Combustion Chamber – 2001 Sonoma Nitro Nostalgia Drags


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mahoodopener0370.jpg (33113 bytes) The 13th Annual Goodguys Pac West Nitro Nationals, held at Sears Point International Raceway, April 21-22, was the second stop along the 2001 VRA tour.  The event was blessed with sunny skies and cool racing conditions, but the racing proved to be plenty hot in contrast.   Of the 15 Top Fuel entries in attendance, one driver finally earned his first Sonoma ‘five’, while four others posted personal bests.  Gerry Steiner earned a $500.00 qualifying bonus from Gotelli Speed Shop, as he made the Top Fuel show on his final qualifying lap with a 6.160, and bettered that with a losing 6.08 in the first round.  Jeff Diehl nailed down the second qualifying spot two-thousandths later with his personal best 6.162!   ‘Nitro Neil’ Bisciglia drove the Pete Jensen owned ‘Foothill Flyer’ to a nice 6.277 @ 235.63.
If that’s not enough for you, how about the fact that the Top Fuel ‘A’ field was separated by only 14-hundredths or Lee Paul Jennings running a career-best 6.34?   The event produced only one 2001 repeat winner, while it showcased many new and old faces during the final rounds.  If you haven’t gathered by now, the event was a huge success.  The following will take you on a photo recap of the event, shot by Mark Hovsepian and myself.   Enjoy! -Dawn

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Rance McDaniel, near lane, and Jack ‘Sheriff’ Harris met in a much anticipated semi-final round clash.  McDaniel cut a .476 holeshot over Harris’ .540, and that proved to be all McDaniel needed, as Harris blazed the tires at the hit of the throttle.  McDaniel still streaked on through with a winning and low e.t. of the event 5.984…his first ‘five’ at Sonoma.      Mighty Mouse-2/ Sheriff-1
MaryAnn Harmon tried her luck at qualifying her blown ’41 Willys in the 7.60 indexed A/GAS program.  Harmon never got a firm grip on the tricky track surface Saturday, and failed to better the 8.52 bump spot. maryannharmon.jpg (70764 bytes)
SanPauloBO0348.jpg (57836 bytes) Steve San Paolo qualified his A/FUEL entry in the fourth spot with a great 6.758.  San Paolo improved upon his qualifying time during eliminations, but his semi-final 6.609 was not enough to hold off the hard charging 6.568 turned in by eventual winner, Jim Paul.
Dale Boomgaarden qualified the Mallicoat Bros. ’68 Cuda entry on the pole of Pro Supercharged using a fine 7.012.  Boomgaarden won a close first round battle over Howard Anderson, 7.009 to Anderson’s 7.016, but came up short in the second round against Steve Woods.  Although running consistent, Boomgaarden’s 7.089 was no match for the 6.895 turned in by Woods. MallicoatRun069.jpg (57816 bytes)
RobertsHarry469.jpg (50389 bytes) Rich Roberts (near lane) and Carl Harry squared off with their gorgeous Willys entries in the semi-final round of Pro Supercharged.   Roberts, who is just barely ahead at mid-track, used a .419/7.140 package to defeat Harry’s .500/7.176.
Bill Dunlap qualified Mike Fuller’s ‘Midnite’ entry in the fourth spot of the Top Fuel ‘A’ field with a 6.228.  Dunlap bettered his qualifying time in the opening round, as he used a 6.14 in defeating Mark Malde’s up-in-smoke 10.93.  Dunlap advanced to the final round via a Jeff Diehl red-light in the second round, but wound up smoking the tires against event winner, Rance McDaniel. billdunlap.jpg (57918 bytes)
EdCooperLaunch0416.jpg (52647 bytes) Ed Cooper, who qualified this awesome ’69 Dart fourth in the tough B/GAS field, red-lighted away a great 8.615 in the semi-final round against eventual winner, James Schwartz.
Lee Paul Jennings flew the family banners in Sonoma, all the way to the final round of the Top Fuel ‘B’ field final.  Jennings qualified third with a 6.37, and despite running a personal best 6.34 in the final, was defeated by Mike McLennan’s better 6.18. jennings.jpg (46201 bytes)
BillFitting077.jpg (40548 bytes) Bill Fitting qualified his overly-powder blue ’33 Willys on the bump spot of the Pro Supercharged field with a soft 8.13, as a result of sneezing the burst panel during his last qualifying attempt.  Unfortunately, Fitting was unable to return for Sunday’s eliminations.
