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CHRISTINE CHAMBLESS-FOSTER, TOP ALCOHOL FUNNY CAR
Christine Chambless-Foster acquires championship Top Alcohol Funny Car, will race alongside husband Chris as two-car team in 2022
DAVENPORT, Iowa (August 25, 2021) – Christine Chambless-Foster has been competing in the alcohol ranks in NHRA’s Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series for more than a decade. She’s enjoyed her time in a dragster, but now the Southwest Kansas-native is ready for the next step of her career and a move over to where she wanted to be all along: racing a fiercely challenging Top Alcohol Funny Car.
“I’ve always really liked that the Funny Car class is just blown cars. There’s nothing cooler than two alcohol Funny Cars revving it up and leaving the starting line,” said a jubilant Christine, who is set take possession of the Chevrolet Camaro Top Alcohol Funny Car that Shane Westerfield drove to the 2017 NHRA championship and will have it equipped with one of the Chambless Family Racing’s supercharged alcohol-fueled engines.
The sport of drag racing has always been linked closely to family for Christine, who has raced with parents Curtiss and Tracy from the beginning. Her son, Hudson, is well-known as her trusty sidekick at the racetrack, and now she’ll be competing alongside husband Chris Foster – they married in March of 2021 – as a two-car team, sharing data as they race the NHRA circuit in 2022.
“What we love about the alcohol Funny Car class is the parity,” said longtime Top Alcohol Funny Car campaigner Chris, whose first win came in 2012 at the U.S. Nationals in a final-round battle with Tony Bartone. “This is a real, pure class that hasn’t been tangled up [with different combinations]. The cars are equal, so it really comes down to the driver.”
For the last decade, Christine has been dedicated to racing a blown Top Alcohol Dragster with Chambless Family Racing. The former Jr. drag racer moved up to a big car as soon as she could, and after two years in Top Dragster, she made the thrilling move to Top Alcohol Dragster at the age of 19.
“I watched the alcohol cars growing up, and running an alcohol car of our own was a dream my dad and I shared,” said Christine. “In Top Alcohol Dragster, there’s a split between the A/Fuel cars and the blown cars, and A/Fuel has just never been something that has enticed me. My mom, Tracy, wasn’t on board with a Funny Car in the beginning, so we raced the blown dragster.
“But being around Chris and him racing Top Alcohol Funny Car fueled the fire for me. My mom eventually came around, and now it’s happening, so it’s really exciting.”
The Chambless family purchased the championship car as a rolling chassis with no engine, so they’ve got some work to do in order to get it ready for a return to racing. Once the car has been updated and outfitted for its new driver, Christine will begin the licensing process. She will need to make three passes in order to cross-grade.
Christine has many years of experience in the Top Alcohol Dragster, and the procedure – from burnout, staging, swapping feet, and shifting – will virtually be the same. But, actually driving the shorter wheel-based car will come with a learning curve, and the soon-to-be-rookie is going into the process with eyes wide open.
“From a driver’s standpoint, I think most people would agree that it’s the most difficult class to drive,” admitted Christine. “But racing a Top Alcohol Funny Car has always been an aspiration of mine. Everyone says that as soon as you drive a Funny Car, you’ll never want to go back to a dragster – it’s just that much fun. I can’t wait.”
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JERRY ALBERT, TOP SPORTSMAN
Top Sportsman racer Jerry Albert is finding the zone as the second-half comes into view
AVON, Ohio (August 23, 2021) – Jerry Albert has always just wanted to go fast. As a kid, he drag raced his bicycle. When he got a little older and acquired a dirt bike, he preferred racing the wily two-wheeler in a straight line on pavement rather than jumping it through the dirt.
These days, Albert can be found winning national and divisional events behind the wheel of a nitrous-assisted 1997 Chevrolet Camaro in NHRA’s quick and competitive Top Sportsman category. So far this season, he’s proven to be a fierce competitor with two victories claimed in the esteemed Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series, and his effective efforts have him positioned neatly as No. 6 in the national standings.
“The car is really good, and I’m catching up to it,” said Albert, following a rewarding victory at venerable Lucas Oil Raceway at Indianapolis at the beginning of August.
