The 4th of 5 scheduled Napa AutoPro USDRS events of the season was a torrid affair that produced exciting and unexpected winners…..
Held in conjunction with Grand Bend Motorplex’s 20th annual celebration Stratford Spectacular event — both the credibility and reputation of the USDRS series rose to an even higher place after last weekend.
The event featured the best turnout yet for the USDRS’s marquee Shellborune Fuels Pro Mod class category with 16 different machines attempting to qualify for the elite 8-car field. That class featured a very popular win by arguably the circuit’s most independent and “dark horse” level racer – Derek Hawker, from Corbyville Ontario.
For Hawker who had to his credit previously a couple of wins on the now defunct PMRA tour – this win was his first in the Napa AutoPro USDRS. It was also probably an overdue victory as he had shown some very fast propensities at previous events leading into and earlier this season. For Hawker, who placed 3rd in final points behind Rob Atchison and Bruce Boland during last year’s inaugural season – this win also vaulted him into potential overall 2016 USDRS points Championship contention.
Hawker, who qualified #4 at GBM with a 6.086 secs with his Pontiac Firebird – beat Quebec’s Denis LaChance and Eric Latino to advance to the final round to face Mike Stawicki, who was driving Jay Santos’ Chevy Camaro. On a tricky surface that gave most the competitors a challenge all weekend – it was Hawker’s 6.647 secs @170.81 mph that got the win light when Stawicki’s car also succumbed to tire spin.
“I guess we used up a lot of real estate getting to the finish line – but I think that gave the fans their money’s worth,” said Derek. “We’re really happy to get this win – it was a great weekend and we didn’t break anything. Ajax Engines did a great job on our motor and my team (including Corrie Hawker Willy Kerr, Scott Sager, Paul Millar and Wayne Heisler) all did a fantastic job. All the post race beer was well deserved!”
Team member Willy Kerr also added in his thoughts; “There were some impressive and bigger name out of town teams here – so that makes us hillbillies (aka hosers in Canada) winning the event — even sweeter,” he joked.
The event did include a interesting mix of high caliber and local racer Pro Mod cars the included the first time USDRS entries for NHRA circuit regulars Eric Latino, Kenny Lang and Jim Bell. Latino was credited with low ET of the event when he ran 5.983 secs during Friday’s late night 2nd qualifier for the pole. Al Martorino’s fast improving supercharged Mustang (Coburg ON) had the event’s top MPH at 243.96 mph.
Pro Mod racing on Friday did include the deferred conclusion for the previous USDRS race from Cayuga Dragway that was weather affected a couple weeks earlier. Mike Stawicki, who would go to the Pro Mod championship final the next day, took a single for that title when his scheduled opponent (and teammate) Melanie Salemi chose not to enter her Firebird at Grand Bend.
Friday night’s big winner was however Ian Hill who rolled his very cool Welland-based RPM Magazine-sponsored Chevy Camaro to victory lane and with that collected a highly lucrative $10,000 first place cheque for the TS/TD Shootout final. Hill topped a very tough opponent – New York’s Billy Leber in that 1/8th mile title bout. Hill had previously defeated Joe McCormick’s Mustang for the Strickland’s TS title while Leber had topped Kyle Harris in the Nick & Dan’s TD final round.
The Billy Braggs Outlaw 10.5 title (from Cayuga) was won by Stratford’s own – Spencer Hyde who’s former Top Sportsman supercharged Camaro (sponsored by Napa/AutoPro) outran Michigan-based Bill Devine’s turbocharged Mustang. Spencer’s win in that 1/8 mile derby was his first since switching to the small tire limited category. His final round time of 4.240 secs at 175.06 mph beat Devine’s 4.397 secs at 163.84 mph.
Saturday’s TS/TD Shootout final featured another first time winner. This time it was Steve Corriveau (from Fonthill ON) picking up the much coveted $10,000 first place cheque when he scored driving his (new for 2016) nitrous-injected Pontiac Firebird. Corriveau held off Niagara Falls (NY) based Michael Kalin in the final – scoring with a 6.945 secs at 195.65 mph time slip.
The path to Corriveau’s win came over a very significant field of Strickland’s TS racers, and after he qualified #6 of 25 cars entered for that eliminator. Kalin’s win in the Nick & Dan’s TD class came from the 10th qualified slot and over 19 other class entries.
Saturday’s Billy Braggs Outlaw 10.5 eliminations saw Trevor Deeks deny low qualifier Tony Presto in the final round by winning that event’s deciding clash. Racing an ex-Pro Stock car (formally driven by Greg Anderson) Deeks was very consistent in the small tire eliminator and ran a final round winning 4.372 secs at 168.50 mph.
The event also featured two popular female winners. Avery Wildgust (who is daughter to Scott Wildgust and from Stratford) won the Junior Outlaw title (which is a sprint to the 330 mark — presented for the first time by the Napa AutoPro USDRS) for the fastest 8 Juniors on the premises. Driving her dragster, Waterdown’s Shawna Woodstra won the event’s added attraction USDRS “Top” title which was a consolation race feature for non-qualifiers in either TD or TS. Shawna ran her nice looking machine to a 7.429 secs at 175.98 to run down Lui Romondo’s (Welland) nitrous-injected Camaro for that title.
Posted with files and photos by Bruce Biegler & Brennan Shortall
* Editors Note: DragRaceCanada has posted a Stratford Spectacular event Photo Extra: HERE