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Need for speed: The sequel

Peninsula mayors 'break out' at Soldotna drag strip

Posted: Sunday, July 08, 2001

The Kenai Peninsula Racing Lions summer season's concludes today with the first dealership shootout and club drag races. Saturday, spectators turned out en masse for the second annual mayor's showdown and additional racing action.

The club is going strong and looking toward the future after two seasons of drag racing on the Kenai Peninsula.

Event coordinator Wendy Hudson said the group is looking to establish a more permanent facility for racing. The second annual event is one way they hope to get the organization's name out in the community.

"We thought it would be a neat way to bring the community together and to give the mayors a chance to see what we were doing," she said. "We see that there is a need for this in the community, not only to we focus on drag racing, but also motocross."

The organization has over 60 members and it averages from 15 to 30 or more racers, said Hudson. Saturday, 23 drivers showed up to test their cars.

Racers were divided into three levels of competition. Street Class vehicles dial in at 9.5 seconds or higher, Super Street Class cars dial in at 8 to 9.49 seconds and Pro Class cars can make the one-eighth of a mile strip in 7.99 seconds or less.

In the Street Class division, Rex Savely took first with his 1974 Plymouth Duster, Marty Anderson was second in a '92 Chevrolet pickup and Brian Robinson ended up in third with his '77 Pontiac Trans Am.

Bill Bushnell took first in his 1974 Chevrolet Nova, Mike Meyers took second in a 1968 Dodge Charger and Scott Walluk took third in a 2001 Ford Lightning pickup all in the Super Street division.

Only seven out of the 23 vehicles were classified at the highest, Pro level.

Bing Borden took first in his 225 dragster, second was Rod Peterkin in a 1968 Chevrolet Chevelle and Gary Tullos came in third with his F-560.

Tullos races at the strip regularly.

"It is great to be able to go 100 mph hour in seven seconds -- legally," he said. "I love racing, it is real exhilarating. The people here are really, really nice."

The general consensus is that the atmosphere of the track is like one large family.

"It is a great family group," said Joleen Border, whose granddaughter and husband both race. Her granddaughter, Kristina Coats is 11. This is her first year racing on the track.

"When I get old enough I want to drive with my grandpa," she said.

Coats may have long term goals for drag racing but, Nikki Baker, 12, said this is her last year out on the blacktop.

She said, she began to be with her father and because she liked the speed and the people.

Dan Petroz, a member and organizer of the Kenai Peninsula Racing Lions, said it really is the group of people that come out to race and watch that makes the weekends so fun.

"It's an awesome group of people," he said. "There are a lot more involved than anyone in the club ever expected. If there wasn't a need for it, there wouldn't be so many here."

The lions will be a the strip again today for more racing action and a shootout between Seekins Ford and Hutching's Chevrolet-Glacier Pontiac.

HEAD:Racing Lions wrap up season No. 2

BYLINE1:By CARLY BOSSERT

BYLINE2:Peninsula Clarion

The sister cities will remain on amicable terms despite a showdown on the blacktop Saturday between area mayors.

Kenai Peninsula Borough Mayor Dale Bagley claimed the title, bragging rights and $200 purse from Soldotna Mayor Dave Carey, Kenai Mayor John Williams and Homer Mayor Jack Cushing after taking first in a series of races at the Soldotna airport's drag strip.

The mayor's grudge match began last summer during the Kenai Peninsula Racing Lion's first year at the strip in Soldotna. Former Soldotna Mayor Ken Lancaster won the title last year by taking two out of three races against Williams.

This year Carey returned to defend Soldotna's name, but Bagley beat him to the finish line for the win.

Final standings found Bagley in first, Williams in second, Carey in third and Cushing in fourth.

The mayors competed against one another in a series of races that were hard to distinguish from trial runs. Cushing was as confused as many spectators. He said he thought they were still practicing when in reality the times were counting.

In what was apparently the first run, Cushing and Bagley went head-to-head as the tires on Cushing's Mustang squealed to the starting line. Bagley crept toward the line, but successfully beat Cushing in the end.

Williams made a false start on his first try down the track. Announcer Gene Chambers allowed him to give it another go after some teasing.

"Sometimes you have to let John Williams do something two or three times before he gets it right," he said to the crowd after telling Williams to quit showing off and get back to the line.

On his second try, although Williams' performance was lacking according to the announcer, he got to the finish line before Carey. However, he went too fast.

Williams broke out of his dial-in time, meaning that the he went faster than he said he would. The way the Lions set up the races, consistency is actually better than speed.

In the third trial, Bagley and Cushing went at it again, but Bagley added a little more squeal and prevailed.

Carey established a new dial-in time for his second try, but it didn't matter because he made a false start, or red lighted, and handed the win to his opponent, Bagley, by default.

Williams won against Cushing, knocking the Homer mayor down to fourth place in a fifth race. For the final run, Williams was pitted against Carey, but he red lighted and Carey automatically won.

Before the race, Carey and the others practiced runs down the 1/8 of a mile strip. Each had a chance to test their skills and cars before establishing a dial-in time.

All four mayors drove vehicles donated for the day by the weekend's sponsor, Seekins Ford. Cushing roared down the strip in a Mustang, which he dialed in at 9.55 seconds.

Williams was a little more sedate in his Crown Victoria which he said would take 12.35 seconds to reach the finish line, and Carey had a sportier bent with a 10.7-second Escape. The winner, Bagley, in true Alaskan style chose the F-250 super duty pickup truck.

"I think we all got the car that suited us," said Bagley, pointing out that he is a truck guy and Williams had the family car whereas Cushing and Carey ended up with vehicles more up their alley.

Williams agreed that it seemed like the cars matched their driver's personalities.

Bagley attributed the win to his decision to drive the truck.

"It was a pickup truck, that is what I always drive," he said. "I got here at 9 a.m. to get the one I wanted."

Cushing said he was surprised when he got there to find that Bagley had chosen the truck over the red Mustang. The choice wasn't a difficult one to make in his mind, he said.

After ending up fourth in the race, Cushing still said his car had the most power, and next year he wants to challenge the rest of the mayors to race with a manual transmission.

"We'll see if Mayor Williams' 92-thousandths of a second holds up then," he said. "Homer won in the stick class."

Once the cars were parked and the race was over, the mayors got together to tease one another about their standings.

Cushing jokingly threatened Bagley that there would be a big payback next time they golfed. Before the race Williams told the crowd he would beat the amateur mayors, being the seasoned racer he is. However, Williams said the youth proved to be a tough competitor.

"These young guys coming on are strong," he said.

Youth had another chance to prove itself in a tire rolling race in between heats on the track. Cushing gave Bagley a run for his money, literally, but the champion could not be dethroned.

As an added perk, Bagley was promised a ride in "Happy Bear," a customized 1936 Chevrolet pickup built by Bill Banta, which carried Lancaster as a winner to the finish line last year.

Additionally, for his efforts, Bagley received a check for $200 to donate to the charity of his choice. He said he will give the money to the Kenai Peninsula Food Bank.



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