To be competitive in the Quick Class, you have to be a member of the 9-second club, and it seems like more and more racers are joining. The top six out of eight racers all qualified in the 9-second range, making for fierce competition each round. In the semi-final round, Brent Rau and his Osofast Racing Diamond Star was looking to take down Gary Gardella and his Ecko Function-sponsored Honda Civic. There has been a rivalry brewing between these two competitors all season as this was not the first time they have faced off at the starting line. Both Rau and Gardella cut good lights, leaving the start at the same time, but by half-track Gardella had a slight edge on Rau. It was looking like it could have been close and then it was all over for Brent Rau. His engine gave way and Gardella crossed the finish first, moving him into the finals.
Also in the semi-final round, Mike Crawford and the Forward Motion Dodge Neon were matched against Texas local Phong Tran driving a Honda Civic. Phong had actually been eliminated in the first round by Sean Glazar and his Extreme Racing Talon; however, Sean's fuel rail mount broke just as he was crossing the finish line, which spewed race fuel into the engine bay. This immediately lit the car on fire, torching the front end of the vehicle and extinguishing any hopes of a first-place finish for Sean. Phong would have his work cut out for him trying to beat the turbo-powered Neon that has seen low 9-second passes. Mike Crawford was first off the line and was pulling hard away from Phong. It was a valiant effort on Phong Tran's behalf, but horsepower is king when it comes to drag racing and the Forward Motion Neon had it in spades. Mike Crawford finished with a 9.266 at 153 mph to Phong Tran's 11.738 at 125 mph.
Gary Gardella was looking for a win in the finals and only Mike Crawford was in his way. Both competitors were equally matched so it was any ones game. But when the hammer was dropped Gardella was able to get a slight lead on Crawford. That was only for a moment though, as the automatic transmission of Crawford's Neon made up the distance lost when Gardella had to shift. Just when it looked like Crawford was coming back, the little gremlins decided to rain on his parade. Crawford's transmission started giving way and Gardella powered to the winner's circle. Gardella finished 9.396 at 150 mph to Crawford's 10.182 at 142 mph.
Outlaw and Pro
It is rather unconventional that we should group these two classes together, but most of the people that were destined for Texas could not make the trip for one reason or another. Between the two classes there were only four racers, meaning the one run for each class would be the final. In Outlaw Stephan Papadakis was matched against Carlos Montano aka: Pepe Loco. Montano previously posted low 8-second passes; if he wanted to beat Stephan he had to pull a number like that again. When the light turned green, the rear-wheel drive of Montano' s RX-3 launched him ahead of Papadakis. But RWD and a short wheelbase can make for a hairy ride as Montano found out when his car moved out of the groove. Montano had to let off the gas to keep the car in line; that was enough for Papadakis to drive by and cross the finish first in 8.233 seconds at 178 mph to Montano's 10.0236 seconds at 99 mph.
In the Pro class, Matt Hartford and the Hoyos Racing Focus had it a little easier. Hartford's competitor never made it to the burnout box and was stranded in the staging lanes trying to get his engine started. Even though it was a "bye" run to take the win, Hartford put on a show for the crowd making a full pass. Hartford did set a new record that run posting 7.087 at 194 mph, but that was nothing to what happened next.
It would be the race the fans would tell their children about. Someone somewhere had the brilliant idea of letting Papadakis and Hartford go at it. The rules were simple: Papadakis would have a one-second head start, then Hartford would give chase. First out of the gate was Papadakis. He managed to get past the 60-foot marker by the time Hartford left the line.
While it looked as if this would be a walk in the park for Hartford, by the time the two hit the 1/8 th mile, Papadakis' car started picking up speed. As they approached the finish line, it was up for grabs; Hartford would prevail, but the margin was narrow. How narrow? Hartford won by just a few hundredths of a second. To give you an idea of how close that is, imagine the diameter of wheel just past a front bumper traveling at three times the speed limit. While it was a close race finishing, what truly made this run monumental was the fact that both cars posted new personal records at virtually the same exact moment. Papadakis finished in 8.120 seconds at 180 mph, while Hartford finished in 7.070 seconds at 195 mph. Shouts of "do it again" echoed from the stands. While it would have been nice to watch it happen again, fans would just have to savor the memories of history being made.