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Wesley Washington Jr, Larry Keyton, and Jordan Dill All Claim Come From Behind Autofab Raider ET Series Points Championships

Published by Johnny Davis on October 15, 2011

Perfect weather greeted a huge field of over 300 local racers for the final weekend of the Autofab Raider ET Series of 2011.  With the season winding down, and points battles heating up, 520 total entries (including re-entries) on Saturday made their way down the track at Maryland Int’l Raceway.  With so many racers on the property, everything took longer than planned, from time runs to extra rounds in the race.  For the race to be completed before the curfew, the race had to run smoothly with very little downtime.  The longest downtime of the day came when Francis Reynolds Jr. experienced brake issues and nosed his classic Maverick into the gravel.  Less than 15 minutes later, Francis was back in the pits, cleaning the gravel out of his car preparing for the next round, and racers were once again attacking the 1/8th mile at MIR.  With a well run race, and very limited downtime due to car issues, the last pair of the day made the final lap just before midnight Saturday.

Points were the talk of the weekend.  With the Autofab Raider Series coming to a close, and  with the final Raider weekend counting for the first two races in the Dash Championship for the local Speed Unlimited ET Series, points positions were updated round by round throughout the weekend in both series.  The new Dash Playoff points setup was designed to create drama for the last three races of the year.  With the top points earners in each class bunched at the top of the points, there was bound to be some jostling on the points list.  Coming into the weekend, Jake Milstead and Will Kivett were tied atop the Top ET points in the Dash.  But, by the end of Saturday night, both racers found themselves a couple rounds out of the lead.  In round 7, Donna Nelson took over the Dash points lead when she took down Raider points contender Brian Stroop by just .003.  Earlier in the day, Donna opened the door for Top points in the Raider when she took down Raider points leader Chad Traylor in round 4.  Denny Turner took just .009 in his ’67 Camaro to take a 7th round win over Frank Falter’s new dragster in another tight race.  Ben Calhoun got the bye to the semi’s.  In the semi’s, Donna padded her points lead when she threw down a .008 package on Calhoun.   Calhoun was there on the tree with a .006 light, but couldn’t quite get inside Donna’s stellar run.  Denny Turner took the bye to make it in a rare, all door car final in Top ET.  Both racers came to the final set up tight.  Unfortunately for Donna, she was setup a little too tight, and turned it red to Turner, handing him the win and the big check for $5,000.  Turner was .003 on the tree, so he was right there.  In terms of points, Donna had taken over the points lead by a couple of rounds in the Dash over Kivett, Milstead and Charlie Yingling.  Chad Traylor was still hanging on to a semi-comfortable lead in the Raider points over two former points champs, Wesley Washington Jr, and Al Burkett.

Mod ET saw similar movement in the standings on Saturday.  Larry Keyton and Ed Talbert entered the weekend tied for the lead in the Dash.  Seth Phillips had a 9 point lead over Keyton in the Raider points.  In the fourth round, Seth Phillips fell victim to Frank Thompson Jr., but so did Larry Keyton when he lost a tough double breakout race to Bart Spicer.  Ed Talbert also went down at the hands of former Mod ET champ Johnny Mattera.  This left the door open for several drivers to make a move in the Dash points.  Francis Reynolds Jr., Tony Mattera and Joe Goldey took advantage of the opportunity.  All three racers made it to the semi’s.  Reynolds, who recovered quite well from his adventurous ride into the gravel trap earlier in the day, faced off with Goldey.  Goldey had a great light with a .010 to Francis’ .055.  Goldey then killed what he needed to at the stripe to hold off Francis’ dead on run.  The other semi-final matchup was a tight one.  Tony Mattera got the slightest of holeshots with his .057 light Bart’s .058.  Both drivers then went dead on, but Bart was able to go dead on with a 1, to take the stripe by just .002 and move to the final.  Goldey had been on the tree all day, logging lights of .005, .006, .007 and his semi-final .010 on his path to final.  In the final however, he was way early and turned it -.041 red to Bart Spicer, handing the win and the big check to Bart.  But even with the final round loss, Goldey found himself the new leader in the Dash points in Mod.

