6th Pro Stock Nationals
Bugorama Promotions combined Sacramento Bugorama #70 and the CB Performance/Rancho Performance Transaxles' Pro Stock Nationals into one heack of a VW event!
It was an idea that sprouted to life last winter, when Pat Downs (of CB Performance) floated the idea of promotin a VW Pro Stock Nationals sometime during the 2012 racing season. With the approval of CB's head honcho, Rick Tomlinson, Pat then took the idea to Steve Hole at Bugorama Promotions, and the idea was given the green light. Looking back at this concept, the last time the VW industry had such an even was back in 2006, when JayCee's Jack Sacchette (who came up with the orginal Pro Stock Nationals idea in 2002) approached CB Performance to host his 5th annual Pro Stock Nationals in Indianapolis, Indiana. The back story is that, out on the West Coast, you would have to go back all the way to the 2002 racing season to see the final year of PRA-sanctioned VW Pro Stock heads-up racing. In recent times, both the ECPRA and the TXPRA have been the mainstays of VW Pro Stock Racing, running events in Ohio, Texas, South Carolina and other eastern tracks, but there has been nothing in the west.
Thanks to the efforts of CB Performance and Bugorama Promotions, the idea of combining the Labor Day Sacramento Bugorama with the Pro Stock Nationals finally came to fruition early in 2012. This gave the nation's quickest and fastest normally aspirated VWs time to get their engine programs together for the September 2nd race date. They also approached Gene Collier of the East Coast PRA, who agreed to be the sanctioning body, and their rules would be enforced.
One goal of this event was to have a generous purse that would draw racers from across the country. So with CB putting up a large chunk of the cash, they talked with Rancho Performance Transaxles who agreed to be the other Title Sponsor, with Vintage Metal Werks stepping up as an Associate Sponsor. By late summer, there were 23 pre-entries, many of them with new cars still being assembled. To make registration easy, racers could go to the CB website and simply order part #PSNR - Pro Stock Nationals Race. By race day, 13 cars towed up to the starting lines, with well over $10,000 up for grabs thanks to the sponsors. Pro Stock racers came from far and wide to be part of the biggest race in years. The final entry list included: Pat Downs of Visalia, California; Oliver Frey from Newport News, Virginia; Tay Woykowski from Marshall, Virginia; John Strnad of Midlothian, Texas; Ron Lummus, Anaheim, California (driving Damon Harmon's #2 car); Damon Harmon, Irving, Texas; Jason Poynter, Rhome, Texas; Victor Anderson, Lompoc, California; JD Curry, Hamilton, Ohio; Joe Maestas, Covina, California; David Dulany, Arlington, Texas; and Larry Kelley from Yorba Linda, California.
Months leading up to this race, the internet was abuzz with Low ET predictions ranging from 9.30s all the way up to 9.80s. With veteran racers like Roger Crawford possibly debuting a fresh Fastback, and Jason Lauffer's building a new (top secret) Notchback, the off-line betting should have been intense. But all the predictions came to an end early Saturday evening, when round one of qualifying took place and Low ET was quickly set by Pat Downs with a sizzling 9.46/140.23mph blast. With no one else within a tenth of his performance, Pat decided to sit-out Sunday morning's two qualifying rounds which, in the long run, turned out to be the wrong decision. In the first round of eliminations, Pat had the bye run, which he took as his second full pass, and in dong so kicked-out the 1-2 gear selector. From that point on, he fought both the transaxle woes, and the time between rounds trying to fix this problem. By round two he was out for the day, as was his bid to set a new ECPRA record.