The Avon, Ohio-native kicked off the season at the NHRA Gatornationals in March and then moved on to his home track, Norwalk’s Summit Motorsports Park, for the national and divisional events. Round wins were acquired at all three of those early season races, but Albert knew there were even brighter days ahead.
“We made some updates to the car in the off-season, and I had to find out what it liked,” he explained. “It took about 20 runs to get to the point where we could really trust it and have something solid. During that time, I was still getting caught up with new numbers in the delay box; it’s running a little bit quicker down low. Now I’m back in my comfort zone.”
In July, National Trail Raceway hosted the JEGS NHRA SPORTSnationals, which gave the amiable racer the opportunity to return to the site of both his first divisional and national event wins. Albert secured his first-ever NHRA trophy at the Columbus Division 3 race in 2003, and it was the first of eight division wins in 11 final rounds.
The 2012 SPORTSnationals in Columbus produced Albert’s first national event title, and this season he seized the opportunity to repeat history with an extraordinary performance that culminated in another winner’s circle celebration.
It was evident to all that he had, indeed, found his comfort zone as he put together one of the best packages of eliminations – including a .015 reaction time and a cool 6.624, 207.69 on his 6.62 dial-in – to defeat Chris Osborn.
It was not only a repeat of Albert’s first win, but it was also his third SPORTSnationals victory. He was also triumphant at the event when it was held at Bowling Green’s Beech Bend Raceway Park in 2016.
“Winning the SPORTSnationals three times puts me in a smallish group, and it’s one that I’m really proud to be part of it,” he said. “Winning it this year was really a high point for us.”
Now a five-time winner and six-time finalist at the national level, Albert is well in the hunt for a banner year. Twice before he’s claimed the division championship (2013 and 2014), and he earned one of the most coveted Sportsman trophies in drag racing with his 2014 JEGS Allstars victory. So far, though, he has yet to bring home the biggest trophy of all.
Time and performance will tell if it’s in the cards this year, but Albert is prepared to give it his best shot. September will begin a hard-charge for he and his wife, Traci, who is by his side at each event and plays a pivotal role in the program.
The weeks ahead will include the U.S. Nationals at Indianapolis and then a return to Charlotte for the national event. Albert is eager to return to zMAX Dragway in Charlotte, where he has claimed the trophy in each of his most recent visits (fall of 2017 and spring of 2019).
From there, the two will head to Virginia Motorsports Park for a double-header, and then after a couple of days of recharging at home, they’ll venture west to St. Louis for another grueling double-divisional.
“It’s a wait-and-see from there. Maybe I don’t finish in the top 10, or maybe we’re somewhere in the pack,” said Albert, before pausing thoughtfully.
“Or maybe this is our year.”
Albert races with components and support from ComSYNC EFI; Mickey Thompson Tires; Abruzzi Racing Transmissions & Converters; JEGS Performance; PAR Race Engines; R&R Auto Body; MSR Suspension; Kelling Equipment Repair; and RJ Race Cars.
KYLE SMITH, TOP ALCOHOL FUNNY CAR
Fresh off of first national event win, Kyle Smith is gearing up for Allstars appearance at the U.S. Nationals
WICHITA, Kan. (August 27, 2021) – Most racers work their way up to racing six-seconds down the quarter mile at over 250 mph, but for Kyle Smith, there was no methodical path to top-tier racing in NHRA’s premier Sportsman league, the Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series. It’s only ever been Top Alcohol Funny Car for the Wichita-area native, and on the heels of back-to-back regional wins and his first national event triumph, Smith is showing that he’s right where he belongs as the series heads to Indianapolis for the Dodge // SRT NHRA U.S. Nationals at venerable Lucas Oil Raceway, Sept. 1-5.
“When I was younger, going to the races with my dad, this is the only class I really watched and wanted to race,” said Smith, whose father is veteran NHRA West Central Division competitor Stan Smith. “When my dad decided to leave the class, I was sad because I was starting to become more involved. But it was time for him to do something different, and Pro Mod was up-and-coming. It was great to watch him have some success there, but all along, I knew deep down that I really had no interest in competing in any other class than this.”
Smith, now 32 years old, licensed in Top Alcohol Funny Car in 2019. He wasted little time, though, in making a statement and won the 2020 Division 5 regional race at SRCA Dragstrip in Great Bend, Kansas. With a win on his scorecard in just his first full season, Smith came into 2021 with all cylinders firing and a drive for more.
