Wow. No other words could adequately describe what everyone who was in attendance at the 27th Annual GK Machine/Bi-Mart Hot Rod Nationals experienced. Through Saturday’s qualifying, and for final eliminations on Sunday, nowhere else could you have experience the absolute highs and dastardly lows of what the sport of NHRA Drag Racing brings to the table. With last minute dashes to fix cars, to fighting for every thousandth of a second as though your life depended on it, the racing was never more intense than this last weekend’s event. After all the racing had ended on Sunday, wins were claimed for Mitch Chamberlin (AA/Supercharged), Mike Padur (Top Eliminator), Michael Peck (Pro Nostalgia), Bob Rude (Nostalgia Eliminator), Gary Hogansen (Dragster/Roadster), Mike Miller (Top Gas), Steve Canton (Hot Rod I), Hollis Runge (Street Machine I), Dan Swick (Hot Rod II), Bart Sowa (Street Machine II), Mark Allan Dolan (Stick Shift), Walt Skoczylas (Inline/Flathead), and Shawn Cranford (Jr Exhibition). As is clear to see, with the number of classes and pure amount of racing that was involved, a phenomenal time was enjoyed by all. As always, event pictures are posted at this time at
Diggin’ into the first class of racing, AA/Supercharged hosted a final round showdown between Mitch Chamberlin and Joel Matton. Chamberlin’s ’51 Deluxe struggled through qualifying: finishing up in the 6th qualifying spot while also collected an orange reflector block from the center of the race track. However, come race day, the machine was set to kill, running a 6.724 and 6.688 to advance to the finals. For Matton, the struggle was also real: after creating a massive oil down on Saturday, a qualifying slot of third was still a welcome end of the day result. Using a 7.215 first round to defeat Garry Fauble, Matton ran a 6.782 @ 193.59mph to eliminate number one qualifier Howard Anderson, who had his hands full on a loosey-goosey 7.853 pass. Unfortunately for Matton, engine troubles prevented him from attending the final round dosey doe, and Chamberlin set a final-round rocketshot with a 6.624 @ 211.96mph. With further proof going to the fact that you never know what’ll happen on race day, #6 qualifier and 2015 AA/Supercharged Champion Mitch Chamberlin claimed victory.
In the final farewell tour event for Top Eliminator, dynamically close racing was expected, and received, as Mike Padur and Dennis Gorans faced off in the finals. Padur was the number one qualifier here and showed why in the finals, launching off the starting line timers with a .059 to a .092 reaction time advantage and never looking back, running his FED to a 7.577 ET on a 201.25mph shot. Gorans was right on his tail though, blistering to a 7.639 @ 196.29mph hit. Mike Floyd, who was the “odd man out,” could have been serious competition for either driver, running a 186.83mph 7.679 as the third slotted car. A great group of people all around and the true derivative of nostalgia, the Top Eliminator put on a fantastic show throughout the weekend.
It’s always exciting when top qualifiers battle off in the final round of racing. In the case of Pro Nostalgia, it was number one and three qualifiers as Michael Peck and DeWayne Sanders lined up for battle. For Peck to reach the finals, he had to defeat Nick Pruett and Spud Miller, while Sanders downed Ralph Fox and Paul New. With all of the glory on the line, both drivers left with good reactions, before Sanders encountered problems and slowed, sending Peck flying down the all-concrete quarter mile and to the victory. Peck’s 6.593 at 206.84mph earned him the number one qualifier award, which earned him a bonus award from Mike Boertje Jr Trucking. Other bonuses went to Bob Rude, who had the best reaction time in eliminations with a .011, received from Fuel Injection Enterprises (FIE), and Peck also earned a bonus from Brad Russell Trucking, by being the closest to his dial in (6.609 on his 6.59 dial).
Nostalgia Eliminator, which is an extension class of Pro Nostalgia, showcased Bob Rude and Steve Cluck into the last round of racing action. Leaving with a pair of green light starts, both drivers cruised down the racetrack and dueling 160+mph passes, with the win light coming on for Rude, running a 7.913 at 169mph on his 7.85 dial. Cluck ran a great 8.088 on his 7.99 as well, an excellent performance for his first competition race. Pat Curtis and Mike O’Conner were the semi-finalist.
Dragster/Roadster competed in their second-to-last points event on the season, and with the battle as close as this year it’s still almost anyone’s race to win! Gary Hogansen and Mike Ekerson joined each other in the final round of eliminations to see who would be the winner of the illustrious Woodburn Wally. Hogansen battled through a competition single, Doug Gray, and three-time track champion Ron Austin to reach the finals. In the finals, Hogansen left with a stellar reaction time advantage and ran a 10.071 on his 10.05 dial to earn the win. After the event, Hogansen was quoted as saying that he had the “time of his life,” and wanted to thank “everybody out there who gave him a wave, a thumbs-up, or a smile” as each one made his day all the more special. Steve Marcus was the number one qualifier with a perfect .000 reaction time, earning him a perfect light t-shirt and two decals, courtesy of Northwest Wholesale/Hilton Racing, the suppliers of Goodyear/Hoosier/Mickey Thompson race tires.
