Martinsville, IN: Jim “Shorty” Rader made the 33 hour tow from his Martinsville, IN home to Auto Club Raceway in Pomona, CA earlier this month to compete in the 7-car runoff for the NHRA Summit National Championship in Super Pro Eliminator. Rader earned his berth in the elite field nearly two months prior, when he emerged victorious from the NHRA North Central Division 3 E.T. Finals. There, the three time track champion drove his familiar Danny Nelson Racecraft Chassis dragster to the biggest victory of his career over a massive field of more than 250 entrants from the North Central region.
Each of NHRA’s seven divisions was then represented in Pomona, as each division champion was invited to compete in the runoff for the Summit Super Pro crown and the title of National Champion. As it would be for most sportsman competitors, just getting to the event was an obstacle for Rader.
“Yea, the logistics were a little intimidating,” admitted Rader who primarily competes within hours of his Martinsville home. “I took the week off work, and we set out Saturday morning, a week before the race. I had a group of buddies come with me, and we just drove straight through. I figured we wouldn’t get out that direction until sometime Monday, but we made it to the track Sunday afternoon with no problems. That gave us all some time to relax and do a little sight seeing. It was really a lot of fun.”
Another obstacle standing in Rader’s way was his lack of recent quarter mile racing experience. As a Division 3 competitor in Southern Indiana, the vast majority of Rader’s racing has been done on an 1/8th mile course. In fact, Rader hadn’t made a quarter mile pass of any sort in over two years, and never in his current dragster! In preparation for his trip to the west coast, Rader made a pair of quarter mile test runs at O’Reilly Raceway Park in Indianapolis to ensure that his combination and tune-up was compatible with the longer course.
Once he hit the track in Pomona, Rader and his machine were operating at full potential, as he made quick work of the all-star field. Rader opened eliminations with a perfect .000 reaction time alongside Division 7 representative Joe Brown, and ran a 7.658 on his 7.62 dial-in to get the round one victory. Then, in round two he dispensed Shawn Herbst, the Division 6 Champion in a breakout decision. Herbst held a slight edge on the starting line, .006 to .018, but broke out by .007 (8.993 on his 9.00 dial) to give a braking Rader the victory with a 7.661 on his 7.62 target.
“First round I was really fortunate,” admitted Rader. “Our run was in the middle of the afternoon, and at Pomona the sun really gets behind the tree. I had a hard time just seeing the amber bulbs. When I released the button, I thought I’d missed the tree, and I actually hit the bump down. Then it comes up .000, perfect. I was lucky there, what else can I say? And second round Mr. Herbst had me beat. He had a great light and I knew I couldn’t catch him as we approached the finish line. At that point what else can you do? I tapped the brakes and hoped he went under. Fortunately for me it worked out.”
That set up a final round confrontation with Phillip Owens of Georgia, the Division 2 champion, in a similarly equipped 7-second dragster. As if there weren’t enough tension and anxiety for each competitor coming into the Sunday evening final round, as the pair was suited up and in line to pull onto the racing surface, they were informed that their final would be pushed back to Monday morning.
“We were literally minutes away from pulling into the water box,” said Rader. “And the NHRA officials came over and told us that they’d hit curfew, we’d have to run it off in the morning. I thought, ‘Are you kidding me?’ That made for a restless night!”
After an additional 16 hours to think about the final, Rader and Owens squared off Monday morning for the right to be called NHRA National Champion. Similar to his performance in the final round of the Division 3 E.T. Finals (where he posted a stellar .011 package), Rader rose to the occasion with a .011 reaction time and dead-on 7.621 for a .012 package and the win. Owens was a formidable opponent, leaving with a great .009 reaction, but slowed to a 7.500 on his 7.46 target which made Rader the 2010 NHRA Summit Super Pro National Champion.
Despite posting excellent reaction times throughout the weekend and at the E.T. Finals, Rader once again directed all of the credit to his machine. He dialed 7.62 in each round of competition in Pomona, through the initial rounds on Sunday and the Monday finale.
“When we got here I made the first time trial and reviewed the information on my RPM Performance Data Recorder. From that we made a few adjustments to the fuel system and the car was incredible. It was on 7.62 the rest of the event.”
The winning car is a 2010 Racecraft Chassis Swing Arm Mono-Shock dragster. The car was built by Danny Nelson at the Racecraft shop and assembled by Rader. It features a 565 cubic inch Chevrolet Engine built by Freedom Engines in Brownsburg, IN. The combination includes a TCI Powerglide transmissi
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