Jared Dreher made the two best runs of his career to overcome a top-flight Top Alcohol Dragster field at the cold, rainy Midwest Regional opener at Lucas Oil Raceway, and veteran Frank Manzo struggled with the conditions but ultimately prevailed in Top Alcohol Funny Car.
"That's my first win in five years," said Dreher, who last scored in Valdosta, Ga., in early 2007. In the final against Canadian Ken Perry, who had run back-to-back 5.3s, Dreher shut off to a run 5.55 seconds at just 223 mph when Perry's engine banged in a flash of flame not far off the line. "I didn't see him and didn't hear him, so when the car started to nose over toward the top end, I clicked it," Dreher said. Perry coasted silently across the stripe 13 seconds later at 21 mph.
On his first qualifying attempt and first run anywhere all year, Dreher clocked a 5.37 – seven-hundredths of a second quicker than he'd ever run in his career – for the No. 3 spot in the field.
"I knew it had to be something good by the way it felt when the clutch was locking up through the middle of the track," said Dreher, who thanked sponsors Speedco and Gerardot Performance Products. "But I didn't know it was that good."
His VP Racing Fuels A/Fuel Dragster ran an even better 5.33 in the semifinals to take out Paul Fishburn, who also established a career-best over the weekend.
"The .33 kind of validated the .37 and showed us that we really did it," Dreher said."
He got the only break he would need in round one when five-time world champ Bill Reichert smoked the tires at the hit. It couldn't have come at a better time; Dreher's chutes popped 2.1 seconds into the run, holding him to a 7.79 at just 87 mph.
Manzo didn't need any breaks, leading Top Alcohol Funny Car qualifying by about a tenth and a half with a 5.53, but to him, it wasn't a particularly dominating performance. In the final, he ran just a 5.75, but it was enough against Brian Harvanek, who lost traction immediately and slowed to a 16.34 at 47 mph.
"It shook hard on that one, and I had to pedal it a couple of times," Manzo said. "I was shaking all weekend, actually, but in the other rounds I caught it sooner. I got myself in trouble that time and should have gotten beat."
Harvanek red-lighted in first round but was reinstated when Charlotte national event winner Andy Bohl was disqualified for brushing a half-track cone. In round two, he made his best run of the weekend, 5.75, to beat defending Division 3 champ Chris Foster, who shut off. Manzo pedaled to a 5.67 in the first round against Rick Cortino and ran low elapsed time of eliminations, 5.58, against Cassie Simonton in the semifinals.
"I worked all weekend to take power out of the car," Manzo said. "The air was astronomical, 700 feet – good enough to run 5.30s. It looked fine, and the dragsters ran great on it, but it didn't work for me. That's nothing new, though. My car's been shaking all year. I shook at Gainesville, shook at Charlotte, and shook here. Something's wrong, and I can't put my finger on what it is. I wish I could say that I was just experimenting all weekend, but I wasn't. This thing was running a lot better at this time last year than it is now."