Cecil County Dragway
Sunday, August 19, 2012
Bourke, Veney Win Eastern Regional at Cecil County
by Todd Veney
RISING SUN, Md. -- At historic Cecil County Dragway at the final Eastern Regional event of the year, Richard Bourke parlayed qualifying success at recent events into his first victory of the season in Top Alcohol Dragster and Todd Veney won Top Alcohol Funny Car for the second time this year.
"The car's been running great in qualifying all year," said Bourke, who paced the field at three of the four Eastern Regional events he entered this season, sometimes by as much as seven-hundredths of a second. "We've had a few problems in eliminations, but this time everything went right."
Bourke was No. 1 after the first session with the only run in the 5.30s (5.38), was overtaken by Canadian Dan Mercier's 5.37 in the last-shot session, and reclaimed the lead one pair later with a 5.36. Sixteen drivers attempted to qualify, and the bump was Frank Schuster's 5.48.
In the first round, in one of the best regional rounds anywhere in the country this year, both Mercier, who won the Lebanon Valley Dragway event in June, and Bourke advanced with runs in the 5.30s. Dan Page was the only winner not to run in the .30s, and he just missed with a 5.401. Two drivers even ran in the 5.30s and lost: defending national champion and two-time Cecil County winner Duane Shields, who ran a 5.38, and Eastern Region points leader Rich McPhillips, who went a 5.36. Mercier temporarily gained low e.t. with a 5.34 against Shields, and New England Dragway winner John Finke reset low e.t. for good with a 5.32 opposite McPhillips.
Bourke, who tunes his car himself and reached at least the semifinals at every regional event this season, advanced with a 5.39 against Schuster and won the semifinals over Page, 5.39 to 5.42. In the other semi, Mercier drove around a Finke holeshot to reach his fourth career final at Cecil County, 5.35 to 5.47. In the final, in a rematch of the 2006 race, Bourke, who won here in 2007, left first and made his best run of the weekend, 5.34, to hold off 2006 and 2008 event winner Mercier's close 5.38.
In the Top Alcohol Funny Car final, both cars were all over the track as Veney edged national championship contender Mickey Ferro in the closest race of the day, 5.665 to 5.668.
"Jay Blake and tuner Tom Howell really got this thing turned around this weekend," Veney said. "We haven't run that great lately, and we made the three best runs we've made in months at exactly the right time. 5.60s on a track like this is really hard to do, and they got it done."
Ferro burned a piston in a 5.79 first-round win over alternate John Headley, then ran low e.t. and top speed of the meet – a 5.62 at 256.31 mph – in the semifinals against Richmond runner-up D.J. Cox, who lost with his second of back-to-back 5.60s at his home track. Veney beat Marie Ferriolo in round one, 5.67 to a career-best 5.69, and pulled to within one point of Eastern Region points leader John Anderika with a semifinal win over Anderika, 5.67 to 6.04.
Veney passed Anderika with the final-round win over Ferro and assumed the lead when Frank Manzo, who had won this race in each of the past nine years, went to the Brainerd national event instead of Cecil County. Manzo, who won both of his appearances in the Eastern Region – Maple Grove and New England – dropped out of contention because drivers must run at least three events in their home region to be eligible for regional championships.