Story & photos by Tim Glover:
For the first time since April 20, racers enjoyed the opportunity to race again at Atlanta Dragway. In addition to the regularly scheduled Summit ET Series event, Junior Dragsters ran a second race.
Also, the NHRA Unleashed Wally trophies were awarded to the winners of the Bracket One and Bracket Two classes which were held over from the rain delayed Chevy High Performance Magazine Nationals. Joe Haddon and Mickey Morris enjoyed winning the trophies, and then Morris went on to win Sportsman later in the evening.
“Thanks to God, my wife Vicki, daughter Christina and my family,” said Bracket One winner Joe Haddon after taking the rain delayed NHRA Unleashed Bracket One win with his Oxford, GA based 2006 Racetech dragster. Haddon faced another multi time winner in the final, Jeremy Hancock out of Commerce, GA. Unfortunately for Hancock, his ’05 Undercover dragster broke the starting line beams 0.003 seconds too early, resulting in a red light start. Haddon went on to a 5.06 second at 136.61mph pass on a 5.04 handicap. Hancock’s car also went a bit too quick, posting a 4.73 at 146.61mph (4.75 dial). Haddon also thanked Brad Howard and Mike Pittman for their help.
NHRA Unleashed Bracket Two winner Mickey Morris, who hails from Ellenwood, GA, actually had the “worst” reaction time in the final, at 0.027 seconds. However, his ’98 Trans Am prevailed on the big end of the track with a dead-on 7.713 second pass at 94.79mph (7.71 target).
Matt Ward of Fair Play, SC was great on the starting line with a 0.005 second react in his ’69 Camaro, but unfortunately for him, his car was a little off the mark in the elapsed time department, posting a 6.49 at 103.21mph (6.46 dial). The margin of victory for Morris at the finish line was miniscule, at 0.0094 seconds, mere inches. Morris thanked his mom and dad (Rickey Morris who is also a very accomplished racer) and girlfriend Jessica. “It was definitely worth coming back today to win this,” Morris added.
Brian Smith from Flowery Branch, GA wheeled his Stacy Blanton owned ’07 Undercover dragster to the winner’s circle in today’s Super Pro action after finishing in the semi-finals at the previous April 20 event. For the final round, he faced Don Brown, Sr from Buford, GA. Brown’s ’01 Spitzer dragster had been on jackstands for over three years, and this was its first event after getting the car race ready. Smith proved he was ready, with a 0.013 second react, and a dead-on 5.127 at 129.53mph.
Brown was a little later in the reaction time department, compounded by the car slowing to a final round 4.94 at 138.83 (4.85 dial) after a stellar first outing. “I had a little luck,” Brown commented. Smith said this was just like the last time, where they struggled early in the race, and then finished strong. He thanked car owner Stacy Blanton, team-mate Debbie Blanton, Ed Nalley Engines, Undercover Dragster, Blanton Collision and Jefferson Quick Lube for all their help. The semi-final finisher was J.D. Reid (’06 Undercover dragster – Conyers, GA).
Jefferson, GA racer Pete Wagner celebrated a Pro class win on Father’s Day along with his three sons, Steve, Nick and Jeff Wagner who also raced today. In fact, his son Jeff paid for his re-entry into the event as a Father’s Day present. For the final round action, Wagner met Wade Bryant of Bowman, GA, who was celebrating his birthday and hoping for a final round win. However, Wagner dashed that opportunity with a stellar 0.006 second reaction time, coupled with a close 7.49 second at 86.72mph pass (7.47 dial).
Even though Bryant broke out by going way quicker than his dial-in time of 6.87 seconds (6.81 at 98.81mph), Wagner’s reaction time advantage was good enough to allow his ’71 Demon to take the big end stripe 0.003 seconds in front of Bryant’s ’67 Camaro. The lone semi-finalist was Tom Wallace (’66 Belvedere II – Carrollton, GA). “All the glory goes to our heavenly Father and my earthly father Ron. Also thanks go to my wife and sons for supporting me,” added Wagner.
After winning the coveted Wally trophy in the rain delayed NHRA Unleashed event, Mickey Morris continued his streak in Sportsman action. For the final, Morris met defending Sportsman champion Howard Warren of Douglasville, GA. Warren’s ’72 Maverick had been on its game all day, but spun the tires in the final and fell off the predicted pace of 12.00 seconds to a 12.34 at 93.04mph. Morris took that opportunity to slow his identically 12.00 dialed ’98 Trans Am to the winning 12.13 second at 105.36mph pass.
Michael Couch, another Wilson Gang racer from Tallapoosa, GA made it to the semi-final round with his ’80 Malibu.
