An Inaugural Champion
In 2015, for the first time in NHRA history, the Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series offered up a World Championship title for the Top Sportsman category. The annals of history will show the name Jeff Barker as the first ever NHRA TS national champion. Barker, who is from Georgia, wheeled his RJ Race Cars-built 2006 Chevy Cobalt SS to that title based on yet another remarkable season run within NHRA’s Lucas Oil Racing Divisional scene. Powered by a nitrous-injected 747ci Reher-Morrison engine, backed by a Coan Engineering Turbo 400 transmission, Barker used that reliable combination to score his sixth career NHRA Division 2 title, which ultimately vaulted him to the overall National Championship. Barker’s season also included some serious icing on his cake, as he won the highly prestigious Jegs All-Stars event held in Chicago at mid-season. In addition to wife, Lindsey, and mother and father (Phyllis and Jerry), Jeff cited important support from his associate sponsors: Hoosier Tires, Coan Engineering, CSR, Reher-Morrison, Menscer Motorsports, Moser Engineering, Chassis Engineering, and K&N, along with contingency sponsors as being key to his success.
Sportsman Star Rising
Nevada’s Justin Lamb, who won the NHRA Lucas Oil World Championship for Stock Eliminator driving a 1970 Camaro back in 2013, duplicated that success in 2015, only this time in Super Stock. Racing his Henderson-based, SS/AM-classed and Sunstate Companies-sponsored Cobalt, which features a unique NASCAR-style engine program (by John Richardson at Childress Racing), Lamb parlayed some serious mid-season momentum within NHRA’s Pacific Division 7 into the ultimate title. The championship was just the latest career cog for the fast-rising Sportsman racer, who at age 29, has amassed 15 career wins at the NHRA national event level. Lamb’s World Championship year included valued supporting roles from family members (wife, Jeanine; son Jayce; sister Ryen; and parents, Chris and Carole) as well as many friends and co-racers. In addition to primary sponsor Sunstate Companies, important associate roles include: Palmer Electric, Spring Fling Million, Redback Boots, Goodyear, Madcap Racing, and Matco Tools.
Erica Enders-Stevens proved that her first NHRA Pro Stock World Championship title in 2014 was certainly for real with a successful title defense in 2015. Simply put, the 32-year-old Houston resident had a dominating season racing the Elite Motorsports Chevy Camaro—as evidenced by nine victories in 11 final round appearances and six Number One qualifying positions. During 2015, Erica—using the skilled prowess of her crew chiefs (Rick and Rickie Jones, Mark Ingersoll, and Brian Self)—eclipsed some very long-standing drag racing records. Her career win total (21) now surpasses the storied accomplishments set by legendary drag racer Shirley Muldowney (18 wins), and her nine wins is the most in a season by any female racer in drag racing history. Erica’s 2015 championship will also be remembered as an “end of an era” accomplishment as this was the last season for NHRA’s Pro Stock class using carburetors. Beginning in 2016 the class had moved to NHRA-mandated fuel injection systems.
Super Speedy C7
When the Chevrolet Corvette C7 burst onto the NHRA Pro Mod scene in early 2015, the expectations were certainly high, and at the end of the season those expectations were certainly met. Driving a turbocharged Pro-Line Racing-powered C7, Ohio’s Troy Coughlin prevailed to win the grueling J&A Service Pro Mod Drag Racing Series World Championship. To say that Troy’s championship season racing the Steve Petty-tuned and Jegs-sponsored machine was a fast one would be an understatement to say the least. Within the 10-event J&A season schedule, the revolutionary and high-tech Corvette set the class’ overall top speed no less than five times—each time at over 250 mph! Troy earned his title (the second Pro Mod Championship of his career) in dramatic, come-from-behind fashion during the season finale event in Las Vegas. When then-points-leader and Chevy Camaro driver Mike Janis lost in the first round of eliminations and Troy advanced to the semi-final round, Troy’s title within the super competitive category was assured.