The last pairing in the quarterfinal matched Lisa Kubo against newcomer to the import scene, Marty Ladwig, driving GM Racing's 2002 Sunfire. Ladwig is going to have to step up his game if he is going to play with the big boys. Ladwig was first off the line with a good reaction time, but it was the pure horsepower of Kubo's Civic that blasted her past Ladwig as she finished in 9.306 at 157 mph to Ladwig's 10.233 at 129 mph.
Saying the semi-final rounds were exciting is the understatement of the event. First up was the Venom Civic of Mortensen against Crawford's FatRidz Neon. First out of the gate was Crawford with Mortensen close behind. Both cars were surging toward the finish neck and neck, but good driving technique and a few extra ponies helped Mortensen inch past Crawford and move into the finals for the third time this year.
If that wasn't close enough, the Callos-Kubo race was just flat out amazing. Kubo was able to get half a car length on Callos when the light turned green, but the Castrol Syntec Acura was hot on the heels of Kubo and gaining. It wasn't until the 1,000-foot marker that Callos was able to pull past Kubo and not just take the win, but also set a new national record of 8.825 at 161 mph. Kubo finished with her best time as well, a 9.140 at 158 mph but that was just not enough.
The final started a little late as the track was oiled down by Marko Djuric when his turbo let loose. Jojo Callos and Bruce Mortensen stepped up to the line to see who had the goods; one was a fast pass away from the big money. But when the light turned green, things got ugly. As soon as Mortensen dumped the clutch in the Venom Civic, the engine gave out completely and started spewing oil.
In fact, just about every last ounce of the motor's lifeblood ended up on the track. Callos would earn the win but slowed toward the finish when his engine started smoking.
The Modified Class has turned into a clash of late-model, front-wheel drive vs. old-school rear drive. Every racer has his own idea of just how to go fast but in the end it usually comes down to horsepower and good driving technique. A little luck can help as well.
First up was Steven Thomson and 2001 NHRA Modified champ Carlos Gonzalez. Thomson didn't make the field, qualifying ninth; however, Christian Rado's World Electronics Celica broke a valve spring seat during qualifying. Unfortunately for Thomson, his nerves at the line got the best of him as he red-lit by just 0.44 of a second. It was not to be Thomson's day.
Next up was Jose Mendez driving an older Toyota Corolla against Luis Torres Maldonado in a Mazda rotary. The Pan American effect was in full swing; fans in the stands were quick to choose the side of Mendez' piston instead of Maldonado's rotary. Maldonado's Mazda fouled out at the start and piston fans were quick to add a humiliating "boo" to the proceedings. (Just remember: What comes around goes around.)
Crowd favorite Stephan Papadakis was next in the burnout box against Nelson Hoyos driving the GM Racing Chevy Cavalier. Hoyos, you may remember, is the owner of the low 7-second yellow Ford Focus featured in a past issue of Turbo. Nelson is stepping in for Stephanie Reaves while she recovers from a recent back operation. Any ideas of a fairly close race were snuffed when Hoyos' car stopped accelerating just before the 330-foot marker. The culprit-a $10 throttle pedal. Papadakis motored to the win, finishing with an 8.513 at 170 mph.
The last showdown in the quarterfinals was Marcos Acosta against the new Venom Supra of Jimmy O'Connor. As you may remember, O'Connor had shattered his leg while testing the Venom Tundra toward the end of the 2001 season. His injuries have not healed as quickly as expected and instead of moving successful drivers out of the Hot Rod Civic or Pro Tundra, Venom expanded its racing program with a Modified entry-a Supra. In fact, the car was purchased eight weeks prior to this event and finished by Paralax Race Cars just in time to ship it to Jersey.
Team Venom was happy to take the number two spot on the grid with an 8.210 at 163 mph. But this was just not to be O'Connor's day as the 2JZ-GTE gave way just before half track, giving the easy win to Acosta who finished with a 9.380 at 147 mph. It was great to see Jimmy behind the wheel again.