lap in and ran a 3.74 to nab the second spot.

Manny Buginga laid waste to the Pro 275 field with a string of 3.70s passes during qualifying. In the final session, Buginga put an exclamation point on his qualifying efforts with a 3.70 hanging nearly a full tenth over second-place Jeff Miller.

Brooke Miller’s Move To Top Sportsman

Brooke Miller has grown up at the race track watching family members make passes in some fast hot rods. Eventually, Brooke jumped into the cockpit of a JR Dragster and won a championship of her own in the PDRA. Now, Brooke is behind the wheel of a four-second Top Sportsman ride at the age of 16 and she’s already showing a lot of promise as a driver.

“It’s been a massive transition making the move from a JR Dragster to the big car and we’ve taken everything slowly. We did baby steps, I made passes to different spots on the track to get used to the car before I made a full pull. Overall, it wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be since we did the right thing and took our time,” Brooke says.

The Top Sportsman car demands a lot of respect and Brooke has paid close attention to all the tips her father has given her on how to drive the car. Brooke has embraced all the teachable moments and continues to grow in her role as a driver.

“The biggest change that surprised me was how hard the car leaves. When I made my first hit in the car I didn’t have my head against the seat and it actually caused me to lift when it threw me back into the seat. Everyone thought something was wrong with the car but it was just my foot coming off the pedal. On the next pass, I kept my head planted on the seat and went 1.065 to the 60 foot. My comfort level continues to grow behind the wheel and I’m always trying to learn how to become a better driver,” Brooke explains. 

WOOOSTOCK Defeats COVID

COVID-19 had a huge impact on the sport of drag racing in 2020. Many events were canceled and some were only allowed to have a minimal amount of spectators in attendance. WOOOSTOCK was one of the first events to take place after the lockdowns and it was supposed to have spectators, but a bomb threat at another track forced the state to ban spectators at the event. It was a huge blow to WOOOSTOCK, but the racing that did happen was amazing and everyone made the best of the situation.

WOOOSTOCK co-promoter Keith Berry has always wanted WOOOSTOCK to be a special event for the fans and he took it pretty hard that none could be in attendance in 2020. A picture was taken with Berry paying tribute to the fans by holding up a sign in the stands that read “ #1 Fan”. Fast forward to 2021 and fans were allowed to attend WOOOSTOCK and Berry recreated the iconic photo surrounded by fans. It was a special moment for the fans and the entire WOOOSTOCK team.

Tricky Ricky Smith lived up to his name in the final round of the Carolina Extreme Pro Mod. Smith absolutely tattooed Stan Shelton on the tree with a .004 light to pick up the holshot win runna 3.70 to Shelton’s 3.69 pass. The victory also built on Smith’s points lead for the Carolina Extreme Pro Mod series.

Stevie Fast turned the Shadow into a bracket car for WOOOSTOCK and ripped off a string of passes in the 3.60s during testing, eliminations, and ultimately in the final round to pick up the victory. Jackson lined up against Luís de Leon in the money round and cruised to victory with a 3.62, while de Leon struck the tires at the hit.

In Pro 275 Manny Buginga won the qualifying battle and went into eliminations in the number one spot, however, qualifying doesn’t determine the overall winner. Jeff Miller won the war behind the wheel of his Bumble Bee Camaro by defeating Buginga in the final frame.

About the author

Brian Wagner

Spending his childhood at different race tracks around Ohio with his family’s 1967 Nova, Brian developed a true love for drag racing. When Brian is not writing, you can find him at the track as a crew chief, doing freelance photography, or beating on his nitrous-fed 2000 Trans Am.
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