Rod Short
April 1, 2009

Step By Step

Mdmp_0904_01_z New_england_ffw_nationals Procharge
Defending champ Travis Franklin regained the points lead in the Street Renegade championship points race at Epping with a first-round win over Charlie Guilbault. Franklin's ProCharger powered small-block won earlier in the year at Richmond.
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In heads-up index action, local racer Bob Dugan ran closer to the 10.60 Street Bandit index with a 10.623, but was beaten to the finish line by Nick Bonang, thanks in large part to a 0.047-second holeshot.
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Mike Trimandilis made his first Fun Ford appearance worthwhile as he took his small-block ProCharger-powered car to the Street Renegade finals at New England Dragway. Trimandilis ran a career best 195 mph on a true 10.5 tire in qualifying Second before losing to Don Burton in the finals.
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S.D. Wheeler made his sixth final round of the year in RPM Outlet Ultra Stang and put another nail in the coffin lid as he locked up the '08 season championship in his twin-turbo street car.

Winning an event on the Fun Ford tour is something special. Winning more than once in a year can be called extraordinary. Winning more than once in the same weekend is simply phenomenal. Fans saw drivers in all three categories during Fun Ford's 14th annual visit to New England Dragway in Epping, New Hampshire.

Headlining this event was the tight points battle in ProCharger Street Renegade. Six different drivers have won in the seven races leading up to this event, with Angel Padilla emerging as the point's leader at the last race. Padilla's lead proved to be short lived, however, as he destroyed his car in a single car crash in the previous race at Bristol. While every assurance was made that he would find a way to make it to New England in time with his backup car, Padilla and crew were no where to be seen when tech opened Friday. This left the door wide open for defending champ Travis Franklin to reassert himself in the championship race.

Yet, by placing Fourth in the field with a 7.950 at 183.42 mph, Franklin would have his hands full if he was going to gain any headway in the championship battle. Sitting ahead of him were two-time event winner Don Burton with a 7.515, newcomer Mike Trimandilis with a 7.664, and four-time NSCA Limited Street champ Mike Modeste with a 7.761 at 187.68 mph. Rounding out the field of eight cars were Steve Hall, former NMCA Street Race champ Tim Meagher, Nick Bouneau, and Charlie Guilbault, who was running in a '93 Lightning pickup truck.

Franklin picked up the points lead once again in the first round when he defeated Guilbault in the opening round while Burton made quick business of getting by Steve Hall with a 7.548. Trimandilis then overcame Meagher's 0.010 holeshot to win 7.749 to 7.839. In a huge upset, Bouneau then got around Modeste after the latter broke. With just one points event to go, that loss effectively ended Modeste's chances for his first Fun Ford season title.

In the semifinals, Franklin took a shot at the tree when he faced off against Trimandilis and nailed a 0.008 reaction time only to get nipped at the finish line with a 7.778 to 7.721 loss. Burton then took an easy win to advance to his fourth final in a row as Bouneau took an even bigger gamble and lost on a red light.

With Burton facing Trimandilis, the finals were filled with intrigue. Burton's nitrous car has been all but unstoppable in his four appearances this year, with only one loss. That one defeat, however, was to a ProCharger engine combination, which is exactly what Trimandilis had used to post his fastest-ever speed at 195 mph earlier at this event. Trimandilis grabbed a 0.041 advantage at the start, but Burton's 7.626 e.t. was enough to overcome his lead and grab the win light over his 7.753 at 190.81. It was Burton's second victory in a row, but more important was the fact that it came with a $10,000 paycheck.

Borla Street Bandit had its share of drama at this event as well. With just a 41-point lead, three-time event winner Mac Sibley elected not to make the long trip up from Texas, which left him vulnerable in his quest to successfully defend last year's championship. Tom Conrad Jr., enjoying his well-earned title as the hardest working man in drag racing, was there with the opportunity to close the gap and even surpass Sibley with just one more points event to go. It wasn't meant to be though, as Norwalk runner-up Bob Cottone ended Conrad Jr.'s day in the first round. Cottone's 0.100 holeshot forced Conrad Jr. into a 10.512 breakout on the 10.60 class index in a vain attempt to catch up.