14th Annual Holley National Hot Rod Reunion, June 18, 2016, Beech Bend Raceway, Bowling Green, Ky. — Using a mixture of fluid mechanics, dicey determination, and sheer driving skill, Adam Sorokin muscled his Bob McLennan-tuned “Champion Speed Shop” AA/Fuel Dragster to the Winner’s Circle here and to the top of the NHRA Heritage Series’ Top Fuel Points Chart.
After qualifying in the #2 spot for the 8-Car eliminator with a 5.64 elapsed time at 246 mph — with about as big a nitro percentage as is mathematically possible — Sorokin handily dispatched Tyler Hilton’s “Great Expectations III” in the opening round with a 5.83 to trailer Hilton’s 8.01. It was never that easy for the rest of the day: In the semi-final round, Sorokin strangled the starting-line Xmas tree with an extraordinary .026-second reaction time to seize the lead against fellow California Rick White, who cut a very reasonable light and began a ferocious pursuit that culminated in the “Neal & White” dragster catching the Champion car at 1000′, whereupon White’s mill began nosing over while Sorokin — who was out of the groove at half-track and nearly hit the wall at 1000′ — stabbed it back out of the marbles and finished just ahead of his opponent. Sorokin’s ET: 5.79 seconds. White’s: 5.80 at a piston-puffing 235 mph. The margin of victory was 9/100ths of second.
“That was full opposite lock,” Sorokin explained as to how he manhandled his ill-handling mount under full throttle when his race looked lost.
That win advanced Sorokin into the final round against another Californian, Santa Rosa’s Jim Murphy and his Roland Leong-tuned “WW2” railjob, who had spent the afternoon dispatching the creme de la creme of modern front-engine Top Fuel racing. Murphy’s first victim was recent March Meet winner Rick Williamson. As Williamson laid down a 5.87 at 247 mph, victory was within his grasp until half-track when Murphy’s mount suddenly gained another burst of steam and the WW2 machine tripped the timers in 5.74 seconds and at an indomitable 260 mph. Unfortunately for Williamson, he lost not only the round but also the points lead, which was now up for the taking, specifically among Sorokin, Murphy and Murphy’s next victim, Long Island City’s Tony Bartone.
Yes, in the ww2/Bartone semi-final heat, Murphy once again made massive amounts of horsepower and stopped the clocks first in 5.68 seconds with a top-end speed of 245 mph. Bartone’s mount quit a couple of hundred feet into the run, after a barrel valve fitting broke, dousing the New Yorker with a faceful of nitro.
This left Bartone — the two-time defending Heritage Series Points Champ — in an unfamiliar, if not uncomfortable position, the 4th slot in the Points Race. This despite Bartone and his Steve Boggs-tuned rail setting Low ET here with a 5.60.
“It ain’t over yet,” Bartone vowed. True, but the reality is that his always stout dragster will probably have to run the table during the remaining two Heritage Series races (Boise and Bakersfield) if he is to claim a third-straight Top Fuel Points Title.
Meanwhile, both Jim Murphy and Adam Sorokin were still in points-accumulating mode. The winner of their final-round battle would leave with a Wally and also the Points Lead.
To that end, after another holeshot by Sorokin, both drivers used up a lot of real estate trying to find and re-find the groove. Murphy clicked it as Sorokin once again played with the marbles during the last 320 feet of the dragstrip and clocked a victorious 5.76 at 237 mph to Murphy’s valiant but losing 6.37 at 158 mph. (Some would maintain that this kind of top-end action is why real drag racing is 1/4-mile long.)
“We are no longer a pretender, but a contender,” Murphy said, knowing that he set Top Speed here at 260-mph and he is only two rounds behind Sorokin in the Points Chase.
“We are back,” Sorokin exclaimed. In humility, he admitted that the final round was a proverbial pick ’em and with the competition this tight and unpredictable, could have gone either way. Sometimes, the saying goes, in order to be the Champion you have to win some coin tosses. And sometimes one has to grab the coin and make it do one’s bidding.
Sorokin, Murphy, Williamson, and Bartone — numbers 1 through 4 in the points — will all be at the next race on the NHRA Heritage Series Top Fuel docket, Boise’s Pepsi Nightfire Nationals in August.