An epic season of quarter-mile battles came to an end at Pomona and hard-charging import drag racers used the occasion to make one last assault on the NHRA record book. The drama went beyond the track as the race was held amidst the worst wild fire outbreak in California history. In fact, on Sunday, one of the fires was three to six miles away from the track in the nearby foothills. We heard rumors that houses across the street from the track were given voluntary evacuation notices.
But, the show must go on and, boy, was it rolling. When the smoke cleared (sorry) we had the ultimate Cinderella story, two female class winners, and some historic performances.
As has been the case for most of the 2003 season, George Ioannou and Ara Arslanian of the Street Glow/Bullish Racing team pulled off 6-second performances. The Solaras went 6.778 at 206 mph (George) and 6.98 at 204.43 mph (Ara) in the first qualifying stanza.
Stephan Papadakis joined them later with a stout 6.882 while Matt Scranton and the Turbonetics Celica and Abel Ibarra and the K&N Filters RX-7 just missed the 6s with 7.044 and 7.065 runs respectively.
As hot as it was at the top of the tree, the danger would come from below. Hiroshi Shiobara squeaked in the field with a 9.045 in the Escort Racing Service 300ZX. In the first round, Shiobara got by class champion Ioannou who had problems at the line and could only manage a 10.11. In the semis, Matt Scranton popped something off the line and sputtered 20 feet, so Shiobara advanced. Would his Cinderella story come to fruition against Steph and the AEM Civic in the final?
Steph moved first, while Shiobara had issues at the start. But the glass slipper fit when Steph drifted offline in the dark. He crossed the centerline, handing the Wally to the would-be princess. Starting slow was a blessing for Shiobara because things could have been tragic if the Nissan was at speed when Steph swerved into the other lane.
In Pro FWD, it was all about being the first in the 7s. After three rounds of qualifying, Lisa Kubo and the APC/Saturn Motorsports ION were at the threshold with an 8.046 at 185.68 mph, well under the class record. Class champion Nelson Hoyos was poised to break the barrier with an 8.146 at 192.38 mph. Team Bergenholtz's Mazda 6 blasted an 8.32 to qualify third. And class record holder Shaun Carlson ran an 8.45.
In eliminations, Lisa had a Bye in the first round. Would she save the car are be gunning for a record? The burnout dropped a hint and at the green the Saturn screamed down the track, stopping the clock in 8.087, which easily backed up the .046. Minutes after having his record of 8.22 crushed, Shaun Carlson made a stab at 7s with a wild 8.195 at 178 mph. In the next round, the two squared off; Lisa won with a sizzling 8.101. This set up a Kubo vs. Hoyos final. Hoyos had problems at about 330 feet and Kubo had to fight the car down the track. Her 8.70 was good enough for the Wally. Sevens in Pro FWD will have to wait until next year.