2014 New England Dragway
Double Tree by Hilton Hotel, Boston, North Shore
January 31, 2015
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Putting together a championship drive is tough. Ask anyone who was lucky enough to come out on top and they likely will tell you it’s a daunting task. That isn’t lost on Mark Winterbottom. But, to see him week in and week out you wonder if ever fazes. He is what many call a racing machine. Mark captured his 9th A&B Tire Pro Eliminator championship this year in dramatic fashion. Yet, even when he was locked into a tight, four-way battle with brothers Jared Kinson and Jason Mazzotta, and long time friend Joe Silva, Mark kept his cool.
Everything came down to the final VP Race Fuels ET Series events of the season. Kinson entered the day with a comfortable 56 point lead over Winterbottom, who held a slim two point margin over Kinson’s brother Jason and a four point lead over Silva. According to Mark he felt it was going to be a race for second place. “I figured it was pretty much a fight for number two,” he said. Mark knew in order to stay in the hunt he would have to go rounds and hope Kinson, Mazzotta and Silva fell early in competition. Part of that scenario came to fruition when Silva lost in round one and Kinson fell prey to a determined Shelby Kingsley in the third round. That meant Sylva ended his season with 444 points and Kinson would finish with 514 points; still ahead of Mark, but now vulnerable. Winterbottom kept his focus and moved forward scoring wins over Dave Nadeau in the second round and Bob Minarik in the third. Despite the fact Jared went out in round two, the pressure remained intense because Mark knew Jason was still in the hunt. It was really coming down to Mark winning the race for his spot on the podium. All the while Jason was beating up the competition until the fourth round when he came out on the short end of a double breakout with Dave Gibbons. Now it was up to Mark and his iconic Mustang.
Winterbottom had a bye run in the fourth round. It would prove to be his only easy win of the day. In the fifth he squared off against the fiercely competitive Joe Henderson. At this point he had a total of 488 points. When the run against Henderson was over he had 498. Round six found him against an equally tough Pat Smith. When the win light came on Mark had 508 points. Close, but still behind Kinson. The final would determine it all. Winterbottom came up against Dave Gibbons. Win this round and the championship was his. Lose and it was second place. It turned into a breakout affair with Mark coming out with the day’s win and another championship crown.
Mark is still wondering how it all came together. “Man this is a tough class. Any one of us in the top four that day could have won the championship. I still have a hard time believing it was me. ” The championship marks his eighth in the footbrake class. His ninth championship was in Indy Auto Parts Super Pro. Oh, and when you see Mark at this year’s banquet on January 31, be sure to ask him about a directive he gave to his doctor during a routine medical procedure. It’s something that is trademark Winterbottom!
It doesn’t come as a startling revelation that capturing a championship in any category at New England Dragway is the result of determination, skill and hard work. This year’s Indy Auto Parts Super Pro Champion Ray Knight is the epitome of those attributes. Ray has been part of the New England Dragway racing community for decades, recognized by his peers as one of the toughest drivers on the track. But, if you ask him about the most thrilling aspect of this year’s hard fought battle you will not hear stories about margins of victories measuring in the ten-thousandths or near perfect reaction times. Instead he will tell you it’s the opportunity to share the podium with his son Steven who captured the E.C.O.P.E. Junior Dragster crown.
Steven started coming to the track shortly after he was born. His mother Nancy would wheel his stroller to the grandstands and watch Ray battle week in and week out for the coveted championship. You would think that his was a natural progression into the Junior Dragster ranks, but it took Steven a while to warm up to the idea of competition. He was a bit timid at first. Yet, once he became comfortable in the cockpit the young Mr. Knight’s DNA took over and he emerged as a tough competitor in his own right.
Lucas Oil continues its commitment to NHRA Sportsman racing as the sponsor of the NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series. “Having come through the Sportsman ranks myself, I know how important it is to have the support you need to compete,” said Morgan Lucas of Lucas Oil Products. “These are our people, these are our customers. The Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series is the core of our sport. I know I speak for everyone at Lucas Oil when I say that we’re honored to continue title sponsorship of this series.” New England Dragway General Manager Joe Lombardo is equally excited about the announcement. “We are thrilled to be part of this exciting series. This is a marquee event dedicated to the backbone of NHRA drag racing. It’s their chance to shine in front of the fans in an event dedicated solely to sportsman competition.”
The NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series returns for a 14th season with premier events taking place across the country in all seven NHRA divisions it was announced today by NHRA officials. The 2015 schedule will feature 45 divisional events with a minimum of six in each of the seven divisions. There will also be 25 regional events featuring the 260-mph Top Alcohol Dragster and Top Alcohol Funny Car classes.
|Sat Jan 31 @ 6:00PM - 12:00AM|
2014 VP Racing Fuels Awards Banquet
|Sat Mar 21 @ 8:00AM - 05:00PM|
NHRA Chassis Certifications. By appointment only.
|Sun Mar 22 @ 8:00AM - 12:00PM|
NHRA Chassis Certifications. By appointment only.
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