Brounkowski, Lombardo Win Central Region Closer at Noble
by Todd Veney/Pro Sportsman Association
In Noble, Okla., at the second-to-last regional event anywhere this season, David Brounkowski collected his first Top Alcohol Dragster victory in two years in a thrilling final against Mark Taliaferro, and John Lombardo Jr. earned his second win of the season in Top Alcohol Funny Car.
With an excellent .038 reaction time, Brounkowski got the jump on Taliaferro, who had a not-bad .062, and won by a few feet, 5.409 to 5.402. "I never saw him the whole way, but then I never look," said Brounkowski. "The sides of the car are so high that you can't see anybody unless they're way out there ahead of you." He never noticed his win-light, either. "I'm too busy driving the car to look," he said.
Brounkowski's semifinal match with Randy Meyer was nearly as close. Meyer was off the mark first in that race, Brounkowski came around him to win by two-hundredths of a second, 5.37 to 5.42, and both drivers got out of their cars not knowing if they'd won or lost. Even Brounkowski's first-round match was a tight one; he edged two-time 2012 regional event winner and incoming Central Region points leader Gord Gingles, 5.40 to 5.45.
Taliaferro was just as consistent, with a 5.39 in a first-round win over Alan Bradshaw and a 5.34 (low e.t.) in the semifinals against No. 1 qualifier James Thompson. The field was so competitive that both finalists came from the bottom half; Brounkowski ran a 5.415 for the No. 5 spot and Taliaferro a 5.418 for No. 6.
Lombardo, who won the Division 7 championship last year, overtook Steve Gasparrelli for second place in the Western Region Top Alcohol Funny Car standings behind Annie
Whiteley with his latest regional event title, his second of the season and fifth overall. Lombardo set low e.t. of both qualifying sessions and all three rounds of eliminations, including the final, where he topped Lance Van Hauen in a close race, 5.72 to 5.79. It was Van Hauen's third late-round appearance in a row, including semifinal showings in Topeka and Earlville.
Lombardo's 5.72 in the final round was his only run outside the 5.60s, following a 5.68 in qualifying that held up for the top spot, a 5.67 on his first-round single, and a 5.66 (low e.t.) over current Central Region points leader Kirk Williams in the semifinals.
"The car was like a bracket car all weekend," said Lombardo, who also won the Phoenix regional early this season. "It just went right down the track run after run, and I really have to thank Jeff Lirones and our team for having everything set up just right all weekend. I think it's too late to catch Annie for the Western Region point, but this really helps us in both the regional and national standings."