With all the sanctioning bodies of import racing (IDRC, IDRA, NIRA and Drag Wars, among others), it was only a matter of time before the big boys of drag racing jumped in. The National Hot Rod Association (NHRA) has stepped in this season to deliver an event schedule with the highest points payout for a six-race season. They were also able to lock in the best tracks with the most import activity. Ennis, Texas hosted the NHRA season opener and with the payout as high as it is, you can bet you last Lone Star cow-pie that top name racers would flock to the Texas Motorplex like buzzards to a rotting carcass. One of the controversial issues concerning the NHRA class structure centered on all-wheel drive and rear-wheel drive vehicles. The only available options were Modified VIII (back-half vehicles) or Street VIII (street driven on radials). If you had one of these cars and wanted to run slicks, you're up the creek unless you could back half it before the tech line closed. There is talk of a sixth class to address the situation. Something needs to be done, because AWD Diamond Stars and RWD Supras are top-flight performers and if the Subaru WRX takes off, where will it run?
Pro VIIIThe big topic of the race was the eight-car field in the Pro VIII class, which brought out some of the quickest and fastest racers. Newcomers to this field were the Area 51 Lexus SC400, piloted by Tony "Sonic" Miyamoto, Jimmy O'Connor in the Venom Pro Truck and Adam Satuwatari and his tube-chassis NSX. The Pro class vets were also out in full stride. R.J. Simrock piloted Ben Ma's Focus and Abel Ibarra was given the doctor's approval to run the Toyo-backed Flaco Racing R100. Also in attendance were Marco Acosta, Rafael Rivera and Brendan Alvarez.
A last minute motor swap was in order for the Venom team and with Quick Class racer Kenny Tran's shop so close to the racetrack, the Venom team asked if a JZ Supra engine could be shipped to Jotech for the team to pick up before the race. The last minute shuffle was worth the sweat, because the Venom Tacoma qualified with an 8.15, but found itself eliminated in the semis by Abel Ibarra's 8.10.
The finals had two veteran racers duking it out for the first place win, Abel Ibarra and R.J. Simrock. Unfortunately, with the Toyo Tire-sponsored RX-7 under going repairs at Gary Hansen's shop, Ibarra was forced to get his adrenaline fix with the R100. What was most impressive was his courage to get back in the saddle. Unlike Cole Trickle from "Days of Thunder," Ibarra had no emotional hurdles to clear. Once he was in the water box burning up rubber, everything clicked. While Ibarra was raised running high-rpm rotaries, Simrock was born and raised domestic. Simrock is a die-hard V8 chassis builder who eventually learned the ways of small-displacement turbo pro stock style racing and used this combination of disciplines to bring the Focus to the head of its class. The AEBS Focus has gone through its rough times, but is back on track where the original owner, Wayne Saunders, left off-in the 7s. The rear-drive Focus blasted a personal best of 7.68 enroute to a class victory. "For years I've raced in the NHRA Super Gas class," said Simrock. "And not once was I able to get my hands on a Wally trophy. Now I finally have one."