He was rewarded early with an incredible and unexpected victory at the lauded Funny Car Chaos event at Texas Motorplex, and from there it just kept getting better. A final-round performance at the Dallas regional event was followed by back-to-back LODRS titles in Topeka and Great Bend.
“In my opinion, we really started to turn the corner in St. Louis last year,” said Smith. “We had been fighting the car, and although it was starting to run good, we were a little stuck. But we found an issue [with the fuel system], and that changed the trajectory of the end of the season and going into this year. Over the winter, we made some upgrades and really tried to focus on the areas where we thought we were leaving something on the table.”
Smith explained that their appearance at this year’s Funny Car Chaos event was truly meant to be a test. The team was aware that there would be a handful of nitro cars on the property that were exceptionally quick, but as soon as they made a pass of their own, they knew they were actually in the game.
“Before we made that first run, I thought, hey, this will be great for us,” said Smith. “What cooler place is there than to be part of one of the largest Funny Car fields in history? But all of a sudden, we roll out of the trailer and run about as fast as we’d ever been. Each round, dad did his thing and we got progressively faster. The next thing you know, we’re running a career best number next to Del Worsham in the final round. It was great.”
Born and raised in Kansas, Smith takes particular pride in racing well in his home state. That being said, it was a large sting when he went out first round at the Topeka national event at Heartland Motorsports Park in early August. The burn was quickly soothed, though, as the team packed up and headed straight to Brainerd International Raceway, where Smith claimed his first national event win in his first final round at the Lucas Oil NHRA Nationals.
“We weren’t even planning to do Brainerd, we had run three weekends in a row leading up to it, but then we struggled in Topeka – our car had been running pretty good, but we couldn’t get a handle on the track,” explained Smith. “That left a little bit of a sour taste in our mouths, so we decided we needed to try to get a little redemption.”
The victory was the perfect way to get warmed up to compete at the most prestigious race on the NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series tour, the U.S. Nationals. There, Smith will not only run for the trophy in the main event, but he will also race for the coveted JEGS Allstars hardware as the Central Region’s Top Alcohol Funny Car representative.
“Bob [McCosh] had a stranglehold on our region, and Kris Hool was one round ahead of me [to qualify for the Allstars],” said Smith. “I have a lot of respect for them both. The Topeka regional was the last event we could claim, and we just decided to go and do our best and let the cards fall where they may. Honestly, it’s kind of a shock. There are guys that have raced out here for 40 years and never qualified for the Allstars, so to be able to do it in our third year is just really special.”
Perhaps one of the more unusual pieces of Smith’s story is that the only opponent he has ever come up against in the final round is McCosh. To date, Smith has won four of their five meetings (three regional, one national).
“I think it’s a testament to both of our teams, and we both really spend a lot of time in preparation and hard work,” said Smith. “He’s become a friend and mentor, and I think we respect the same things about one another – we don’t make a lot of mistakes because every time the car goes out there, it’s ready. And we don’t leave anything on the table.”
For now, Smith is focused on preparing solidly for a race that he has never attempted before at a track where he and his father have no data on which to lean.
“It’s kind of a surreal feeling to finally be going to Indy. I’m really excited because I feel like we’ve already done more than any of us thought possible,” expressed Smith, who was No. 6 in the national Top Alcohol Funny Car standings after competing in just six races. “I’m looking forward to the challenges ahead and seeing where we can finish the year.”
Smith races with the support of PCdisposal.com; Mel Hambelton Ford Racing; DMP Awnings; Champion Auto Lift; and NGK Spark Plugs
RYAN CARLSON, TOP DRAGSTER
Ryan Carlson Making the Most of First Full Season of National Top Dragster Competition
MAPLE VALLEY, Wash. (August 18, 2021) – You couldn’t exactly describe Ryan Carlson as an unknown in the world of Top Dragster. The Maple Valley, Wash., resident has been quite a force in NHRA’s Northwest Division, but this year, “Rotten Ryan” came out with guns blazing on a much larger scale, and now everybody in the category knows his name.
