Top Gun racers defend titles

The NHRA Desert Heat series rolls into Top Gun Raceway as part of Octane Fest. The drag racing runs Friday through Sunday.

The NHRA Desert Heat series rolls into Top Gun Raceway as part of Octane Fest. The drag racing runs Friday through Sunday.

Top Gun Raceway has come a long way in its first 25 years but saw some challenges when Octane Fest was still fresh and new eight years ago. Since then, the NHRA Desert Heat has packed fans in for the biggest weekend of any at Top Gun event each year, more than 500 in last year’s Octane Fest, and Top Gun Race Operations Manager John Stauverman said he is confident this year can match if not exceed that number.

“Our NHRA sanctioned events have always been a success and our biggest race of the season,” Stauverman said. “We enjoy having it the same weekend as Octane Fest since people can come to Top Gun and enjoy the races in the morning and then go to the fairgrounds without too much overlap. It’s been a win-win for everybody.”

Spectator fees for all the Top Gun events are $10 a day for adults and $5 for kids 6-14. Gates open at 8 a.m. today where the test n’ tune runs from noon until 6 p.m. before the real action begins on Saturday with the Pacific National Open Series. Gates open at 7 a.m. Saturday with time trials and/or qualifying times for cars at 9 a.m. The Junior Dragster division series (ages 6-17) starts eliminations at 2 p.m. on Saturday which continues through to Sunday, a two weekend event for the junior racers as well as for the Summit E.T. series continuing for Fallon.

As a special feature on Saturday, the NorCal Top Comp racing association will begin its series with eliminations beginning around 2 p.m. as well, the feature show for the weekend according to Stauverman.

“Last year we had funny cars and the year before we had some nostalgic type stuff, but this year we have the NorCal Top Comp,” he said. The NorCal features five categories including Top Comp (competition), Stock, Superstock Combo, Super Comp, Super Gas and Superstreet with eliminations through Sunday. The NorCal races boast mid-six second runs at 275 miles per hour according to Stauverman who expects a sixteen car field and a prize of $2,500 to the winner(s).

Also attending is Melissa “Westerman” Fredrick, Pro/Super Pro three-time Summit E.T. finalist from Sonoma, Calif.,, and two time winner of the Nor Cal Top Comp Association Championship in 2012 and 2013.

Stepping out of her well-known 408 CI Ford Winsor powered Mustang, Fredrick is now racing in the dragster division for the NorCal and the NHRA Top Dragster Class.

Though big names like Fredrick will be out in force among racers from Northern Nevada, a few of Top Gun’s own including Walt Stacey, Frank Barrett, and brothers Lonnie and Jim Grace will be racing, the competition more challenging than intimidating according to Stauverman.

The Desert Heat promises to be a win-win for the raceway, according to Stauverman, who has been with Top Gun since he began as racer 23 years ago before climbing through administrative positions. Before, Stauverman was both vice president and president at Top Gun before he stepped down recently,and remains an active member of the board of directors while serving as race operations manager.

“Our schedule is structured around Octane Fest,” he said on the spike in attendance last year, “so I would anticipate that much and hope for more. We have an increase in revenue which goes right back into the facility since we’re a non-profit. I Would anticipate the same results this year, if not more.”

Dually, the IMCA Modifieds begin at Rattlesnake Raceway Saturday at noon and continue Sunday also at noon. Tickets are $10 for adults and $5 for kids 6-14.

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