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Round two of the new National Drag Racing Championship saw the debut of the flame-throwing Nitro Funny Cars plus Pro Alcohol, Pro Stock and Pro Mod at the Sydney Nationals for the inaugural series.

The weather was sketchy on the Friday, and eventually the day succumbed to the wet stuff with only Nitro Funny Car, Pro Alcohol completing one qualifier, and sportsman racers competing in the Eastern Conference for the NDRC Aeroflow Sportsman Championship had their qualifying culled.

Far better weather conditions presented themselves on the Saturday which allowed Pro Stock and Pro Mod to run a single shot qualifying round, and the sportsman racers completed their qualifying ahead of eliminations.

EMOTIONAL NITRO ROLLERCOASTER – Justin Walshe claimed the first Nitro Funny Car event win under the NDRC banner in extraordinary circumstances. With extensive delays in qualifying that only saw the class sneak in one shot at the track Walshe’s funny car melted and destroyed the clutch for an aborted 5.49 placing him in fourth. In round one a red light from opponent Brandon Gosbell was a gift that soon soured when the Hart’s funny car back fired in a ball of flame in just 40 feet. The damage snapping the body in two leaving a major thrash for Walshe just to continue on in the event.

“Everything felt normal in the car until about 40 foot from the startline when we had a big backfire that lifted the blower and caused enough damage to the body that it was not an option to run it again,” said Walshe.

“A small chunk of inlet valve missing appears to be the problem that caused the bang and fire. The crew did a absolutely flawless service mechanically, plus replaced some wiring and plumbing damaged by the fire. Once we had started the car and check all systems where 100% a team of eight of us hauled the mail back to the race shop to get the spare body. This should have taken an hour but we smashed it out and where back at the track in 26 minutes.

“A mad thrash followed as we fitted up the body and quickly towed for round 2 of racing. The reactions from the other teams as pulled into the staging lanes was awesome and very rewarding for all our team as we literally had seconds to spare.”

Looking like the ugly step sister heading into round two Walshe knocked up another win over NHRA legend Tommy Johnson Jr – despite spinning the tyres from 400ft – and as results fell Walshe would have a rematch with TJ Jr in the A Final. Both cars were locked together to half track in the final when the lights went out on the TJ Jr XPro Funny Car, the Hart’s Funny Car started pushing to the centre line and Walshe lifted as a timing block went flying. After much deliberation it was concluded Walshe missed the block, and that it was dislodged due to airflow from the funny car body.

It was an emotional victory for Walshe, dedicating the win to his late father.

“Eleven months ago, I lost my dad. He had come racing with me since I was 20 years old. We used to race group 3 dial your own and he couldn’t understand how I would go too fast and lose. We then stepped up to Group 2 racing with the likes of Gary Phillips who is like a second dad to me, and also Graeme Cowin, who is like a third dad to me. And in Group 2 dad still didn’t understand what was going on.

“He would say to me, when are you going to race something where first to the end wins! Unfortunately, he isn’t here to see this. I am not religious or superstitious or anything, but he is watching over us today.

TJ JR IS ALL CLASS – The popular American driver was last Down Under driving a Top Fuel Dragster, now back out in Australia courtesy of Graeme Cowin driving the XPro Funny Car.

“Justin and his guys did a great job, and I can’t thank Graeme Cowin and XPro enough for bringing me down here. Second is okay, but I want to go for first! I hope to be back, I am already looking forward to it – come on Graeme, let’s go!” laughed TJ Jr following the A Final.

Earlier in the week Johnson Jr fronted mainstream media promoting the event, and qualifying saw him sit in third with a 5.14 baseline run. In round one a dead battery pack didn’t phase the veteran, requiring a short sharp burnout before the line as not to hold up Anthony Begley. The NHRA pilot then made a statement 4.740 at 308mph for the track record, the nitro engine quitting just before the finish with a broken blower drive.

In the A final TJ Jr said he felt the funny car hunting around, but with all the clutch dust in the cockpit he couldn’t see where he was going and decided to get off the noise by half track.