Carlson, who was christened “Rotten Ryan” by a family friend when he was just a small child, has been living up to his moniker in Division 6 by regularly sending competitors home early and empty-handed. His first divisional win was in Super Street in 2002, and for more than a decade, he’s been concentrated on the fierce Top Dragster category. Carlson has claimed at least one victory in each season contested since 2016, and after back-to-back years in which he finished No. 3 in the division standings, he felt that the time was right to take it up a notch.
“With the way our car has been running, and with how well we’ve been able to do at the division level, we decided that this year we wanted to give it a shot at the national level,” said 52-year-old Carlson. “It’s been pretty good so far.”
Carlson and his Rotten Ryan Racing crew, with tuner and chassis builder Mike Robeck at the helm, powered into the season with a semifinals performance at the Las Vegas division race in March.
The next month, they returned to The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway for the challenging NHRA Four-Wide Nationals, and to everyone’s surprise but their own, they left with the trophy. It was the first national event win for Carlson in his first final round, and the satisfying victory was the springboard to what is already transpiring to be a career season.
“I knew we had a good chance,” stated Carlson. “Over the off-season, we got some new motor parts, and Mike Robeck really helped with the setup for the season we’re heading for. To go to the semis straight out of the box at the first race, we knew we could win.”
Since his triumph in Las Vegas, Carlson has claimed two additional trips to the semifinals, including one at the esteemed NHRA Winternationals at Auto Club Raceway in Pomona two weeks ago. At present, he and the team are en route to Minnesota for the Lucas Oil NHRA Nationals at Brainerd International Raceway. From there, they plan to run the divisional double-header in Billings, Montana, then another division race in Boise, followed by the season-closing national events in Las Vegas and Pomona.
“It’s pretty hard, especially because it’s mostly out of pocket and this is an expensive car to run, but I’m grateful for the support that we have from Master Wholesale and Robeck Custom Fabrication,” said Carlson. “And we have a great team. My brother, Tom, drives the truck and trailer with me from race to race; Tom, Jacob, and Bryan work on the engine when it’s back at the house; and I couldn’t really do this without Mike Robeck’s help. He oversees the whole thing, and anytime I need his help, he’s there for as long as it takes, even if it’s to three or four in the morning.
“We have the drive to be No. 1 in the division, and hopefully, we’ll be in the top three or four at the national level – or better – when this year is over.”
For more information, visit Rotten Ryan Racing on Facebook.
KAREN STALBA, TOP ALCOHOL DRAGSTER
Quick Karen Stalba Buckling in for Brimming Second Half of Exceptional Season
HAMMONTON, N.J. (August 16, 2021) – A fruitful first half of the 2021 season of NHRA’s Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series (LODRS) is in the books for the Stalba Motorsports team, and the multi-car family operation has a jam-packed calendar in the weeks ahead. Top Alcohol Dragster standout Karen Stalba is leading the charge for the team that includes husband and eight-time division champion Tom Stalba and their active Jr. drag racing kids, Paul and Emily. The “Fastest Mom in South Jersey” will be breaking into the second half of the season with one of the quickest Top Alcohol Dragsters in the series.
“We’ll start in the Northeast, and then it’s like a world tour for us,” said Stalba, who noted that the team will launch into a strenuous span of seven races in eight weeks, beginning August 20-22 with the LODRS regional event at New England Dragway.
“We’ve worked together as a family to get everything prepared for this next stretch of races. Everybody pitches in, and my crew chiefs have been driving down from Massachusetts to work on things,” Stalba continued. “We definitely feel ready to build on the success that we’ve already experienced this year. It’s been great, but we’re ready for more.”
Stalba, with crew chiefs “Mean” Gene Gallant and Bob Smullen at the helm, has so far raced to four low qualifier awards and two final-round appearances on the season. The 2011 Division 1 Top Alcohol Dragster champion had been away from the category since 2018 to focus on family and business, but immediately upon her return for this year’s LODRS regional event at Gainesville Raceway – the “Baby Gators” – Stalba knew she was in for one heck of a ride.
There at Gainesville Raceway, Stalba qualified loftily in the No. 3 spot. Geared up to go fast, she was right back in form the following weekend at the NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series season-opener at Gainesville with the fastest Top Alcohol Dragster on the property. Stalba blazed to a then-career best 5.172-second pass at 280 mph to lock down the No. 1 qualifying position, and she raced to the semifinals on Sunday at one of NHRA’s most esteemed events.
