The winners of the Best in 2018 Awards for Australian drag racing are here!
To help celebrate and recognise Australian drag racers, we put some names to the vote across a number of categories to recognise racing achievements and contributions to the sport.
Thanks to the Australian drag racing fans who got involved in the nomination stages and then contributed to voting. Here are the results.
Pro Racer of the Year: Kelly Bettes
Australia saw its first female champion in the professional ranks last year when Kelly Bettes won the 400 Thunder Top Fuel Series.
Bettes used skills honed in years of sportsman racing to bring devastatingly quick and consistent reaction times to Top Fuel, deploying them for a number of holeshot wins on her opponents which would prove critical in the championship chase.
Bettes wasn't just an exceedingly capable driver, she was also a hit with fans, showing that a young driver who proved their mettle in Junior Dragsters and Modified could eventually reach the top tier of the sport.
Honourable Mention: Paul Mouhayet
Sportsman Racers of the Year: Matt Czerny and Josh Fletcher
In our only award to feature combined winners, we congratulate Matt Czerny (Modified) and Josh Fletcher (Supercharged Outlaws) on winning the Sportsman Racer of the Year Award.
We watched the voting go one way, then the other, then back again in this category, with the final result coming down to a handful of votes.
Matt Czerny was the 2018 ANDRA Modified Champion, travelling around the country in the Robinvale Estate Dressings dragster to earn enough points for the title. In a heartbreaking turn of events in the later part of the year, Czerny had a scary braking area crash at Mildura and wrote off a brand new car. The good news is he does have a new project on the way.
Josh Fletcher was the 2018 400 Thunder Supercharged Outlaws Champion and the 2018 Willowbank Raceway Supercharged Outlaws Track Champion. Josh and father Bill have been two of the most dominant figures in Supercharged Outlaws racing, always at the pointy end of eliminations with their supercharged dragsters. In fact, Bill finished second to Josh in both championships! One of the most professional sportsman teams in the country, the Fletchers enjoy support from Gulf Western Oil and M7 Air Tools.
Honourable Mention: Stephan Gouws
Radial Racer of the Year: Jeremy Martin
Jeremy 'Jet' Martin hasn't been a radial racer for long, in fact he only made the switch from slicks in the second half of the year. But he quickly made an impression in his Holden Commodore.
Martin travelled to South Georgia Motorsport Park where he reached the quarter finals of the No Mercy radial event and ran as quick as 3.90/204mph, taking out top names like Mark Micke along the way. The right hand drive sedan intrigued Americans and became a cult favourite of the crowd.
Later in the year Martin did some testing at a PDRA event and went 3.84, cementing his name as the quickest Australian on radial tyres.
Honourable Mention: Jarrod Wood
Junior Dragster Racer of the Year: Zara Board
Drag racing was rocked in 2017 by the passing of Anita Board, following an accident while racing her Junior Dragster at Perth Motorplex.
The Board family loved the sport and together vowed to keep racing in Anita's memory, with her older sister Zara carrying the torch. The family raced around the country throughout 2018 with Zara's results improving throughout the year, culminating in an emotional victory at South Coast Raceway in Victoria.
She might not have won a championship, but Zara Board was an ambassador for Junior Drag Racing, showing amazing strength to grow as a racer though the greatest adversity anyone could imagine.
Honourable Mention: Liezel Gouws
Crew Chief of the Year: Santo Rapisarda Jnr
When nominations for the awards took place, the amount for Santo Rapisarda Jnr surprised us. Not that he isn't talented, or deserving, but we thought he was up against some strong competition.
But it goes to show that Australian drag racing fans still like to see someone who can 'swing for the fences', and that is Santo's strength.
The son of Australian Top Fuel team owner Santo Rapisarda Snr, 'Junior' has come into his own as a capable crew chief who can knock out record runs including the quickest Top Fuel pass of the year, a 3.77 at Willowbank Raceway.
We don't think we have seen the greatest moments of this young crew chief yet.
Honourable Mention: Aaron Hambridge/Lamattina Top Fuel Racing
Pro Run of the Year: Collin Willshire 6.200
The numbers coming from sport compact drag racing are simply mind bending right now and none moreso than from Queensland's Collin Willshire, whose run of 6.200 seconds in Orlando, Florida was the quickest four cylinder sedan pass ever seen anywhere on the planet.
Willshire's absolute dedication to sport compact drag racing is without question, co-running the Jamboree events in Australia and organising a fleet of Australian and New Zealand sport compact cars to travel to the other side of the world to race.
Now the race is on for the first five from a four cylinder – will we see Willshire make history again?
Honourable Mention: Scott MacLean 5.57
Radial Run of the Year: Jarrod Wood 3.99
We saw quicker radial runs from Australian racers this year but the first eighth mile 'three' on home soil was the popular choice from our voters. Jarrod Wood's 3.99 on radials cracked a barrier that was being chased by a number of talented teams, coming at the Radial Riot event at Willowbank Raceway.
With ever-improving radial track prep in Australia and more top level cars coming into the country, we expect the chase for the first 3.8, 3.7 and 3.6 second times to be on in earnest over the next 12 months.