Santa Rosa resident, Jim Murphy, qualified his Orchard Supply Hardware sponsored ‘WWII’ entry in the Top Fuel ‘A’ field sixth with a 6.266.  Murphy cut an unbelievable .412 light to first round opponent Jeff Diehl’s .549, but went up in smoke after the hit of the throttle and watched Diehl take the round win with a 6.625. murphy.jpg (46401 bytes)
melbryson.jpg (101317 bytes) Mel Bryson qualified his ’34 Willys in the seventh spot of the Pro Supercharged field with a 7.58.  Despite throwing a .469 holeshot at first round opponent, Steve Woods, Bryson’s out-of-shape 8.09 was not enough to hold off the 6.829 turned in by eventual winner Woods.
Mike Kirby, who won the Best Engineered Award at this event a year ago, qualified the Sissell & Mike ‘Sixsession’ on the bump of the tough Nostalgia Eliminator field.  Kirby upset the number eight qualifier in the opening round, but fell to eventual runner-up, Dave Rosenberg, in the second round. MikeKirbyLaunch409.jpg (58430 bytes)
carlharry.jpg (67319 bytes) Carl Harry qualified his electric ’41 Willys in the sixth spot of the Pro Supercharged field with a 7.348.  Harry met Steve Wood in the opening round, and upset the recent March Meet winner with a 7.166.  Harry’s day ended in the second round though, as opponent Rich Roberts used a holeshot aided 7.14 to advance past Harry’s 7.17.
Pete Jensen’s ‘Foothill Flyer’ sported a ‘new-although-temporary-shoe’ during the Sonoma event.  ‘Nitro Neil’ Bisciglia came out of semi-retirement to help out Jensen’s team, and proved the the ‘FF’ is plenty capable of making a straight pass.  Bisciglia qualified the Donovan powered entry in the seventh spot of the Top Fuel ‘A’ program with a nice 6.277 @ 235.63.  Bisciglia had the unfortunate fate of pairing up with Jack ‘Sheriff’ Harris in the opening round, and bulbed right out of the gate.  No matter, as Harris blitzed the quarter mile with a 6.02 over Bisciglia’s early shut-off 6.74. NitroNeilTopend0165.jpg (52733 bytes)
bobclayton.jpg (77888 bytes) Bob Clayton has stepped up his blown combination, as he qualified his beautiful ‘Rat Infested II’ ’33 Willys in the second spot of the A/GAS field with a 7.779.  Clayton defeated recent March Meet winner, Sean Renteria, with a 7.695 in the opening round, and marched past Steve Castelli in round two with a 7.63.   Clayton met reigning A/GAS champ, Mark Mahood, in the final, but his 7.78 was no match for Mahood’s winning 7.71.
Jim Paul continued his tear of the A/FUEL field by qualifying in the second spot with a 6.601.  Consistency was his fortay during eliminations, as he used a 6.611 and a 6.627 to defeat Greg Uffens and Steve San Paolo, respectively, before meeting eventual finalist Sean Bellemeur.  For the second time in as many races, Paul and Bellemeur battled for the title, and despite Bellemeur’s stunning .410 light over Paul’s .601, Paul came out the winner.  Paul stepped up with a 6.55 to defeat Bellemeur’s early shut-off 7.07. JimPaulBO548.jpg (53437 bytes)
pace.jpg (60397 bytes) Jim Pace, who qualified number one in A/GAS with a 7.689, was upset in the opening round, when his ’48 Anglia lost fire after one of his infamous half track burnouts.  Pace came back during the second round of eliminations to make a check-out run, and by virtue of this shot had everything running up to speed again.
Bob Muravez smokes through his only burnout of the weekend, as his 6.300 qualifying effort proved to be a little too much for the bottom end of the motor.  Muravez fireballed the motor through the lights, trailing pieces of connecting rods and oil behind him, and was unable to make the necessary repairs to return on Sunday. muravez.jpg (62130 bytes)
SteveWoodsBO328.jpg (62067 bytes) Reigning Pro Supercharged champ, Steve Woods, missed qualifying his intimidating ’48 Prefect on the pole, as he hit a timing cone during his first qualifying shot of a 6.82.  Woods came back in the second session with a 7.12, good for the third spot of the program, and went on to claim low e.t. (6.829), top m.p.h. (203.25), and the event win.
© 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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