Summit Racing Equipment NHRA Nationals moves in, readies for excitement!

NORWALK, OhioFamily tradition Curt Valtman polishes his dragster for his first National event.on nitrous and artsy entertainment spice the mix at the Summit Racing Equipment NHRA Nationals, part of the Mello Yello Drag Racing Series July 4-7, 2013 at Summit Motorsports Park in Norwalk, Ohio.

On Wednesday, National Hot Rod Association enthusiasts set up camp, wrenched on race cars, and prepared for Thursday's packed lineup of gorgeous rides.

Most of the Sportsman racers in the Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series pit on the Summit side of Summit Motorsports Park, west of the dragstrip.

Professional racer David Rampy, who won Competition Eliminator in a red A-Econo Altered 1932 Bantam two years in a row at the Summit Racing Equipment NHRA Nationals, also lines up in a red 1987 Camaro in the GT I Automatic Super Stock class, said Barry Davis, Alabama, crew for David Rampy.

The GT I Automatic Super Stock allows crews to use an old-style motor in a newer car, Barry Davis said.

Wrenching on a 2009 Undercover dragster, Kyle Cultrera, 23, a mechanical engineering student at the University of North Carolina, Charlotte, prepared for Super Comp action.

“This is my summer job,” said Kyle Cultrera, Elliot, Maine, whose parents, Steve and Joann Cultrera, own the dragster. “I'm traveling around, having fun.

Kyle Cultrera, Maine, wrenches on his dragster.“I started racing at 16,” Kyle Cultrera said. “Got my license. This is the first car I ever drove, a 180 mph dragster.

“I grew up doing it,” Kyle Cultrera said. “I worked on them all the time. My dad used to drive. He crewed for 15 years. Dad used to be a Pro Stock crew chief. The last person he crewed for was Jeg Coughlin. He won two championships with him.”

Kyle Cultrera also lines up in Competition Eliminator in a red H-Econo Altered 1932 Bantam.

“It says, 'Professor Dave and the Three Ring Circus,'” Kyle Cultrera said. “The guy who owns it is a college professor in New York. Every car he has owned said, 'Professor Dave.' The three ring circus is Dave Ring, Al Ackerman, and Kyle Cultrera.”

At their home track in Epping, New Hampshire, Kyle's older sister, Lauren Cultrera, tests the ways of speed and win lights in a dragster, too.

“She just started this year,” Kyle Cultrera said. “Her car looks just like mine, but black with gray on the bottom. She's getting better with every run. I'm very proud of her.”

Kyle Carrothers, from the Detroit area, eased a sticker off of a Kyle Carrothers, Michigan, finesses a sticker.2004 Corvette painted orange, magenta, purple and white by R&R Auto Body in Cleveland.

“It's a replica of a 2004 Corvette,” Kyle Carrothers said. “We put it together in 2005. It's got a big block Chevy engine, 572 cu. in., and runs 9.90s at 170 mph.

“My partner, Rock Haas, drives it. His dad, Ralph Haas, was a Detroit police officer for many years. He's here with us, too,” Kyle Carrothers said. “Rock and I have been racing together for 24 years, since 1989. We started with a '27 Ford Roadster project car.”

The sticker was a car number used in Chicago last weekend.

“A guy from California drove the car there, because he was an All-Stars representative,” Kyle Carrothers said. “He was kind enough to let us drive his car when we were in the points chase in 2006. It's easier to fly in and drive someone else's car than to trailer yours across the country. This is from friendships we've made over the years.

Mike Wesolowski, Arizona, cares for his AAA Super Stock Cobra Jet.“I'm contracted to work for a racing team from Louisiana, Candies Family Motorsports,” said Kyle Carrothers, an engiineer at Roush. “So I guess racing is a way of life for me, which isn't a bad thing.

“We've been to almost every track in the country, but this is our absolute favorite track to come to. We're always having fun when we're here at Norwalk,” Kyle Carrothers said. “The representation of this track from everybody from the Sportsman guys to the Top Fuel guys says a lot for the way they do things here.”

Curt Valtman, 36, Brookpark, Ohio, polished a black and cosmic blue 2006 Diamond dragster with a towel, preparing for a debut in Super Comp.

“It was painted by Mike Kubiak. I got it on Christmas Eve in 2010,” said Curt Valtman, a logistics manager at Duraline, Elyria, Ohio, a manufacturer of underground pipe for electric wires and fiber optics cable. “They keep me busy. They let me off to come here and play.

“I've been racing since 2000,” Curt Valtman said. “Started with a 19-second street car, an old Dodge Spirit. It was an old gem.”