Another No. 1 and semifinals appearance were secured at her next scheduled event, the final NHRA Southern Nationals at soon-to-be shuttered Atlanta Dragway. Two weeks later, Stalba was No. 1 again and rocketed to the final round at NHRA’s spectacular NGK/NTK Performance Four-Wide Nationals in Charlotte, recording career-best numbers along the way with a stellar 5.147, 282.07.
The Summit Racing Equipment NHRA Nationals in Norwalk came with another runner-up followed by yet another low qualifier award for Stalba, this time at the Norwalk regional race with an impressive 5.161 blast to reset the Summit Motorsports Park track record.
Stalba is holding onto a Top 10 spot in the Top Alcohol Dragster national standings as she enters the latter half of a banner year. Now a four-time finalist at the national level, the humble yet fired-up A/Fuel campaigner is closer than she’s ever been to victory.
“We haven’t won yet, but we’ve been close,” said Stalba with a modest grin and a grateful nod to supporters Lucas Oil Products, NGK Spark Plugs, and Hussey Copper. “I know that as our program continues to come together, the wins are going to come. I’m confident in my car and these guys, and it’s good to know that they’re confident in me and just as excited for what’s to come.”
Upcoming events for Stalba Motorsports (currently scheduled):
Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series, New England Dragway, August 20-22
Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series, Maple Grove Raceway, August 28-29
NHRA Camping World Series, U.S. Nationals, Lucas Oil Raceway at Indianapolis, September 1-5
NHRA Camping World Series, Maple Grove Raceway (Reading, Pa.), September 9-12
NHRA Camping World Series, zMAX Dragway (Charlotte), September 17-19
Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series, Virginia Motorsports Park, September 24-26
Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series, Cecil County Dragway, October 8-10
For more information, visit karenstalba.com
Stalba Motorsports on Facebook
Karen Stalba on Instagram
JIMMY DEFRANK, STOCK AND SUPER STOCK
Q&A With Jimmy DeFrank
POMONA, Calif. (Jan. 30, 2020) – Jimmy DeFrank, a five-time Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series world champion, scored the 50th win of his career in his 62nd final round at the last division race of the 2019 season. Fired up to get back on track in 2020, the Southern California native and Chief Operating Officer at California Car Cover participated in a Q&A ahead of the 60th annual Lucas Oil NHRA Winternationals, a race that DeFrank has won six times – including a double-up victory in both Super Stock and Stock in 2013.
Q: What did it feel like to reach such a milestone last fall at the division race at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway?
JD: I’m so glad we were able to get our 50th win last year and that we were able to get it at one of our very favorite tracks. It meant a lot to all of us, and I hope we can reach more milestones with race wins or championships soon.
Q: What does your race schedule look like for 2020?
JD: We’ll start the season at our home track, Auto Club Raceway at Pomona, then from there we’re planning to head to the second race on the NHRA tour, Phoenix. Our plan right now is to attend seven national events and eight Lucas Oil division events this year.
Q: Throughout your career, you’ve raced Super Stock, Stock, and Comp; which cars and classes will you be racing this season?
JD: I will be racing our 2010 Chevy Cobalt in Super Stock in the class of SS/BS. Our friend, engine builder, and my mentor, Jeff Taylor, will be driving our 2015 Chevy Camaro COPO in Stock Eliminator.
Q: Is there any one race that you’re most excited for?
JD: I love all of them, but I would say the one I’m most looking forward to is the U.S. Nationals in Indy. I missed the race in 2019 because a good friend was getting married, so I’m excited to get back there this year.
Q: Who makes up your team?
JD: Dad Jim, mom Loraine, brother Tony, Jeff Taylor, Patty Taylor, Dave Allison, Tom Kerr, and myself.
Q: Is there anything that you have yet to accomplish in your career but would like to check off this year?
JD: I’m actually thankful for everything, and there isn’t anything I feel I’ve missed out on. It’s a dream to be in a championship chase, and perhaps we can be in one again someday – maybe even in 2020.