Perhaps the wildest run of the event was on Saturday night when Ollie Frey matched-up with Ben Pada (who recently purchased Alan Fore's Pro Stock car, turn-key). In the left lane, Ben got out first, and at the 1,200-foot mark, his car made a move to the left, then hard right, turning sideways on its left side, crossing the centerline at speed. With Ollie heading right towards him at full speed (130mph plus). Ben hit the opposite lane guard rail really hard, and ricocheted back in Ollie's lane. Ollie quickly grabbed the wheel and jerked his car left, and made a smooth - but radical - lane change, avoiding Ben Pada's car and flying debris. Ollie got around the accident safely and braked his way to a stop. Pada's car finally came to a spinning halt which allowed him to exit quickly. No one got hurt, but two things became quickly apparent - Pada's car was seriously damaged, and Ollie's driving skills were unparalleled in VW drag racing. Wow, now that was intense!
By round two of Pro Stock eliminations, Ollie Frey began his march as he took out Larry Kelly, then had a single in round three. He advanced into the final when Damon Harmon bogged off the starting line, and managed to beat Texan John Strnad in the final, 9.63/136.11mph to Strnad's off-pace 11.03/79.58mph. With that, Frey Racing took yet another Pro Stock Nationals title and the huge purse back home to Newport News, Virginia.
Aside from all the Pro Stock action, this event marked the third round of the BRS (Bugorama Racing Series), which is what you normally see at the Sacramento, Phoenix and Las Vegas Bugoramas. Like Pro Stock, Saturday evening saw the first round of qualifying, and it too had some exciting moments for the spectators. By far, the one run - or burnout - that created some tense moments was performed by Andrew Eserini and the family's VR6-powered dragster. As soon as Andrew hit the loud pedal, the right rear slick decided to dismount, but with centrifugal force keeping the tire upright and still attached to the rear bead, everything looked okay until, he let off the pedal. Then, the tire went instantly flat, dropping the rail to the ground on the right side. No harm was done, but it could have been really bad if that had happened at the end of a run. Eserini was among those who entered into a Top Eliminator class, which saw guys like Wolfgang International's Steven Phillips torch a head. Chad Blackshire in the Revmaster dragster (now supercharged) trying to find a good starting point, Chad Davis' water-cooled digger, and Doug Harvey's front-engined New Beetle. By far, Harvey's made the most of this weekend by making some serious advancements in his setup. In the end, Eserini came out on top, but we really never saw any side-by-side action in this class.
Pro Modified began to look very interesting as a quick trip around the pits saw the return of Eric Calabrese, debuting an all-new tube chassis in the famed Red Baron killer. Kris Lauffer was also there, coming back from a guard-rail smack and fire at Phoenix in March. Eric Madson, Pat McDermott, Beau Judge, Dean Nilson, Jon Schweers, John Mead, Jason Fuller and Tony Schwab were just some of the names that made passes down the track. Number One qualifier (out of 14 cars) was Calabrese at 8.65/160.08mph proving his new chassis was sorting out nicely. Lauffer knocked out low gear (again), and never could recover using only three gears. The class final came down to Dean Nilson and Pat McDermott (VW vs. Fiat), with Nilson taking the big win at a stout 9.02/156.84mph to Pat's trailing 9.81/141.05mph
Super Street saw the return of Shawn Geers with his eagerly awaited stealth black JCL-built Ghia coupe. We've been waiting for this car to be completed for years, and this event marked Shawn's first time in BRS action. Shawn made a few passes, but never really found the traction, or jetting that seemed to work. Meanwhile, Roger Crawford again posted best S/S time of the event at 9.95/132.54mph, which gave him a first round bye. Round one saw Ron Fleming take out Toshihiro Saito from Shiroshi, Japan in a close race (10.32/126.78mph ti 10.48/125.16mph). It was great to see Toshihiro and all his friends and crew fro Japan (perhaps over 20!) come up the starting line for each run. Crawford then beat Fleming in Round 2, with Dave Bendig advancing to the final (10.00/132.34mph), when Bendig could not make the final call.
