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Racers using Holley EFI engine management systems had an excellent showing at the Yellowbullet Nationals at Cecil County Dragway over Labor Day Weekend. The last few years have been challenging from an event promotion perspective for many tracks, but this year finally felt like old times again. The stands were packed with excited spectators, and the pits were filled with high-quality machines and talented racers.
Cecil County Dragway runs a strong heads-up program of its own, but the Yellowbullet Nationals drags in competitors from all over the country to see how they stack up at this unique event. In 2022, three racers captured class wins with Holley EFI, while another earned a runner-up finish.
It was one heck of a week for X275 event winner Scott Parson. The team, consisting of Parson, tuner/chassis builder James Smith of James Smith Custom Race Cars, and crewman Sonny Nichols, struggled through qualifying, ending the sessions with a best pass of 4.509 at only 126 mph and landing in the eleventh qualified position. The team is sorting out a brand-new, all-billet Charlie Buck engine built specifically for this class, and it's been a bit of a challenge so far.
"I can't say enough about this new Charlie Buck engine; it just makes everything we were hoping it would power-wise. He built me an all-billet piece just for this class. Now we're trying to control the power and sort out everything from the flywheel back. Everything we have done for the last three seasons has been based around Ultra Street, so we're having growing pains again. If I had had one more weekend with this car before this race it would have been a whole different animal. We only had three eighth-mile passes before the event," he says.
These difficulties meant the team started from the back of the pack and would have their work cut out for them on the way to the event win. Parson faced off against perennial frontrunner Domenic DiDonato in the first round. Parson took a healthy advantage on the starting line and needed every bit of it as DiDonato thundered through the second half of the track, with the margin at the strip just .007-seconds, or just under 2 feet at nearly 175 mph.
"We were fighting a transmission issue throughout the weekend. It was dropping converter pressure right off the hit. One of our keys to reading that issue is through the Holley Dominator; we were able to pick it up on the sensor and try to tune around it. We had to kill the engine in that area by pulling power through there, which affected the car's performance, but at the end of the day, we had to do what we had to do to make it to the end. We weren't able to fix it at the track."
The second round was a freebie when Eric Henderson didn't make the lane call, which gave Smith a chance to swing at the track and see what it would hold. In the semifinal, Parson faced off against Brendan Mills, whose turbocharged Mustang took out #3 qualifier Justin Palmer in the first round and Jason Berchoff's Mustang in the second.
Parson and Mills left the starting line just .001 apart, but Mills struck the tire while Parson streaked to the finish line with a 4.32 to set up a final round with none other than fellow Holley EFI racer Ron Rhodes.
The final round was anticlimactic, as Rhodes left the starting line just three ticks early with a redlight to hand Parson the win before the nitrous-on-nitrous crime even began. It was an excellent weekend for the Farm Girl Camaro and the entire team, as they could redeem themselves on a weekend with multiple challenges faced from several angles.
"We lucked our way through, and I'm not gonna lie, that's how it happened. It's better to be lucky than good some days. I hated to win the way we won, though. I wouldn't want to lose to him like that; that's just the way it goes," he says.
In a weekend that hosted a pair of 4.4x qualifiers in Ultra Street, Bill Trovato stepped up with his super-consistent program to outlast 31 other racers and capture a hard-fought win at the Yellowbullet Nationals. Trovato's 4.533 qualifying effort was strong enough to earn him the fourth position at the end of three sessions, behind Shawn Pevlor's 4.489, Ronny Rhodes' 4.498, and Stephen Barnett's 4.530 hits. It was not an easy road to the final round for the New York racer.
"We planned on going to Yellowbullet directly after the NMCA Norwalk event, where we earned the runner-up while completing the Michigan makeup race, and the Norwalk event on the same weekend. We were conservative that weekend as there was no time to fix the engine if we screwed it up. Going into Yellowbullet, we made one test hit on a brand new set of Mickey Thompson tires, and it left the line perfectly; therefore we decided we were ready for qualifying," says Trovato.
He almost took a heartbreaking loss in the first round when opponent Scott Wayne strapped a healthy holeshot on him at the starting line, but he gathered it up and powered ahead to take the win. At the finish line, Trovato's 4.63 crossed the stripe ahead of Wayne's 4.73 elapsed time with a margin of .056-second.
