Saskatchewan’s Mike Gondziola repeated as Pro Mod Champ for Mission Raceway’s annual Doorwarz event….
How does a driver make exactly two out of eight runs under full power to the finish line, and still win a race as big as Pro Mod was at Doorwarz IV at Mission Raceway Park?
Well, if you are Mike Gondziola, all it took was performance when needed, a few breaks going your way, and lots of effort, both mental and physical, to overcome the one very bad break encountered along the way.
The Ultimate Concrete Pro Mod Series, part of the Western Drag Racing League, had the top billing at Doorwarz, and as usual, the hopes were for up to 32 cars in the field. But, when the event began on July 1, there were 17 cars, most of them actual Pro Mods (as opposed to very fast door cars), so it would be a good show, especially since the weather was cool and cloudy, which was mostly the case all weekend, with only a light sprinkle on Saturday night. With WDRL’s “all-run” policy, it meant that this would be a five-round race on Sunday.
In any case, Gondziola’s new nitrous Corvette rolled off the trailer ready to rumble, laying down a nice 5.85 that held up for low ET of the weekend. But the problems began at the finish line, as for some reason, the parachutes deployed but did not fill up with air. The team thought it might have been the body design creating a vacuum, this being the first quarter-mile run on the car. Gonzi used up all the brakes and front tires he had, and a good deal of driving skill, to keep the car off the wall, and he was rewarded with only the front-half of the car hitting the sand trap. But that did some damage to the carbon fibre body and support bars underneath, and the team had a long night in a local race shop fixing it, missing the second run Friday. By the end of the day, Craig Cawte’s blown Camaro from Cranbrook, BC, with Al Billes making the tuning decisions, ran a 5.91, and American Garrett Richards turned a 5.93 in his blown Mustang, so it looked like being a fast race.
Saturday was again cool (low 20s C) even with the sun out, with corrected altitude in the 1-2,000-foot range, and the veteran from Alberta, Glen Kerunsky, got into the fives with a 5.96 in his blown Corvette, while Richards (5.97 at top speed of the meet 247 mph) and Cawte (5.96) repeated. As for Gondziola, he slalomed on the burnout, and hit the chute release coming to a stop. That was ironic, because he needed to make a pass to the finish line to prove to himself that the parachutes would actually function at top speed.
The last qualifying session came under great conditions at 9:30 Saturday night, and maybe a few people in the top half of the field were trying too hard, but only Cawte got into the fives again or improved, with a great 5.86 / 246. Gondziola shook and coasted through, as did another five-second driver at Mission in the past, Joe Delehay, who continued to tinker with his blown Camaro’s set-up, and would have to settle for his Friday 6.30.
For first round on Sunday, four more cars were broken, leaving but 13 to run five rounds (and if you don’t get that, you aren’t the only one.) There would be five bye runs, but four of them were paired up for the fans. The big shots were fired by Cawte (5.90 / 246), Richards (.896 60-foot with an early shut-off 5.89 / 230), Kerunsky (driving through shake to a 6.10) and, what do you know, Delehay, who put everything back to last year’s set-up to run 6.04 / 243. Gondziola with the single? Launch, shake, shut off.
Round 2 was so-so performance-wise, with Cawte shutting off early on the single, Kerunsky driving a third of a mile to register a good 6.13, and Richards continuing his bracket racer consistency at 5.97 / 246. Gondziola got a lucky win, as his very loose 6.65 was enough to get by a very shaken Delehay’s 8.49. For those keeping score, that was the fourth run in a row that the nitrous Corvette didn’t make a clean, full pass.
Round 3 was down to five cars, and Alberta’s Paul Glandon got back to the low sixes his car is capable of (6.10 / 244), but he was behind Gondziola’s much-needed 5.96 / 230 (slightly early shut off, and the chutes worked.) Kerunsky again drove through shake to a 6.22, dispatching Cawte’s wild, out-of-the-groove 7.22. And Richards, on the single, merely ran a 5.89 / 247 to send a big message.
The semis saw Gondziola with another bye run, in which he launched and shut off early, conserving what he now knew was his five-second combination. Kerunsky had to run clean to beat Richards, but the car shook again, and the American waltzed to a 5.93 / 236.
So who would bet against Richards in the final? As it turns out, he got out on Gonzi, but got so loose, he slid across the centre line, and handed the win to the team from Saskatoon whose car ran an eased up 6.38. It wasn’t pretty, but Mike Gondziola had things go his way, and overcame the uncertainty he had about the parachutes functioning, to take home the Doorwarz trophy and cash for the second time.
In Outlaw 10.5, running the eighth-mile, Langley’s Ken Sihota seemed to have things under control, out-qualifying the field by a tenth-and-a-half, and running the four best ETs of the event as of the second round. But in the semis, he fouled out beside the perfect triple-zero light of Aldergrove’s Steve Nicholson, who went on to lose the final to Oregon’s Paja Agatonovic, 4.18-4.32.
Outlaw 275 saw the only American in the 12-car field, Tom Marshall, take the victory over Surrey’s Steve Skokin, 4.89-5.07 in the eighth mile. Skokin had the quickest car in both Rounds 2 and 3, but fell off two-tenths in the final, while Marshall ran his quickest of elims.
Top Sportsman was supposed to be a double-header, but it appears that Saturday’s program didn’t get finished after a few rounds were run, so all we have are Sunday’s results. What was originally a 24-car field somehow became 14 cars by Sunday, so you can draw your own conclusions. In the semis, Dale Phillips of Chetwynd fouled by .001, throwing away his on-the-dial 7.52 beside James Rutherford’s break-out, but winning, 7.53, while Mission’s Zak Clarke ran his number at 7.44 beside Fort St. John’s Mike Lucas who broke out by .004. Close racing. In the final, Rutherford took out Clarke to take the trophy home to Wembley, Alberta.
Post and Photos by Gerry Frechette