Lawrenceville, GA racer David Fletcher has been involved with Super Pro Bike for a long time, and stepped back into the winner’s circle again with his ’84 Kawasaki. His opponent, Jay Rhyne of Athens, GA was also doing well on his ’81 Suzuki, until the final, when it left the starting line beams 0.007 seconds before the clocks started, illuminating the dreaded cherry colored foul bulb. Knowing the win was already his, Fletcher chose to run his bike wide open through the finish line, posting a 9.249 at 138.66mph. Rhyne’s mount went on to a 9.35 at 136.32mph (9.31 target).
Tim Sutton (’83 Suzuki – Clermont, GA) earned the semi-finalist portion of the purse. “I feel lucky to win. The bike was not consistent today, but we pulled it out. I’m just glad to be racing after all of the down time we have had this year,” added Fletcher.
Jordan Autrey from Traveler’s Rest, SC cross licensed on Friday evening during the Year One Fast Friday event, and won his first ever NHRA race on the first try, in Street ET Bike. Autrey was up against stiff competition in the form of Brian Wilson, another Wilson Gang racer from Tallapoosa, GA. Autrey’s ’11 Kawasaki was on its game, posting a close 0.01 over 9.51 at 133.71mph (9.50 dial). However, the win was his before he even left the starting line after Wilson’s ’00 GSXR600 Suzuki lit up the dreaded red light en route to an 11.89 at 116.50mph (11.50 dial).
Paul Lee (’00 Hayabusa – Mt. Airy, GA) and Jimmy “Cha Cha” Heisler (’00 Kawasaki – Woodstock, GA) were the winner and runner up from the April 20 event, and finished in the semi-final round during today’s action. Autrey, who has been racing for two years, thanked Jimmy and Linda Autrey, along with Chris Mealor.
The Junior Dragster contingent enjoyed not one, but two complete races during today’s action.
Rachel Flowers (12 – Loganville, GA) earned the first victory during race one of the 8-12 Jr Dragsters. Although she did cross the finish line with a breakout 9.11 at 71.06mph on a 9.14 dial-in time, her opponent, Trey Butler (11 – Jackson, GA) broke out even more with a 9.07 at 69.83mph (also dialed 9.14). Austin Bowden (11 – Homer, GA) earned the semi-finalist trophy for his efforts.
The first 13-17 Junior Dragster winner of the day was Chris Bowden (17 – Homer, GA and brother of Austin Bowden). Bowden did a great job on both ends of the track, reacting first with a 0.017 second time, and closing the door at the finish line with a close 8.10 at 77.51 (8.08 dial). Opponent Charlie Smith was a little tardy this time on his react, and broke out with a 7.89 at 83.71mph (7.95 target). Paul Charette (17 – Augusta, GA) took home a semi-finalist trophy for his efforts.
The second 8-12 Jr Dragster win was enjoyed by Colton Reville (12 – Martinez, GA). Reville enjoyed a holeshot win against Jackson Earwood (10 – Cleveland, GA) due to a better reaction time. Although Reville’s machine slowed to a 9.00 at 71.95mph (8.93 dial), he still crossed the big end stripe 0.042 seconds in front of Earwoods car, which carded an 8.98 at 74.32 mph (8.96 dial). Blaine Rogers (12 – Hiwassee, GA) also got to take home a semi-finalist trophy. “This trophy is dedicated to my stepfather and my father. Also, thank you to uncle Leo, my coach. This day would not be possible without them,” added Reville.
The second 13-17 Junior Dragster win was earned by 17 year old Cole Sheriff from Lula, GA, who was also racing in Super Pro today until his engine lost oil pressure. Undaunted, Sheriff jumped back into his Junior Dragster and used a holeshot advantage, coupled with a 7.973 at 82.52mph (7.94 dial) for the win. His opponent, Austin Solesbee (15 – Sautee Nacoochee, GA) was also good with a 7.930 at 81.15mph, but was 0.011 seconds behind at the stripe.
Katie Wilhelm (13 – Commerce, GA) went home with the 13-17 semi-finalist trophy. “Thank the Lord first. Also, thanks to my mom Misti, dad Todd, my grandfather, Motivational Tubing and Whaley Motorsports,” said Sheriff. He then added that he hoped he would get his big dragster going again by next weekend, when the “big cars” will enjoy a double header.
Sanctioned by the National Hot Rod Association (NHRA), Atlanta Dragway is located just off I-85 at Exit 149 in the Banks Crossing area of Commerce, Georgia. Information on all 2013 events, including the Night of Fire on June 29, 2013, may be obtained by calling the track office (706-335-2301) or logging on to www.atlantadragway.com.