Normally sizzling the track on Saturdays in the Mallory Super Pro class of the Mr. Gasket $53,100 Super Series at Summit Motorsports Park, Curt Valtman stepped outside his comfort zone for the Summit Racing Equipment NHRA Nationals.

“This is my first ever National event,” Curt Valtman said. “It's been a good time so far.”

Mike Wesolowski, Mesa, Arizona, stretched out on Don and Tina Makin watched a friend race, and got hooked.his back under a rear wheel well of a dark impact blue 2012 Cobra Jet, wrenching in preparation to race AAA Super Stock.

With Mike Wesolowski was Rick Rodgers, Dearborn Heights, Mich., who mashes gas in a white 2012 Cobra Jet in Super Stock DA, and Rick's black Labrador and weimeranger mixed crew dog, Mustang Sally.

In the Family Camping area, Tina and Don Makin, Suffield, Ohio, set up home-style comforts.

“I like Top Sportsman,” Tina Makin said. “And I like all the different Pros here, just about everything, basically.

“We've been coming since 2005. It's kind of our annual get-away,” said Tina Makin, an inside sales manager for TRM Manufacturing, owned by Tim Molnar, who races a Grand Am in Top Sportsman.

“Back in 2005 I went to watch Tim race the first time,” Tina Makin said. “And after sitting through the races, I got addicted to it. Now we come to several races a year. It's a lot of fun, a lot of enjoyment, a chance to get away from everything.”

Across the lane Bart Kelly, 50, Sebring, Ohio, parked a tent camper in anticipation of his eighth NHRA Nationals event in a row.

“I was going to quit coming down when my roommate, Greg Bartlett, passed away,” Bart Kelly said. “This will be my third year, now, of coming by myself. He got me hooked on it. His dad had race cars.”

Bart Kelly waits for friends he met at previous Nationals.Bart Kelly works in the main shop at RWJ Sprinkler Company, which installs sprinklers in hospitals, schools, nursing homes, warehouses, and office buildings.

Between Top Fuel rumbles and trips through the pits, Bart Kelly gets acquainted with his Nationals neighbors.

“You meet people once a year, and see them again,” said Bart Kelly. “I'll be back next year.”

Tooling the access roads on a golf cart, Bob Mandell Jr. and Nikki Jenkins, Culleoka, Tenn., introduced two 13-week-old mini Yorkshire terrier puppies, Cookie and Candy, to the ways of the dragstrip.

“This is their very first racing trip,” said Bob Mandell Jr., 24, who drives a yellow dragster in the Top Dragster class. “We loaded them up on the bus. We took them for a 12-hour adventure.

“They like the race car noise and everything,” Bob Mandell Jr. said. “We fired the '57 Chevy up last week. It was in one shop. The dogs were in the other. They came running over. They're out in the shop most of the time with us.”

Along with Bob Mandell Jr., two other Team Pro Fab drivers are Jeff Mandell, 22, driving a black 1968 Camaro in the Top Sportsman class, and their dad, Bob Mandell Sr., racing the 1957 Chevy in Top Sportsman as well.

Bringing the puppies to the track took some Nikki Jenkins and Bob Mandell Jr. introduce Cookie and Candy to the track. pressure off of Lucky, a 25-pound long-hair black cat at the Mandell's home. Though the cat's three or four times bigger than the pups, it tolerates their rambunctious nips and tugs fairly well, Bob Mandell Jr. said.

“The cat thinks these dogs are adorable,” Bob Mandell Jr. said.

In the Pro pits on the Budweiser side of the race track to the east of the dragstrip, a bright blue and white Mopar tent marks an artsy display.

Michael Kelley, Chicago, organized well-known street graffiti artists from New York to air brush one-of-a-kind designs on vehicle hoods.

“The artists are going to be doing custom art each day on a new hood,” Michael Kelley said. “We have a big easel. We put the hoods on the easel.”

He scheduled the artists to work on the designs from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Friday, from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday, and from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Sunday.
“All throughout that time, the artists are going to be creating art on the hoods,” Michael Kelley said. “In the next tent, throughout that time we're going to be doing free airbrush tattoos on people. It washes off.

“We'll display the hood from each previous day in front while the new one is being created,” Michael Kelley said. “They make the work last all day.”

Another perk in the Mopar tent is an opportunity to register for a drawing. Rick Rodgers and Mustang Sally crew on a friend's Cobra Jet.The winner receives a $45,000 credit toward the purchase of a new Chrysler vehicle, which includes anything in the Chrysler family – Chrysler, Ram, Dodge, Jeep, SRT, and Fiat, Michael Kelley said.

Adorable truck.

Truck juice.

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