Surprise, Arizona resident and longtime K&N racer Sheldon Gecker has been more accustomed to index class racing over the last couple of decades, but seems to be finding a new home in the Top Dragster class with his 2010 Tom Yancer dragster. Gecker grabbed his second major win of the season during the 24th annual FRAM-Autolite NHRA Nationals at Infineon Raceway in Sonoma, California, his first coming during an IHRA Nitro Jam earlier this season.
Sheldon Gecker wins Top Dragster at 24th annual FRAM-Autolite NHRA Nationals at Infineon Raceway
NHRA Top Dragster Driver Sheldon Gecker at Infineon Raceway in Sonoma, California
Gecker started off the season with a 565 stuffed between the frame rails of his Top Dragster, but for this event he made some changes. "We had some parts laying around for a 632, so that is what was in there for this race," he said. "We were just up there [Infineon Raceway] last week for the divisional and got runner-up. I was a little disappointed in the final, we put ourselves in the wrong lane and there was a sun issue there."
"When we thought about the national event, we thought we may be in trouble and not be able to qualify," he confessed. "So we got to work on the car, moved some things around, made some gear ratio changes in the transmission and pulled the wing off. We even changed the type of fuel. It seems like about two-thousand things and we were hoping it would work out during the first lap [qualifying session] and it didn't, but it did during the second. We had to get rid of some tire shake and we did by moving some timing and things like that. Steve Williams even brought us out one of the new K&N 2nd Generation dragster scoops to put on the car and that helped quite a bit. Adding that along with everything we did, helped us pick up some ET."
"This whole Top Dragster thing is kinda new to us," he added. "I mean we haven't had to qualify for anything we have run since the seventies."
Things worked out well for Gecker in qualifying and as the ladder would have it, placed him in a first round match up with Tony Jardino, who went red and gave Gecker a virtual first round time run. "I was a little surprised to see him do that," Gecker said of Jardino's .024 red. "He was Division Champion last year and is a good driver. There were a lot of strange redlights across all the classes I noticed."
"Then I ran Art Hoover in the second round and he was just the opposite side of the spectrum, he was really green," he continued.
Hoover may or may not have been trying not to go red after his perfect reaction time in round one, but nevertheless his .063 light to Gecker's .001 wasn't going to win him any rounds here. Gecker took the stripe by eighteen feet all while still managing to scrub nearly fourteen MPH and knocking plenty off his ET.
Gecker would meet up with Mere Silva in round three. "We have met up with her three times already this season," he explained. "She seems to be the most consistent of everybody that I have run this year as far as what she's going to run the in reaction time department and she's always very near the number more so that the rest of the competition everywhere we have been."
Years of experience paid off for Gecker as he cashed in on his .017 starting line advantage and pushed Silva into the worse side of the double breakout.
For the semifinals, Gecker once again had the better reaction time and for this round it was a bunch. "I never got a chance to talk to him [Randy Pressel] after that round. I don't know what happened to him. He had been really good on the tree in the previous rounds," he said. "That was a gift round right there, which you gotta have one of those about every race you expect to win. But I don't understand what happened with his light, he was like .280 or something."
That would send Gecker to his second Top Dragster final for a second week in a row at the Sonoma, California facility and where he fell short during the divisional race, he was looking to take care of finished business.
The race between Gecker and fellow K&N racer Mike Henderson was nearly a heads up final round and although both driver's went red, Gecker's one hundredth of a second quicker dial-in meant, technically, that Henderson had the first chance to do the deed.
"It was pretty exciting," Gecker said of his Top Dragster win compared to other classes he has raced and won in. "And you know, one of the nice things about it is that it's a five round race to win, not a 'two-hundred' round race. The other side of the scenario is that you don't have to get up at 'five in the morning' to warm your car up to go drive it down a cold track. There are advantages to running the Top Dragster class."
"We had some confidence going into this race after our runner-up at Fallon [NHRA Div] and the runner-up last week," he continued. "It was pretty neat since I've never won one of these [NHRA National in Top Dragster] before. And just to add a little bit in on Henderson, we thought he was going to be the toughest competitor there. Luckily, we qualified close enough to him that it put us on opposite sides of the ladder and we didn't have to run him until the final."
"I gotta say some special thanks to the guys at K&N," he noted. "They keep working on all this stuff, making their products better all the time. They really have a handle on their filter area and had like four or five guys out there [Sonoma Event] testing different filters. We just can't believe all that K&N does to stay on top of their R&D like they do."
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