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Drag Racing Story of the Day!

MIR Spring FC Classic Titles to
Gibson, Plummer, Hayes

By Bill Pratt
Photos by Tim Pratt

Billy Gibson won the 2000 MIR Funny Car Classic in his G&H Jewelers Camaro. Photo by Bryan Epps
Billy Gibson won the 2000 MIR Funny Car Classic in his G&H Jewelers Camaro.
Handout photo by Bryan Epps

June 10, 2000 - Budds Creek, Maryland – Maryland International Raceway hosted the eighth Annual Spring Funny Car Classic Saturday night. The race featured the War on Wheels funny car circuit, Royce Miller's own Frantic Four dragsters, altereds, and doorslammers, and two Jet Funny Car exhibitions.
Doug Nordberg put the Young Guns Fiat altered into the Frantic Four field. Photo by Tim PrattFrantic Four Dragster/Altered qualifying was up first. When the smoke had cleared, Palm City, Florida's Steve McMillion led the field with the Godfather Pro Outlaw machine. The blown 500-inch Chevy powered dragster slammed into the number one spot with a great 6.441 second, 218.69-mph blast. Larry Plummer's nitrous-fed 706 cubic inch missile qualified second at 6.757, 200.05, although he went 6.52 on an earlier time run. Bruce Bennett's totally outrageous retro-Top Fuel looking Chevy dragster was third quickest at 6.800, 205.63. On the bump was Doug Nordberg's awesome "Young Guns" '48 Fiat Topolino from Buana, NJ, with an early shut off 6.806, 164.65 effort. 

Neither Steve Wilson nor Leroy Dewdney made the Frantic Four cut. Tim Pratt photo.On the outside looking in were Richard Wilson's nitrous dragster, 6.817, 203.83; Phillip Adams' A&A Motorsports nitrous digger, 6.933, 196.82; Bob Holtzner's Miller Lite blown dragster, 7.006, 192.93; Leroy Dewdney in Bob White's EMCO Elevators '00 S&W Altered, 7.380, 204.39, and Sorrento, Florida's Ross Morris in a nitrous dragster.

Billy Farmer put his nitrous Corvette on the pole in Frantic Four. Tim Pratt photoTo nobody's surprise, Billy Farmer led the Frantic Four Doorslammer qualifying. The reigning series champ put his C&B Racing 706-inch nitrous Corvette went 6.775 at 205.13 mph to take the pole. Following Farmer was Marc Hayes and his ever improving '99 Monte Carlo nitrous machine at 6.798, 208.26. Veteran doorslammer racer and international superstar Tommy Howes qualified third, putting the blown '92 Camaro into the field with a fat 7.075, 197.51 pass. Former Frantic Four series champ and nitrous pioneer Bob Bailey put his huge '86 Monte Carlo onto the bump with a 7.075, 186.77 pass. 

Robert Tyree's (no, that's not him) new '57 Chevy is a work of art. Tim Pratt photoThree gorgeous machines filled out the DNQ list. Steve Thodos's flawless '63 Corvette went 7.689, 184.50; Robert Tyree's immaculate '57 Chevy went 7.927, 174.53; and Terry Stemper went 9.013, 144.64, while still shaking out his new "Sorcerer" '63 Corvette.

Sam Leland burns out in the Mason Dixon Raider moments before trying to flip it. Tim Pratt photoFunny Car round one kicked off with Billy Gibson taking the G&H Jewelers '95 Camaro to a win and Low ET of the Meet with a flawless 6.072, 231.52 effort in the 95 degree heat. The major action was occurring in the other lane, however. Sam Leland stayed side by side with the Camaro until half-track, when the Dodge Avenger started smoking the tires and got out of the groove. When the Avenger hooked again, it shot up on two wheels, showing the pit side bleachers a good view of the complete underside of a funny car. Somehow, Leland was able to get the car under control to coast through the lights in 9.48 seconds.
Bruce Mullins lines up against Bill Naves in Round One. Tim Pratt photoUp next was Bruce Mullins' beautiful War Horse Mustang against journeyman racer Bill Naves in the Shooting Star Cutlass. Mullins, who had run a career best of 6.081 seconds the previous night at Cecil County, hoped for more of the same at MIR. He was about two tenths off that pace, but his 6.284, 223.65, still led Naves' 6.534, 213.30 effort.
Greg Beckner and Mike Preslar with two distinctly different Corvettes. Tim Pratt photoMike Preslar was up next against Greg Beckner's pure Chevy '93 Corvette. Preslar, his new '00 Corvette, his rig, and his crew were decked out in the livery of new sponsor Alliance Tractor - Trailer Training Centers. Preslar always seems to be able to find corporate backing. Beckner was making one of his first appearances with Bunny Burkett's War on Wheels circuit. His unique machine features a rare 440 inch Rodeck Chevy power plant built by a circle track engine builder!) Beckner laid down the best burnout of the night, and possibly the best burnout seen at MIR in years. However, the Chevy was somewhat less impressive on the run, and Preslar easily won with an early-chute 6.333, 193.82 pass over the Chevy's 7.221, 189.84.

