Fantastic Festival State Nationals delight packed house

Race fans have delighted in all that the National Drag Racing Championship (NDRC) has to offer today with epic performances from Nitro Funny Cars, Top Doorslammers, Top Fuel Motorcycles and the Aeroflow National Sportsman Series ensuring the 20,000+ strong crowd on-track and the many watching live on 7plus were captivated from start to finish.

With Nitro Funny Car making its debut at the recently opened venue, Justin Walshe took home the bragging rights and the NDRC Christmas Tree for the flame-throwing bracket with a hole-shot win (better reaction time) over championship leader, Morice McMillin.

His win with a 5.012 second pass at 494.78kph over McMillin’s 4.989/478.87kph effort in what was a side-by-side full flames pass had the crowd on their feet and will tighten up the championship points significantly as the Nitro Funny Car championship surpasses its mid-point.

Above and at top: Justin Walshe (Cackling Pipes)

“I had a real crack at the tree, I knew that Morice was having problems, and we knew we had the quicker car, but we have also had some tricky conditions across the class today. I kind of flirted with it (a red light) a bit but we got it done and that is what matters,” said Walshe, who had a brilliant 0.002 reaction time.

“This is all about the team, this isn’t me, this is the team, I can’t do this without every single person on our crew, my wife Karen, everyone that helps. There are so many guys and girls, and kids and husbands and wives, and we can’t do it without any of them, even the people at home. And my staff at Harts Paint Supplies, without them this can’t happen.

“When we come back to South Australia we will be turning it on again and it should be a good show for everyone.”

It wasn’t the first time today that Walshe and McMillin had faced off against each other, with the pair putting on a tremendous side-by-side pass in the first round in the crystal clear summer afternoon conditions, with McMillin that time pulling away to take the win with a 4.998 second pass at 444.65kph to Walshe’s 5.315 effort with a thrown blower belt, despite having a cylinder go out at 300ft.

McMillin was happy for his Nitro Funny Car comrade, but also devastated.

Morice McMillin (Cackling Pipes)

“It has been awesome. I am so stocked for Walshey but at the same time gutted to lose it, and it tightens the championship battle right up. Bring on Willowbank!” McMillin said.

“I have had a shocker of a day, but what do you do. We are fighting for a championship, but it is all about these people on the hill and what is better than Nitro Funny Cars hey, not much else beats it!”

The B Final came down to McMillin’s team-mate Brandon Gosbell in the Rocket Industries Nitro Funny Car on a solo, with a 5.269 second pass at 240.83mph seeing him take home third place for the event despite the second half of his run being exceptionally smokey due to a suspected torched piston.

Earlier in the day, Gosbell – the top qualifier for the third time – had temporarily celebrated what was mistakenly thought to be a world record time in round two after another round one push back due to issues after the burnout where he couldn’t select reverse. However, it was soon discovered that the time recorded was actually incorrect due to a fault with the timing system’s guard beam. Even so, it was an exceptionally staunch pass from the ‘One Bad Kiwi’ and still saw him take a win over McMillin to clinch his B-Final spot.

Anthony Begley had another difficult weekend at the track, forced to thrash overnight to bring his Chemical Warfare Nitro Funny Car up to speed for round one, where he ran a half track pass on a solo when Gosbell was unable to run, before going into the sand at the end of his round two run when the throttle once again stuck open following a great drive job down the track – something that had happened during qualifying the day before. He was therefore unable to front of the B-Final.

Benny Stevens (Cackling Pipes)

In Top Fuel Motorcycle, Benny Stevens put in a A-Final winning performance, taking the win over Greg Durack to add to his championship lead. Stevens – who had a problematic day on Saturday, took a win over Corey Buttigieg in the first round, before an early shut off in round two on a solo.

Durack meanwhile put down a huge run in round one to signal his return to competitiveness with a 6.671 ET at 326kph over a struggling Aaron Deery and followed that up with a round two victory over Buttigieg who again encountered issues. 

The B-Final was between defending champ Rob Cassar and top qualifier Damian Muscat. Muscat had turned the tyres on a solo round one before going on to win over Rickard after a big thrash to be ready for round two, while Cassar had a round one win over Rickard and a round two win over Deery. When it came to their final match-up, it was Cassar who took the win on a holeshot, with his 7.229 second pass enough to beat Muscat’s 7.07 ET thanks to his much better reaction time.