Race of the Year: Paul Mouhayet vs John Zappia Winternationals Semi Final
For a decade, John Zappia dominated Top Doorslammer/Pro Slammer competition. Fans love to see the best of the best in their prime, but they also love the moment a true challenger arises.
That challenge came in the form of Paul Mouhayet and Moits Racing, who switched from turbochargers to superchargers to take on Zappia. After going toe to toe for the whole season, the result would come down to the Winternationals, where Zappia had to win to stop Mouhayet taking the title.
But it was not to happen, with Mouhayet going 5.65 and defeating Zappia, winning the championship. The drama and atmosphere of this championship decider proved a favourite for the fans!
Honourable Mention: Kelly Bettes vs Rachelle Splatt/First All Female Top Fuel Final
Event of the Year: Winternationals (Willowbank Raceway)
The biggest and the best, few events in Australia can hold a candle to the Winternationals.
Championship-deciding races, record passes, huge crowds and the strongest turnout of racers for any event of the season makes the Winternationals the easy choice to attend for most drag racers and spectators.
Willowbank Raceway has nurtured this event to be the pinnacle of drag racing in Australia – if we had a half dozen more events like this around the country the sport would be unstoppable!
Honourable Mention: Street Machine Drag Challenge
Series of the Year: Aeroflow Outlaw Nitro Funny Cars
The touring nitro show that is the Aeroflow Outlaw Nitro Funny Cars continues to promote itself as a fan friendly and entertaining version of drag racing.
Perhaps the closest thing drag racing has to the 'Big Bash' cricket shows right now, the AONFC series takes a stable of Funny Cars with exotic names around the country along with wheelstanders and other entertainment.
The series has been getting young fans involved in the sport through initiatives such as the Pit Party and colouring-in competitions, and you only have to take a look in the grandstands to see how many families consider these events the ones to be at for kids.
That's not to say the series lacks hardcore racing action, with the ground pounding Funny Cars delivering awesome performances and close finishes.
Honourable Mention: 400 Thunder
Media Award: Drag News Magazine
Launched in 2010, dragnews.com.au has provided a reliable news source for Australian drag racing for the better part of a decade, with contributors from around the country providing articles and photos detailing the sport. In 2014 Drag News Magazine was launched to fill a void of publications for drag racing and has since provided its subscriber base with feature stories highlighting the personalities we see on the track. We'd like to thank everyone who voted for thinking of Drag News Magazine for the media award.
It wouldn't be possible without the support of several of the other nominees for the award including Drag Photos (Dave Reid), Outlaw Images (Hayley Turns) and our many other photographers who capture the action and the beauty of our awesome sport.
Honourable Mention: dragphotos.com.au
Story of the Year: Kelly Bettes becoming first female Top Fuel champion
Female champions are normal in drag racing, but it is nice to see their names in the history books of Top Fuel for the first time. Also for the first time in history, all three Top Fuel champions around the world (USA, Europe and Australia) were women thanks to the efforts of Brittany Force, Anita Makela and of course Kelly Bettes.
Some might say that it's so normal that it doesn't even deserve a special mention, but where these champions do benefit the sport is in inspiring the many young women who are in the Junior Dragster ranks or are thinking about going racing. There are so many people in the wider community who will talk young girls out of going drag racing, but the accomplishments of women like Bettes make them outstanding role models for the future of our sport.
Service Award: Margaret Kreis (Willowbank Raceway)
For 40 years Margaret Kreis has served Queensland drag racing, with much of that time spent at Willowbank Raceway. She's worked in the tower, scrutineering and as a bracket marshal and dedicated countless hours to the sport.
It perhaps say something to the unsung nature of the volunteers in the sport that we didn't know how much Margaret was valued by the racers until we saw the sheer amount of times her name was mentioned during our nominations process.
Every track has a hardcore group of people who dedicate their time just so we can all enjoy this sport, and Margaret is among the most valuable of those people anywhere in the country.
Honourable Mention: Ray Treasure (Perth Motorplex)
Bonus Honourable Mentions
Sportsman Race of the Year: Unfortunately we did not receive many nominations for the sportsman race of the year category and we did not want to miss any deserving races. But one race that did get our attention in nominations was the Steve Fowler vs Dave Gauldie final of Top Sportsman at the 2018 Winternationals. Gauldie treed Fowler .004 to .014 and took the stripe with a 7.887 on a 7.88 dial in to Fowler's 6.87 on a 6.86 dial in in what was an extreme pressure race.
Bike Run of the Year: We chose not to separate out bikes in our voting and they were certainly eligible for all of the other categories including the pro and sportsman awards, however we did not receive many nominations for accomplishments on two wheels. Certainly deserving of recognition would be Luke Crowley's 7.040 in the first round of Pro Bike at the Winternationals, while Leonard Azzopardi's ballistic 210.67mph at the Nitro Champs in Sydney was an incredible no-bar speed record for Australia.
Track Award: One thing that became clear in nominations was that most voters were nominating their home track for the Track Award. While that is fine we didn't want the voting to simply be a contest of which track has the most racers. So we chose to hold off this category from voting and elected to give Swan Hill Dragway an honourable mention in the Track Award for producing a fantastic quarter mile venue in seemingly the middle of nowhere! The track is well worth the trek into the outback of Victoria (just make sure you bring the fly swat).