2020 Dodge NHRA Finals
After the madness and insanity that has been the year 2020 I was fortunate enough to once again attend the final race of the NHRA season. Unlike every other year since 1984 the NHRA Finals were not held in Pomona, CA but in Las Vegas due to Covid-19 restrictions still in place in California. This race at The Strip at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway was the very first sporting event that allowed fans in Clark county since the Covid outbreak began way back in March. Only 3,000 tickets (10% capacity) were sold each day. After scrambling late Friday night to find tickets on cragislist I hopped in my truck and drove the four hours to Vegas.
Even though The Strip at LVMS is the closest track that holds a national event besides my home track in Phoenix it was the first time I had ever been to this fantastic facility. I had been to another Bruton Smith track, Sonoma, before and have always thought they are some of the nicest most well kept tracks in racing.
The Strip at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
Saturday morning started off with the second round of sportsman racing after qualifying and first round were completed on Friday.
Former stock world champion Justin Lamb in his 2nd round victory.
Tina Summerton from Elk Grove, CA in her beautiful '72 Oldsmobile Cutlass.
Local racer Mike Cotten performing his normal double duty in his stock and super stocker in Las Vegas.
One of the coolest family moments of the 2020 NHRA season was when brothers Jerry Emmons (stock) and Terry Emmons (super stock) doubled up victories at the U.S. Nationals.
Another great family moment in 2020 was twin brothers Bryan (left) & Byron (right) finishing 1-2 in the Lucas Oil super stock world championship.
Mike Graham running his wife's super stocker in Las Vegas, sadly his wife B.J. who was a multi-time national event winner passed away a few weeks after this race.
Leah Pruett and fox reporter Amanda Busick switching places for an interview.
Former pro stock national event winner Aaron Strong made his first appearance in pro stock in a couple years.
Funny car racer Jim Campbell pouring wheel while Diane Dunn looks on.
The Hot 4 Teacher crew for funny car newcomer, Alex Miladinovich preparing for the first warm-up.
One of the greatest artists in motorsports, the man, Kenny Youngblood.
After what felt like an eternity since I last got a whiff of nitro that sweet smell filled the air again. I think the best way to beat corona is get a good whiff of nitro in the nostrils.
Eyes of a champion. Steve Torrence warming up on Saturday morning looking to cap off an emotional season with his third straight world championship.
For the first time I got to see the NHRA J&A Service Pro Mod series is action. These are the fastest door slammers in drag racing that can go 5.60's @ over 250 mph. The combination of short wheelbases and insane amounts of power makes racing wild and un-predictable.
Veteran racer Jim Whiteley.
A couple former fuel racers who are standouts in pro-mod Khalid Al-Balooshi and Chad Green side by side in round one of qualifying.
Mike Janis in the far lane and arguably the most popular name in door slammer racing, Stevie "Fast" Jackson.
Aaron Strong's first run in competition since 2017.
Two second generation pro stock racers, Mason McGaha & Kyle Kortesky.
Jason Line & Greg Anderson who have been teammates for the last 16 years make their final side-by-side run in competition as Jason will retire at the conclusion of this race.
Another long-time competitor who is retiring at seasons end, Jeg Coughlin Jr. alongside his teammate and championship leader Erica Enders.
Freddie Camarena (near lane) Katie Sullivan (far lane) open motorcycle qualifying.
Scotty Pollacheck (near) & Andrew Hines (far).
The east coast team of Dave Richards made its way out to Vegas and ran a 4.035 second opening lap of the weekend.
Alex Miladinovich is a big show newcomer who is a throwback to old days with his home built funny car, throttle whacks on warmup and a name on the side instead of a corporate sponsor.
Tim Wilkerson (near) and Alexis Dejoria (far) with sub four second passes.
Bob Tasca III.
The DSR quartet of cars who have dominated the 2020 season finish up the first round of qualifying.
The ageless wonder Chris Karamesines.
Our local top fuel team led by Jim Maroney had a strong start to the weekend with near career best numbers (3.971 307.37mph) in the team's first pass since February.
Shawn Langdon (near) & Antron Brown (far)
Steve Torrence & Leah Pruett.
The Maroney team in the middle of the mid round turn around.
My friend and drag racing editor of AZ Extreme Motorsports magazine Hal Sanguinetti with the president of the NHRA Glen Cromwell.
Bo Butner & Cristian Cuadra.
Alex Laughlin & Erica Enders.
Andrew Hines & Steve Johnson.
Eddie Krawiec & Matt Smith.
