After heeding his sponsor's advice to stay in it when the car wheelstands, Michael Washington ended up cracking up his Real Street ride after it made a sudden left turn into the wall during a test pass. Of course, Team JPC racers are nothing if not resilient. Michael was fine, but the car needed too much work to be repaired in time for the season opener, so they swapped Michael's Vortech-boosted combo into JPC mainman Justin Burcham's old, blue Fox and headed south. With no laps on the car, Michael jumped right into the fray thanks to a 9.85/136 qualifier, which was good enough for the fourth spot. Michael took out new guy Dave Ginter, but Jim Breese put a half second on him in the second round.
Of the 11 Pure Street racers at Bradenton, there were 3 competitors with modular engines underhood. Of those three, two of them, Victor Downs and Brandon Alsept, made it to the semifinal round. Unfortunately for the modular faithful, they were lined up against each other. Victor and the Modular Depot team were struggling with new suspension components and a class-mandated extra 100 pounds. The guys kept working on the car, and Victor took advantage of other people's mistakes to get to the final round. He was solidly in the 10.30s, but other racers had run better so he had his work cut out for him. Speaking of which, Victor had Teddy Weaver for the final, but ol' Grandpa Victor jumped out to a holeshot lead to beat Teddy to the stripe with a 10.36 to a quicker-but-losing 10.34.
Teddy Weaver obviously has the suspension setup down with his Pure Street Mustang. A McKeown Racing Engines 310ci mill is still under the Mystichrome hood, but an Anderson Ford Motorsport PMS is Teddy's new tuning toy, which he added a week before Bradenton. Teddy didn't have any real issues at Bradenton except for trying to calm down the wheelies. That changed early Sunday morning after eating lobster tail for dinner Saturday night. It was good thing he had Jimmy Wilson and Paul Foster to maintain the car because Teddy spent his time between rounds in the trailer saving his strength. That explains the sleepy reaction time in the final against Victor Downs.
Steve Gifford's dad lives near Bradenton, Florida, so he spent some quality time at Bradenton getting his Factory Stock car tuned up for the NMRA opener. Steve has returned in 2008 with a Two-Valve underhood, and he looks to continue wringing everything he can out of this combination. With 120-plus-mph trap speeds, we'd say serious power is being made. Combine that mph with consistent 11.20s, and you have the makings of a winning Factory Stock recipe. Steve says his goal is to win the Factory Stock championship for 2008, and his Bradenton win has him on the right track to do exactly that.
Look for Factory Stock racer John Leslie Jr. to go rounds in 2008 because he's now rolling a Rich Groh Racing Engines powerplant underhood. Hopefully for John's sake that means we won't have to see him reenact his pit scene from Joliet last year when he basically had the whole car torn apart. When qualifying was finished, John was still worlds apart compared to number-one qualifier Tommy Godfrey and number-two qualifier Steve Gifford, but at least he was third. His 11.48 qualifying effort was 0.2 off Steve's qualifying time. On Sunday, John's times were right there with his qualifying time. A semifinal-round bye enabled him to get to the finals, but Steve had him by more than 0.2 at the stripe.
With a stout 0.012 reaction time, Reggie Burnett Jr. qualified in the seventh spot behind a six-pack of lightning-quick mod-motor maniacs. Reggie and Susan McClenaghan seemed to be on a collision course, clicking off wins round after round. The two met in the finals, Susan getting the jump on Reggie at the Tree, but the Roush entry broke out and Reggie took the win.
Matt Schlein really snuck up on the Open Comp field. After qualifying his '89 Mustang in only the 23rd slot thanks to a 0.321 reaction time, Matt kicked off his race with a bang by getting past coal miner Don Bowles, who ran into mechanical troubles. Matt stayed the course and ended up in the final, where he got lucky again when Jimmy Harrell Jr. tripped the red bulb.
C.J. Cigarran didn't have any idea that his weekend at the '08 Nitto Nationals in Bradenton would turn out the way it did. While other racers were unloading their cars/trucks from trailers, he parked his race truck, bolted on a pair of slicks, and proceeded to snipe his way through the Detroit Locker Truck field. "I couldn't get good reaction times all weekend except on my free pass. I'm used to racing at Sunshine (Dragway) and getting killed on the Tree. But that weekend, it seemed like I was beating everyone at the line." In fact, C.J. felt things were going too easy. The truck was dialed-in perfectly, consistently running its 12.69. He had to tap the brakes through the lights on every pass to keep from breaking out and having to reset his dial-in. Being an unknown in the class, C.J. couldn't help but feel like he was sneaking up on all the other racers-he kept seeing the win lights coming on in his lane. After taking the unexpected win at Bradenton, C.J. is planning to race at the Bassani Exhaust Nationals at Reynolds, Georgia. If he wins again, racing the whole season could be in the works.