In the Pro Gas group, the two guys that always seem to duke it out came back for more! Auburn's Tony Klink and Kevin Barrett are constantly going back and forth in the class, and this day, Barrett had the fast times 10.84/122.38mph, but dropped out in round two at the hands of Ken Porter. Klink took out Scott Bakken in round two, which set the stage for the final, with Tony Klink out-gunning Porter, 10.90/118.85mph to Porter's trailing 11.13/115.10mph.
Super Gas had eleven cars entered running on a 11.60 dial-in. The final two being Russel Sakatani taking the flag over John Martin, 12.70/88.65mph to 13.89/107.84mph. Pro Eliminator worked it way through seven cars, one of them was Nicole Linkert, driving her famous pink Porsche roadster. Nicole took the class trophy by edging out John Davidson 12.77/103.85mph to 12.26/106.10mph charge.
Super Comp saw only three cars entered, and Allen Weiss took the class win over Dave Cosgrove 10.48/122.22 mph to 10.44/130.23mph. Sportsman Eliminator also had three cars, with Eric Pilson taking the stripe first over Stephanie Bracy, 18.41/74.53mph to Bracy's 14.75/87.98mph. Powder Puff went to Candy Larsen in her Bugformance Bug (15.51/61.14mph), with Melodie Mayo runner-upped. Trophy Class was won by Migue Jacome III over Randall Edwards 15.90/82.18mph to 13.40/104.15mph.
With all the pre-race publicity, it was no surprise that the car show and swap meet were larger than last year's Labor Day turn-out. Sacramento still has the best VW swap meet and new parts vendor row in the industry. Nowhere else can you walk along and see that many new and used air-cooled parts. And right next to the vendors is the car show, which is why a lot of VW fans go to these twice yearly shows at this facility. Now, at this event parking is not by class, but rather as you show up, which makes comparing similar class cars a bit more difficult, but at the same time, that much more interesting. There's no best of Show, but instead the Hole family (of Bugorama Promotions) chooses their favorite for both Air- and Water-Cooled. Justina Dombrowski's Bahama Blue '64 sedan (stock) was the air-cooled pick thanks to its attention to factory detail and perhaps the surfboard on top. Kirk Chudzinski's '91 Vanagon got the nod for best late-model - it's rare to see a Vanagon get the top award. Best Engineered went to Ray Eide's 1961 tan ragtop street ride, Club Choice went to Robert Robello's black cherry 1968 sedan, Rod Martin's candy red chopped sedan took Coolest Bug, and John Orento' 1969 Bay Window panel recieved Coolest Bus award.
Among those VWs in the show, the oldest one we found was the black-on-white 1950 convertible of Eric Henrikson (stock restoration). Then there was Matt Watt's idea of having fun with color and accessories. His '56 sedan was basically a rat rod of sorts, but with a slammed stance, roof rack city on top, multi colors and primer exterior, red wheels, and well, it just worked. We really liked Andrew McCarthy's '66 red Squareback, as well as Tom Baker's orange Meyers Manx Kickout, Ty Perrault's '69 Ghia convertible, and Uwe Brosamle's radical '73 Super Beetle fitted with a Type 4 engine and tons of details.
It goes without saying that with all the extra publicity received for this event, both attendance and car count, not to mention overall interest was way up. There were fans from all over the country, including Puerto Rico, Japan, Germany, Australia, Canada, Mexico and many more. On Saturday night, many of the drag racers got together and had a massive cook-out, thanks to Mike Sheldon and E-Girl. CB Performance also stepped-up Saturday night with a special Tri-Tip dinner for the Pro Stock racers, then followed that up Sunday with a "lounge" in their massive show booth. We're talking leather sofa, free water and snacks for everyone, and a huge outside a/c fan unit to help people relax and cool down in the Labor Day heat! It doesn't get any better than that..
Sadly, there was one causality from the event. Yes, we mourn the loss of one rental golf cart. Somehow it ended up on its roof, but no racer, or golfer was harmed. How you get a golf cart upside down is not an easy feat we hear - especially at the Pro Stock Nationals.