ROCKET REGROUP – For the Rocket and Aeroflow funny cars of Brandon Gosbell and Morice McMillin, last year’s top championship combatants had a rough start to the NDRC series facing off in the C Final. For McMillin, the team are dealing with a brand new race car, with the former 400 Thunder championship winning car hosting TJ Jr for the event. Qualifying saw McMillin barely leave the start line and in round one McMillin looked to be on a good number before the engine quit past half track, though still recording a win.

There seemed to be a few new car gremlins still in the system with the clutch cannon fully engaging as Aeroflow funny car backed up from the burnout in round two against Adam Murrihy. Knowing the funny car would blow the tyres off on the hit, McMillin did his best to pedal 11000hp but it was to no avail. A 5.22 win in the C Final against Gosbell still wasn’t the pretty run we expected from the Aeroflow team, but we can be sure they will be back on their game at the next championship event.

For Gosbell the event started well as number one qualifier on a 4.81, and round one delivered a 4.97 over the red lighting and exploding Walsh. It went pear-shaped in round two when the Rocket Mustang turned hard right, and despite Gosbell expertly catching the funny car as quickly as he could, it still crossed in front of, and narrowly missed Begley. Fortunately tyreshake from Begs saw him off the power and able to avoid the errant funny car from his clinching perspective. A red light and tyreshake made the C Final a double whammy ending for the Rocket team.

CHIPPING AWAY – Since purchasing the former Cowin team funny car, Adam Murrihy and the Nitro Freak team continue to plug away at learning the new steed. Qualifying saw an off the trailer 4.85 personal best at 313mph that also held up for top speed points of the event. A tossed blower belt cost any chance of a win in round one against McMillin, in the round two rematch it wasn’t pretty either unloading the tyres but still escaped with the win. The B Final became a solo pass as Begley was shut down on the line, the Nitro Freak funny car left hard but shook the chutes out past 60ft pulling the front wheels way off the ground.

PRO ALCOHOL’S MAD PROFESSOR BREWS UP FIRST NDRC WIN: It’s without a doubt the wildest looking drag car in the country, but most importantly for the innovator Russell Mills, it works! The second iteration of Mill’s ‘Funster’ chassis design which is essentially a stretched funny car chassis now comes with a fully enclosed body unlike the altered wings featured on the first version. Mill’s claims the body picks up 10mph at least, and this was backed up with a new IHRA speed record of 268.33mph at the event.

“It was very pleasing to set the record in it at the first round of the championship and I think the car still has a few miles per hour left in it without too much trouble,” said Mills. “It definitely has a little more in it. For example, I think 270mph is accomplishable, it has gone so close to that already.”

Despite a misstep in the only qualifying session which saw the dragster bomb the tyres on the hit, Mills stormed through round one with a 5.45 win at the record setting speed against Peter Lovering in the Sainty powered funny car. In round two Mills went even quicker setting the track ET record for Pro Alcohol Dragster with a 5.43 second blast against the funny car of Chris Hargrave for a spot in the A Final against Pro Alcohol ‘rookie’ Daniel Reed. With a red light from Reed deciding the winner at the tree, Mills was still up on the wheel with a .016 reaction and 5.540 at the stripe shutting off early. Keen to chase the inaugural NDRC Pro Alcohol Championship, Mills will tow across the Nullarbor for the first time to take on the best in the West at round two of the series.

PRO ALCOHOL ‘ROOKIE’ JUST SHY OF DREAM DEBUT: It seems unusual to call Daniel Reed a rookie, the son of Steven and Debbie Reed has been part of the Reed family alcohol racing dynasty for a long time. Reed forged his own championship winning ways through Supercharged Outlaws in a blown alcohol altered that he campaigned for many years. Handed the keys to the team’s Pro Alcohol Funny Car for the time being Reed had big shoes to fill, and any symptoms of driver’s rust were blown away with a 5.574 top qualifying effort.

Reed won his first ever Pro Alcohol race with an impressive 5.456 against Wayne Price’s rebodied Charger funny car, before backing that up with a 5.49 win in round two over John Cannuli. The A final would have been a cracker of a race if it wasn’t for Reed dropping the clutch a mere 4 thou too early on a 5.45.

