Combustion Chamber-2001 Goodguys Champions


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The 2001 Goodguys VRA season was an exciting and drama packed year.  From Jack Harris’ final round winning 5.99 at the March Meet, to the 216.24 m.p.h. blast that A/Fuel competitor Ron Attebury turned in at the Fuel and Gas Finals, you can best believe that most everything in between was just as noteworthy.    Suffice it to say, the nostaliga classes of 2001 provided many highlights that contributed to the hard fought championship races.  The following is a tribute to those that won their respective categories, along with those that tried their hardest to stand in their way.
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Top Fuel:
The heartbeat of the class has resided between the frame rails of the Champion Speed Shop entry. Rance McDaniel, driver of  Bob McLennan’s Chevy powered digger, advanced to three of five final rounds in 2001, taking home a win at the Nitro Nostalgia Drags event in Sonoma, while collecting runner-up honors at the Fall Classic in Las Vegas and the Fuel and Gas Finals in Bakersfield. While the team posted just one five second run during the season, a winning 5.984 over Jack Harris at Sonoma, they were able to post consistent low six-second runs while curbing their appetite for top end grenading runs. Interestingly, the team did not qualify for the ‘A’ field or earn points during the Spring Nitro Classic in Las Vegas, making their season ending challenge for a second consecutive championship all the more impressive. Bill Dunlap, driver of Mike Fuller’s ‘Midnite’ fueler, jumped into the second spot following his only win at the Fuel and Gas Finals. Dunlap scored two number one qualifying positions, each coming from the March Meet and the Fall Classic, as well as earning runner-up honors during his only other final round showing at Sonoma. ‘Midnite’ was happiest while hovering around the 6.15 mark, but a more aggressive tune-upusually sent this team up in smoke or back to the pits in need of a fresh motor.   Coming in at third and only one point behind Dunlap was Jack ‘Sheriff’ Harris.   Harris drove his Utah-based ‘Nitro Thunder’ entry to a season opening win at the March Meet, punctuating the final with a 5.993/244.56 over Lee Jennings.  Despite the fact that Harris never reached another final round (in Goodguys competition), he maintained the points lead until the Fuel and Gas Finals.

Pro Supercharged:
Steve Woods collected his fourth consecutive championship by earning three victories in his ’48 Prefect, starting with the Nostalgia Nitro Drags at Sonoma, following that up with a win at the Spring Nitro Classic in Las Vegas and concluding with a win at the Fuel and Gas Finals in Bakersfield. Woods, who also claimed three pole positions during the season, nearly broke his own class record (6.79) with a 6.808 during the season opening March Meet and almost eclipsed his top speed mark (203.83) with an incredible 203.25 during his final round win at Sonoma. Woods’ apparent domination of the class was almost upset by second place finisher, Steve Wood. Wood, driver of the ‘Richwood Meats’-backed ’53 Studebaker, opened the season with a win at the March Meet and backed that up with a win at the Fall Classic. While the six-second zone remains an elusive number for Wood, (a 7.01 being his best effort produced during the Fuel and Gas Finals) he can post consistent low seven e.t.s, where they contributed to one pole and nothing less than a third best qualifying effort in 2001. Wood remained in Woods’ shadow for most of the season and by only one point heading into the season finale.  Rich Roberts, driving his gorgeous ’34 Willys, earned his third place finish by advancing to three final rounds. Although Roberts maintained bridesmaid status for the year, he has made improvements in the performance department having run a best of 7.14 at Sonoma, and is ready to break through for a win should the above-mentioned ever falter.
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A/Fuel: Sean Bellemeur, a former Jr. Dragster Champion, secured his first A/Fuel championship with a combination of two runner-up finishes and two wins.  While not always the quickest car, in a class that allows blown-alcohol or nitro-injected entries, Bellemeur overcame most performance deficits with many holeshot-aided defeats.   Bellemeur posted a personal best 6.523/213.47 during a first round defeat of Ron Attebury during the Nitro Nostalgia Drags, while Attebury went down with a quicker 6.520/213.37.  Tightly parked behind Bellemeur in the second spot was Jim Paul, who did his best to defend his A/Fuel crown by winning the first two events of the season and finishing with closing with a win at the Fuel and Gas Finals.  Paul ran a season best   6.550/207.23 during his final round defeat of Bellemeur at Sonoma, but despite the three wins still fell short of his title defense by nine points.  Kin Bates, who competes in one of the few nitro-injected entries in the class, enjoyed performance gains in 2001 as he ran a best of 6.742 during the Spring Nitro Classic.  Bates’ best finish of the year was a runner-up effort at the Fall Classic, enabling him to occupy the third spot of the list.