Scott Pollacheck (far) & Joey Gladstone (near)
JR Todd & Jack Beckman who were both not qualified going into the final session made solid runs to make the field.
Bobby Bode & Cruz Pedregon.
Tommy Johnson Jr. & Bob Tasca III.
Kalitta teammates Doug Kalitta & Shawn Langdon.
Tony Schumacher who made his return to top fuel over the summer pushes out a head gasket and explodes an engine on his final qualifying pass.
Antron Brown & Steve Torrence finishing off top fuel qualifying.
2020 Mickey Thompson Top Fuel Harley world champion Randal Andras.
Another first for me was watching the factory stock showdown class in action. They run COPO Camaro's, Cobra Jet Mustangs and Drag Pak Challengers and run in the 7.70's on 9-inch tires. Top Fuel racer Leah Pruett also competes in this class and was a former champion in the class.
Former pro stock national event winner from the 90's & 2000's Mark Pawuk is a regular competitor in the class.
Ryan Priddy in his Copo Camaro that is owned by Nick & Irene Mitsos who had pro stock success with Vincent Nobile in the early part of last decade.
Jackie Fricke (near) beats Duane Shields (far) on a holeshot in round two.
Shawn Cowie (far) keeps his slim title hopes alive by beating James Stevens in the second round
Doug Gordon who crashed at this race last year bounced back this season to capture the 2020 alcohol funny car world championship.
In what might be the final run of a storied career, Jay Payne is defeated by Chip Beverett in the second round of alcohol funny car.
In the biggest upset of round 2, Bob McCosh had a huge holeshot on Chris Marshall and defeated him by .001 seconds.
Jim Maroney warming up the dragster prior to final eliminations.
Another longtime Phoenix racer and well respected tuner Johnny West has been helping the Maroney team with tuning advice.
Side-by-side burnouts by Justin Bond & Clint Satterfield in their opening round race.
Stevie Fast and Jim Whiteley in a great side-by-side race in round 1.
Mike Janis & Justin Jones both with wheels up launches.
The first pair of top fuel eliminations saw Jim Maroney cut a great light and run both career best e.t. and speed but it was not enough to hold off the pesky Bill Miller tuned Troy Buff driven car.
Sunday eliminations saw the end of the historic top fuel career of the legend Chris "The Greek" Karamesines. The Greek who is in his 90's had been racing top fuel since the 1950's and is believed by some historians to have run the first 200 mph run in drag racing history.
DSR Teammates Antron Brown & Tony Schumacher met in round one. Antron easily beat Tony when Tony smoked the tires immediately at the step.
First championship on Sunday was decided when rookie of the year Justin Ashley defeated Doug Kalitta in round one clinching the third straight championship for Steve Torrence.
With the championship locked up Steve Torrence started his sunday by beating Kebin Kinsley who was driving Chuck Worsham's dragster.
2020 marked the end of the Chandler family involvement with DSR racing's Jack Beckman and Tommy Johnson Jr. The program started in 2014 when the late Terry Chandler used family funding to fully sponsor the two funny cars which bannered several wonderful charities over the years. Her husband Doug continued on the program since Terry's passing back in 2017.
Jack's burnout prior to a round one loss to Paul Lee.
A puff of smoke out the headers for Cruz Pedregon as he starts his burnout.
Longtime nostalgia funny car racer Chris Morel making his first race day start in funny car.
Tommy Johnson Jr keeping his championship hopes alive when he beat Jim Campbell in the opening round.
Steven Densham and Blake Alexander leave the line in their round one matchup but thats when the race got crazy.
Both drivers would pedal a couple times and as Blake started to pull away he would have a huge explosion which would shread and blow the body off of the car. Blake did a great job keeping the car straight and had enough momentum to get the victory.
I made the mistake of not shooting when I saw the car in trouble like I was told by my mentor Gil so I missed the actual explosion but I did throw the camera up to attempt to get a shot of the body as it flew in the air. These three un-cropped shots are from trying to locate the body in the air. On the fourth shot I finally located it and got the above shot.
The back half of the body on the back being hauled away as the chassis was towed up the return road.
Remnants of a beautiful $60,000 body.
The craziness was not over yet, the very next pair of cars was JR Todd & Tim Wilkerson. Both drivers would haze the tires at the finish line with Todd winning the race but Wilkerson's car darted across the track and came within inches of hitting JR Todd.
Shots taken from Sunoco Vision.
Aaron Stanfield pulled off the upset and beat #2 in points Jeg Coughlin Jr. in round one ending his championship hopes in his final season.
