Author: Benson, Candida
Date published: May 18, 2012
Drag racers often refer to their fellow racers and friends at the track as being their second family, and as such, they are always willing to step up and help one another when the need arises. Hagen Gary certainly fits into that category, so when Ronnie West's family needed help getting exposure for West's old '70 Plymouth GTX as they try to sell it, Gary was more than happy to step up and assist them. That move proved to be doubly rewarding because not only did Gary get some big exposure for the car, but he was able to outlast the Stock field at the O'Reilly Auto Parts NHRA Spring Nationals presented by Super Start Batteries for the second straight year.
"We don't get to many races each year, so winning one of them is kind of nice," said Gary, whose racing is limited due to attending Coleman College in Houston. "I'm just glad I can get some exposure for that car. If they don't sell this car now, I don't know what people are thinking. If I had the money, it would be mine. It would make somebody a heck of a car.
"We qualified No. 2 with it. It's pretty quick, and it's a good-looking car also. It's quite an expensive piece. It's very, very consistent, too. We kept the same number on the window all Sunday, and it repeated everything the same way. As long as I did what I was supposed to do, the car did exactly what I wanted."
Though the car performed flawlessly on Sunday for the three final rounds, getting to that point took a little work. After a 10.24 (10.13 dial) in the opening round against a red-lighting Willie Coleman, Gary spun the tires on a bye run in round two and against Kevin Stubbs, who redlighted, in the third round. Following that run, Gary and his crew discovered a problem with the shocks on the car.
"We found one of the shocks on the right side had a bunch of oil coming out of it, so we could tell it was blowed up," said Gary. "We pulled them things off and ran to O'Reilly, but they couldn't get it within three or four hours, so [another parts store] happened to have it right down the road. We put a pair of stock shocks on the back of the thing, and it hooked up Sunday."
In the quarterfinals, Gary paired a .006 light with a 10.12 (10.11) to trailer Slate Cummings. In the semi's, he again cut a .006 light, then ran right on the 10.11 target to defeat Kyle Ratcliff and advance to his third national event final.
In the title round, Gary got the jump at the Tree, .027 to .092, and he used the advantage to push Britt Cummings into a 10.50 (10.56) breakout. "That car leaves so hard that it gives people a false impression that I have a better light than what I do because it makes a lot of ground in the first 330," said Gary. "I was on his back bumper when I shifted into 2nd, so I gave him no room to do his game, which is back into me. The only way I could lose then is to break out, so I popped the throttle a couple of times to get rid of just a little bit and make sure I wasn't breaking out and let him make the decision. He decided to go for the stripe, and he broke out by quite a bit."
The key race: Due to the issues with the shocks on the car and the fact he was racing Slate Cummings, Gary points to his quarterfinal match as being the key one. "We pulled up there not knowing whether it was going to hook up," he said. "We couldn't get this thing to hook up all weekend, and we threw some stock shocks on it, and that's what it was.
"And we're racing Slate Cummings. You don't ever want to see that guy in the other lane. I knew I had to be good on the Tree like always. It worked out that I was .006, and I went down there and got rid of what I wanted to get rid of. He dumped, and I dumped, and I took the stripe."
The runner-up: Britt Cummings, who won in Super Comp, just missed scoring a double when he came up short in the final against Gary. Prior to his double-final appearance here, Cummings had two other money rounds to his credit, including at the 2007 JEGS NHRA Cajun SPORTSnationals, where he won in Super Comp. Cummings defeated Butch Marlow, J Allen Sherman, Ronald Temento, and David Buckner en route to the final.
Fast facts: Joe Teuton qualified No. 1 with a (-.983) 10.86 from his F/SA '09 Challenger. ... Though he cut a perfect .000 light, Pro Stock ace Jeg Coughlin Jr. came up on the losing end of a tight battle with Jimmy Hidalgo Jr. in the second round.
Did you know: Gary first drove the '70 Plymouth GTX at the Cajun SPORTSnationals. "We won the A/SA class with it," he said. "That's what we wanted to do, go out there and show how fast it was. I think there were nine cars in the class, which is a lot, and we ended up winning."
Quotable: "I'm a Chevy guy, so I never really understood what the big deal about the Hemi is, and then I jumped behind the wheel of this thing, and I see it's just a pleasure to drive." - Gary
Best packages: 1. Sherman (Donaldsonville, La.), .000/11.033 (11.03 dial) round one; 2. Gary (Pearland, Texas), .006/10.116 (10.11 dial) semifinals; 3. Jerry Doughty (Baton Rouge, La.), .005/11.634 (11.62 dial) round one. ND