Long-Haul Racer Bagwell Rebounds from Rough Start in Las Vegas

For Super Pro racer Joseph Bagwell, it turned out that winning the Summit Series Finals at Atlanta Dragway earlier this month was the easy part. When he got to Las Vegas, lady luck turned up the flame, and Bagwell was forced to overcome incredible challenges during the Dodge//SRT NHRA Nationals. His efforts equated to earning the Never Rest Performer of the Race award and a near-perfect finish to the weekend.

Super Pro racer Joseph Bagwell, the NHRA Never Rest Performer of the Race at the 2021 Dodge//SRT NHRA Nationals. Photo: Auto Imagery

The Division 2 racer from Hendersonville, North Carolina, was the Super Pro champion at the Summit Series Finals at Atlanta Dragway, and he crossed the country to compete for the Summit Series national championship at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Once there, however, he found trouble afoot.

“It’s been a wild ride,” he said. “On Friday, I didn’t even know if I’d be able to race my car. I missed the time trial, had the transmission in and out of the car four times, and then at 9pm on Friday night, we finally figured it out.”

With the assistance of fellow racers, including Ken Moses and Mike Mocny, Bagwell and his camp’s thrash revealed the gremlin that had taken up residence in the drivetrain of his 1967 Chevy Nova. Their efforts to extract the bothersome gremmy proved successful on Sunday as he reached the final round in the world championship battle.

Bagwell came to the starting line for round one on Sunday carrying a well-sharpened sword. After cutting down the tree with a stellar .002-second reaction time, he laid down a neat and tidy 7.957 on his 7.95 target as Mike Brundage, of Palo Cedro, California, fouled by -.005.

His second-round victory came with a double breakout triumph over Vancouver, Washington, racer Ryan Schaefer, which led to the final round on a stunningly beautiful Las Vegas day in front of a proper national event crowd.

The money round proved to be a very good show that simply didn’t fall in Bagwell’s favor. He was off the starting line with a cool .013-second reaction time to Nick Smith’s .003, but it was his opponent’s 7.256 on his 7.23 dial that triggered the win light. Bagwell was a tidy 7.943 on his 7.91, and the margin of victory in his challenger’s favor was a wee .017-second.

“We definitely had a good time out here and met a lot of amazing people,” said Bagwell.

In addition to gratitude extended to Moses and Mocny, Bagwell thanked Mark Beaver of Beaver Motorsports and Chip Lofton of Strutmasters for the hospitality, Stacy Hall at Fulton Racing Engines, White Race Cars, Imoco, Dale Freeman, Greg Slack Converters, Tony Morris Carburetors, his family, and God.

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