A few pairs later Cristian Cuadra strapped an eight hundreths of a second holeshot on Jason Line to end his championship and give Erica Enders her fourth world championship.
Bo Butner as is tradition "dressed-up" for Halloween, this year wrapping his car like Air Force One.
Another cool paint scheme was Chris McGaha's tribute to the late Lee Shepherd's car that dominated pro stock in the 80's with the team of Reher & Morrison.
Andrew Hines defeating Chris Bostick in the first round of pro stock motorcycle.
Steve Johnson with a huge holeshot on Kelly Clontz.
Outgoing alcohol funny car champion Sean Bellemeur defeats the 2020 champion Doug Gordon in the semi-finals.
Megan Meyer winning over Jackie Fricke in the alcohol dragster semi-finals.
There was drama in the other semi-final pair as second place in points Shawn Cowie lost to Joey Severance. However Joey blew up at the end of the run and without another engine he would not race Megan Meyer in the final which if she won she would have clinched the alcohol dragster world championship.
In a display of sportsmanship Shawn Cowie and crew brought over their spare engine to keep Joey in the race and try and keep their title hopes alive.
Antron Brown pulling away from Clay Millican in round two.
Justin Ashley beating Leah Pruett in the second round.
Blake Alexander and the Jim Head team bounced back after the explosion and gave Alexis Dejoria a good race in round two but fell just short.
Ron Capps & J.R. Todd in round two.
Cristian Cuadra had another great reaction time in the second round against Matt Hartford and parlayed it into his first semi-final apperance.
Now four-time champion Erica Enders defeating Troy Coughlin Jr.
Eddie Krawiec's loss to Hector Arana Jr in the second round clinched the championship for Matt Smith.
Matt then defeated the other Harley team bike and defending champion Andrew Hines in the next pair.
Justin Bond and Khalid Al-Balooshi with a great semi-final race in Pro Mod that Khalid won by .0008 seconds.
Angie Smith towed back to her pit in time to meet husband Matt as he came back the trophy.
Steve Torrence beating Justin Ashley in the semi-finals.
Antron Brown defeated the other Capco car (Billy Torrence) in his semi-final race.
Ron Capps defeating Tommy Johnson Jr. in the funny car semi-final which helped teammate Matt Hagan clinch the funny car championship.
Matt Hagan then defeated Alexis Dejoria in their semi-final race which not only guaranteed an all DSR final round but it guaranteed that DSR funny cars would sweep the entire season.
Battle of two second generation racers both in their first semi-final appearances. Kyle Koretsky would win this race.
First final round of the day, Stevie Fast finishes off his championship season with a victory over Khalid Al-Balooshi.
2020 factory stock showdown champion Aaron Stanfield defeated David Barton in the finals.
Jay Turner defeating Ricky House in the top fuel harley final.
Justin Lamb defeating Mike Cotten in the stock eliminator final round.
Mike Boehner (near) defeating Roger Kato (far) in the super gas final round.
Mark Perivolaris (near) defeating Steve Casner (far) in the super comp final round.
Brad Johnson (near) defeating Al Kenny (far) in the top dragster final round.
Don Meziere (near) defeating Bryan Warr (far) in the top sportsman final round.
Super stock winner Terry Emmons after defeating Bryan Worner in the final round.
Competition eliminator winner Cody Lane after defeating Doug Engels in the final round.
Sean Bellemeur defeating Bob McCosh in the alcohol funny car final round.
Megan Meyer clinched her second alcohol dragster world championship with her final round victory over Joey Severance.
In addition to pro and sportsman racing the Summit E.T. bracket series finals were held in Vegas. Normally held in Pomona, these bracket racers won their division titles and faced off for the national championship.
Pro ET national champion, Jeff Hefler
Super Pro national champion, Devin Isenhower.
ET Motorcycle national champion, Don DePeel.
Sportsman national champion, John Mclaughlin.
Angie Smith ran down Steve Johnson in the pro stock final motorcycle final round for her 2nd career victory.
Erica Enders capping off a championship season with the pro stock win over first time finalist Kyle Koretsky.
Ron Capps was on his way to a finals victory until his engine exploded and Matt Hagan drove around him for the funny car victory.
Antron Brown with a massive holeshot on Steve Torrence in route to his first victory in over two years.
And with that, the sun set on the long and bizarre 2020 NHRA season. I just hope that we can put 2020 behind us and can get back to a normal way of life and have things return to normal in 2021.