PHILLIPS WALKS AWAY FROM FUNNY CAR INFERNO: The inaugural NDRC Pro Alcohol Championship event quickly became one to forget for Gary Phillips after the many times Australian champion suffered a horrendous fire in the first qualifying session. The team have since shared an update on the incident and dramatic in-car footage.

After a long career in the alcohol and nitro funny car ranks, this was not Phillip’s first experience with fire, many will remember his infamous Nitro Funny Car fire from the mid-80s while competing in the NHRA. But Phillips believes this Sydney fire was notably worse.

Crew Chief and Gary’s son Cheyne explains what unfolded during Q1 at the Sydney Nationals.

“The car was on an awesome run with no shake and very smooth through low gear. Knowing the tune-up we had in the car, and what the incremental times showed, it was on about a 5.39 run,” began Cheyne Phillips.

“Everything seemed normal until the top of second gear, just before half-track, when it torched the head and block on #7 cylinder. This is the first time in Dad’s 53-year career he has done that. This is where everything went bad, really quickly.

“We run an AN6 braided hose from the oil pump to feed the rear main bearing on the back of the block, and have this hose laying down as close as it can to the block surface so it is out of the way of everything. Unfortunately where it torched was in line with the 7/16” chrome moly block dowel and that diverted the flame to act like a laser through this hose and cut it in half. At 150 PSI, there was a fountain of oil being sprayed straight up under the body, all over the windscreen, and at 200 mph this fed the fire big time.

“Dad got the fire system activated, but couldn’t see because the flames had burnt the windscreen and side windows and he made contact with the right header on the wall before coming to a stop about halfway down the shutdown area. After getting hung up on his neck restraint system on the roof hatch, Dad got out of the car and was hosed down by the fire rescue team. After that, he was walked to the ambulance and then had to sit by in anticipation as our Monte Carlo body was fully engulfed in flames.

“The fire rescue team then got to work to put out the fire. Dad was attended to by the outstanding paramedics on the scene and was given the all-clear after a very thorough checkout with only a small burn to the palms of both hands, which were healed by the next morning. The safety gear did its job, and he is still here to tell the tale. A big thank you to all involved!

“Dad says this was significantly worse than his 1986 nitro fire in the US because that body came off when the car entered the sand trap, whereas this time, the body stayed on the car against the wall. We stayed around for the remainder of the race on Saturday before driving the transporter home on Sunday, and then getting the car unloaded that night so we could begin the clean-up process. The fire burned through both the left front and rear tyre sidewall, and thanks to Hoosier’s great rear liner system, the tyre stayed intact, which prevented further damage to the chassis.

Once the team returned to Queensland and began the autopsy on the charred funny car they concluded the Monte-Carlo body was a complete write off, and there was significant fire damage to most of the componentry, particularly down the left-hand side including both front and rear tyres.

The chassis looks okay at first inspection, but that can’t be confirmed until the car is stripped clean and every part of the chassis checked and measured.

As for the cause, it was initially a mystery. The tune-up was a familiar one the team had used hundreds of times, and was even softened for the qualifier due to the excellent atmospheric conditions. However, on this run the engine torched a head and the block causing the fire, but didn’t kick any rods, backfire the blower or drop a valve. The team suspected something internally failed, and after disassembly their suspicions were justified, identifying a failure of a $50 part – which the team will provide details on at a later date.

“This is how a perfect run turns bad really fast without warning, and into a 200+ MPH blazing inferno,” said Cheyne. “The camera itself was destroyed but I managed to salvage the footage from the SD card with some repairs to the file.

“Ignore the drop in the stage RPM. I had the clutch air gap a bit tight and it was pulling Dad through the beams so he dropped the RPM down to stop it. He caught it and still managed to leave within 100 RPM of our target.

Looking to the future and the the team have taken a massive financial hit, and don’t know when they will be back out.

“We have engine and other parts in stock, but the body is a total loss, depending on what we find with the chassis will help us formulate a plan. Also, given that there is unlikely to be any suitable Camaro or Monte Carlo bodies available in Australia that would fit our McKinney chassis, we don’t have a lot of time before the next round we had planned to compete at in the first week of December,” said Cheyne.

