Rockingham Dragway’s return to big money bracket racing drew a weekend field of almost 350 bracket racers from 20 states but, when the tire smoke cleared Sunday, the bulk of the purse stayed in the host state with Michael Paschal, Shawn Carpenter and Tim Thomas.
Each of those Carolinians took home a $20,000 winner’s check from The Rock’s inaugural Tony Saraceni Top ET Challenge, its first big money event since track owner Steve Earwood and the late George Howard collaborated on several popular projects including the original Million Dollar Drag Race and the B&M Racers Appreciation Series.
Thomas, a past winner at Rockingham, claimed the last of the “20s” on Sunday when he edged 2015 Rockingham track champ David Lowe of Rowland in the final round. Racers earned more than $150,000 over the three days. In addition to the $20,000 paid to each day’s big winner, each runner-up earned $5,000 and the semifinal losers $1,500.
Although he came up short of the big money, “Nasty Nick” Hastings of Shelby, Ohio, got the “iron man” award by taking his 1981 Pontiac T1000 to the round of seven on all three days. His best finish, though, was runner-up to Carpenter on Saturday.
After getting a free pass to the final when Trenton’s Brian Higgins was guilty of a foul start, Thomas threw a .013 package at Lowe in the big money round including a .005 reaction time. It proved decisive and left Thomas as the lone survivor among the 338 who started the first round..
Jimmy Broadway of Vanceboro ended Hastings’ final bid for a $20,000 payday when he took the Ohio runner out in the quarter finals. Unfortunately, he couldn’t capitalize on the momentum and lost to Lowe a round later by the narrowest of margins - .001 of a second.
Sunday results (all hometowns North Carolina unless otherwise stipulated. Results include each driver’s reaction time, time versus target time and finish line speed):
Semifinals – Thomas, .016, 5.026 on a 4.720, 107.27 mph, def. Higgins, foul (.013); Lowe, .014, 4.739 on a 4.720, 141.64 mph, def. Broadway, .018, 6.106 on a 6.090, 112.08 mph.
FINAL – Tim Thomas, Lumberton, .005, 4.738 on a 4.730, 145.33 mph, def. David Lowe, Rowland, .022, 4.721 on a 4.720, 145.19 mph.
“Big money” racing veteran Shawn Carpenter of Elm City got the second “20” when Ohio’s “Nasty Nick” Hastings missed his target by one thousandth of a second in the final round and was guilty of a breakout foul. It was a “live by the sword; die by the sword” outcome for the Ohio driver who was .001 off the target on the positive side to get past Statesville’s Doug Foley Jr. in round eight.
Unlike Friday, when Hastings was the only non-Carolinian among the last eight, Scott Sanders of Pikeville, Ky., and Bob Leripzigon on New Hope, Pa., advanced to the round of seven but neither could move any further.
For Carpenter, the toughest part of the final was sitting at the starting line while Hastings got a .35 of a second head start in his 1981 Pontiac T1000. When he did finally get the green, the Elm City veteran’s .007 reaction time was the difference maker as he pushed Hastings into his narrow breakout.
Saturday results (all hometowns North Carolina unless otherwise stipulated. Results include each driver’s reaction time, time versus target time and finish line speed):
Semifinals – Hastings, .012, 6.246 on a 6.230, 107.82 mph, def. Strickland, .025, 4.547 on a 4.540, 150.35 mph; Carpenter, bye.
FINAL – Shawn Carpenter, Elm City, .007, 5.906 on a 5.880, 113.41 mph, def. Nick Hastings, Shelby, Ohio, 1981 Pontiac T1000, .020, 6.229 breakout on a 6.230, 108.85 mph.
It took the Compulink timing system to call the final round winner on Friday and that winner was Michael Paschal of Pleasant Garden who, by a scant .006 of a second, got his dragster to the finish line ahead of the 1980 Ford Mustang of St. Pauls’ William Brewer.
Paschal, who entered two cars and got both of them as far as the quarter finals, put together a .027 package in the final (a .022 of a second reaction time and an eighth-mile competition time of 4.565 seconds against a 4.560 target). Brewer actually had an ever-so-slight lead at the start but was .015 off his target and that was the difference.
Except for Ohio’s “Nasty Nick” Hastings, who wound his way into the semifinals at the wheel of his venerable 1981 Pontiac T1000, the bulk of the Friday purse remained in North Carolina. In addition to Paschal and Brewer, other Carolinians who advanced to the round of seven were Ernie Humes of Troutman, Paul Warwick of Lumberton, David Lowe of Rowland and David Dean of Charlotte.
Friday results (all hometowns North Carolina unless otherwise stipulated. Results include each driver’s reaction time, time versus target time and finish line speed):
Semifinals – Brewer, .011, 6.526 on a 6.530, 101.44 mph, def. Warwick, .016, 6.444 breakout on a 6.450, 105.02 mph; Paschal, .008, 4.575 on a 4.560, 143.93 mph, def. Hastings, .016, 6.228 on a 6.210, 109.86 mph.
FINAL – Michael Paschal, Pleasant Garden, dragster, .022, 4.565 on a 4.560, 146.46 mph, def. William Brewer, St. Pauls, 1980 Ford Mustang, .018, 6.535 on a 6.520, 101.13 mph.