BRISTOL, Tenn. - Alec Harper picked up his second straight NHRA Jr. Drag Racing League Eastern Conference Finals presented by ViperizerRacing.com Wally when he outlasted the field in the 11-year-old age group at Bristol Dragway. Harper, last year's 10-year-old titlist at the race that is one of two national events for drivers in the NHRA Summit Racing Jr. Drag Racing League, was joined in the winner's circle by first-time winners Alex Kish (age 8-9), Blaine Marsh (10), Autumn Greene (12), John Croce (13), Shelby Nelson (14), Owen Hoover (15), and Shelby DiIorio (16-17). Marsh's win was doubly rewarding because it helped lift his team from Huntsville Dragway to the team championship.
Kish made his tow from Kalamazoo, Mich., pay off when he outlasted Blountville, Tenn., racer Tucker Brown in the 8-9 final. Kish, a member of the Mid-Michigan Motorplex team left the starting line first, .062 to .191, then posted a 13.139 (12.90 dial) to beat Bristol Dragway runner Brown's 13.169 (12.99).
Hayden, Ala., competitor Marsh led the 10-year-old class final, cutting .031 light and running a 9.016 (8.99) to turn on the win light. Chandler, Ind.'s Alex Wagner, a member of Lyons Raceway Park's team, settled for runner-up honors with a .132-initiated 9.114 (9.08).
Harper, a Silver Dollar Raceway driver from Meansville, Ga., paired a .033 light with an 8.943 (8.90) to stop Pendel, Pa.'s Jesse Marshall in the 11-year-old class title round. Marshall, who was part of Atco Raceway's team, cut a .071 light and posted an 8.966 (8.92) on his final-round pass.
The 12-year-old final was an all-Showtime Dragstrip match between Bradenton, Fla., driver Greene and St. Petersburg, Fla.'s Katrina Carpenter. Greene was better from start to finish, leaving the starting line first, .038 to .089, and posting an 8.977 (8.90) to Carpenter's 9.099 (9.03).
A pair of Division 1 competitors squared off in the 13-year-old final, and when the dust settled, Atco Raceway's Croche got the win against Maple Grove Raceway's Caleb Holley. Croche, who hails from East Rockaway, N.Y., cut a .047 light then ran right on his 7.91 dial to top Carlisle, Pa., runner Holley, who had a .061 reaction and clocked a 7.919 (7.90).
The 14-year-old final was decided on the starting line when Drew Hostetter, a South Georgia Motorsports Park racer from Crawfordville, Fla., fouled out by .003-second. That gave the win to Nelson, who hails from Ft. Payne, Ala., and was part of Atlanta Dragway's team. Nelson posted a ..014-initiated 8.003 (7.90).
Norwalk, Ohio's Owen Hoover denied Elkton, Md., racer Sydney Coleman a second Eastern Conference Finals, defeating her in the 15-year-old class championship round. Hoover, who was part of the Summit Racing Equipment Motorsports Park team, put together a strong run of a .011 light and 7.957 (7.94) to deny 2010 champ Coleman, who represented Cecil County Dragway. Coleman finished with a ..030 light and 7.948 (7.94).
Burlington, N.J., competitor DiIorio added another Eastern Conference Finals Wally to her family trophy case. DiIorio, whose brother Timmy is a two-time event champion, coupled a .009 light with a 7.971 (7.90) to win one for team Atco Raceway. Christian Walston, who hails from Crisfield, Md., and raced for U.S. 13 Dragway, finished second with a .043-triggered 7.964 (7.90).
In what was a very tight team championship battle, Huntsville Dragway Team 1 and Atlanta Dragway Team 1 finished the event tied with 29 points. It took two tiebreakers to determine the overall champion with the title going to Huntsville by the narrowest of margins. Three teams - Showtime Dragstrip Team 1, Summit Racing Equipment Motorsports Park Team 2, and Atco Raceway Team 1 - finished tied for third with 27 points. In all, 26 teams finished with 20 or more points.
As is always the case, the Team Spirit competition was a heated one with several teams making strong showings. Summit Racing Equipment Motorsports Park edged out Atlanta Dragway, winner of the award the past two years, for the title. Huntsville Dragway, Bristol Dragway, and Route 66 Raceway also made strong runs for the coveted award.
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