Belle Rose, La. - One of the best kept secrets in North American drag racing has to be the pristine racing facility known interestingly enough as No Problem Raceway Park. This excellent venue, which features one of the smoothest concrete and asphalt quarter-mile strips in the country, as well as a top-rated road course, is situated an hour west of New Orleans in Belle Rose, Louisiana.
On May 7 and 8, the traveling road show known officially as the Hot Rod Power Festival featuring the NMCA Super Series rolled into the picturesque bayou country of Assumption Parish for the Cajun Nationals, a weekend of hard-hitting street legal competition in 13 heads-up and index classes.
In spite of weather forecasts to the contrary, hot, humid and precipitation-free conditions greeted fans and racers, many of the latter traveling from the Northeastern U.S. and Canada to attend the third of 10 premier street legal events sanctioned by the National Muscle Car Association this season. When the smoke cleared, two local drivers were among those posing for winner's circle photos, much to the delight of the large crowd of appreciative, sun-baked race fans.
Here, class-by-class, are the results of the weekend's competition:
Comp Cams/TCI Engineering Pro Street
In Comp Cams/TCI Engineering Pro Street, defending champion Pat Musi, of Cataret, New Jersey, looked to be working up to another dominating weekend in Louisiana, leading qualifying with a best pass of 6.722, 210.57 behind the wheel of Don Reem's '99 Firebird.
As the elimination rounds got under way on Sunday morning, Jefferson, Louisiana's Paul Daicrepont drove his '94 Firebird into the semifinals by eliminating Chris Shortridge of Temple, Texas, 6.929, 203.74 to a troubled 14.743, 56.23. Up next were the new 2002 Chevy Cavalier of Englishtown, New Jersey's Tony Gentile and the '98 Chevy Monte Carlo of Evansville, Indiana's Ryan Hargett. In a close race, Gentile took the win on the strength of a .027-second starting line advantage, 7.196, 204.30 to 7.178, 180.57.
Two more Louisiana "hot shoes" comprised the third pair, with Mike Steele of Shreveport placing his '96 Firebird in the win column by taking out the '66 Chevy El Camino of New Iberia's Stan Allen, 6.911, 204.63 to 7.123, 193.85. Last out of the gate were Musi's Firebird and the '57 Ford of Live Oak, Florida's Kenny Voss. With Voss lighting the red bulb in the other lane, Musi cranked out a stout 6.685, 211.06 to advance.
Waiting for Musi in the next stanza was fellow New Jersey competitor Gentile, however, and he showed no respect at all as he sent the champ to the sidelines by cutting a wicked .017 light to Musi's .082 effort, and riding it through to post a 7.763, 153.72 to 8.954, 104.69 win. In the other match-up, Steele got a free pass to the final when Daicrepont left -.008 too early and was disqualified.
In the final-round showdown between Steele and Gentile, Steele got away first and never looked back. To the delight of the Louisiana fans, he tripped the beams to the tune of 6.935, 205.44 as Gentile, who got crossed up and lifted, coasted through at 13.132, 66.51.
Accel DFI Pro Outlaw
In Accel DFI Pro Outlaw, it was Staten Island, New York - based Marc Dantoni's time to shine in Belle Rose. Wheeling his Wally Stroupe-built '68 Camaro to the No. 2 spot in the field with a mark of 6.840, 209.10, the three-time champion stepped it up in eliminations and rode a string of consistent 6.70 passes all the way to the winner's circle.
James Clark, of Laurel, Mississippi, led the way in qualifying, pacing his colorful '97 Monte Carlo to a solid best-of-three mark of 6.712, 209.06. His weekend continued to head in the right direction as he rode a single pass of 6.733, 208.14 into the second round of eliminations while everyone else had to battle for a shot at moving on. Dantoni took out the blown '67 Camaro of John Stanley to advance, 6.734, 210.05 to 9.070, 117.07 while Tony "Sandman" Williams, of Millington, Tennessee, placed his blown '69 Camaro into the semifinals when local hero Al Suggs, Jr. of Denham Springs, Louisiana, broke his turbocharged 2003 Chevy S-10 at the line. In the third pairing, Dan Saitz of St. Louis moved on when his '97 Ford Probe out-dueled the twin turbo-powered '94 Camaro of Humble, Texas native Lawrence Conley, 7.310, 188.78 to 7.561, 200.98.
In semifinal action, Dantoni got a free trip to the final when Williams fouled at the line, and Saitz was likewise gifted when Clark went red by .002 of a second, ending his assault on victory lane two rounds too early. In the final between Dantoni's Chevy and Saitz's Ford, Dantoni took a slight advantage off the line, .063 to .072, and stretched it out to cross the stripe first, 6.766, 204.66 over Saitz's slowing 7.528, 144.80.