Five-Time World Champ Jimmy DeFrank Humbled by Success, Grateful to Continue Racing Journey
Photos: Auto Imagery
POMONA, Calif. (Jan. 6, 2017) – The 2016 season of NHRA’s Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series was another to remember for Super Stock racer Jimmy DeFrank, and he is more eager than ever to jump into a whole new year of doing what he loves. The pilot of the DeFrank & Sons Racing Chevrolet Cobalt accumulated a large amount of points towards the big trophy last year, and in the end, he and his team scored their fifth Super Stock world championship and 13th overall division title. In total, the Chatsworth, California-based racer heads into the 2017 season with 19 national event titles on his scorecard and 45 division wins.
At the heart of DeFrank’s team is a small but powerful group – he and his father, Jim DeFrank Sr., and longtime Crew Chief Davey Allison. The ’10 Cobalt flying the colors of California Car Cover, California Car Duster, and Golden Shine Car Care, brought in a total of 681 points through their combined efforts, and DeFrank was 88 marks ahead of his closest competitor at final tally.
Victory at the season opening NHRA Winternationals in Pomona set the tone for the season. DeFrank’s eight claimed races for the year included trophies earned at division events in Fontana, Calif., and Woodburn, Ore., final rounds at the earlier Woodburn event and Sonoma national, a trip to the semifinals at both the Phoenix divisional and the U.S. Nationals in Indianapolis, and a quarterfinals finish at the spring Las Vegas division race.
Pomona has long been a favored race for DeFrank, a Southern California native who scored the very first win of his career at the NHRA Finals at Auto Club Raceway at Pomona in 1995, the season in which he made his debut as a Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series competitor. In 2016, DeFrank earned his fifth Winternationals trophy at the NHRA season-opener with a final-round defeat of Fred Moreno.
“I truly believe that the first race did set the tone for us in 2016,” said DeFrank. “It’s always – well, at least it is in most cases – important to have a national event win when looking towards a national championship. At that time, we weren’t necessarily thinking about a championship, but that race did end up being a key factor. We always look forward to Pomona, and 2017 won’t be any different. That first race comes with less pressure than the rest, actually. We’re nervous and just trying to get back into the swing of things, but it’s not a points crunch. Towards the end of the season is where you start to feel the pressure.”
The 2017 season will mark the 20th anniversary of DeFrank’s first Super Stock national championship, and the veteran driver will readily admit that no year in racing is perfect. He stresses the importance, though, of learning not to beat yourself up when you stumble and instead challenge yourself to do better the next time.
“This past season I made some mistakes in Boise, Idaho, at the Division 6 event, and then again at the Woodburn Division 6 race in July. I lost focus in a terrible fashion in Boise second round and in the final at Woodburn. I was late with .060 lights, and I was very mad at myself and worried that those two instances may cost us dearly in the big picture. As a team, though, we immediately put those races behind us and did not dwell on them. We just moved on to the next event, and I think that was very important.
“After we wrapped up the championship, I struggled again. I let the fire die down some, and that was absolutely a terrible thing to let happen. I was relieved that the points chase was over, and I did not give 100% at the last couple of races. That is not acceptable, and if I’m fortunate enough to win another championship in this way, I won’t let it happen again.”
Stopped in Sonoma
After starting the season with a win at the Winternationals, DeFrank had a milestone ahead of him. The Pomona victory was the 19th national event win of his career, and No. 20 was within reach. This past summer brought about a near miss at another favorite race for DeFrank, the NHRA Sonoma Nationals. There, DeFrank has three times visited the winner’s circle at the national level, and in 2016 he was charging towards another but fouled out in the final round.
“I struggled getting a good light in Sonoma, and then I pushed too hard in the final and it bit us,” admitted DeFrank. “It was my fault, but again, as a team we put it behind us and moved on to Indy. We felt thankful to even make it to the final round in Sonoma, and we lost to a good friend and one of the best drivers, Justin Lamb – so we were not upset. I was thankful for those 84 points and another great race at a great racetrack. We knew that race would be a keeper, but again, we left there hoping that losing that final wasn’t going to cost us in the big picture.”