Top Gas finals showcased Mike Miller and Ron Pappel, and an exciting one it was! Miller, fighting hard to repeat his track championship from 2014, eliminated Ronald Weise, Jim McDermott, Warren Regnier, Brent McKinney, and Richard Dietrich to reach the finals. With the Pinto set to kill, one more round wasn’t too much more to ask for, right? As the tree came down, both drivers left with green light starts (.026 for Miller, .017 for Pappel), and the race resulted in a double-breakout, favoring Miller by a slim .011. Jerry Carter, from Pendleton OR., was the number one qualifier with a .001.
In the Hot Rod I category, it was “The Wildcard” Steve Canton facing up alongside the hottest racer of the weekend Ron Parks, who was in final round number two of the weekend. Canton, earlier defeating big names like Dan Goates, Richard Beyea, Rick Sales Sr, and Kacee Pitts earned a single in the semi-final round. Important to note is that aside from the single in the semi’s, Canton’s last four reaction times varied by only .008, showcasing to all that a racer who is dialed in with his race car is nothing to mess with. In the final round, Canton left with the reaction time advantage and claimed victory, running a 10.029 on his 10.02 dial in for a .051 overall package in the finals. Like Dragster/Roadster Event Champ Gary Hogansen, Canton threw a shout out to the great spectators we had throughout the weekend, saying that he appreciated every cheer from the great fans. Ron Wirostek was the number one qualifier with a
.004 reaction time.
For the Street Machine I category’s eliminations, Hollis Runge and Gary Wood took a pair of dueling Novas into the last round of competition. Runge and his ’74 Chevy eliminated Roger McWilliams, Dean Tabert, Barry Sheasgreen, a single, and Jim Goodman to reach the finals. With the final round drivers dialed in at a 10.04 and 10.15 respectively, this match had everything necessary to be a great finals—but unfortunately it was over before it even began when Wood tripped on the red light bulb by -.008 thousandths! Runge rocketed down to a 10.056 on his 10.04, and earned the victory. Runge was quick to thank his wife and his ‘extended family’ of everyone who comes to the races at the dragstrip. Duke Olmsted was the number one qualifier with a .004 reaction time.
Dan Swick and Garry Heinrich were the last two racers standing in the Hot Rod II category, with an exciting final round sure to follow! Swick roughed his ’64 Rambler past Gary Oster, Rose Ann Hamness, A-1 Muffler’s Lee Ennis, and Mark Tabert to reach the finals. Against Heinrich, both drivers left with green light starts before the win light flipped on for Swick due to a breakout finish of -.017 on Heinrich’s behalf. As quoted from Travis Hilton “when I was moving the winners’ trophies into the tower, (Dan) Swick said ‘I gotta get me one of those!’ Looks like he was able to accomplish that very thing.” Heinrich was the number one qualifier with a .004 reaction time.
Street Machine II showed off Bart Sowa and Jolene Woodward in one of the more exciting finals rounds of the day! Sowa took his ’72 Chevy pickup past Margie Stringham, Duane Turner, and number one qualifier Tony Bombara to reach the final round. In the finals, both drivers left with nearly identical reaction time starts (.029 to a .027) and both ran close to their numbers! Woodward completed her run with a 12.397 on the 12.34 dial, while Sowa ran a 13.936 on the 13.89. Doing the quick math, Sowa emerged victorious by just .009 in the finals! Bombara was the number one qualifier with a .036.
The Inline/Flathead category featured five dynamic rounds of racing, with the culmination of which resulting in a battle between Walt Skoczylas and Lou Madsen. Skoczylas, racing out of Aloha OR, defeated Fred Hultin, Ron Price, and Dave Fountain to earn the single in the semi-finals. In the finals, Skoczylas left with the .03 reaction time advantage and earned the win with a 11.891 on his 11.81 dial. Michael Bjerklund was the number one qualifier with a .010 reaction time.
Stick Shift is an exciting class that localizes all manual shifting racers into one class. With a battle between the number one and number two qualifier, the racing was sure to be as tight as ever. Mark Allan Dolan, the number two qualifier, defeated Zac Summers, Dick Arnold, and Pat Aultom to reach the finals, while Poppino eliminated Paul Carbaugh and Jim Wise to earn the semi-final round single. In the finals, the race was over before it even began when Poppino left with a red light start by .011. After the race was over, Dolan came to the tower to collect his winnings and reminded us once again the joys of racing, and the friendships he has developed from it. Poppino’s .006 reaction time earned the number one qualifier award.