It was a highly-emotional moment for Adam Sorokin when he saw the win light come on indicating that he had claimed the second March Meet Top Fuel championship of his career.
Sorokin capped off the popular four-day annual event at Auto Club Famoso Raceway by besting record-setting Mendy Fry to take the Top Fuel title.
“I don’t think I’ve ever screamed that loud inside my helmet where I could actually hear it over the engine, and I did,” Sorokin said. “That was just huge … It was pretty cool to get that light and know that you won it.”
Sorokin went into Sunday’s finals an underdog after Fry posted a new national record for quickest elapsed time in a Nostalgia front-engine Top Fuel dragster during each of the first two round of eliminations.
Unfortunately for Fry, a mechanical issue manifested itself when she hit the gas at the start of the final and her car never got rolling down the quarter-mile track.
Fry’s misfortune allowed Sorokin, the 2010 March Meet Top Fuel champion, to coast to an uncontested victory.
“I’m elated,” Sorokin said. “For us this is like the U.S. Nationals for nostalgia. There are so many people that are associated with wins here that are legendary. To add your name to that list is pretty amazing. It’s really a credit to the team because the team preserved this whole weekend.”
The win was extra meaningful for Sorokin because his father won a March Meet championship in 1966, the year Adam was born. Late the following year Sorokin’s father died in a drag racing accident.
“It’s huge because you kind of have that father-son rivalry even though he’s not here,” Sorokin said. “I really wanted to have two because it’s just such an important race to us in general … whenever you win a race it’s cool. It’s special, but this one has a little bit of extra special-nous to it for me.”
Sorokin advanced through the first two rounds of eliminations, posting times of 5.981 and 5.834 seconds. Good numbers under normal circumstances, but quite a bit slower than Fry’s recording setting 5.518 and 5.490.
Despite knowing that he had the slower car, the talented and savvy Sorokin remained unfazed.
“Her numbers were like outer space numbers,” Sorokin said. “So, at that point we know we don’t have a 5.49 (ET) in (our) car right now and so basically the mental approach is that you don’t let the things you can’t control worry you. So, the only thing I was doing was just trying to stay good on my side and take care of things. And if it worked out, great. Thank God they don’t run these things on paper because on paper we would have lost and instead we’re sitting in the winner circle.”
For Fry it was the second straight disappointing end to a March Meet. Last year she strayed out of her lane during the finals and was disqualified. She went on to win the NHRA Hot Rod Heritage Series Top Fuel championship, as it was her only losing run of the entire season.
This time Fry’s undoing was due to something totally beyond her control.
“The screw that holds the main cross shaft from the barrel valve to butterflies that opens the butterflies up evidently got loose,” Fry’s car owner and crew chief Tom Shelar said. “We missed it. It vibrated out after the burnout. So, when she stepped on the gas all it did was open the barrel valve up and (didn't) open the butterflies up, so she couldn’t go anywhere.”
The setback came after Fry battled through several mechanical issues during the early stages of the weekend, including a blown engine during the first session.
She ended up qualifying sixth quickest with a 6.25 elapsed time. After that she looked unbeatable until disaster struck in the final round.
“It’s crushing,” Fry said. "There’s no other word for it. It’s crushing. We came through a lot of adversity and I can’t be prouder of my team. I wish we just could have got it done.”
Several other drivers did get it done including Bobby Cottrell of Whittier, who won the event’s Funny Car title for a second straight year.
“The emotions are high,” Cottrell said. “It’s a good start to the season. It started off kind of rough, but we put our heads together and got it done so I’m really happy and thankful.”
Cottrell defeated Jerry Espeseth of Yorba Linda in the final round of eliminations.
“After the second round of eliminations we knew exactly what we had to do and (my crew chief) Bucky (Austin) made the right calls like he always does. The biggest thing is that I had all the confidence in the world in them. I just try not to screw up and drive the car to the best of my ability.”