Shields Wins NHRA Winternationals Convincingly
POMONA CA - Duane Shields of Las Vegas won the 51st annual Kragen O'Reilly NHRA Winternationals presented by Valvoline, beating Don St. Arnaud of Edmonton in the final round on Sunday, February 27. Shields ran consistently well throughout the weekend and qualified his A/Fuel Dragster in the pole position of the Top Alcohol Dragster class. The historic event was even more special as it celebrated NHRA's 60th year.
After winning one of drag racing's most prestigious events, it would appear that the win capped a great week for Duane Shields. But away from the track it was a difficult week as one of his close friends, Laurie Nason has been in a Las Vegas area hospital fighting for her life. And to start the week, Shields attended the funeral of his 20 year old nephew. "It's been a very trying week for me personally" Shields said.
Shields qualified fifth with a respectable 5.36 in the opening round on Thursday. With the qualifying schedule up in the air due to inclement weather on Saturday, Shields left Pomona for much of the day. "I flew from Ontario to Las Vegas to visit Laurie in the hospital and then I got back to Pomona just in time for the final round of qualifying where we qualified number one" Shield recalled. Shields took the pole position with a sizzling 5.23 at 271 MPH.
On Sunday, Shields got a bye run in the first round but still made the most of it with another great pass, posting a 5.25 at 272 MPH. In the second round, Shields faced Kyle Rizzoli who got out of the gate first with a 0.050 to Shields' 0.071. Shields was able to overcome the starting line deficit as he charged past Rizzoli before half track scoring the fastest run of the event with another 5.25 at 275 MPH to Rizzoli's 5.34 at 271 MPH. "I knew Rizzoli was going to be tough as he has a lot sportsman racing experience and is good at the starting line" Shields said.
The competition didn't get any easier in the semi finals as Shields took on Shawn Cowie who was also in "the zone" and had posted a 5.24 in the opening round and a 5.26 in the prior round. At the hit, Cowie went red which gave the win to Shields. Shields continued to show consistency with a 5.28 at 268 MPH pass while Cowie recorded a 5.25 at 261 MPH run to prove that it would have been a close race. "We got real lucky and got a break as Cowie had a very good run" Shields explained.
In the final round, Shields would battle first time finalist, Don St. Arnaud from Edmonton. "I get a little nervous facing a first time finalist because I've made many of them first time winners over the years" Shields said. Shields was also a little nervous about the track conditions. "It was getting cooler by the minute and they didn't run any cars for about twenty minutes prior to the finals in the Top Alcohol classes, but NHRA did a good job prepping the track and had jet track driers heating the track" said Shields.
The final round was another dandy as Shields made a fourth straight run during eliminations in the 5.20 range. As the light went green it was St. Arnaud off the line first with a 0.050 to Shields' 0.078 but that was as much of a lead as St. Arnaud would get as Shields blew by him 300 feet into the run and never looked back to score the Winternationals victory. Shields recorded a 5.27 at 274 MPH over St. Arnaud's 5.38 at 268 MPH. "St. Arnaud ran well. He has some former members from the Lucas team helping him. There were no easy match ups today as every round was tough. The field has tightened up and the racing will be very close all year" Shields predicted.
Shields thanked his crew for turning the car around in some very tight time frames, sometimes less than an hour. He then made a special dedication to his hospitalized friend, "I am dedicating this win to Laurie Nason. I have been her cancer coach for eleven years" Shields said.
Along with his crew, Shields thanked his sponsors Hussey Copper and NGK Spark Plugs.
-source: duane shields PR