BOWLING GREEN, Ky. – Although the weekend was bookended on both ends by wet weather, the ROUSH® Drag Racing Team took care of business and put their stamp on a very successful 2009 NMRA Ford Nationals racing season which concluded with the October 1-5 at Beech Bend Raceway in Bowling Green, Kentucky.
Don Bowles is the only competitor on the ROUSH® Drag Racing Team that races a heads-up class – Hot Street. This is a class that features the most technologically-advanced, small-block Ford engines around, assembled by the best builders on the planet. During the course of the 2009 season, Bowles has been immersed in a points battle with the 2008 class champion, fellow ROUSH® Competition Engines customer Robbie Blankenship. This battle came down to the final event of the year, as Bowles started to find his groove with the ’72 Maverick he debuted at the season-opening race.
Thanks to the ROUSH® Competition Engines-built power between the frame rails, Bowles consistently found himself at- or near- the top of the qualifying ladder, and this event was no exception. Three-time class champion Charlie Booze Jr. took the top spot with an 8.59, but Bowles ended the three qualifying sessions with a strong 8.66 to land in second, setting himself up well for the elimination rounds. He faced off against Keith Courtney in the first round of competition, and improved to an 8.62 to take the win, well ahead of Courtney’s 8.73 pass. Then, in the second round of competition, Don came up against “Bangin’ Bob” Hanlon, one of the quicker racers in the class. Although Hanlon got moving first with a .033 reaction time to Don’s .053, at the top end, it was all Bowles, as he crossed the stripe with an 8.63 to Hanlon’s 8.73, an eerie reminder of round one versus Courtney. One of the next pairs up on the starting line was Blankenship and Max Gross, who is typically deadly on the tree. Gross not only treed Blankenship, he also pulled an 8.62 out of his hat to finish Blankenship’s title hopes, and clinch the 2009 Hot Street Championship for Don Bowles – his first since the championship he won in NHRA’s Modified Eliminator class back in 1980. However, the race wasn’t over. Bowles had a bye run straight into the final round, where he met up with number one qualifier Booze. Booze showed why he was a three-time champion in the class, strapping a killer .015 reaction time on Don, then outrunning him to the finish line to earn the event win.
Both Donnie Bowles and Susan Roush-McClenaghan came into this event with an opportunity to take the championship in their class, the ROUSH® Performance-sponsored Modular Muscle class. Modular Muscle is a class that focuses on Ford’s Modular powerplant that can be installed in any Ford-bodied vehicle for competition. The qualifying is based on reaction time, and the toughest racers in the NMRA call this class their home. To clarify, a .040 reaction time was only good for 14th on the ladder, showing the dedication these racers put into their cars.
As qualifying progressed, Susan turned in a .008 reaction time, which placed her fifth on the ladder. Reggie Burnette Jr., the other racer in the points chase, then threw down a .004 reaction time, only to be eclipsed by Donnie’s .003 final qualifying pass to set the ladder heading into Sunday’s eliminations. Donnie took advantage of his first-round bye to check out the track surface, while Susan advanced easily when her first-round opponent broke out, keeping everyone’s championship hopes alive heading into the second round. There, Susan saw her title hopes evaporate at the hands of Georgia’s Gary Parker, who ran closer to the number to eliminate her. However, Donnie was still in it after eliminating Brad Phoenix in an incredibly close race - a scant 0.006 second difference at the stripe. In the third round of competition it all unraveled, as Parker then turned around and eliminated Donnie from the weekend’s race, along with quashing his class championship hopes. Nevertheless, it was still an excellent season showing for the ROUSH® Drag Racing Team – one Championship and a number two and three points finish, respectively.
The ROUSH Drag Team carries sponsorship from 3M, Valvoline, Mickey Thompson and ROUSH.
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