The drama was high throughout the event and reached fever pitch during the final run of the evening – the A Final for Nitro Funny Car with Justin Walshe vying for his first Gold Nitro Funny Car Tree and visiting US star Tommy Johnson Jnr hoping to become the first American to come to Australia and win in both Top Fuel and Nitro Funny Car, after having won in both of those brackets at home in the States.
Walshe and Jnr ran side by side down the track with full candles to the delight of spectators, with Walshe crossing the finish line first with a 5.223 second pass at 373.74 kilometers per hour over TJ’s 5.592s pass at 296kph.
However, it was some moments before a winner could be announced, with the decision made by the meeting and technical officials following a detailed vision review and track inspection, when it was questioned as to whether Walshe’s header had hit a center line block, or if it was simply the fumes from his exhaust which had displaced it.
If it was ruled that it was part of the car which had hit the block, he would be disqualified and the win handed to the American, and everyone was on tenterhooks awaiting the verdict.
Ultimately, the decision was it was the fumes that displaced the block and Walshe was awarded a very well-deserved victory and presented with the trophy by 22-time national champion and Pro Alcohol racer, Gary Phillips.
“Eleven months ago, I lost my dad. He had come racing with me since I was 20 years old. We used to race group 3 dial your own and he couldn’t understand how I would go too fast and lose. We then stepped up to group 2 racing with the likes of Gary Phillips who is like a second dad to me, and also Graeme Cowin, who is like a third dad to me. And in Group 2 dad still didn’t understand what was going on.
“He would say to me, when are you going to race something where first to the end wins! Unfortunately, he isn’t here to see this. I am not religious or superstitious or anything, but he is watching over us today. There is no one I would rather accept this trophy from (Phillips) – this proves that the NDRC, this is what it is all about, guys like this, being able to award trophies to people like me, that is the big difference with this series.”
While he didn’t take the win, TJ was quick to congratulate Walshe and to forecast a return to challenge again.
“The XPro by Aeroflow Funny Car was on a really good run and then it started hunting around a bit, and I had so much clutch dust in the cabin I couldn’t see anything, so I just shut it off,” he explained.
“Justin and his guys did a great job, and I can’t thank Graeme Cowin and XPro enough for bringing me down here. Second is okay, but I want to go for first! I hope to be back, I am already looking forward to it – come on Graeme, let’s go!” he laughed.
The NDRC Group One Championship now heads to the Perth Motorplex for the Goldenstates across November 24 and 25, featuring Nitro Funny Car, Pro Alcohol and Top Doorslammer alongside the Aeroflow National Sportsman Championship, followed by Willowbank Raceway with Top Fuel, Pro Alcohol and Pro Mod alongside Australia’s best sportsman racers across December 1-2. For more information, visit www.nationaldragracing.com.au
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