Author: Jodauga, John
Date published: July 29, 2011
After having honed his skills for many years in IHRA's Street Rod (9.90 index) category, Rusty Cook began competing at NHRA national and divisional events in 2009, and his impact has been both immediate and impressive. He finished second in last year's Division 3 competition and currently is in the same spot for this year's Division 3 title and in eighth place in the national standings, and with his Super Gas victory in the JEGS Allstars competition and a runner-up in Sunday's regular event, Cook has established himself as one of the more respected 9.90 racers in the country.
Like just about every other racer who has had the privilege of representing his or her division in the JEGS Allstars, Cook was blown away by the overall experience.
"I've never been associated with anything like this before," said Cook. "It was just phenomenal. Kudos to the Coughlin family, the JEGS crew, 'Woody' [Scott Woodruff], and everybody else who worked throughout the weekend. It was just marvelous.
"One aspect that I really enjoyed was the team concept," added Cook. "It was something very unique that you don't experience at other races. We normally don't have a chance to associate with people from the other classes, but we certainly did this weekend, and that added a different flavor to it. I made a lot of new friends during the event, and it's something I'll always remember."
After qualifying was concluded, Cook found himself third in the eight-car field, but he said that it really didn't matter where he ended up in the order. "This is a who's who of Super Gas, so in terms of who you were going to race in the first round, it was a matter of picking your poison," said Cook. "There were certainly no gimmes in any spot on the ladder."
The warmer-than-usual track conditions did not create any challenges for Cook's tune-up, either. "We run our car on methanol, and the hotter the weather gets, the better the car likes it," he said. "The driver has to cool off every now and then, but other than, that there was no problem."
To reach the Allstars winner's circle, all that Cook had to do was defeat Alan Kenny, Tommy Phillips, and last year's champion, Jason Kenny. Cook got past Alan in the first round, 9.908 to 9.906, aided by a .013 to .051 starting-line advantage, and then scored a pivotal 9.870 to 9.875 double-breakout win over Phillips to advance to the final.
"Before the final," said Cook, "everyone in the Kenny family was teasing me that I couldn't beat the Kennys twice in one day." But Cook managed to pull off the feat by leaving first, .018 to .032, and then getting the win light with a 9.91 after Jason ran too quick with a 9.88.
Cook thanked Ohio Crankshaft, his primary sponsor and also the builder of his engines, and he acknowledged Goodyear, Bazell Race Fuels, Speed- Pro, Fel-Pro, all of his other product sponsors, and JEGS, "for sponsoring such a neat event for the Sportsman racers." Cook offered special thanks to "my wife, Theresa; daughter, Brandi; son-in-law, Steven; and my 11-month-old granddaughter, Anna, who is the new love of my life. I also want to thank God because with him all things are possible."