Rick Santos Named Three-Time F-M Dragster Champ

SUN VALLEY, Calif. (September 22, 1999) --- This year wasn't as dramatic, but certainly as special as the Oakwood Homes team became three-time World Champions on Saturday, September 18. In 1997, to everyone's surprise, Rick Santos and his Jack ...

SUN VALLEY, Calif. (September 22, 1999) --- This year wasn't as dramatic, but certainly as special as the Oakwood Homes team became three-time World Champions on Saturday, September 18. In 1997, to everyone's surprise, Rick Santos and his Jack O'Bannon Racing team pulled a World Championship title out of their hats at the last Division Seven event of the season. Then in 1998, Santos clinched the title after Darrell Russell lost in the semi-finals at the Revell Nationals in Dallas, Texas. Santos went on to win that race as well, making it quite a celebration. "We were pretty sure we had it wrapped up after our U.S. Nationals win at Indy," said Santos. "But you never know. There was a chance Shawn Bowen could have ended up with a perfect season and actually beaten us." That chance ended when Bowen lost in the first round of eliminations at the Keystone Nationals in Reading, Pa., on Saturday, September 18. "It's just amazing to win three consecutive World Championships," adds Santos. "This is a tough, competitive class, but the Oakwood Homes team has been unbelievable this year. We didn't think we could top last year, but we won the championship a month earlier than we did last year, and we ended with a perfect season." Santos' claim to a perfect season came because he won five divisional events and five national events. This feat has only been accomplished once in Federal-Mogul Dragster. The late Blaine Johnson accomplished it in 1992.

Santos' 1999 national wins came at Pomona (Calif.) Raceway, Atlanta (Ga.) Dragway, Old Bridge Township Raceway Park (N.J.), Brainerd (Minn.) International Raceway and Indianapolis (Ind.) Raceway Park. Santos' five divisional wins came at Speedworld (Ariz.) Motorplex, Firebird (Idaho) Raceway, Famoso (Calif.) Raceway, Sears Point (Calif.) Raceway and Woodburn (Ore.) Dragstrip. Santos has 10 wins in 14 starts and has been top qualifier five times at a national level and four times at a divisional level this year. "I couldn't ask for anything more than what I have here with the Oakwood Homes Racing team," added Santos. "We are like a family and every person on this team has been instrumental in the success we have had. This is only our third full season and all the team members have been together since our first race in April of 1996. That consistency has been a key factor in that success. Everyone knows their role and we have developed a lot of trust amongst one another." "I can't say enough about team owners Jack and Beverly O'Bannon, crew chief Norm Grimes, my dad George and brother Jeff and crew members Alan Russell and John Layfield. They are the ones that have made this third championship possible." What makes this championship even more special to Santos is that he won it with a car that he built from scratch. "I started building the car in November of 1997," said Santos. "It was a night and weekend project that was treated like a hobby. My dad George and brother Jeff both helped a lot. It is the first alcohol car I have ever built, but I have built a super comp and comp eliminator car before. The car is lighter with a smaller motor than our old car. The serial number on the car is 003, and ironically, we won our third title. The car also became the fastest alcohol dragster in the world with a 5.39-second pass during the Southern Nationals in Atlanta, Ga. Since the debut of the car at Pomona, the team has boasted two runs in the 5.3-second range, 20 runs in the 5.4-second range and 42 in the 5.5-second range. Santos' 1999 season, however, was not without problems. A series of broken rods put the Oakwood Homes Dragster out of several events early. "This season could have been even better," said Santos. "Our losses in Utah, Denver and Seattle all came because of broken parts. We made some changes after Seattle and things have been good." Santos only failed to make it to the semi-finals once, when he lost in the second round on a hole shot to Darren Nicholson at the national event in Phoenix, Ariz. Santos and the Oakwood Homes team clinched the Division Seven title for the third consecutive year at the Division Six race at Woodburn Dragstrip in July. "Last year we won every divisional race we entered," said Santos. "So although it was a good effort, we were feeling more pressure than we should have. It was nice to get it out of the way early, so we could concentrate on wrapping up the national title." Since joining with Jack O'Bannon in 1996, the combination has 54 starts, with 34 final round appearances, 26 wins (13 national and 13 divisional) and have been top qualifier 22 times. The chase for the championship title is over, but the team is still scheduled to compete at national events in Dallas, Houston and Pomona, Calif. Although the Oakwood Homes team was always on top of their game in 1999, they never quit experimenting. They switched from a 451 Brad Anderson Hemi to a 433 Hemi in July. "The transition has been a work in progress for two years," said crew chief Norm Grimes. "We had to phase out the old engines, but the demise of a lot of parts throughout the year allowed us to make the change early. The smaller engine allows the car to weigh less and be more efficient." "You have to try new things," said Santos. "If you follow the leader, you are only going to be second best. The best thing a team can do is work on and concentrate on your own performance, and hope that things fall into place. RICK SANTOS CAREER HIGHLIGHTS

* Three-time Federal-Mogul Dragster World Champion (1999, 1998, 1997)

* Four-time Pacific Division Champion (1999, 1998, 1997, 1993)

* Two-time Northwest Division Champion (1994, 1992)

* 20 career national event wins

* Nine top qualifier starts in 1999 (five national and four divisional)

* Two-time U.S. Nationals champion (1999, 1993)

* Quickest blown alcohol dragster in the world with an elapsed time of 5.39-seconds at Atlanta

* Two-time Car Craft Magazine All-star of the Year (1999, 1998)

* Built new car for 1999 season and has boasted two runs in the 5.3-second range, 20 runs in the 5.4-second range and 42 runs in the 5.5-second range

* Since joining with Jack O'Bannon Racing in 1996, the combination has 54 starts, 34 final round appearances, 26 wins (13 national and 13 divisional) and has been top qualifier 22 times

* Had nine wins in 14 starts in 1998 including four wins at a national level

* Was top qualifier six times in 1998

* Finished runner-up in the national championship points race in 1994

* Drove small-block, Chevy powered dragsters for the Santos family racing team from 1984 through 1995 and joined Jack O'Bannon Racing in 1996

RICK SANTOS OAKWOOD HOMES FEDERAL-MOGUL DRAGSTER 1999 STATISTICS

NATIONAL:

Pomona (Calif.) Raceway, Federal-Mogul Dragster top qualifier and win Firebird (Ariz.) International Raceway, Federal-Mogul Dragster, lost second round Atlanta (Ga.) Dragway, Federal-Mogul Dragster, top qualifier and win Old Bridge Township Raceway Park (N.J.), top qualifier and win Bandimere Speedway (Colo.), lost in semi-finals Seattle (Wash.) International Raceway, runner-up Brainerd (Minn.) International Raceway, top qualifier and win Indianapolis (Ind.) Raceway Park, top qualifier and win

DIVISIONAL:

Speedworld (Ariz.) Motorplex, Federal-Mogul Dragster win Firebird (Idaho) Raceway, Federal-Mogul Dragster top qualifier and win Famoso (Calif.) Raceway, Federal-Mogul Dragster win Rocky Mountain (Utah) Raceways, Federal-Mogul Dragster top qualifier, lost semi-finals Sears Point (Calif.) Raceway, Federal-Mogul Dragster top qualifier and win Woodburn (Ore.) Dragstrip, Federal-Mogul Dragster top qualifier and win

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Series NHRA
Drivers Rick Santos