The NHRA Sony Xplod sport compact drag racing season finale at Pomona Raceway had more than its fair share of thrills, spills and high-tension drama. Three of the five class championships had been decided and the leaders in the remaining two classes needed to qualify and stage to clinch, so the chase was in pursuit of the record book and one day of glory.
At the center of the frenzy were Tony Shagday with the Skunk2 Acura Integra and Norris Prayoonto in the Clutch Masters Honda Insight in All Motor, Marty "The One Man Party" Ladwig in his Chevy Cobalt in Pro FWD, and Stephan Papadakis in the AEM Civic and Brad Personett in the Titan Mail Order Scion tC in Pro RWD.
In All Motor things were quiet during qualifying but heated up quickly during the "loser-goes-home" rounds. Shagday ran a 9.83 in the first round of qualifying but was light on the scales and thus DQ'd. When qualifying finished up, Prayoonto, the record holder going in (9.848), was atop the ladder with a 9.914.
In the first round of eliminations Jeremy Lookofsky made some more history fresh off winning his first Wally. He power-shifted the DVS Shoes Civic into the 9s with a 9.992, becoming the first all-motor Prelude-engined vehicle in the 9s. Later in the round Prayoonto laid down the gauntlet blasting a 9.852 and positioning himself for another run at the record book.
Shagday counterpunched in the second round, dropping a 9.741 at 140.63 mph on class champ, Jesus Padilla. This put Shagday in the driver's seat. Prayoonto posted a 9.987, which did not challenge the record.
In the third frame Shagday sealed the deal with a 9.836 at 139.49 mph, which backed up his 9.741 e.t. and speed from the second round. Prayoonto ran a 9.952 to advance to what looked on paper to be a door-handle-to-door-handle 9-second final.
The looks did not deceive as the two Hondas squared off in what is the quickest side-by-side All Motor race ever. Norris took a .089-second advantage off the tree but Shagday and the Skunk2 Integra were on a mission and his lightning quick 1.407-second 60-foot time set the table for a mad dash into history. At the top end it was Shagday 9.639, Prayoonto 9.893. Shagday's e.t. was too quick to qualify for NHRA's one-percent rule but nonetheless stands as the quickest All Motor pass in history.
In Pro FWD it was Marty Ladwig on the warpath. He rolled off the trailer and screamed to an awe-inspiring 7.124 at 189 mph. His lane mate in this qualifying pass was Shaun Carlson who was well into the 7s himself posting a 7.635 in the Mopar Neon. But the most exciting part of these runs came in the traps where both cars got loose and angled to the right. Ladwig, who was more stable than Carlson, was able to correct and averted hitting anything solid. Carlson was not so lucky as his Mopar veered left and hit the wall hard then went across the track and hit the right side wall.
Carlson escaped unscathed and was quick to point to his HANS device, other safety equipment and his Nuformz chassis as saviors. Ladwig needed a 7.19 to back up his qualifying pass but many in the pits shuddered to think that we could be on the brink of a 6-second front-wheel drive pass. Those shuddering were in the right as Ladwig related that data logging showed him lifting at about 1,100 feet, which meant that the 7.12 could have been a six.
Ladwig set the clutch up a tad too aggressively in the second qualifier and hazed the tires badly. In eliminations he got a touch squirrelly at the top end but still managed a 7.379, which edged Nelson Hoyos out of the record book. In the final, Ladwig blasted a 7.588 which did not lower his 7.37 and wasn't enough to back up his 7.12. So he too has the class record (7.37) that is not his best pass of the event, a 7.12, the quickest ever front-drive pass.