Columbus Phil Burkart Race Story

BURKART GETS FIRST NHRA FUNNY CAR WIN KIRKERSVILLE, Ohio - Phil Burkart won his first ever national event at the 35th annual Pontiac Excitement Nationals at National Trail Raceway on Sunday. In only his tenth race ever in a nitro...

BURKART GETS FIRST NHRA FUNNY CAR WIN

KIRKERSVILLE, Ohio - Phil Burkart won his first ever national event at the 35th annual Pontiac Excitement Nationals at National Trail Raceway on Sunday. In only his tenth race ever in a nitro powered Funny Car, Burkart took home the trophy. "This is just phenomenal," said Burkart. "All my guys came running down the track and everybody is ecstatic. There the big winners, I just can't say enough about them. We knew the car would go up and down the race track, or hope so anyway. We didn't want to worry about the guy next to us. This track is really tricky. If you get down the track and do it in a timely fashion then it's anybody's race out here." Burkart, from Yorkville, N.Y., covered the quarter-mile in 5.163 seconds at a speed of 280.89 mph in his Funny Car compared to Tim Wilkerson, who lost traction, and ran an 8.707 at 98.79. Burkart had to defeat the legendary John Force in the semi's in order to face Wilkerson in the final. Force led the race most of the way before Burkart caught him and took the win. "I saw him have a problem over there and start moving around. I really didn't know until I saw my light at the other end of the track come on whether I got him or not. It was pretty close. John is a great guy. He came over and congratulated us. To have him come over and pat you on the back and shake your hand after we just took him out in one round of competition. That is just awesome. That is great sportsmanship there. The camaraderie in this sport is like no other." After qualifying in the number 14 slot, no one was really betting on Burkart to be victorious. "We were struggling," said Burkart. "We were lucky to get into the show, and it just goes to show you that anybody that is in the show can win the event." Doug Herbert, Warren Johnson, Antron Brown and John Coughlin also were winners of their respective categories. The $1.5 million race was the tenth of 22 events in the $40 million NHRA Winston Drag Racing Series. Herbert, from Cherryville, N.C., earned his second Top Fuel victory of the year by running a 4.696 at 313.00 which was enough to get past Bob Vandergriff's pass of 4.763 at 282.84. "This is where we won in '93," said Herbert. "To come back here and win this year is just incredible. All my crew guys did a tremendous job today. I'm just ecstatic. Every win to me is just awesome. There was nothing more important to me than winning this race. I think that our team is picking up momentum and (crew chief Dick) LaHaie is getting a handle on the thing." Herbert has three career victories in the NHRA, two this season. The other win came in 1993 at this track. He attributes all of this year's success to LaHaie. "The key to our success is LaHaie. He gives me confidence by giving me a good race car. It's right. I don't have to worry about the car's performance (on a run), all I have to do is concentrate on my driving." Buford, Ga.'s, Johnson earned his fifth Pro Stock win of the year and upped his career victory total to 77. The defending NHRA Winston champion ran a 7.008 at 197.57 to hold of hometown hero Jeg Coughlin's run of 7.061 at 197.97. Je. Coughlin took his time to stage in the final, a patented Johnson move. "It didn't bother me," said Johnson. "Jeggy and I have a pretty good understanding and both of us go in when we're ready. I respect him as a driver because he does an excellent job on the starting line, so you have to be mentally prepared as well as you possibly can be. It may take a little longer against him than some of the other drivers, but it's a case of making sure no stones are unturned when you get up there. Johnson once again had a clean sweep of this weekend's events. He won, was the number one qualifier, had the lowest elapsed time, and had the top speed. "I can't say we had too bad of a weekend," said Johnson. We didn't leave too many scraps on the table. We got the low qualifier check and won the race. The only thing that would have been better is if Kurt (Johnson) had been runner-up. We're happy with the way it turned out. The Jeg's group is awfully tough. They have plenty of manpower and money isn't a problem, so when you beat that camp at their home track you've done a days work. Local Pro Stock Truck favorite John Coughlin, of Columbus, Ohio, earned his first victory of the season by using his run of 7.707 at 175.05 to defeat the favored Brad Jeter, who ran a 7.751 at 175.32. Jo. Coughlin, in his rookie season, also credited his crew for the victory. "Dad and the crew set up the car and to run in the right lane, and he said we had something to race with and he was right. I have the easy job driving, the crew has the tough job of making this whole thing work. Hats off to my dad and the whole crew for making this thing work." This win holds a little more value than a victory on the road. Jo. Coughlin was able to earn his first pro victory on his home track. "It's awesome," said Jo. Coughlin. "We won in 1993 in Super Gas and winning this year at home for the first pro class win I have ever had is great with our friends and family all here rooting us on. It is just awesome." Pro Stock Motorcycle rider Brown, of Chesterfield, N.J., visited the winner's circle for the second time this season. His run of 7.350 at 183.79 edged past David Schultz and his run of 7.377 at 182.80. "We felt real confident going into the final round," said Brown. "All I wanted to do was stay focused and cut a nice light and click them gears. We got this win and it feels awesome. I just came out here and tried to stay on my game. Once I clicked it into fifth gear I was like 'I got it', and then I was looking at the (sand) trap because I was worried about trying to slow down. I almost didn't slow down at the other end because I was pumping my fist in the air so much." This victory put to rest any ideas that Brown's first win this year was a fluke. At that event Brown won on four straight fouls. "That's racing," Brown said. "It was kind of a fluke how everybody red lighted. A win is a win and I didn't think anything about it, so I just came out here and cut some descent lights and everything else took care of itself." After winning the event Brown called his team owner, Troy Vincent, a cornerback for the Philadelphia Eagles. "I talked to him on his cell phone and (Troy) was pretty happy. I told him, 'This is for you daddy', and he told me I have to bring it home, bring it home."

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Series NHRA
Drivers Doug Herbert , Antron Brown , Jeg Coughlin , Brad Jeter , Warren Johnson , John Force , Phil Burkart , Bob Vandergriff