Cheney Free Press -

By PAUL DELANEY
Staff Reporter 

Medical Lake racer Cooper's twin wins a rarity

Two drag race wins at same event put him in very special company

 

NHRA

Contributed photo from NHRA Medical Lake's Justin Cooper shows off the two "Wally" trophies he won in one day May 7, at Firebird Raceway in Boise, Idaho. It's a feat not often duplicated anywhere in major National Hot Rod Association competition, and never in several decades among local drag racers.

Medical Lake drag racer Justin Cooper had a very special Sunday on May 7 at Boise, Idaho's Firebird Raceway.

Not only did he drive his way to one championship at the 48th annual IGNIGTOR in the Super Street class, but accomplished an even more unusual feat by doubling down and also emerging victorious in Super Comp as well.

Cooper, driving cars owned by Tom Clark of Spokane Valley, knocked out Mike Hiatt, of Fallon, Nev., in Super Comp, a dragster class, running 9.159 seconds at 161.56 mph to Hiatt's 9.171, 161.56 in a battle of dragsters.

In the "doorslammer" Super Street class, Cooper met up with Al Quigley out of Aldergrove, British Columbia. Cooper's 1967 Chevelle covered the quarter mile in 11.140, 129.79 to Quigley's 11.114, 140.91 in his 1998 Mustang.

These were Cooper's fourth and fifth victories in the regional Lucas Oil Series where the winner claims the coveted "Wally" statue trophies, named in honor of National Hot Rod Association (NHRA) founder, Wally Parks.

While it's hard to track down the frequency of one driver winning twice in the same day, it is certainly rare. So much so that Cooper became the first local driver over several decades of NHRA divisional competition to ever win twice in one day. Most drivers race in just one class, however.

"We have actually had several over the years win two classes at the Ignitor," spokesman Scott New of Firebird Raceway wrote in an email. "I agree it is quite rare and difficult to do."

Cooper joins some regal company, at least at Firebird. "Jerry 'The King' Ruth was the first I believe in 1972 when he won Top Fuel and Funny Car here," New said referencing the Northwest, and national, drag racing legend from Seattle.

"This can and has happened a number of times, (but it) does not happen a lot, "NHRA Division 6 spokesman Eric Lotz also wrote. It has occurred 39 times at the national event level by 24 different drivers. He did not have an exact number of times for divisional events, however.

Many people race two cars, but the double is certainly a rarity, and for a variety of reasons, Cooper said.

"The biggest difficulty of doubling up is the logistics in the late rounds of needing to be in both cars at the same time," Cooper said. "I was able to use past experience to not let it distract me from what I needed to do to win."

He said one of the biggest factors to pulling it off was having his sister, Stephanie, who's an accomplished racer herself, working on his team.

"She helped me enter data and quickly dial each car between rounds so I could jump right out of one, and into the other and head back to the staging lanes where my competitor was already ready and waiting on me," Cooper said.

Cooper also wanted to thank Clark and his wife, Brenda, for the opportunity to drive part of his stable of cars. "It took a lot of effort from all of my crew (including his parents, Steve and Michelle) to make it happen," Cooper said.

The next big outing for Cooper comes May 31 – June 3 when he will represent his division in Super Comp in the Jegs All-Star race at Route 66 Raceway near Chicago.

As the reigning divisional champ, Cooper will race aganst six other NHRA regional titilists, plus the 2017 Jegs winner in this prestegeous sportsman-level event. There are eight different Jegs class races where a national champ is crowned amongst hundreds and hundreds of "weekend-warrior" drivers from across North America.

Paul Delaney can be reached at pdelaney@cheneyfreepress.com.

 

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