SHOWDOWN AT SHADYSIDE DETERMINES 2018 SEGA CHAMPIONS

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SHOWDOWN AT SHADYSIDE DETERMINES 2018 SEGA CHAMPIONS


 

UNDEFEATED AT SHADYSIDE – Kenneth Phillips of Campobello, SC, is undefeated in SEGA action at Shadyside Dragway in 2018. After winning the spring race he doubled up Nov. 3, giving him five SEGA wins on the year. Still, a mid-season slump while he searched for a car gremlin that turned out to be a bad pinion gear, relegated him to second in A/Gas points behind Shannon Smith.

“Once we got that fixed, it went right back into running the way it should. But that’s how Shannon took the points (lead) from me; he stepped right in there and took four races in a row and there just wasn’t enough (events) left for me to catch him again,” Phillips said. “But I really can’t complain; we done good this year.”

In front of a packed house at North Carolina’s historic Shadyside Dragway, the South East Gassers Association (SEGA) wrapped up an 11-event season Nov. 3, with fans witnessing two sets of race wins and celebrating champions crowned in three official SEGA classes.

Based on the strength of a recent four-race winning streak, Shannon Smith of Landrum, SC, earned the 2018 SEGA A/Gas championship; Todd Blackwell of nearby Spartanburg, SC, wrapped up the B/Gas championship; and Larry Noel from Aiken, SC, was named C/Gas champion.  

Persistent rain two weeks earlier during the previous SEGA race at Carolina Dragway forced eliminations there up against the track’s midnight curfew. A decision was reached to run the semis and finals from the Aiken, SC, event within two rounds of qualifying for the season-ending Showdown at Shadyside. 

That led to Kenneth Phillips and his “Silver Streak II” ’58 Corvette taking the A/Gas win from Aiken over new class champion Smith and his “Pale Rider ’55 Chevy. Meanwhile, Phillips also secured the top spot in A/G qualifying for the Showdown, followed by Ben Christopher, Smith, Alan Gaulden and Donovan Stott in the top five of an 18-car field. All SEGA races are run heads up over an eighth-mile distance, but no times or speeds are displayed on the clocks.

“I also picked up a $500 bounty, I think, for someone finally beating Shannon,” Phillips said. “He was there with me early in the run, but by half track I knew I had him just so long as I didn’t make any mistakes.”    

The B/Gas win from Aiken went to Danny Byrd in the “Junk Yard Dog” Chevy II after he beat the “Alley Cat II” Corvette of Tim Bailey. Byrd also placed number one in B/Gas qualifying, leading Todd Blackwell, Jerry Birch, Mike Blackwell and Doug Dobbins atop a 21-car field, with Bailey slotted into the seventh starting position.

The postponed C/Gas win was secured by Leslie Horne and his “Stud Muffin” Chevy wagon when he defeated new class champ Noel and his “Crazy Horse” ’56 Chevy in the Aiken final. Maintaining the winners’ trend, Horne also was the quickest qualifier of 22 C/G entries for the Showdown, followed by Todd Oden, Josh Pruitt, Noel and Jimmy Huff.

“It was a little bit hard waiting (two weeks to complete the race),” Horne said. “I just wanted to get it done, so I was looking forward to coming here and glad everything worked out today.”

TWO-TIER CHAMP[ION – Todd Blackwell had reason to celebrate after winning the final race of the season at Shadyside Dragway and wrapping up the B/Gas championship in the process.

In Showdown at Shadyside eliminations, Phillips opened with a first-round victory over Earl McLemore in the “Lil’ Varmint” Austin before making a second-round solo pass. He then doused the hopes of last year’s champion Stott and took out Ernie Smith and the “Bounty Hunter” Studebaker in the semis to reach his second final round of the day.

Opposite Phillips, Gaulden drove his “Frequent Flyer” ’58 Vette to preliminary round wins over Gabriel Burrell in the Ford-powered, four-doored “Sour Mash” Chevy II, Jeff Jacobson and his ’55 Ford “Skairlane,” and Smith’s “Pale Rider” Chevy before making a bye run into the final. That set up the second battle of the day between the two silver C1 Vettes, as Phillips had already outran Gaulden in the Aiken semis on his way to his earlier race win.