Adrenaline at Indy
The annual U.S. Nationals at Indianapolis is the most anticipated race on the NHRA tour for both class and national event eliminations. DeFrank was honored to win the main event trophy in 2010 and score a final-round finish in 2015, and this past season, he left with the SS/BS class title and locked into a semifinals finish during eliminations on Monday to bring home even more points towards the championship.
“Indy is so exciting, and it is so special for Stock and Super Stock. It is the race that my dad always looks forward to more than any other the entire season,” said DeFrank. “It is our vacation, and we truly enjoy it as racers and NHRA drag racing fans. Indy is a race you work for all year long, to make your cars fast, and to also try to drive your best. We were very excited to win class as there were some great competitors in SS/BS with us, and then to make it to the semifinals in the big race was huge. We were let down to not make it to the final or win the race, but when we stopped and looked at the situation, we were thankful for those 83 points. As I said before, we learned this year to put those disappointments behind us and move right along to focusing on the next event. That, in itself, was a big deal for us.”
Cashing in at The Strip
The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway is another racetrack filled with memorable moments for DeFrank. Las Vegas is where he scored the second national event double of his career with 2015 victories in Stock and Super Stock at the spring race. In all, the CEO of California Car Cover has reached six Las Vegas national event finals and has three national wins at the racetrack situated just outside of the glittering lights of one of the most infamous cities on the planet. It is also where he has sewn up more than one championship, and in 2016, it was again where the final results were determined.
“Just like it was in 2009 and 2012, the championship was decided in Las Vegas,” said DeFrank. “To tell you the truth, I was shocked when we finally sewed it up. I couldn’t believe it, and I’m still not sure it’s completely sunk in. We are beyond thankful that we were able to hang onto this championship and even get to race at all. I was nervous throughout the weekend, but I knew that we did try our best and that we still had a couple of races left to gain points if we needed to. When it was finally over and we had won, we were all so relieved and excited.
“I was actually sitting in the RFC [Racers for Christ] church service on Sunday morning when our competitors were racing in Las Vegas and Rockingham, and my dad came into church and told me. Yes, he did stay for the rest of the service, and it was the perfect place to be since we felt so blessed.
“I was very humbled to get to win this championship and stay ahead of some truly terrific racers. All the racers in the top 10 were equal, in my opinion, and we were just fortunate to make some good runs and get the breaks when we needed them.”
The Game Plan
The DeFrank & Sons Racing team took a different approach to 2016, and that, says DeFrank, was a major contributing factor to the outcome of their efforts.
“This season was different in that we only ran one car,” said DeFrank, who has regularly raced in two categories on the NHRA tour, hopping between his trusty Super Stock Cobalt and the team’s Stock Eliminator ’69 Camaro. Although the two-cars/one-driver formula has brought measurable success, including two national event doubles (the Las Vegas double-up in 2015 as well as a two-trophy finish at the Winternationals in 2013), DeFrank felt it was necessary to scale back and zero in.
“At the end of the 2015 season, I was a touch let down because we struggled during the last handful of races in both Stock and Super Stock,” said DeFrank, who has claimed a total of four national wins in Stock Eliminator and 15 in Super Stock. “We were rushing around a lot to make runs in qualifying and eliminations, and that seemed to take away from our performance. It was like we had 90% attention on each car instead of 100%, and we started this past year determined to devote all of our efforts to one car.
“That’s similar to my business personality as well; I like to focus on one task at a time and then move on to the next. Most of the great NHRA champions will most likely disagree with me, but I prefer racing just one car. It gives me more time to look at everything and make those important decisions. Thankfully, my dad and Davey went along with that line of thinking, and it actually went okay in 2016. I have no idea if it will ever work again, but I think that we would all agree that it worked this time.
“I have to give credit to my dad and our crew chief, Davey Allison. They worked so, so hard to realize this goal and dream. We race in an equal three parts as a team, and we all won this together with equal effort and focus. We three have raced together since the first time I went down the track in 1995. We also focused on just one car when we went after championships in 2009 and then in 2012 towards the end of the season. I remember our friend, Jeg Coughlin, going down to one car and focusing on Pro Stock in a couple of his championship seasons, and it worked well for him. So thank you, Jeg, for that great example.
In Good Company
DeFrank is just the second driver in the history of the class to win five Lucas Oil Series Super Stock championships; Northeast rival and friend Peter Biondo was the first to accomplish the feat with his fifth Super Stock series title earned in 2014.
