Efantis, who is teaming with Bullish racing on his engine program, came out swinging with an 8.10 and 7.72 on the car's first two full passes. Carlos Jr. checked in second with an 8.66 and Rene Franco posted an 8.97, while Carlos Sr. managed only a 10.07.
The battle of the RX-3s in the first round went to Carlos Jr. 8.37, while Efantis denied the crowd of an all-rotary, father-vs.-son showdown by dispatching the elder Gonzalez with a quick 7.82.
Efantis looked to have all the momentum going into the money race. Unfortunately, he lost sight of the big picture and tried to tree a car he had a 555-second advantage over in the previous round and red-lit. The win went to the old-school rotary that got out of shape and cruised to a victorious 33.90-second e.t. Either way, the Gonzalez family will have the wind at their backs on the return trip home to Florida.
In Pro RWD, it was business as usual. The Street Glow Solaras were atop the chart. George Ioannou was the only one in the 6s with a 6.895 at 202.55 mph. Street Glow's biggest challenger, Stephan Papadakis, wasn't in attendance as a pre-season testing accident sidelined his Honda after posting a best-of 6.68 at 211 mph. Matt Hartford was shaking down a new engine and driveline at Fontana as he has replaced his Ecotec four with a V6 scavenged from a Cadillac STS. Abel Ibarra was debuting his new RX-8 and had some engine gremlins holding him back.
In eliminations, Hartford broke a driveshaft after breaking a tranny the day before during qualifications. So Adam Saruwatari advanced. Abel couldn't get his engine to rev and Ara Arslanian advanced. The hardship continued as Manny Cruz sputtered and lost the fire in his Cougar, while Brad Pedsonett cruised away in his impressive 2JZ-powered Titan Motorsports Celica. Luckily, Ioannou had a single because his Solara wouldn't idle. He wisely bypassed the burnout box and took a putt-putt single.
After running an 8.57 in the first round, Saruwatari was a no-show. Arslanian was ripe for the taking as he wavered and then grenaded a motor, coasting to a 10.08. Ioannou's Solara was wounded and performed a few dry-hops between the burnout box and the staging beams to check things out. There was some quick discussion about shutting the car down but Ioannou would have none of it.
In the beams, Pedsonett's Celica jumped prematurely and lit the red bulb. George advanced, making it an all-Street Glow final. With all the battered parts laying about in the Street Glow pits, the final was a one-car show in which Ioannou limped to a 15.04 to take the Wally.
The Honda Tuning All-Motor Class had 20 cars vying for 16 spots. Many of the top West Coast Honda racers were on the warpath. There were 12 Hondas, two VWs and two Mazdas in the Fontana field. Ken Scheepers in a 1985 Mazda RX-7 was the number one qualifier with a 10.387, and Tom Fujita was the final qualifier at 11.373. The most notable racer left out was 2003 All-Motor champion Scott Mohlers. Honda racers included class recordholder Leslie Durst, Bisi Ezerioha, Erick Aguilar and Jeremy Lookofsky.
Leslie Durst was the first of the hardcore Honda casualties. She wrecked her CRX in the second round of qualifying. Also in the second round, Lookofsky squeezed by Beetle pilot, Jack Sacchette, by a fender, Aguilar fell to Scott Kelly's VW fastback and Eszerioha advanced.
In the semis, Lookofsky broke in the burnout box and Bisi failed to answer the call, setting up a Cloyse Holland-vs.-Scott Kelly final. It was a thriller-Kelly got the jump at .505 to .531 and hung on with a 10.62 to Holland's 10.76.
Deja vu hung in the air in Fontana. Last year's season opener involved a lot of breakage and some anti-climactic moments. This year included the added variable of short fields, but the cars went together quickly. We should have a lively and full dance card at Moroso. Stay tuned.