When the tree dropped to determine the Shadyside final, Gaulden got away first, but Phillips was already gaining ground by the time they crossed the 60-foot marker.

“I think we left pretty even, but then in second, third gear, my car always pulls good, so I could kind of see him just start fading back. After that I just had to hold on,” Phillips recalled. “I think I had about three-quarters or maybe a car length on him at the finish line.”

Eight of the top-10 qualifiers in B/Gas were in various years of Chevy IIs, with only seventh-place Bailey’s Vette and number-nine starter Jared Bailey in a ’41 Studebaker the exceptions. Regardless, Todd Blackwell would eventually reach the final after dispatching Todd Rosenberry, making a second-round bye run, taking down eighth-place starter Jeff Madden, and defeating top qualifier Byrd in the semis. 

On the other side of the ladder, third-place qualifier Birch opened with wins over Lance Yoakem and James Beard before making a wall-banging run against Blackwell’s father, Mike. Running in the right lane, Birch drifted over about half track and twice climbed the wall at speed with his “Free Bird” Chevy’s right-side tires before he gathered it up to secure a semi-final bye into the final. 

SEGA rules automatically disqualify a car that crosses the centerline, but unlike most drag racing organizations, contact with a guardwall before continuing on to a win light does not mean automatic expulsion. 

“If you can keep going, keep going,” SEGA founder and promoter Quain Stott said. “I trust our drivers to make good decisions–even if they have touched the wall–might as well keep going if they can. And that was one heckuva’ drive by Jerry. He deserves a free pass after that one!”

Regardless, once in the final, Birch left way too soon, handing Blackwell and his “Sling Shot” Chevy II the Showdown race win while cementing his 2018 SEGA B/G championship by 25 points over Byrd, with Birch finishing another 40 points back in third.

“Free Bird, he’d been coming on pretty strong, but when I saw his red light come on I knew that was it,” Blackwell said later. “It was a long day, a lot of racing, but a very enjoyable one. And yeah, it’s going to feel good putting the championship on (the side of) the car and having it there all next year, too.”

FINISHING ON A HIGH NOTE – Todd Oden, who finished right behind Larry Noel in C/Gas points, still got to take the Shadyside win home to Leeds, AL. “We came in here 10 points behind in the championship. We were last year’s champion (D/Gas) and it meant a lot to us to stay consistent,” Oden said. “Our goal was to win the race and we did get that done, but in the meantime Larry as solid as he is, he did what he had to do, too, and we ended up just one round short. This is a tough class, a tough series.”

In C/Gas, it all came down to the “Scalded Dog” ’67 Rambler of Tim Hall and Todd Oden with his “Double XX” ’58 Chevy Delray. Hall, who started from the seventh position, made it past Travis Owen, Rick Cathcart, Horne and Noel to reach Owen, who downed Jenny Moses, John Gillian and Huff to receive a semi-final bye.

In the final, Oden gained a slight advantage off the start and held on to it for the full eighth mile.    

“We knew we had to be on our game because the last time we ran Tim he actually beat us. So we knew we had to leave the line hard and we brought our shift points up and sure enough, the car did exactly what it was supposed to do. It came right out, carried the wheels probably even farther than I needed it to, but it made a good, strong pass all the way down,” Oden said.

“The whole entire time I could see his car to my right and I was just thinking of Mr. Wendell Vinson who does our engine work. I’m thinking, ‘Okay Mr. Vinson, this is where you make your money, right here,’ and then the win light came on and I was like, ‘Thank you!'”

After coming into the weekend just 10 points behind Noel, Oden was hoping to back up his (now defunct) SEGA D/Gas championship from last season with this year’s C/G title. However, with 10 points paid for entering a SEGA event, five awarded for each qualifying run completed and five points available for each round won, he left Shadyside Dragway just five points short of Noel with Pruitt in the “Young Blood” entry only another 20 points behind Oden.

“All year long, 11 races, and Larry wins by just one round. It’s a testament to the way Quain has the points set up that it all comes down to just one round at the end,” Oden said. 

“It just shows it’s fierce competition out here. This C/Gas is serious business and the rules that the South East Gassers have makes it ultra competitive. Any week there can be 10 or 12 cars with a legitimate chance to win, so you really have to hone your driving skills if you want to go anywhere. But that really does make it fun to be out here. It’s a pleasure to compete against good racers like this.”     