In Juniors, Josh Phelps was the leader on all fronts coming into the weekend.  But Phelps made an uncharacteristically early exit in the third round, leaving the door wide open for many racers to catch him.  With a 7 round race in Juniors, there were plenty of points up for grabs.  Robert Estevez, who came into the weekend 2 rounds behind Phelps in the Dash, ended the day tied with Phelps, by making it to 5th round where he lost to Chad Burch.  Mulligan winner, Willie Hess Jr. then took out Dash contender Louie Estevez and Kennedy Weis got around Michael George Jr.  Jordan Dill, who started the weekend 4th in Raider points, and eight rounds behind Phelps, had the bye to semi’s.  In the semi’s Dill took down Burch in a tough double breakout race and earned his spot in the final.  In the other matchup, Hess had a nearly perfect light, a .001, to take down Kennedy Weis and move to final.  In the final, both racers were good on the tree, with Hess getting the slight advantage with his .021 to Dill’s .024.  At the stripe, Dill took too much finish line and broke out by .016 handing the win to the mulligan winner, Willie Hess Jr.  Dill’s final round appearance closed the gap by 4 rounds, but Phelps still maintained a several round lead in the Raider points heading into the final day.

In Juniors, there was plenty of drama in the Raider points.  Josh Phelps, who was leading the points most of the season, could clinch the Raider championship with a 3rd round win.  In round 3, Phelps ran up against Ryan Jackson.  Jackson got the jump with a .019 to Phelps’ .059.  Jackson held on for the win, leaving the door open for Robert Estevez, Heather Schneider, and Shane Parker in the Dash points.  But the Dash contenders near the top also lost third round when, Heather Schneider fell to Brad Keyton, Robert Estevez fell to Chris Mattera, and Shane Parker lost to Jordan Dill.  Dill was the only racer who could catch Phelps in the Raider points, and to do so, he would have to win the race.  Jordan Dill worked his way to the semi’s where he faced off with Willie Hess Jr.  A rematch of Saturday night’s final, Hess who won the mulligan for the second day in a row, was trying once again to make the most of it.  Dill got the jump this time with a .027 light and easily held on for the round win.  In the final, he would face off with Sam Hamilton.  Hamilton got past Rachel Weis in the semi’s, on the strength of a holeshot, as both drivers went dead on their dials.  In his second final of the weekend, the pressure was maxed out on Dill, who was racing not only for the race win, but the points championship.  The pressure may have got to Dill a little as he was late compared to his normal lights with a .070 light, but Hamilton was even later with a .133.  Dill then played the game at the finish line perfectly, picking up the win and the Autofab Raider ET Series championship in Junior Dragster.  Coming from eight rounds back, in a two race weekend, Jordan got lucky by having those in front of him go out early, but also drove incredibly well, winning 13 of a possible 14 rounds over the weekend making it to both finals and winning one race.  With just one race remaining in the Dash, Josh Phelps and Robert Estevez are tied for the points lead.  Heather Schneider and Shane Parker sit tied for third, 3 rounds back.

In Mod ET, the drama was similar.  In the Raider points, Larry Keyton entered the day 9 points behind Seth Phillips.  Keyton would have to go one round farther in eliminations to take over the points lead and steal the championship away from Phillips who has been in the lead for nearly the entire Raider series.  Chris Moren had an outside chance if he could win the race and both Keyton and Phillips went down in first round.  As it turned out, Moren made the early exit when he was sent to re-entry by Frank Thompson Jr., and then to the trailer by Nicole Talbert in first round re-entry.  Seth made it through rounds 1 and 2 unscathed, but Keyton just piled the pressure on himself, ending up in re-entry both rounds, first being beat by Nicole Cornwell, and then by Frank Thompson Jr. in second round.  But Keyton made it out of re-entry both times and both Keyton and Phillips found themselves in third round.  Phillips ran earlier in the round where he faced off with Roger Bridges.  Both were good on the tree with lights in the 30’s, but Phillips didn’t run the number and Bridges picked up the win, swinging the door wide open for Keyton to step into the lead.  Five pairs later, Larry Keyton faced off with the always tough, Carlos Dejesus.   Carlos got the slight jump with a .023 light to Keyton’s .029, but Keyton was able to drive around Carlos in the lights to pick up the win by .014 seconds and the points lead by 1 point.   Larry then broke out against Tony Mattera in round 4, leaving Phillips only one shot at winning the championship; winning the mulligan.  Seth, who seems to have a bit of luck at winning the mulligan, seemed to have the stars align once again, as his name was once again drawn from the bucket to re-enter the race in 5th round.  If he could win just one round, the championship would be his.  Larry Keyton’s championship hopes were riding with Willard Hammond, Seth Phillips 5th opponent.  The race was probably the best of the day in all classes.  Hammond and Phillips were both stellar on the tree, both having .004 lights.  Then both drivers ran dead-on their dials, with Willard picking up the win by just .001, ending Seth’s chances for a second Raider ET series championship, and handing the Autofab Raider ET Series championship to Larry Keyton in his white, red and blue ’66 Nova. 

