2004 NHRA Super Gas champion Jonathan Womack
by John Jodauga, National DRAGSTER
There has never been a lack of excitement at the Automobile Club of Southern California NHRA Finals when it comes to determining the Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series champions. Just two years ago, for instance, four different drivers had a mathematical chance of passing points leader Tom Stalba Jr. at the event, and Todd Stewart accomplished the feat by defeating Stalba in a heads-up fifth-round confrontation.
Fast-forward to 2004, and Jonathan Womack was the leader going into the event, needing only to win three rounds to hold off the only other contender: Stalba. Womack rose to the occasion with a holeshot-aided 9.928 to 9.916 win over Chip Rumis in the third stanza. But it was only after the win light came on in that round that the real drama began.
Said Womack, "I remember the car launched crooked, but I got it straightened out, and everything was fine for the rest of the run. Then, after I crossed the finish line and started pumping my fist while beginning to apply the brakes, I saw what I thought was a puff of smoke, but it was actually water. One of the freeze plugs, which must have been leaking at the start, popped out of the block, and I couldn't slow the car down.
"Then, right before the sand traps at the end of the shutdown area, the car did a complete 360-degree turn, then turned some more; the front of my car was pointing toward the starting line when I finally came to a stop. Fortunately for us, that was the last round of eliminations Saturday night, so we were able to take an hour or so to check the car out before returning Sunday morning for round four."
Not only did Womack achieve his championship status at the young age of 23, but it also took place in only his third full season of Super Gas competition.
"This is just as awesome as it gets, especially when you consider that we weren't even thinking about going for the title at the beginning of the year," said Womack. "Our primary focus was just doing well at the Division 4 Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series events, and we were fortunate enough to do very well at those as we went through our schedule without ever going out in the first round."
Of the races that Womack claimed for his points total, he started off strong with a semifinal finish at the NHRA Cajun SPORTSnationals in April and a win at Texas' Cherokee County Motorsports Park in June.
"That win at Cherokee really set the table for us," said Womack, "but at that time we still weren't thinking about going after the title."
But Womack had the bar raised for him following his national event victory in Dallas in September.
"That put us in the hunt for the points," said Womack. "And after we were runner-up at the Division 2 race in Gainesville about a month later, we added the Division 7 points meet in Las Vegas and the NHRA Finals to our traveling schedule."
At the Las Vegas event, Womack went at least four rounds to improve on one of his prior events, and by reaching the semi's at the Finals, he ended up with a 633 to 605 point advantage over Stalba.
Said Womack, who makes a living as a barber in Houston, "I'm living a dream because I'm the two things I've always wanted to be: a barber and a drag racing national champion. My ultimate goal is to race in Pro Stock. I love Pro categories, and I love the Pro Stock class. I know that it will take a lot of help with financial banking from sponsors, but we're already working on things now that will help us toward that goal. Winning the championship this year in Super Gas certainly will be a big help to our prospects."
Womack was emphatic about thanking those who have made his racing career possible.
"I have to thank my parents Warren and Madelyn and my brother Warren Jr. My parents have provided me with financial and moral support, without which I wouldn't be racing," said Womack. "I'd also like to thank the guys at Hoosier, Dennis Faerman of Faerman Racing Engines in Houston, Jimmy Arabie Sr. and Jr. at Arabie Racing Transmissions in Baytown [Texas], and all of the Division 4 racers. In addition, I thank the racers in Pomona who helped me go over my car after the spinout in the first round. Even Pete Bothe, the guy I had to run on the next round Sunday, offered to help. All of that made winning this thing all the more special. Like I said, I'm living a dream."
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