November 16, 2010, Champion Speed Shop HQ, South San Francisco, CA—The 2010 AA/Fuel Dragster wars culminated in a fiery bang Sunday at Pomona’s NHRA Finals, as the postponed, deciding round of October’s California Hot Rod Reunion in Bakersfield—rescheduled for Pomona last weekend because of inclement weather last month—saw a see-sawing donnybrook of a drag race between Adam Sorokin at the helm of the Van Dyke Motorsports/Champion Speed Shop Top Fuel Dragster and Brett Harris’ Utah-based Nitro Thunder machine, with Harris claiming the belated CHRR Event Title against a burst-panel bursting Sorokin.
For the Van Dyke entry, the loss was disappointing yet somewhat immaterial, as the rescheduled match served as a punctuation mark to the Champion team being crowned 2010 NHRA Heritage Series Top Fuel Champions last month, by virtue of their eliminating Jim “Holy Smokes” Murphy and his WW2 dragster during CHRR’s semi-finals in Bakersfield.
In that heat, Sorokin posted a stunning 1/4-mile elapsed time of 5.63 seconds, with a fearsome terminal speed of 252 mph. Champion’s nitromaniacal braintrust of Tony Bernardini and Bob McLennan decided to keep that tune-up intact for Pomona’s postponed-Reunion final round—albeit, perhaps to their own peril…
Moments before the season’s final customary warm-up and leak test, when asked about the specifics of the Bakersfield-cum-Pomona tune-up, McLennan replied: “98 percent”—a nitro/alcohol mixture good for then-current atmospheric conditions of 3000′ altitude and Pomona’s superlatively-prepped race track. After the warm-up the sun set however, and temperatures cooled while the adjusted elevation dropped to 2500′. The improved air—and increased oxygen—was tantamount to more nitromethane in the tank, all of which added up to an explosive situation—and a shorter fuse.
At the hit, Adam cut a quick-as-cat’s-feet .016 reaction time and had a wheel out on the Nitro Thunder machine. Sorokin’s stellar starting light was inspired by the ambiance and intensity of the NHRA’s season-closing race: “The opportunity to run in front of that many people, on that caliber of race track was a very savory prospect,” he noted. “After the burnout and moving my car forward in preparation of the run, was the first time I became aware of just how many people were watching. It was a very cool sight.
“The car felt strong going down the track,” he explained. “I had strong, high header flames all the way until a rocker arm broke at around 1000′, followed by a burst-panel explosion.”
The engine damage slowed the hard-charging steed, enabling Harris to blast by Sorokin and take the event win.
“They won it with a 5.74 to our 5.88,” Sorokin concluded. “But I could not be more proud to be a part of the team—we made a valiant effort. The ride back up the return road blew me away. I could not believe the great reception we received from all the fans! It made the whole journey worthwhile.”
Perhaps the fans’ accolades were in recognition of the notion that—as the drag-racing punditocracy has already noted—Champion and Van Dyke Motorsports may have lost Pomona’s battle, but they had already won the war. They are the 2010 NHRA Heritage Series Top Fuel Champions.–Cole Coonce-