Twenty-seven years ago when Lake Charles, Louisiana resident Keith Raftery took his first pass down his local track in Louisiana at the age of 14, he could have only dreamed of the tremendous successes that were yet to come.
NHRA Drag Racer Keith Raftery in Dallas, Texas
NHRA Drag Racer Keith Raftery
Raftery, who also races with his father, Roy, has been competing on and off for decades. In recent years, one would find him behind both the wheels of various dragsters and since 2003, several different cars for Top Sportsman competition.
"A good friend of mine, Clayton Hagan had told me about a Top Sportsman race in Baytown," he said of his first time running the class in 2003. "I had never heard of it, since at that time it was brand new to NHRA. I thought I would give it a try and won the very first NHRA Division 4 Top Sportsman event."
The trip to Houston had Raftery hooked and he continued his successes in the class since by going on to claim back-to-back NHRA Division 4 Top Sportsman Championships in both 2008 and 2009.
For 2010, Rafferty was out of the gate with a hard charge in his attempt to make it three in a row and a very good showing at his first event during the NHRA Cajun SportsNationals. He then went on to win three divisional events in Dallas, Houston and Belle Rose.
While Raftery seemed to easily sew up the Division 4 Top Sportsman championship in his K&N 2007 Bickel GTO, with a comfortable eighty-six point lead over number two, it was the quest for his first Division Top Dragster Championship that came right down to the wire.
After finishing number three in the Top Dragster class in 2009, Raftery gave it his all a 2010 championship right from the hit when he posted a victory over Dave Connolly in the Top Dragster final round at Belle Rose, for the NHRA Cajun SportsNationals.
As the season began to wind down, Raftery found himself in a position to claim his first Top Dragster championship. With no close divisional events left to compete in, he made a stout decision to haul all the way from his home in Louisiana to Las Vegas.
"I thought I was only one round away from winning the championship," said Raftery. "When we went to Vegas, I didn't even take the car, since I had already clinched the Top Sportsman title."
"So, I went to Vegas, won first round and I was like 'yes' that was it, I did it," he continued. "I was wanting to go home after that because the whole thing was just a lot of stress for me. I had never won a title in Top Dragster and it would have just meant a lot to me."
Thinking he had won the Top Dragster title after his first round win, the air was quickly knocked out of his sails when it was pointed out to him by fellow racers that he didn't actually have the tie breaker he thought he did.
He needed one more round to take the championship.
"When I found that out, my eyes just started tearing up. I mean I was emotionally done," confessed Raftery. "I told my dad that I didn't think I had enough in me to win another round. So I walked and walked. I just walked all over the whole complex and finally I felt good about it."
Raftery's decision to stay was a very good one. He not only won the second round and clinched his very first NHRA Division 4 Top Dragster Championship, but also took his 2008 Undercover K&N dragster all the way to the final round where he just missed the win by taking .006 too much of the stripe.
Now with two 2010 NHRA Division 4 titles, Raftery looks forward to 2011 and his brand new car for Top Sportsman competition by mid-season. He has also added a car to compete in NHRA Stock at select events where Top Sportsman is not offered and plans for it to fit into B/SA.
On top of all the good fortunes for Raftery in 2010 he also claimed the very first Jegs All-Star title in Top Sportsman and looks forward to returning in 2011.
"I'm already grandfathered in for the 2011 event in the car [Top Sportsman] since I won and I'm tied for second in the dragster with three races left," he pointed out. "And it would be really neat to be able to go and take both cars."
Raftery was very pleased to be able to take K&N along with him on his very first double divisional championship.
"This was our first year working with K&N," noted Raftery. "We use K&N products on both the Top Sportsman and Top Dragster cars. From K&N's oil filters on both cars to the cone air filter I use on my Top Dragster and I'm also looking forward to using their products on my new stocker, too."
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