One is a little more used to seeing Surprise, Arizona's Sheldon Gecker running his dragster in the 8.90 index classes, but during IHRA's very first Arizona Nitro Jam held at Southwestern International Raceway just outside of Tucson, Gecker was "top bulb" racing for the first time since 1994.
Second race of the season for Gecker and a Top Dragster Win! Photo by IHRA Communications/IHRA.com.
Sheldon Gecker steps away from his normal 8.90 class to try his hand at bracket racing in Top Dragster for the first time at a recent IHRA event. Photo by IHRA Communications/IHRA.com.
Gecker had been planning on attending the NHRA Division event the same weekend in Las Vegas, but at the last minute it was suggested to him to stay a little closer to home and compete at the Nitro Jam.
"I was kind of surprised at the quality of cars there and how many rounds we needed to go," said Gecker. "Running Top Dragster I had to get used to the different tree again, something I haven't done for seventeen years."
K&N Sponsored Drag Racer Sheldon Gecker. Photo by IHRA Communications/IHRA.com.
Gecker, who had only been to one other event so far for the 2011 season, made only minor adjustments to his 2010 Tom Yancer dragster to run the class, all while paying very special attention to not make any unnecessary changes to his starting line procedure as a driver.
"I just simplified it and lowered the [rpm] chip so it wouldn't be an issue," said Gecker of the difference between pro and sportsman tree racing. "I didn't force myself to think about anything different than I normally do."
After two rounds of qualifying, Gecker found him himself smack in the middle of the field and was ready for eliminations in front a fairly large crowd.
"I spent the first couple of rounds just getting used to the quickness of the tree," he pointed out. "Unlike NHRA, you get staged and that top light was on right now. The car was extremely consistent and worked very well, actually better than I expected. It was going 7.60's in the air we had and normally it's a 7.20 or 7.30 car [flat out]. I think all but one round, we were within a hundredth of where we thought we would be."
Gecker did a great job of taking what he has learned from numerous years in Super Class racing, where so many races come down to inches at the stripe, and parlayed that into several round wins by having a very dialable car to drive the stripe, even though he may not have always had the starting line advantage.
"By the time we got to the final, we had the toughest guy in the local area Chuck Hawk, Jr.", said Gecker. "It's always nice to beat somebody like that, he's a top quality racer and a good guy."
The final round in Top Dragster was an absolute squeaker at the stripe with both Hawk and Gecker having identical .009 reaction times, it made for some tough games at the top end. Both drivers gave it their best shot trying to only take what amount of stripe they needed for the win, each knocking off a little mile-per-hour in their effort. With just .002 separating them, [nine inches] as they crossed the stripe, it was Gecker who came up with the win and the IHRA 40th Anniversary Special Edition Ironman.
"It wasn't like we had a lot of easy runs," said Gecker of his rounds. "We had one red-light when I needed it and we had a really tough final. It was actually a pretty neat experience."
As a very successful veteran in the sport, Gecker points out that he couldn't make wins possible without the products he uses. "There are very few vendors anymore where you can truly depend on the consistent quality of their products and you don't have to worry about a thing with K&N. We have been very successfully using their oil filters for many-many years. We also use their high-flow air intake on our F150 and something really neat noticed is how the K&N cone air filter works on the dragster."
"We actually learned something with that," he continued talking about the K&N dragster scoop air filter. "We found out that when we ran the car without it, it actually slowed down. When we use it, it straightens the air out and makes the car run better."
Gecker will work on adding to his recent success in his Lopersspeed.com/Hughes Performance/K&N dragster, only for his next event he'll be back in his familiar Super Comp class for the NHRA National Event in Las Vegas.
Find K&N products for your vehicle using the K&N application search then use the K&N dealer search to find a K&N dealer in your part of the world.