Bunny Burkett prepares to blast down the quarter. Royce Miller and starter Jeff Taylor look on. Tim Pratt photoBunny Burkett then ran a single due to a no-show. The event featured ‘Chicago Style" eliminations, meaning that the two quickest cars from the first two rounds would meet in the final. With that goal in mind, the grand dame of alcohol funny car racing blasted down the MIR 1320 in 6.242 seconds at 215.65 mph, temporarily bumping the War Horse out of the final.

Ernie Bouge, Jr., lays down a fog bank at MIR. Tim Pratt photoUp next were the Jets. Ernie Bouge, Jr., brought out the great looking new "Blast from the Past" '57 Chevy Jet Funny Car and went 6.177 at 261.27 mph after a great fire show. 

Jim Neilson's jet limo -- the ultimate prom ride! Tim Pratt photoJim Neilson brought his ageless Mercedes jet limousine. After a great fire show, Neilson blasted the long, heavy car to a 7.492 second run at 216.13 mph.

Second round of the show kicked off with the first round of the Frantic Four doorslammers. First, Billy Farmer lined up against Bob Bailey in a battle of series champions. At the hit, Farmer immediately went towards the right guardrail. He got of it, got back on it, then got crossed up again. However in the other lane, Bailey lost power at half track and started to coast. Seeing this, Farmer nailed the throttle again and passed the Monte Carlo for the win! Farmer went 7.590 at 190.09 to Bailey's unfortunate 11.04.

Marc Hayes faced Tommy Howes in the next match. Hayes had looked good with an out of the box 6.79 qualifier and similar numbers at the last race. Howes was definitely running rich after annihilating his motor at the previous event, but the first doorslammer driver in the sixes was expected to set it on kill for his match against the upstart Hayes. Marc Hayes showed he will be a force to contend with for the series championship this year, however, nailing the blown car with a great 6.740, 208.55 to Tommy's 7.053 at 184.25.

Frantic Four Dragsters/Altereds were up next, with Bruce Bennett's blown Chevy facing Larry Plummer's nitrous Pontiac. Fans expecting the neat "rump-rump-rump" of Bennett's ‘70s Top Fuel look-alike were disappointed by total silence as the Chevy lost oil pressure. Plummer, who has had consistency problems this year, seemed to put them behind him with a great 6.472 blast at 205.29 mph.

Steve McMillion and Doug Nordberg getting ready to rock! Tim Pratt photoSteve McMillion's killer dragster then faced Doug Nordberg in the neat "Young Guns" Fiat altered. Nordberg grabbed a nice holeshot, then wrestled it down the strip, holding off the dragster for most of the run. McMillion caught up and passed the Fiat but then shut off and the Fiat surged again. At the stripe, the cars were still together, but McMillion got there .056 seconds before the altered, 6.576, 176.67 to Nordberg's career best 6.710 at 199.52 mph. Nordberg later said the car kept jumping out of third gear, forcing him to slam it back in twice during the run!

Nitro Harley rider Jamie Emery smokes it! Tim Pratt photoNitro Harley racer Jamie Emery, fresh off a win at the All Harley Drag Racing Association event in Norwalk, Ohio, made an exhibition pass. The Colton's Point, Maryland, racer went 7.054 at 191.43 mph.

Sam Leland won the race on a holeshot, but Mike Preslar went to the final. Tim Pratt photoSam Leland won the battle but lost the war in the first funny car match of the second round. Facing Mike Preslar, Leland grabbed a .481 to .525 second holeshot and hung on for a superb 6.227, 226.85 mph to 6.195, 188.96 mph win. However, Chicago Style rules dictate only that the two quickest cars return or the final, not the two quickest winning cars. Despite the loss, Preslar moved ahead of Bunny for the right to face Gibson in the final.

