A sound-bite from hip-hop's Nelly, "It's getting hot in here," was the rally cry of those who attended the K&N NOPI LA Race Wars in Palmdale, CA, on the weekend of June 22, 2002. It was definitely hot up there and we're not just talking about the unrelenting summer sun.
The third stop of the NDRA Race Wars series brought out hot temperatures, hot cars, and even hotter girls. Palmdale in the summer time isn't normally a fun place to be. With the summer solstice the day before and much of the West in the throes of an historic fire season it had been hot in Palmdale for some time. The temperature in the shade was in the mid-90s and it was in the 140s on the track! But that didn't prevent the fans from coming out to join in on the hot action served up NOPI style. Besides the hot temperatures the fans were entertained with live performances, free give-aways, a car show, sound competitions, a burnout contest, and of course the always-entertaining bikini competition. But the real reason we were up there fending off the heat rays was for the drag action.
If you've ever been to LACR, you know it is a far cry from a world class drag strip. Actually the track is more like a strip of asphalt that's constantly showered with sand, compliments of a motorcross track ingeniously built alongside it. Often the conditions can make the elements a greater worry than the actual competitor running in the next lane.
Those same elements conspired to keep many of the favorites at home. Some of the more notable absentees were Jojo Callos, Kenny Tran, Stephan Papadakis, Ari Yallon and Tony Shagday to name just a few. This allowed many newcomers to make it to the main attraction.
Pro StockIn Pro Stock (all motor) the favorite was Bisi Ezerioha but hot on his tail was Mario Samala, who came out of nowhere and ran several low 11-second passes. In round one all the top qualifiers advanced with the exception of Joel Mandl, who suffered mechanical problems at the line. Three of the four drivers in round one ran in the 11s and the fourth driver cruised to victory against Joel. In round two Mario squared off against Paul Sarnecki while Bisi traded blows with Francisco Loerca. All four competitors were equally matched, all capable of running 11-second e.t.s. Bisi dominated Loerca, running an 11.293 to Loerca's 12.111, and Samala cruised to an 11.640 while Sarnecki broke. The final pairing was Bisi and Samala and since both already ran low 11s in competition the money race was as hot as the midday sun. When the green light fell Bisi got the early lead by cutting a close light but Samala reeled him in at the top end running an 11.471 to Bisi's losing 11.664.
Pro 4 CylinderWith many of the heavy hitters missing from competition we saw some newcomers make the field at Palmdale. The only veterans in the field were Myles Bautsista, Lisa Kubo and Bruce Mortensen. In round one of competition, Kubo, the number one qualifier, had mechanical problems, giving the easy win to Eric Del Rosario. Myles and Mortensen advanced with hardly any competition.
The last pairing in round one was Mike Carl and Ricky Delacruz, who treated us to the closest racing of the day. Both left the line about he same time and at the end Carl was able to edge out Ricky for the win by .055 seconds-less than a car length.
In round two Del Rosario faced teammate Myles while Mortensen took on Carl. In the battle of the teammates Myles broke on the line giving the automatic win to Del Rosario while Mortensen made quick work of Carl. In the finals, Mortensen apparently ran into a voodoo curse, suffering a mechanical failure on the line as Del Rosario motored to a 10.890 and the win.