Originally created 07/20/98

Stewart takes top fuel title



Shannon Stewart's California Quake captured the top fuel hydro title with a less than spectacular Sunday run, but Mega Force's John Irvine wound up quakin' and shakin' at the end of the 13th annual Augusta Southern National drag boat races.

First, Irvine red-lighted at the start, then hung on during a wild and wooly ride and had to bail out of his boat when the left sponson cracked during the run and the boat filled with water and sank. He wasn't seriously hurt, but felt a bit queasy after swallowing some of the Savannah River.

"What a week!" Irvine exclaimed. "I started out going to the hospital on the first day (because of a shoulder dislocated in a post-race accident) and now I wind up inside an ambulance on the last day. It feels like fish are swimming around in my stomach."

He almost didn't get to make the pass. His boat had too much power on an early afternoon run and broke the vee drive. His crew worked furiously, but couldn't answer the call to the ramp, so his final pass essentially was for second place.

Stewart didn't push his boat hard: 7.84 seconds, 84.50 mph, saving it for the Oak Hollow Drag Boat Races in High Point, N.C., next weekend.

Lou Osman of St. Louis had one of the best top fuel rides of the day with a 207.657-mph, 5.92-second pass in the first round, eliminating hard-luck Joe Reinhardt of Charlotte, N.C., in Whadda Hoot.

Stewart had the day's quickest run with a 5.63-second, 202.747 mph, ousting Kebin Kinsley in Karl Petrik's Sundown, which broke down. But Osman couldn't answer the next call to the ramp and was disqualified, setting up the Stewart-Irvine final.

Kinsley made an exhibition pass of 201.06 mph in 5.79 seconds against Reinhardt, whose boat popped its motor on the run.

In other action, Tim Stokes of Eufaula, Okla., powered his Widowmaker to a heart-stopping blown alcohol hydro triumph over Randy Reynolds of Cocoa, Fla., despite losing a blower belt.

"It broke just before the finish and that's why I didn't have any top-end speed, but just enough to coast through the lights," said Stokes. His reaction time of 0.60 of a second at the start was the difference because Reynolds cut a .232 light and was forced to play catch up.

Reynolds finished his run in 5.91 seconds and 199.72 mph to Stokes' 6.06-second pass in 182.74.

"We just want to express our appreciation to the local committee people who went out of their way to help us this week," Stokes said. "We blew a tire on our trailer coming here and they took it off and put a new one on. Then we ran out of water after everybody had gone home and they got a hose a refilled our tanks. We're definitely coming back next year."

Jon Wright of Georgetown, Ky., who set an American Drag Boat Association elapsed time mark for unlimited outboards in 7.63 seconds, was a bit slower on his final run.

But his 7.938-second, 135.621-mph pass in Doo Dad's Tinker Toy was more than enough to defeat Paul Wheeler of Stark, Fla., in Bad Influence II (8.68, 110.485).

Phil (The Thrill) Hooper of Chesterfield, Va., pushed Wasted Nights to an ADBA-best elapsed time of 7.78 seconds over the weekend. He also won the combined blown alcohol flat/blown fuel jet class with a 6.76-second, 156.077-mph pass. Runner-up was "Downtown" Danny Gundlach of McHenry, Ill., in Alkahauler (7.509, 152.422).

Sam Shaffer of Cambridge, Iowa won a blown alcohol grudge race against John Haas of Allegans, Mich., pushing his Skywalker hydro to a weekend best 6.96, 175.54 mph. Hass' Executioner broke.



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