Jr. Fuel: The frontmen for this class could have re-labeled the season ‘Wayne’s World’, as Bill Wayne and Wayne Ramay led the charge all year.  Wayne accomplished his title quest by advancing to three final rounds, scoring a win at the March Meet and Spring Nitro Classic, while bagging a runner-up effort at the Fall Classic.  Wayne holds the class record at 7.23 in the alcohol-injected class and nearly broke the top speed record, (183.86 held by Ron Pratt) with a 183.15 blast during his first round defeat of Alan Hull at the Fuel and Gas Finals.  Ramay, who has gained valuable seat time running the NHRA Competition Eliminator equivalent, A/ND, earned two wins with the Goodguys, one coming at the Nitro Nostalgia Drags and the other at the Fuel and Gas Finals.  Playing back-up to Wayne and Ramay while placing third on the list, was second generation racer Scott Parks.  Parks, who worked his way into two final round appearances, one at the Spring Nitro Classic and the other at the Fuel and Gas Finals, placed second to Wayne and Ramay, respectively.  To his credit, Parks did score a win at the  Indy Hot Rod Nationals in June, unfortunately that was a non-points event thus not contributing towards the west coast-based championship series.

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A/Gas: “Bakersfield’s been bery, bery good to me”, could quite possibly be a quote from newly crowned A/Gas Champ, Sean Renteria.  Renteria, driving his awesome ’62 Valiant, competed in three final rounds during the season, taking home wins from the March Meet and the Fuel and Gas Finals, while earning runner-up honors at the Fall Classic in Las Vegas.  Competition within the 7.60-indexed class has shifted dramatically during the past year. Many competitors have jumped up from B/Gas, force feeding their carburated combinations down the once favored blown doorslammer’s throats. One guy who was on the receiving end of that equation, was second place finisher and 2000 Champ, Mark Mahood.  Mahood, driving his ultra-spiffy blown ’69 Camaro, competed in just two final rounds, winning once at Sonoma against Bob Clayton and placing second to Steve Castelli at the Spring Nitro Classic.  Mahood was unable to defend his title after that, as he suffered a first round loss at the Fall Classic and  posted an unusual DNQ at the Fuel and Gas Finals.  Steve Castelli, a former two-time champ in A/Gas in his ‘Hot Rod Willys’, fills the third slot by virtue of his only final round appearance and win during the Spring Nitro Classic at Las Vegas.


Nostalgia 1:  Hands down, this has got to be the most competitive class of all the classes Goodguys has to offer.  An assortment of altereds, front engine dragsters and funny cars run on a 7.60 index, with an average of 30 cars competing at each event.  Securing a  spot in the 16 car field can prove frustrating, as most qualified fields are usually spread by no more than a tenth.  With odds like these, it’s no wonder there were no repeat winners or finalists during the season.  Based off these stats, a handful of drivers had a mathematical shot at the title going into the final event.  Mike Savage, who led the charge in his Fiat since May but failed to qualify for the Fuel and Gas Finals, barely escaped with the title based on his only win at Sonoma and several round wins during the year.  Scott Christlieb, who was the defending class champ and placed second, advanced to only one final round, scoring a runner-up effort at the March Meet.   Dave Gruzen, who drives the popular ‘Mighty Mouse’ altered, earned third place honors by virtue of his runner-up showing at the Spring Nitro Classic and important round wins at the Fuel and Gas Finals.

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Kevin Riley’s 2001 season didn’t kick into high gear until the Spring Nitro Classic, where he won his first of two B/Gas titles. Riley then muscled his ’69 Cuda to another win at the Fall Classic, where he virtually put a lock on defending his title.

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Kevin Riley-Champion

Bob Lander-Champion

Bob Lander wheeled his injected SBC powered dragster to two wins in the 8.60 Nostalgia 2 class in 2001, each coming from the March Meet and the Fall Classic. Despite a disappointing and an unusual DNQ at the Fuel and Gas Finals, Lander was virtually unchallenged for the title.

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Rob Patten may not have won any events with his ’55 Chevy but he certainly went more rounds than any other competitor in the 9.60-based C/Gas class. He did earn two pole positions, both coming from the Las Vegas events, and scored runner-up honors at the Spring Nitro Classic and the Fuel and Gas Finals.

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Rob Patten-Champion

Dave Gruzen, driver of the “Midnight Madness” Fiat Topolino, advanced to the final round of the 9.60 indexed-class of Nostalgia 3 four times during the season, taking home one win from the March Meet. Gruzen locked the championship during the Fuel & Gas Finals.

Nostalgia III

Dave Gruzen-Champion

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© M & H Photography -All text, photos, graphics, artwork and other contributed material within the Combustion Chamber  are copyrighted and may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without express written consent. 

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