PARKER, Ariz. — It wasn’t the fastest run in history, but Top Fuel Hydro pilot Bryan Sanders still found a way to take the Colorado River Challenge trophy in style Saturday afternoon, clocking 270.38 mph during a steady 3.445-second victory over a surrendering Mike Robbins.
Mike De Clark (Top Alcohol Hydro), Tony Scarlata (Top Alcohol Flat), Shawn Reed (Pro Mod), and Tyler Speer (Pro Outlaw) also scored big pro-level wins Saturday on the shores of the Blue Water Casino resort.
The fastest pass in history remains the 274.95 mph Scott Lumbert ran two years ago in the “Spirit of Texas” boat, but Sanders did find a way to impress once again at this event, just two weeks after setting the official speed record of 268.40 mph in his General Tire-sponsored “Nitrochondriac” craft at the season opener in Phoenix.
“It’s beyond words to go out there and do something like this, to run 270 mph and win the race and have things go your way like they have this season,” Sanders said. “It’s just unbelievable. Man, we had an awesome day, a great weekend. Everything was fantastic. These guys, the crew I have is phenomenal and so on top of the boat, it’s just on a rail.
“It’s unfortunate we didn’t have the chance to back it up and set another record but it’s still in the record books as one of the best runs ever so as far as we’re concerned, 270 is 270. Everybody knows what it ran.
“Next up is Wheatland, Missouri. We’re going to try to go after the E.T. record this time. We already own it, but we’re going to try and see if we can lower it. I love that facility. Wheatland is the premier track on the circuit. Forrest Lucas did a great job building that place and we love going there.”
De Clark successfully turned his top-qualifying effort in Top Alcohol Hydro into a big win that pushed his “Little White Lie” vessel into the championship points chase. De Clark was No. 1 qualifier at the season opener also, but failed to fire in Round 1 there, making Saturday’s victory over Darin Dunagan all the sweeter.
“We just started out slow, progressed along and worked into it slowly this time,” De Clark said. “The boat became consistent and it paid dividends. My guys did one helluva a job; I was just the lucky driver this weekend. The guys are the ones to thank this time. It was a really good weekend for us all the way around.”
The final numbers had De Clark winning with a 4.431 at 202.25 mph well ahead of Dunagan’s sputtering 6.244 at 82.98 mph in his “Blown Budget” boat.
As he’s been fearing throughout the first two races in Top Alcohol Flat, Scarlata was finally outrun on the water, but this time it was after final-round opponent Bill Miller jumped the start by 16-thousandths of a second. Although Scarlata’s 5.517 at 151.85 mph in the Cat Spot-sponsored “Shazam” was behind Miller’s 5.369 at 147.99 mph in “Party to the Max,” Scalata still secured the victory for boat owner Tommy Thompson and sponsor Lucas Oil due to Miller’s foul.
“I didn’t know Bill red-lit and it’s a lucky thing because we are still battling an ignition problem where right when the motor revs up it starts killing cylinders,” a relieved Scarlata said. “I saw him out in front of me and I was praying he red-lit but I didn’t know so I still had to try to get down the track and get to the finish line. My hat’s off to those guys. They’ve really come around and they are a definite force, not just another team we’ve got to race.
“It was a great weekend for Cat Spot, Tommy Thompson, Lucas Oil and Lifeline. I just have a whole litany of people to name but my crew, they are just so awesome. We have such a blast, through good times and bad, no matter what we keep our composure, have fun and make it happen.”
Scarlata’s best run of the day came in the semifinals when he beat Doug Darnall with a 5.310 at 156.35 mph.
The third driver to double-up on the young season was Pro Mod winner Reed, the part-time Top Fuel dragster driver who also pilots “Top Secret” for boat owners Floyd and Barbara Hughes and Jason and Miranda Sutton.
“It’s always nerve wracking to try and keep a streak going but we managed to continue what we did in Phoenix and get another win,” Reed said. “We had a couple of little problems in the second round but we just plugged away at it and survived.
“Anytime you can win out here against these guys it’s a great day. Pro Mod is the toughest class, I think, in all boat racing, and any one of these guys can win. Some of these new guys coming up, they want it more than anybody else, so it’s tough every round but we made it through so it’s all good.”
Although he benefitted from Jimmy Booher’s -.033-second, red-light foul in the final, Reed was on his game all day, running a near-perfect 7.001 at 168.12 mph in Round 1, a slightly safer 7.026 at 168.12 mph in the semifinals, and another 7.026 at 168.80 mph against Booher.
Living up to their class moniker, Pro Outlaw came down to a duel between Speer’s aptly-named “Georgia Outlaw” and Rick Blethroade’s “Wild Thing,” with Speer screaming away, unopposed, to a 6.404 at 123.66 mph to win the race.
“It was an awesome day,” Speer said. “I couldn’t be happier with everybody who helped out: Lucas Oil Racing TV, Hedman Husler Hedders and Georgia Outlaw. You know, we bumped up a class so we have no notes to go off. I know we got a little bit of luck this weekend.
“We need to do a little bit better on the tune up. Dad did an awesome job tuning this weekend though, getting us right, so I can’t thank him enough. Mom, Dad everybody. This is what we need to be doing, making it to the finals and winning races. We’ll just take one at a time.”
Speer, the top qualifier, beat Phoenix winner Cole Allen, sport kingpin Tommy Thompson, and got a bye run to the final against Blethroade. His quickest run came against Thompson when he blistered the course with a 5.527 at 160.93 mph.