Every year I look forward to covering the Summer Slam. It's the pinnacle event in import drag racing and the import scene. Every Fourth of July weekend, Englishtown Raceway plays host to more than 20,000 people who are treated to hundreds of show cars, the BMX and rollerblading exhibitions, the lowrider hydraulic competition, bikini babes, automotive vendors, and blisteringly fast import racecars. It's sensory overload for all who attend, and this year was no disappointment.
Drama unfolded in the first round of qualifying when Dave Buschur smacked the wall at more than 120 mph with his tube-frame Outlaw Mitsu Eclipse. The wreck had the crowd awestruck, but amazingly Dave Buschur immediately jumped out of the car with his hands in the air, signalling he was fine. If that wasn't enough excitement, in the second round Vinny Ten set a personal best time of 7.880, a goal he'd sought to accomplish for more than two years. Not only was that enough to realize a dream, but it also secured a number one position in the Outlaw Class. This barely scratched the surface of the weekend's entertainment.
The Street Tire Class was filled with cars you'd never want to come across at a red light, with two competitors (Ari Yallon and John Shepherd) running sub-10-second passes. Yallon had a fairly easy time beating Ali Afshar in the first round and Adam Dubiencauk in the second. With a Bye in the semis, Yallon was in the final round.
John Shepherd finally broke out the nitrous for his Mitsubishi Eclipse this year and has been running low 9-second passes with it. Shepherd took it easy in the first round, beating Albert Vega with only a 9.848, but he unleashed the beast in the semis against Jeff Hill, running a 9.248 at 157 mph.
Ari Yallon would have to run his best round in the finals to beat long-time rival Shepherd. When the tree dropped green, a lucky Yallon got the instant win when Shepherd dropped the clutch too soon. Yallon had also redlit, but Shepherd moved even sooner, making Ari Yallon and his Mazda RX-7 the Street Tire champion.
You could see just about any powerplant and drivetrain combination in the Quick Class. But after the first round, clearly it was Honda vs. Toyota Supra, with the Supras dominating. The only people who could give the straight-six turbo power of Paul Effantis and Mark Mazurowski were Sav Leone and Gary Gardella. Leone broke in the semis against the Titan Motorsports Supra, putting Mazurowski in the finals. Gardella ran high 8-second passes that were fast enough to beat Effantis, but his reaction was too slow. Gardella tried to pursue, but couldn't come back.
A Supra against a Supra made for an exciting final finish. Effantis was favored to win, having run almost a second faster than Mazurowski's best, but Mazurowski got a car-length holeshot and maintained it to the finish line for the upset and the Quick Class winner title.
By the time you read this, Vinny Ten might have already legally changed his name to "Vinny Seven" as he finally met his goal of breaking into the 7s with his Supra. And with a Bye in the first round and Carlos Montano red lighting in the semis, the final round would determine if Vinny would have the icing on his cake.