- Tuesday 21 May, 2013
by Todd Veney/Pro Sportsman Association
At the Lucas Oil Series event 'Mickey Mart Rewards Cavalcade of Stars, presented by Budweiser at Norwalk, which again hosted a capacity crowd Saturday and had fans lined up for miles both directions, Marty Thacker sealed a spot on the Jegs Allstars team with his first Alcohol Dragster victory since 2011, and Chris Foster beat John Anderika in the Top Alcohol Funny Car final for the second year in a row.
Thacker defeated rookie 28-year-old rookie Kyle Michalek in a close final, 5.40 to 5.45, and never ran out of the 5.40s all weekend. "We were trying to get into the .30s in the final, and we might have made it if I'd wrung out 2nd gear another 100 or 150 rpm," he said. "He pulled on me through the middle and I pulled on him at the top end. It sounded like his car was fading a little at the end, but I've raced those A/Fuel cars too many times to ever take anything for granted."
It was Thacker's first victory since the national event at Norwalk two years ago; last year was the first year since he moved to NHRA competition with a screw blower that he didn't win at least one race. "Last year was tough on us, but that's over now," said the two-time U.S. Nationals champion, who defeated recent Indy regional winner Bill Reichert in a rematch of that Indy final in round one, 5.41 to 5.54. "To stand a chance against Bill, you've got to get to him early. The longer the race goes on, the better he gets."
Thacker's Rapid Transit/Total Flow team stayed in the .40s in the semifinals with a 5.49 against returning veteran Paul Fishburn despite Thacker stepping off the gas not far past the 1,000-foot clocks. "It nosed over, and I couldn't hear him beside me, so I took a chance," he said. Fishburn's car lurched forward and deep-staged when he brought the motor up, and, trying to avoid a foul start, he had a cautious .223 light.
Michalek, who, with brother Corey earned a sponsorship by winning Champion Spark Plugs' "Search For a Champion" contest, reached the final in his very first start in an A/Fuel Dragster. Driving Jared Dreher's car, he qualified No. 2 with a 5.39, easily won the first round when Jeff Veale kicked a rod on the burnout, and defeated Robin Samsel on a holeshot in the semi's, 5.48 to 5.47.
With the win, Thacker joins Reichert on the North Central Jegs Allstars team under the new two-drivers-per-region format. "We made the team for seven or eight years in a row, but that was a long time ago now," he said. "It'll be great to be a part of it all again in Chicago next month."
In the Top Alcohol Funny Car final, Foster defeated Anderika in a rematch of last year's finale – this time by a more comfortable margin, 5.65 (low e.t. of eliminations) to 5.72. Last year, the cars were separated by just two-thousandths of a second at the stripe.
Foster had low e.t. of all three rounds after qualifying in the middle of one of the closest fields in class history. The top seven cars were within three hundredths of a second, from Anderika's off-the-trailer 5.63 to Ray Drew's seventh-best 5.66.Half the field ran a 5.66, and John Bojec set the bubble with a 5.75.
Foster won the opening round with a 5.70 when Drew's car lost the crank trigger near the top of low gear. In the semi's, he advanced easily with a 5.69 when reigning North Central region champion Mickey Ferro went up in smoke right off the line. Anderika won the other semifinal when recent Indy regional winner Andy Bohl was charged with a red-light despite leaving with Anderika. The front of Bohl's Mustang body was deemed to be too low, which led to a -.069 foul and a 1.17 60-foot time.
The win landed Anderika in a final for the ninth time in his career and the second time in 2013. He's been to two regional events this season, reached the final at both, and qualified No. 1 at both – both times with a 5.63.