 

With autumn leaves blowing in their wakes, the lighted W above Kenneth Phillips’ 1958 Corvette tells the story at Shadyside Dragway Nov. 3, as he beats newly crowned SEGA A/Gas champion Shannon Smith to the stripe to earn the postponed race win from Carolina Dragway.
Danny Byrd (left) and Tim Bailey launch hard in the B/Gas final from the curfew-shortened SEGA race at Aiken, SC, two weeks earlier. Byrd won the race and finished the season second in points, while Bailey wrapped up a fourth-place result.
Leslie Horne and his “Stud Muffin” station wagon picked up the delayed C/Gas win from the previous SEGA race at Carolina Dragway. Horne, who hails from Boiling Springs, SC, just 45 minutes away from Shadyside Dragway, praised the competition in the period-correct drag racing series. “C/Gas has gotten really hard, really tight, and you can’t take anyone for granted,” he said. “I’m just enjoying being out here, having a blast with the South East Gassers. It’s the most fun I’ve had in a long time.”
One biggest wheelstands of the day belonged to C/G finalist Tim Hall in round two of qualifying at Shadyside Dragway.
The H/Gas VW Bug entries of Kentucky’s Paul Combest (near lane) with his “Sour Kraut” ’65 Beetle and “Beelzabug” of the Cfm Racing stable made several exhibition passes at Shadyside.  Nick Ruhl from Pennsylvania also ran his six-cylinder H/G ’37 Chevy.
After putting his “Lil’ Red Wagon” A/Gas entry on its roof at the previous SEGA event at Carolina Dragway, Barry Lynn was back at Shadyside just two weeks later with a ’61 Impala on loan from SEGA organizer Quain Stott. Lynn qualified the baby blue machine 17th of 18 A/G entries and bowed out in round one of racing to Ben Christopher.
Despite winning just one SEGA C/Gas event early this season at Clay City, KY, consistent deep-round finishes propelled Larry Noel and his wife, Sandy, to the C/G championship by just five points (one round) over Todd Oden. 

“We didn’t set out to win a championship or anything like that. We just built the car and it fell in the C/Gas category with the small block in it and it was good right from the start. We just kept gaining and gaining with it at every race,” Noel said of his “Crazy Horse” ’56 Chevy powered by a Dart 350 built by Wayne Sless in Greenwood, SC. 

“It does come down to every round counts, but I didn’t even think about stuff like that when we were getting started. Now, when I’m thinking back it’s all about ‘I could’ve won that one,’ or ‘I should’ve done this,’ and then when it all comes down to one round at the last race I’m thinking I should’ve done better, but it worked out for us and we’re really happy with it. Couldn’t be any happier!”

With crew chief Tom White giving a kick behind the car, Cynthia Phillips of Columbus, NC, qualified her “Flower Power” ’53 Chevy seventh in C/Gas at Shadyside, won her opening round of racing over Kelvin Cannon, then ran a career-best elapsed time in a close loss to Jimmy Huff and his “Hoopty Wagon.” With a seventh-place C/G class points finish she’s also the highest placing female driver in the SEGA series.
It was a classic battle between C1 Corvettes in the A/Gas final, with Kenneth Phillips (far lane) overcoming a slight holeshot by Alan Gaulden to earn his second SEGA race win of the day and fifth of the year.
Unfortunately for Jerry Birch (near lane), he left with a bright red light shining across his lane in the B/G final at Shadyside Dragway, handing the win to Todd Blackwell, who also was named class champion for this year.
The C/G final was a close affair at Shadyside, with Todd Oden and his ’58 Chevy (near lane) narrowly beating Tim Hall and his ’67 Rambler.
Robert Peffley brought the whole family down from Clinton, IN, to win the SEGA Super Stock class with his trusty “4-Speed Stampede” Plymouth wagon at Shadyside Dragway. SEGA owner and promoter Quain Stott hopes to build the SS class up over the next year or two.  
Shannon Smith was on a four-race winning streak with his “Pale Rider” ’55 Chevy and had already clinched the 2018 A/Gas championship heading into the two race events at Shadyside Dragway. 

 

 



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