The C Final saw Rickard and Deery matched up, with Rickard taking the win with a PB 7.428/278.9kph, while Deery continued to grapple with issues on his Harley.

Benny Stevens (Cackling Pipes)

“It was a bit of a difficult weekend for us tuning wise,” Stevens explained.

“We tried a few different things in the Dananni Hot Shots Harley and just couldn’t get away from running six-sixties. We were putting power in, we were taking it out, playing with the clutch – we just couldn’t seem to come to terms with the conditions. On a lot of laps the bike was moving around over the track and more or less hazing the tyre.

“When we went out for the final we took a heap of power out of it and a heap of clutch out to make sure we could get from A to B. We dropped cylinders at the 1000ft, but we still came away with the win against Greg Durack and have another trophy on the shelf, so it is happy days.

“I want to thank Dananni Hot Shots, Darling Downs Drilling, Race Craft Australia, Triple A Demolition and Tree Services, Worx Equipment, Baker’s Creek Harvesting, Fierce Signage, Red Line Oils Australia, Oil and Energy Bibra Lake, TRP/CJD, The Gate Bar and Bistro, Applied Automotive, Curtain Engine Reconditioning Mackay, Phil Gardner Engineering and Nelg Alli Mods. And I also want to send a special thanks to Clyde Carstairs of Bravo Resources for getting a head and barrel welded and ready for us following an explosion last weekend, he went out of his way to help us to be ready for this weekend, so a big thanks to him.”

John Zappia (Cackling Pipes)

In Top Doorslammer, there were wild and emotional celebrations when John Zappia crossed the line with a 5.763 second pass at 400.52kph ahead of Russell Taylor (5.749) in the A-Final in a Goldenstates rematch.

However, immediately following the run and after Zappia was tearfully presented with the Gold Christmas Tree in the deep end, one of the officials reported a disqualifiable offence.

In light of the multiple video angles available, the ANDRA Chief Steward has allowed a lengthier investigation to take place before coming to a final decision, to take proper advantage of these resources. These angles cannot be accessed until Monday for review, at which time a final determination will be made.

Earlier in the day, Zappia had taken a round one solo win with a solid run right down the middle for a 5.83 ET after his issues in qualifying Saturday, before a round two side-by-side win over Adam Tassone with a 5.765 effort for the multi-time champ. Top qualifier Taylor meanwhile had taken a round one win over a red lighting Ronnie Palumbo, and a round two win over a red lighting Matt Abel with a 5.738/412.39kph effort.

Russell Taylor (Cackling Pipes)

The B-Final was a popular husband v wife match-up, with Lisa Gregorini taking the win over Daniel Gregorini with a 5.932 ET to his 5.97 and nailing him to the tree in the process. Lisa had earlier taken a round one win over Paul Lovering and in round two, where for a minute it was a case of deja vu when her opponent, Ronnie Palumbo, couldn’t find reverse after his burnout. Lisa was this time however able to greet the starter and go on to take a solo win. Daniel Gregorini had a round one win over Tassone who had a wriggly run down the track, and a round two solo after Lovering couldn’t front for the run, but was unable to complete the run after his Scratch and Match entry spat out a pulley during the burnout.

The C-Final was between Palumbo and Tassone, with Tassone getting off early after getting out of shape, but taking the win as Palumbo red lit.

It was a difficult weekend for a lot of the Doorslammer field, with Abel, Pat Carbone and Mick Mahoney all encountering issues across the entirety of their weekends.

Also entertaining on track today was the Aeroflow National Sportsman Championship competitors, with the victories going to Sean Maher (Super Sedan), Cory Dyson (Modified), Lachlan Walker (Junior Dragster), Bob Sherry (Supercharged Outlaws), Briane Keane (Super Street), Lucas Neagoe (Modified Bike), Chris Allen (Competition Bike), Steve Norman (Super Stock), Glenn Henley (Top Sportsman), and Matt Forbes (Competition). Also on-track running exhibition passes were Junior Bike competitors. For the full details, visit ndrc.tv.

The NDRC action continues thick and fast from here, with the Australia Day Nationals at Sydney Dragway on January 26 and 27 to be followed by the South Coast Rumble at South Coast Raceway on February 3 and 4, and further racing at Willowbank Raceway (February 17) and at Mildura’s Sunset Strip (February 16 and 17). For the full calendar of upcoming events, please visit ndrc.tv.

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