"We have a small number of passes with the newly installed Holley fuel injection, and within that short amount of time we have had great success due to Mike Thompson of TNT Performance. He made this transition very quick and easy between his Holley Dominator EFI knowledge and our team's experience with the car and engine. I am very lucky to have David Mitchell as crew chief. He is sharp and is catching on quickly so that Mike doesn't have to hold our hand in the future. John Costello has the other important stuff handled. Dale Cubic of CFM Performance Carburetors has contributed to this transition also as his experience in knowing how to deliver fuel to a racing engine and Mike being able to do that electronically was huge," he explains.
The second round had the potential for a huge upset, as Trovato came up against multi-time NMRA Renegade champ Brian Mitchell's Mustang; Trovato had to pedal but recovered to a 4.81 while Mitchell aborted his run. Next, Kieffer Simpson showed up for his quarterfinal matchup with Trovato ready to go, as he gained .015-second on the starting line but gave that and more back on the big end, as Trovato crossed first with another consistent 4.63 blast.
Trovato paired with fellow Holley EFI racer Louie Filippides of American Racing Headers in a Camaro-on-Camaro battle in the semifinal round. Just .006 separated the pair on the starting line, and .006 separated them at the finish. Trovato had the starting line advantage, and Filippides had the edge at the finish line. The margin of victory equaled one-thousandth of a second, too small a number for Compulink to display. Just over a quarter-inch at 154 miles per hour separated the pair at the stripe!
Trovato still had one more race to go against the buzzin' half-dozen Buick-powered Mustang of Dave Fiscus, which has been on a tear with Eric "Cheeseburger" Waterman tuning it to the winners circle on many occasions over the last several years.
In the final round versus Fiscus, Trovato gave up the starting line advantage but was able to drive the car to a strong 4.528 to Fiscus' 4.574. Fiscus' Buick-powered machine came on strong in the back half but didn't have enough track to catch Trovato's nitrous-injected LS-powered Camaro.
"I have an awesome crew to help make all this happen. To win the Yellowbullet race is huge in my opinion because the best of the best attend it. With that said, it was quite a weekend racing against the best guys and girls in the country and coming out on top," says Trovato.
Mike Gerber has been looking for a win at the Yellowbullet Nationals for several years; his familiar S10 is a staple at Cecil County and every Warriors Outlaw race throughout the season. Gerber's 4.269 at 169.49 mph was good enough for the third qualified spot in the Warriors A program. With 44 cars on the qualifying sheet, the Warriors run an A and B field to keep the racing tight and enjoyable for fans to watch.
The first round brought Gerber an easy win when the convertible Fox body Mustang of Jorge Fretts didn't make a full pull. Gerber's 4.32 was slightly off his qualifying effort, but with the MPH right in line, he knew the truck would perform well.
"We have struggled every year at this race. Some sort of failure always hindered us, or myself as a driver. Wow, we finally did it this year!" he says.
Gerber has worked hand-in-hand with James Smith of JSC Race Cars on the tune-ups for this program and has been very happy with the Holley EFI equipment the team uses. Smith is well-versed in the Holley software and has been working with Gerber to get him up to speed.
"I need to thank Holley for giving us great products. We love the Dominator ECU. We have Holley smart coils and also Holley fuel injectors, plus many other Holley products. I could not be happier," says Gerber.
The second round of competition brought Keith Rhea's newly rebuilt twin-turbo Mustang in the opposite lane, but Gerber dispatched him handily with a 4.31 blast to Rhea's 4.55 hit. A freebie came in the next round when Warren Vandish turned on the angry red bulb just .003-second early with his '72 Nova, giving Gerber a free pass to the final round.
There, he met up with Jacob Naumann and his spotless nitrous-injected '70 Nova. Gerber needed every bit of his starting line advantage as Naumann powered through on the big end with the quicker elapsed time. But leaving nearly four tenths on the starting line was the ultimate killer; Gerber captured the stripe by just .018-second to earn his first Yellowbullet Nationals win.
Perennial contender Ron Rhodes was on a path to victory in X275; he had the quickest car in the field during every round except the first round of eliminations. He holds the home track advantage; Rhodes has been down the Cecil County Dragway surface more than almost everyone on the planet and holds a couple of Yellowbullet trophies of his own—including the 2021 version.
Rhodes ran through the field on his side of the tree, eliminating Al Pongonis and Craig Walls with ease, then taking the competition single in the semifinal before coming up to Parson in the final round.
There, he pushed a little bit too hard on the tree with a -.003 redlight to eliminate himself before the festivities began.