Barker, others win in NHRA’s return to ‘The Rock’

Contributed Photo Jeffrey Barker claimed his third straight win in the Top Sportsman class when he was victorious Saturday in the NHRA Southeast Division Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series race at Rockingham Dragway.

Special to the Daily Journal

ROCKINGHAM — Jeffrey Barker maintained his stranglehold on the Top Sportsman division but the Kathleen, Georgia driver celebrated in the Rockingham Dragway winners’ circle Saturday with four first-time winners in the 2015 NHRA Southeast Division Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series.

Among the weekend champions was Lauren Freer of Mooresville, who drove her 1963 Corvette to victory in Super Gas after being ousted in the semifinals in Top Dragster by eventual winner Larry Roberts of Laurens, South Carolina, who also was one of this year’s new winners.

Dennis Hill of Fayetteville won a battle of Chevy Novas in the Super Street final, Brandon Peterson of Randleman, kept his weekend record perfect in Super Stock and third generation racer Joel Warren of Charlotte prevailed in Stock.

Other than Barker, who won in Top Sportsman for the third consecutive event, Kevin Brannon of Boiling Springs, South Carolina was the only other previous winner to get back to the podium. The point leader in Super Comp, Brannon won that class for the second time this season and also was one of the last six survivors in Super Gas.

Driving a 2006 Chevy Cobalt, Barker went wire-to-wire in Top Sportsman, qualifying No. 1 and breezing until the final where he managed to get around Bobby Irby’s Tennessee-based Corvette by only the narrowest of margins — .003 of a second.

If there was a showcase class at “The Rock” it was Competition Eliminator where four drivers who have won NHRA national events over the last two seasons were among the last seven survivors.

The first of that group to fall was reigning World Champion and three-time 2015 tour winner David Rampy of Piedmont, Alabama. Winner last April at Houston, Rampy was guilty of a foul start in the quarterfinals that sent his popular 1932 Bantam roadster to the sidelines.

Out in that same round was Joe Santangelo of Marlborough, Connecticut, whose ’32 Chevy coupe was the Comp winner last March in the NHRA Gatornationals at Gainesville, Florida.

In the run-for-the-money, Arnie Martel of Tewksbury, Massachusetts, who most recently won at Reading, Pennsylvania, in 2014 drove his late model Camaro past the dragster of 2013 Charlotte winner Glen Treadwell of Sorrento, Florida.

Although Freer’s victory was a popular one, fans couldn’t help but feel a little bad for runner-up Charles Yannetti of Alpine, New Jersey, who, after qualifying No. 1 in his unique 1927 Ford roadster fouled out in the final by .001 of a second.

Peterson drove his ’91 Camaro to its second win in two days in Super Stock. The Carolinian won a Sportsman Shootout title in Friday before coming back to stop Emily Volkman of Campobello, South Carolina, on Saturday.

The race, the fourth of six crowning 2015 Southeast Divisions, was the first NHRA event at Rockingham since the dissolution of the Winston Invitational in 1998.