With the Raider points settled, focus shifted to the race and the Dash points.  In 6th round, Frank Thompson Jr. and Johnny Mattera were the only Dash contenders left in eliminations.  Roger Bridges took down Johnny, when Johnny couldn’t run the number.  Frank moved to semi’s when he got the holeshot win over Willard Hammond.  Johnny Burch was the other semi-finalist after he took down Larry Keyton’s brother Mike.  Thompson got pulled for the bye, so Burch and Bridges faced off for the other spot in the final.  Bridges pushed the tree ever too hard, turning it -.001 red sending Johnny Burch to final to match up with Frank.  In the final, Burch got the jump with his .042 light to Thompson’s .057 and was able to hold on for the tight win by just .006, earning himself a $2,000 big check.  Despite the final round loss, Thompson helped himself immensely in the Dash runoff.  Knocking off Dash contenders, Chris Moren, Larry Keyton, Jason Kirby, and Nicole Talbert on his way to his final round appearance on Sunday, coupled with his 5th round exit Saturday, catapulted him from 16th in points to a tie for 3rd with one race remaining.  He is tied with Tony Mattera and Ed Talbert, just one round behind the leaders.  Currently Joe Goldey and Larry Keyton sit tied atop the Mod ET Dash standings.  The always tough Johnny Mattera is still certainly within striking distance, just 15 points, or less than 2 rounds behind the leaders.  The final race in Mod will surely be quite entertaining.

In Top ET, things are were no less dramatic.  Chad Traylor has enjoyed the points lead for nearly the entire Raider series.  Coming into the final day, he had a 41 point lead over Wesley Washington Jr. and Al Burkett giving him more than a 4 round lead in the points.  But things didn’t quite go the way Chad had hoped.  In first round he ran into a .007 package buzz saw from Robert Jones that sent him to re-entry.  There he ran into the formidable Tom Pistole.  Pistole got the jump with a .012 to Chad’s .033.  Then Pistole drove the stripe perfectly on the hard charging 4.40 dragster of Traylor, taking just .011 stripe, ending his day.  From then on, all he could hope for was that neither Wesley nor Al made it to the 6th round.  Both were still in headed to 4th round.  There, Al Burkett faced off with the same buzz saw that ended Chad Traylor’s day, Robert Jones.  Jones didn’t take it much easier on Burkett, posting a .018 package on Al, sending him to the trailer for the day and ending his championship run.  Wesley, who was driving his car and a second car, owned by Jeff Groat, moved both entries into the 5th round.   When Tommy Norton won the mulligan, eliminating the last possibility for Traylor or Burkett to earn more points, It set up the situation that if Wesley could win his 5th round matchup he would be the Raider points champion.  Wesley was drawn for the bye, but unfortunately for him, not in his points car.  So, Wesley faced off with Will Kivett, who had re-taken over the points lead in the Dash.  Wesley was up for the challenge, picking the best time to be perfect on the tree.  Posting a .000 perfect light to Kivett’s .031, gave Wesley more than enough room to pick up the round win and the Autofab Raider ET Series Championship.   

In the 6th round, Wesley kept the winning up, when he beat himself in the second car.  In the quarterfinals, he was drawn for the bye.  In the other 7th round matchups, Brian McLaughlin drove his ’86 Mustang to the semi’s in a tough race.  Mulligan winner Tommy Norton was enjoying his second deep run in eliminations for the weekend, but even his .011 dead-on 0 run had nothing for Brian’s .003 dead-on 0 run.  Marcus Henry then picked up a very tight win over Severn Johnson, by just .002 at the stripe.  In the semi’s the dragster faced off.  Marcus had the better light, .003 to Wesley’s .021, but he took too much stripe as Wesley jumped on the brakes at the finish line feeding the stripe to Marcus who broke out taking it.  Brian McLaughlin then got the bye to run Wesley in the final.  They left together, with Brian getting the slight jump, posting his fourth “double-oh” light of the day, a .007 light to Wesley’s .011.  Wesley once again fed the stripe to his opponent and Brian broke out handing the win to Wesley.  The $5,000 big check was a perfect way to cap off a great day for Wesley.  This was his second win in as many weekends during the Raider series.  Will Kivett sits atop the Dash standings, holding a two round lead over Donna Nelson.  Charlie Yingling and Bruce Hensley sit 4 rounds out of first.

Congratulations to all the winners and champions crowned over the weekend.  A huge weekend of racing with several thousand runs made throughout the weekend couldn’t have gone much smoother.

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