Bruce Mullins and Billy Gibson line up for a second round match. Tim Pratt photoBilly Gibson faced Bruce Mullins next. Bruce and Pattie set up the War Horse exactly as it was on the 6.08 Cecil County run the night before, and were hoping for at least a low ‘teen. It wasn't there, however, and the G&H Jewelers car overcame Mullins' holeshot to win, 6.111, 231.64, to 6.236, 218.48. Gibson's 231.64 was Top Speed of the Meet.

Greg Beckner and Bunny line up in the second round. Tim Pratt photoBunny Burkett then lined up against Greg Beckner's pure Chevy. She was hot to eclipse Mike Preslar's 6.19 to get into the final, but the Bunny and the Boys Avenger took a sharp turn for the centerline and Bunny had to correct. This momentary delay held her to a 6.490 at 217.46 mph. In the other lane, Beckner was having problems of his own, the car again running flat and going 7.353 at 155.63 mph. Greg and his crew later discovered that the car had cracked a gasket on the first run, keeping the car away from its 6.40 potential on both passes.

Billy Naves flashes by on his second round single. Tim Pratt photoBill Naves finished out the round with a single. The Cleveland, North Carolina, driver went straight and true at 6.591 seconds, 210.90 mph.

Ernie Bouge, Jr., fires it up! Tim Pratt photoThe jets then did their thing again. Neilson got no time, but made a good blast. Bouge Jr., who still has a Pro Mod Chevy Beretta back home in the garage, went a consistent 6.18 at 252.43 mph.

Billy Farmer and Marc Hayes back up through burnout smoke before the final. Tim Pratt photoThe final round kicked off with the Frantic Four doorslammers. Billy Farmer has ruled the roost at MIR during 1999 and 2000, but Marc Hayes had been impressive recently, matching Farmer's 6.70s. Hayes had lane choice for the final, too. After two smoky burnouts, the two 706 inch nitrous machines left the line dead even with .491 reaction times! It was all about the performance after that and Hayes had just enough to hold off Farmer, 6.727 at a booming 210.01 mph to Farmer's close 6.756 at 204.94 mph. The margin of victory was .029 seconds – about eight feet! Marc Hayes and his candy tangerine Monte Carlo are going to be a handful during the remainder of the 2000 Frantic Four season at MIR.

Larry Plummer prepares to enter the 6.30 zone on his final pass. Tim Pratt photoAs great as the Frantic Four door car final was, the Frantic Four Dragster/Altered final was somewhat disappointing. Steve McMillion had hurt his dragster on the run against Nordberg and couldn't return to face Plummer in the final. Larry Plummer had something to prove however. At the green, the nitrous machine stood up and marched for 500 feet with its front wheels in the air. After a smooth shift, the purple digger kept marching for the top end. The result? A superb 6.388 at 212.36 mph that would have been tough to beat.

Mike Preslar lines up for the final round match against Billy Gibson. Tim Pratt photoThe funny car final had its share of excitement, but it wasn't the kind Mike Preslar wanted to see. Preslar left first and led the race through every stage until about 900 feet. At that point, his engine sneezed, blowing the burst plate on the blower and getting oil underneath the tires. Preslar pulled his chutes to straighten the car and that was all Billy Gibson needed. The '95 Camaro blew past the '00 Corvette to take a 6.172 at 230.80 mph to 6.780 at 140.74 mph win. It was a heartbreaking and expensive loss for Preslar, who otherwise looked to be holding off Gibson's IHRA speed record-holding top end charge. Gibson, a true hometown hero from nearby Chaptico, Maryland, has won at MIR in Super Pro, Pro Stock, Pro Mod, and now Funny Car. And he's only 25!

The event ended with a unique twist on the jet cars. Royce Miller grabbed two flashlights and sent the jets on a staggered start, side by side race! Neilson left first with the huge and heavy jet limo. Two ticks later, Royce dropped the flashlight to send Bouge, Jr. Bouge, Jr's '57 got there first, nipping the limo in the lights, 6.151, 262.79 mph to 7.546, 216.76 mph.

Lil' Bear Pritchett and Stephanie Chappell get ready to rock! Tim Pratt photoIn addition to the big cars, the Junior Funny Cars of Stephanie Chappell and "Lil' Bear" Pritchett staged a three round match race during the pro rounds. The young lady from Clinton, Maryland, beat "Lil' Bear" three straight, scoring a solid victory for "Girl Power."

The next MIR special event is the Maryland Pennysaver Superchargers Showdown on July 8, featuring supercharged Funny Cars and Pro Mods, Jet Dragsters, Nitro Harleys, and for the kids, "Tranasaurus" – a fire breathing, car eating dinosaur. Check out http://www.mirdrag.com/ for info on all upcoming MIR events.

Bill Pratt

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