This year's National Corvette Challenge race took place on February 24, at Richmond Dragway in Richmond, Virginia. While it was hardly T-shirt-and-shorts weather, it was warm enough for participants to take to the track and the show fields and get the '07 racing season started in a big way.
The weekend featured a one-day drag race featuring four different classes and, for the first time in Corvette Challenge history, a people's choice car show. The new mix was a success with 130 race entries, 54 show entries, and numerous other Corvette owners showing up to take part.
Many competitors traveled hundreds of miles to make this once-a-year event. Several racers from the Corvette Challenge regional series in New Jersey were joined by regulars from the South Carolina- and Florida-based series. One participant, Eric Oday, drove his blue '84 halfway across the country from the Houston area.
Corvettes began lining up at the Richmond Dragway gate at around 8 a.m. on Saturday. After the track was prepped, event co-organizer Steve Oyer invited all of the inexperienced drivers to the starting line for a "Drag Racing 101" session. With that done, Corvettes of every type, color, and generation began filing into the staging lanes.
The bracket-racing class proved to be the event's most popular, with a total of 80 entries. Bracket racing uses a handicapped starting procedure to ensure that driver skill-and not sheer horsepower-is the deciding factor in most races. The bracket cars would be followed by the three heads-up classes, beginning with the "baddest of the bad" Outlaw cars.
Next up was the 10.0 Index, a heads-up racing class in which drivers could go no faster than 10.0 seconds without forfeiting their run. The last class to run was the 11.50 Index. These four classes gave drivers of all speeds and skill levels the opportunity to square off against similar competition.
All race participants received a free event T-shirt, provided by East Coast Supercharging. In addition to the shirt, class winners and other high-placing competitors received a portion of the $6,450 collected from race entries and event sponsors.
Sixty-seven of the 80 registered Corvettes were entered in the Bracket class, making it the day's largest and most brutally contested race category. The final round saw John Trescott, driving an '04 Torch Red Coupe, square off against local racer Ronnie Jeter, piloting a silver '75. Trescott has been racing in the Corvette Challenge in New Jersey for several years and finished 10th out of 102 drivers in 2006.
Jeter is no stranger to bracket racing, either, having campaigned his C3 at Richmond Dragway for more than 20 years. He's even won the track championship on several occasions. Jeter ran a 9.575 on a 9.56 dial-in to clinch the class win, while Trescott broke out with an 11.546 on an 11.58 dial.
The Outlaw class features Corvettes configured for all-out racing competition, the fastest of which are capable of mid-8-second quarter-miles. Unfortunately, a number of pre-registered drivers backed out of the competition in the days leading up to the event. In the end, only five Corvettes competed in the Outlaw class.
Bill Maloney from Toms River, New Jersey, took the top qualifying spot with a '97 Corvette Coupe built by The Vette Doctors in Amityville, New York. Equipped with a single rear-mounted turbo, the car ran a sensational 5.58 at 138.80 mph. (This equates to roughly an 8.78 in the quarter-mile.) Maloney has gone as fast as 8.60 in the 1320, a time he hopes to better with his most recent round of top-end tuning by the Turbo People.
Phil Corbin, driving a '91 Corvette, grabbed the second qualifying spot with a 6.09 at 114.80. Derek Yates, meanwhile, took the third spot in a red C3 owned by John Cook, running a 6.20 at 111.25.
Yates capitalized on superior reaction times to vanquish the faster cars of Alan Eckert and Maloney in the first and second rounds, respectively. Could he manage a third holeshot to take out Corbin's C4 in the final?
When the smoke settled, Yates had logged an 0.016 reaction time on a 6.20 at 111.25 run. This was good enough to put away Corbin, who managed a 0.152 on a 6.09 at 115.83 pass. Yates had taken all three rounds with holeshot victories, proving that even in heads-up racing, the fastest car is not always the winner.