Safety has always been in the forefront of the Phillips Racing team, and every racer can learn and benefit from such terrible incidents.

“Dad has always been really safety conscious, always going above and beyond any rules that mandate certain equipment. For him to walk away with no injuries, is a testament to that,” said Cheyne.

“We will be implementing some new safety ideas that we have learned ourselves from this incident. Hopefully, other racers will benefit from our experience. Some of these ideas we have spoken about previously, and some things we had never thought of before.

“This includes adding more high-pressure fire nozzles to the top half of the motor. The existing nozzles down low – normally designed for rod failures – did their job and there is minimal fire damage below the top frame rail. Most of the fire damage to the engine is from the rocker covers up.

“We will also be adding thick titanium deflector shields on all four ends of the heads. We will share more of our safety ideas when we implement them on the car during the rebuild.”

INCREDIBLE CHARGER FUNNY CAR BODY REBUILD: Wayne Price has long been known for turning out stunning show room quality race vehicles. Since running the Dodge Charger Funny Car body which was a former Nitro Funny Car shell, the team decided the overweight and oversize body had to go, but instead of buying a new body they took it upon themselves to extensively redesign and repurpose the current body for Pro Alcohol racing. The outcome was gorgeous and the work phenomenal as NDRC.tv shows below.

SHOWING POTENTIAL: The Middy’s Electrical Pro Alcohol Team came off their best ever season finishing runner up in the final 400 Thunder Championship for driver Chris Hargrave, now back at Sydney Dragway for the NDRC season opener the team are aiming up for another championship crack.

A 5.70 with a pedal qualifier seated Hargrave in the number two spot, “The track was a bit better than we thought but we nearly got through the shake zone and only just missed the tune up. It felt good hauling through the top end!” said Hargrave.

Winning round one over Andrew Searle with a quicker 5.61 had the Mustang hauling again at the far end with a personal best 261mph. Round two saw the funny car go quicker and faster again at 5.56/263mph although losing to the Mills juggernaut in a tight side by side tussle. Slotting into the B Final, Hargrave closed out the event with a third place, defeating the Lovering driven Sainty powered funny car with another solid 5.62 run.

“I’m rapt!” said Hargrave afterwards “We’ve come up here (to Sydney) and to have been able to put on a great show for the fans on the hill and watching at home on 7Plus. The car has come back clean every time and it’s a testament to how well the team has worked this weekend.”

DEKERT PERFECTION IN PRO STOCK: The first round of the NDRC Pro Stock championship delivered 8 teams to Sydney Dragway, but one was untouchable – the Unique Racing GXP steered by Rob Dekert had him in a class of his own. With Pro Stock having to wait until Saturday for their only qualifier due to the weather, Dekert dropped a 6.88/198mph bomb off the trailer on the field. While Omar Sedmak’s 6.93 for the #2 was strong, it is light years in Pro Stock.

Unfortunately Sedmak had to withdraw after discovering a small engine problem following qualifying, and not wanting to risk the whole engine, this left a bye in the field. Dekert was the benefactor in round one of the bye and clicked off a 6.93/198 for low ET points of the round, then stepped that up to a 6.91/198 for round two staying ahead of a wild crossed up run from John Kabboura. The A final was an unfortunate bye when Rick Chilton was shut down on the line, however it would have taken something special to drive around Dekert’s 6.89/198.

“I am wrapped, absolutely over the moon,” Dekert said.

“It has been a good weekend and thank you to my team for all giving me a hand. I am wrapped. This is some tough competition, and everyone is doing their bit. It sure is beautiful to hold a Gold Christmas Tree and I am committed to the championship one hundred percent.”

PRO STOCK’S PRIVATE ACHIEVER: Rick Chilton from the Nation’s Capital likes to avoid the limelight, the humble racer has been dabbling in Pro Stock for a number of years mainly locally at Sydney Dragway for his own enjoyment. After an epic story to run his first six in his old Mike Edwards Grand Am, Chilton has continued his Pro Stock program now armed with his Dodge Avenger formally from the Wayne Daley stable, and capable performances that have him on the cusp of event wins. Chilton ran 6.95 in round one to defeat Mario Polito, and needed every thousandth of his 6.99 in round two to drive around Tony Polito’s .009 reacting 7.06. Sadly a fluid leak on the start line in the A Final robbed everyone of what could have been a classic Pro Stock encounter.

