Author: Jodauga, John
Date published: April 6, 2012
Journal code: NDRG
For most of his 13- year career, Dillon Bontrager had been a successful bracket racer with wins at several high-purse events, and he even won a 10-round event at North Star Dragway in Denton, Texas, a couple of years ago, but around that time, he decided to switch to NHRA categories and competed in Super Comp and Top Dragster for about a season and a half.
His decision to move to Super Gas was a result of a conversation that he had with Art and Cheryl Zunker of Team B'Yond Reason, whose cars he had worked on in the past.
"We were just talking about Super Gas one day," said Bontrager, "and they ended up buying a Super Gas '69 Camaro from Tracy Dennis for me to drive. I was already helping my good friend Brett Patterson race his Top Dragster, so I was scheduled to be at several races anyway."
Bontrager wasted little time in achieving success with his new venture: He went three rounds in his first Super Gas national event in Dallas last year, and he made it all the way to the winner's circle on just his second time out at this year's JEGS NHRA Cajun SPORTSnationals.
His many years of bracket racing had already helped Bontrager refine his finish-line driving skills, but he's still going through a learning curve with his switch from the full Tree to the Pro Tree.
"I'm still not as consistent with the Pro Tree as I was with the full Tree, but it's starting to come around," said Bontrager.
According to Bontrager, the biggest factor in his win was tips from veteran racer and carburetor wizard Gary Stinnett.
"He told me that if I made three changes with my throttle stop and torque converter that I would win my next race," said Bontrager. "I did just what he told me, and the car not only became more consistent, but it responded properly to any change that we made with the tune-up. I couldn't have been happier to see his prediction come true."
Bontrager currently plans to run the two remaining JEGS NHRA SPORTSnationals events this year and the national events in Houston, Dallas, and Indy. In the meantime, he will continue bracket racing with his Super Comp dragster on a limited basis.
"There's still a few of the bigmoney races that I want to go to if they're being run on an open weekend with our national event schedule," said Bontrager.
The key race: For Bontrager, the pivotal contest of the event came in the semi's, when he faced off against highly regarded veteran David Tatum III. "He's a past NHRA world champion, and he knows what he's doing," said Bontrager. "He was the one that worried me the most." Bontrager took the contest in a narrow double-breakout decision.
The runner-up: This was the second finalround appearance for Wes Neely, who was also the runner-up at the 2010 Tire Kingdom NHRA Gatornationals presented by NAPAFilters.com, where he was defeated by Joe Santangelo. Neely had solid lights of .016 and .019 in the first and third rounds, respectively, and when Rick Bowman beat him off the starting line in round four with a .030 to .071 advantage, he still managed to take the win when Bowman broke out. That gave Neely a bye in the semi's.
Fast facts: The racing conditions were very fast for the Super Gassers because 13 races were double-breakout decisions, three of which were scored by Bontrager.
Did you know: Bontrager splits his time between his position as a superintendent for a paint contracting company, which he has done for three years, and setting up race cars (wiring, plumbing, etc.), an activity in which he has engaged for the last 10 years.
Quotable: "My starting-line advantage gave me enough of a cushion at the finish line to allow me to back off a bit. I was fairly confident that I had won the race, but you never know until you see which lane that the little light comes on. When it lit up in in my lane, I got pretty excited." - Bontrager
Best packages: 1. Tatum (Palmetto, Ga.), .001/9.904 (round two); 2. Rustin Mayse (Grandview, Texas), .004/9.904 (round two). 3. Patrick Dehner (Smithtown, N.Y.), .002/9.907 (round two).