“I am so honored to be mentioned alongside my friend Peter Biondo because of both the person and the racing champion that he is. Peter is truly the best in our sport, yet he still takes time to guide his friends along the way,” said DeFrank, who finished No. 2 to Biondo in 2014 and battled against him for the title in 2000, 2001, 2006, and 2007, finishing not far behind his pal each time.
Division 7 Driver of the Year
At the conclusion of the season and in addition to achieving the Super Stock national title, DeFrank was awarded the Division 7 Super Stock crown and was honored as the division’s Driver of the Year.
“I was very humbled and honored to receive that award, and it meant a lot to me for Division 7 Director Mike Rice, his staff, and our peers to present that to our team,” said DeFrank. “That award wasn’t just for me – it was for my dad and Davey, too, because we put those round wins and race wins together as a team. We lose together and we win together, but we always have fun. I was proud to clinch a national championship for Division 7, and I hope that our division can win another one next year in at least one category.”
The only time DeFrank’s Stock Eliminator ’69 Camaro saw the light of day in 2016 was when friend Jeff Adkinson wheeled it at the final national event of the year. This coming season, at least tentatively, DeFrank has other plans.
“I’m hoping that my brother, Tony, will join us for a few races in 2017,” said DeFrank, who raced with his brother frequently in the early years of his career and trailed him by just one position in Super Stock points in both 2002 and 2003. In 2005, the brothers squared off in the final round at the Sonoma national event with Jimmy taking the win. Tony has six Super Stock victories in 10 final rounds and was undefeated in final round performances from 1993 to 2003.
“Other than hopefully seeing my brother wheel the Stocker here and there, we haven’t made any solid plans for 2017,” DeFrank continued. “We will probably race both cars, but we’ll try to trade off races with them so we are only racing one per event. It’s still open for discussion, though.
“Right now, I’m just grateful for what we’ve been able to accomplish. When I was standing up there on the stage at the banquet, I was still in shock. This is a very special feeling, and it is truly an honor. I always dreamed of winning a championship, and now to be able to say we’ve won five – it just does not even seem real. I am so very thankful to get to live these dreams and to do so alongside my family and friends.”
Five Keys to Championship No. 5
1. Tons of prayer power by all of us
2. Teamwork in equal parts and with equal focus between myself, my dad Jim, and our Crew Chief Davey Allison
3. When something bad happened, we thought about it, learned from it, then immediately put it behind us
4. Getting the breaks when we needed them
5. Strong focus and desire on racing, and expanding that focus and desire to the big picture of a championship when it became a possibility
Five Goals for 2017 and beyond
1. Have fun with family and friends
2. Chip away at the performance of our cars
3. Continue to learn consistency in driving style and with the runs we make
4. Get my brother, Tony, to some races
5. Win more races if we have the chance
“First, I have to thank God for the opportunity to be part of such a wonderful and loving family that even has the opportunity to race,” said DeFrank. “I’d like to thank my mom Loraine, for her love and prayer support; my dad Jim, who leads our race team, is very detailed with every single racing item, and makes all the big decision behind the scenes and at the track; my brother Tony, for his love and encouragement, for watching all business activities at California Car Cover when we are away, and for teasing me so bad when I lose that it makes me try harder the next race; our Crew Chief Davey Allison, for everything he does to help us be at the races and win – he did the best job he has ever done this year, and it showed as we all won this championship together; my mentor Jeff Taylor, who has been helping us win since I first started and has taught me so much – I don’t think we would have won this many races or championships if Jeff wasn’t in our lives; Tom Kerr; Steve Decker; Wally Bose; Bo Butner; Randi Lyn Shipp; Jeff Adkinson; Willie Evans; Jeg Coughlin; Kyle Seipel; Peter Biondo; Justin Lamb; and every person at Racers for Christ.”
DeFrank also thanks his sponsors, including California Car Cover Co., California Car Duster Co., Golden Shine Car Care, K&N, Red Line Oil, Phoenix Tires, RFC, Jeg’s, Jim Butner Auto, CFE, Pro Trans, Comp Cams, Jeff Taylor Performance, VP Race Fuels, and Biondo Racing.