PRO STOCK NEW BLOOD: Long time Sydney Super Stock racer John Kabboura has made the leap into the naturally aspirated drag racing deep end, while realising a dream with a move into Pro Stock.

“Pro Sock has always been a dream of mine since the late 90s,” said Kabboura. “I’ve always loved high revving naturally aspirated V8s. So going to Pro Stock was inevitable, especially once I was on the start line with Joe and Tony Polito in the Probe at the Winters – I was hooked.”
“It took a while to get there as I had a young family and newly started business, but I wasn’t going to stop until I got there.

The Kabboura name is well know in NSW drag racing, with John seen regularly wheelstanding his Angry Lemon Racing A/MPA Torana in Super Stock for over a decade. The opportunity through the Politos presented itself to play on the main stage when fellow Super Stock racer Clint George put his Pro Stock spec Cavalier on the market after he too decided to make the move to Pro Stock.

Not flustered for his debut, Kabboura took his A-game into his first Pro Stock race drawing on his sportsman racing pedigree by dumping a .004 light on Chris Soldatos in round one – though Soldatos had the power to somehow sneak past at the stripe by a coat of paint. Round two was and entirely different experience with the Cavalier wildly out of shape that Kabboura had no right to save, but he did. The team will be stepping up the performance with the help of Peter Ridgeway over time as Kabboura gains more seat time experience.

PRO MOD GROWTH: The Pro Mod class continues to mature with racers now starting to hammer the 5.85 index with ever more regularity. Qualifying delivered a 5.865 (Craig Burns), 5.886 (Joe Gauci) and a 5.894 (Frank Tarabay) top three just from a single session. Sydney Dragway has been central to the Pro Mod scene, which hopefully will spread more prominently at other venues as the championship evolves. The first NDRC round attracted a couple of Top Doorslammer converts as well, with Craig Burns always looking to put laps on his stock bodied Mustang, and Geoff Gradden had the Saratoga out to test some new parts.

BURNS ROASTS THEM: The Sydney race car chassis builder doesn’t just build some of the quickest cars in the country, Craig Burns races them too. Against a field of full chassis Pro Mod animals, Burns brings his blown stock body Mustang to the fight, a car he built up from what was originally a street Mustang and still retains the original steel roof and quarter panels. After top qualifying with a 5.865 on the class 5.85 index, Burns wheelstood to a 5.870 round one solo, repeated with a 5.871 against Greg Tsakiridis’ twin turbo Mustang before conquering the A Final win against a red lighting Rob Campisi Mustang – a car Burns built – with a near perfect 5.857 pass.

“Running Campisi in the final was great – he is a great mate and a great customer, we have known each other forever but we have never raced each other, so to face him in the final was really good,” Burns said.

NO PAIN NO GAIN: With no Top Doorslammer on the program, Geoff Gradden took the opportunity to test recent massive changes to his Dodge Saratoga. Not prepared to rely on just his consistency that he has been known for, Gradden has looked to some significant changes over the Winter for a step up in performance.

“Lots of changes to the Sigra Saratoga with a complete new rear axle and four-link assembly, as well as ECU engine management and data logging replacing the magneto based setup,” said Gradden.

The team tested positively prior to the event, and though the Saratoga was aggressive off the line, and while it might not have been pretty Gradden still managed to pedal and buck his ride to a B Final win over Stew Walsh.

INAUGURAL NDRC AEROFLOW SPORTSMAN CHAMPIONSHIP WINNERS: Taking the wins were George Terkalas (Junior Dragster), Nathan McKenna (Super Street), David Gruber (Super Sedan), Jess Turner (Modified), Steve Horvat (Top Sportsman), Mitchell Oxley (Super Comp), Joe Catanzariti (Super Gas) and Toby Austin (Supercharged Outlaws), with these racers emerging victorious from their final battles of the night against runners-up, Jake McNamara (Junior Dragster), Tex Griffiths (Super Street), Leo Georgis (Super Sedan), Peter Brown (Modified), Paul Partridge (Top Sportsman), Peter Pisalidis (Super Comp), Anthony Panetta (Super Gas) and Britney Olive (Supercharged Outlaws).

