In EFI Renegade action, 5 of Team Vortech’s heaviest hitters made the journey to Bradenton to throw down in the season opener’s 7 car field. The Father/ Son team of Alton Clements Jr. & Sr. were on hand to defend their 2009 Renegade Championship along with 3 time Champ, Multi-time record setter and long time Vortech racer Brian Mitchell. Also on hand were the lightning fast GT convertible of Chris Van Gilder, the always venerable “Bad” Bart Tobener w/ his 5.4L modular powered Fox coupe, and Mike Catapano, who finally made the switch to the best in class V-7 YSi-Trim supercharger from a competing brand so he could toss his hat into the ring for the race to light the boards up with EFI Renegade’s 1st ever pass in the 8.20 range.
Having some of the most stringent rules & parts restrictions, Renegade is well known for some of the toughest competition in the NMRA. It’s not for the faint at heart and most of the guys that race in it have been doing so since the inception of the class. They have been there to see every ET barrier fall from the 10’s to 8.30’s w/ the latter only happening very occasionally in the last 2 seasons. These racers are the best there are.
The opener for the 2010 season would eventually give all competitors past, present, & future confirmation that THIS season will be the toughest ever. Just ask Chris Van Gilder, he has effectively been chipping away at his combo for years now. He tested on Thursday to the tune of an 8.32 (his best pass ever) but by the time qualifying was over on Saturday evening he found himself sitting in the #4 slot with a 8.39 @ 163 mph blast. Unheard of! In the 8.30’s at the season opener and qualified #4? YIKES.
Bart Tobener made his intentions for the upcoming season perfectly clear by throwing down the quickest & fastest pass in Renegade history. Lighting up the boards w/ an astounding 8.301 @ over 166mph. Alton Clements, the defending champ grabbed the #2 qualified position just behind Bart posting a 8.347 @ almost 165mph while 3x champ Brian Mitchell & Vortech newcomer Mike Catapano pinned their names to the #5 & #6 spots w/ an 8.49 and and 8.78 respectively.
With the ladders set for Sunday’s action, all that was left to do was RACE! In eliminations round 1, Alton Clements trailered Vortech teammate Brian Mitchell by pairing a deadly .017 reaction time w/ an 8.60et that put him out front of Mitchell’s 8.61 all the way down the track. Mike Catapano, struggling with his new combo had to load it up and head home after facing the fastest nitrous car in competition, driven by Dan Rawls. Chris Van Gilder clicked off an 8.47 to make quick work of the only other nitrous entry in the field. Bart Tobener, being the bad, bad man that he is, received a BYE into the 2nd round since he was #1 qualifier in a field that had an uneven amount of cars.
Round 2 action found Clements 8.35 blast a little too quick for Van Gilder’s 8.47 while Bart’s free ride in the 1st round would be his last for the weekend since a slowing 8.42 from his qualifying effort wasn’t enough to get around Dan Rawls’s 8.37. This would set the stage for a classic supercharger vs. nitrous battle in the final between the top 2 finishers from the 2009 season. The Champ Alton Clements and runner up Dan Rawls.
In the final round, Clements showed that the big #1 was on the window of his hot rod was there for good reason. The tree dropped and he strapped an almost perfect .002 light on Rawls where he then followed it up w/ yet another mid 8.30s hit claiming his 1st victory for 2010 w/ an 8.35 @ almost 166 to a shut off 11.36 from the runner up. Looks like Alton won’t be giving up his title as champ without a fight!