A SPECIAL FIRST CHAMPIONSHIP EVENT WIN: Winning your first Gold Christmas Tree is always a special personal moment, but at the Sydney Nationals for Top Sportsman the class was also racing for a whole lot more – the Frank Palumbo Memorial trophy.

Frank passed away on the 2nd of November in 2018 following a battle with brain cancer. That year, the East Coast Nationals were renamed in his honour. Now, the Frank Palumbo Memorial Trophy, presented by SterUclean Group, Morizzi Civil, and Solar Shine Australia, not only appropriately remembers a drag racing great, but also offers $5000 in additional prize money for the Aeroflow National Sportsman Championship Series bracket, as well as impressive custom-made trophies

The final came down to Steve Horvat, who had recently relocated to Queensland from Sydney who had the challenge of taking on local and former national champion Paul Partridge. With both racers almost identical on the tree, the race would be decided at the stripe in favour of Horvat’s Monaro.

Horvat was particularly emotional to take the win, being awarded not only a gold NDRC Christmas Tree – his first – but also the Frank Palumbo Memorial Trophy, presented by Frank’s son and Top Doorslammer racer, Ronnie Palumbo.

.“It is great to claim this trophy. This is one of the best events you can go to, and I got it. I am very grateful,” Horvat said. “I am lost for words about it all a bit. I can definitely say this will stay with me in my heart forever.

“It was a good weekend overall, other than the weather Friday, the rest of it was great. In that final run, going in it didn’t matter who would win – obviously you wanted to try and win it, but the best thing was being in it, and winning was a bonus.”

DAUGHTER OF A GUN: With Top Fuel racer Shane Olive out of the seat for the time being, it gave a next generation Olive a chance to show what she can do. Britney Olive recently licensed her Supercharged Outlaws dragster after stepping out of Modified a couple of years ago, and the Sydney Nationals would be her first championship event in Supercharged Outlaws. Showing her dad how to win a Christmas Tree trophy – something she won’t let him forget anytime soon – Britney fought hard to the runner-up result against another young gun in Toby Austin.

“It was a full on weekend, with the weather up against us at the beginning but a fabulous outcome,” said Britney. “Racing in this class is something special and we are on the right track to get this car where we want it to be.

“We ran a new PB during the event also with a 6.54 at 218mph! Hitting our first 6.5 and 200mph. A massive thank you to my dad Shane Olive for all the hours spent on getting this car and myself ready for this event. Thank you to our whole team this weekend I couldn’t have done it without you all”

HIGHS AND LOWS: Wanting the A/Modified Altered IHRA National Record for some time, Lou Carpinato and car owner Michael Stower achieved the goal at the Sydney Nationals setting both ends of the A/MA record with the big block altered – 6.778/200.41mph. The team were knocking up the wins all the way to the semi final before being just outrun by the eventual event winner in the semi final, this is where the lows come into it. Not just the loss, but after the finish line, the altered’s chute failed to deploy correctly and Carpinato careered into the sand trap and safety catch fence.

Carpinato was unhurt with the safety net doing its job, the altered might need a few repairs, but looked to hold up well with the impact. It was a bittersweet event for the team, but we are sure they will be back looking to reset that record in no time.

CHRISTMAS TREE ENVY: It has taken some racers decades to win their first Christmas Tree trophy, let alone win a race, while many others have never achieved the feat – for George Terkalas though it took, oh, about 4 months to do both.

That’s how long the young Sydneysider has been racing Junior Dragster, son of local racer Anthony Terkalas known for his PROWOG Torana, and while the Torana is currently under a rebuild following an accident a little while ago, George has taken to the track.

Terkalas ran through a big field of Juniors to defeat Jake McNamara in the final.

Next round of the series would be the Goldenstates Championship in Perth featuring Nitro Funny Car, Pro Alcohol, Top Doorslammer and Top Fuel Motorcycle plus the Aeroflow Sportsman Championship.

Enjoy a massive event gallery below.


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