ROUTE 66 RACEWAY 2018 YEAR IN REVIEW

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Following a jam-packed, eight-month event season, Route 66 Raceway, The First True Stadium of Drag Racing, wrapped up its 20th anniversary celebration. The headliner of the summer was the JEGS Route 66 NHRA Nationals with four deserving champions walking away with their respective Wally.

A better script couldn’t have been written for the JEGS Route 66 NHRA Nationals Top Fuel Class as Clay Millican, who made his Top Fuel debut at Route 66 Raceway’s inaugural year in 1998, used a 3.894-second pass at 289.32 mph to secure his first-ever win at Route 66 Raceway. Millican piloted his Parts Plus/Great Clips dragster to the his third career as defeated Pat Dakin, Scott Palmer, Doug Kalitta and Leah Pritchett in the final round along the way to the third win of his career.

The Funny Car title was brought home by Robert Hight, who set the speed and ET record at Route 66 Raceway last year before claiming his first-ever world championship. Hight powered his Auto Club Chevrolet Camaro SS to a pass of 4.073 at 310.63 to defeat 2016 world champion Ron Capps in the final round. Hight drove past Cruz Pedregon, points leader Courtney Force and Bob Tasca III to reach his fourth final round of the year. The victory was the first at Route 66 Raceway for Hight and the 42nd of his career.

Jeg Coughlin Jr., whose family served as the weekend’s title sponsor, grabbed his 59th career victory and first since 2014 after going 6.574 at 210.67 in his JEGS.com/Elite Performance Chevrolet Camaro to beat No. 1 qualifier Greg Anderson in the final round in the Pro Stock Class. Coughlin, a five-time world champion, had gone 74 races since his last victory, but earned his sixth career win at Route 66 Raceway, the most for any NHRA driver.

Coughlin beat Alex Laughlin, Matt Hartford and Tanner Gray to reach the final round. He also jumped to 10th in points, becoming the eighth different winner in Pro Stock through the first nine races of the season. Anderson, who was seeking his first win of 2018, grabbed the points lead over Vincent Nobile with his final-round berth.

In Pro Stock Motorcycle, two-time world champion Matt Smith earned his first victory of 2018 and 19th of his career with a run of 6.816 at 195.87 on his Victory Magnum in the final round. Smith bested Steve Johnson, Jim Underdahl, points leader and No. 1 qualifier Andrew Hines, and LE Tonglet in the final round to lock down his first career victory at Route 66 Raceway. Smith also moved to sixth in the points standings.

The Import Face-Off returned to Joliet on May 6, bringing with it quarter-mile drag racing, a car, truck and bike show, sound-system contests, burnout contests, DJs, vendors and more. This import event is hailed as one of the most innovative in the U.S. and presented much more than just a race and car show that fans enjoyed.

Route 66 Raceway once again played host to the NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series, one of six events in the North Central Division and one of 45 scheduled across the country where drivers earn points leading to divisional, regional and national championships as well as a chance at a share of the year-end purse. Amplifying the NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series was the Four Seasons Heating Air Conditioning and Pluming Burndown at Sundown! As the sun set behind Route 66 Raceway, fans were treated to jet-propelled, fire-breathing dragsters exceeding speeds of 300 miles per hour.

The National Mustang Racers Association (NMRA) and the National Muscle Car Association (NMCA) rolled into town for the 13th Annual Nitto Tire Super Bowl of Street Legal Drag Racing on July 26-29. This is the only event of its kind where the NMRA and NMCA go head-to-head in a competition for the ultimate bragging rights. In addition to cut-throat drag racing, the event featured a car show, swap meet and manufacturer’s midway.

The D’Arcy Buick GMC Route 66 Classic on August 18 once again paid homage to the early drag racing and hot rod culture while presenting the ultimate trip down memory lane. Fans left the world of 2018 behind as they perused vintage-style art, had a drink at the Sneaky Tiki Bar and grabbed some grub from the Route 66 Diner.

Unlike any other event at Route 66 Raceway, the D’Arcy Buick GMC Route 66 Classic solely features nostalgia match drag racing. The track even offered a Runn Tuff Eliminator competition which was made famous at US-30 Dragstrip and Oswego Dragway in the hay-day of drag racing in the Midwest. Last year, Route 66 Raceway also witnessed an outpour of vintage vehicles with interest in participating in the Classic Car Cruise-In. With an improved and expanded parking area, more than 200 cars, 1979 and older, displayed within the pro pits.

The crowd was privy to the second-annual pin-up contest featuring a flock of lovely ladies who rock the iconic look in hopes of becoming “Miss Classic.” Contestants performed in front of a live audience and panel of judges in two sessions, highlighting both their vintage-inspired fashions and a brief Q&A. The winner was crowned by 2018 Miss Classic Tonya Maria and received a substantial prize basket, including beauty and fashion products. As part of the contest, the ladies were challenged to enter the racer pits and solicit donations benefitting Pits for Patriots. The contestant that earned the most in donations was crowned the Queen of Hearts. For the second year in a row, a single contestant, Miss Caroline Rose, took home both coveted crowns.  

For the second consecutive year, Grundy County won the Will County vs. Grundy County Grudge Match at the D’Arcy Buick GMC Route 66 Classic. Competitors were equipped with equally-prepared vehicles provided by D’Arcy Buick GMC.

The first of five races saw Joliet Mayor Bob O’Dekirk edge out first-time Grudge Match racer and Mayor of Channahon Missy Moorman Schumacher, giving Will County the 1-0 lead. Grundy County States Attorney Jason Helland bounced back to defeat Illinois State Representative Larry Walsh Jr., knotting the score at 1-1.

Morris Fire Chief Tracey Steffes followed suit by dropping Joliet Deputy Fire Chief Greg Blaskey, granting Will County the lead with two races to go. Grundy County Executive Chris Balkema defeated Will County Executive Larry Walsh to clinch the County Cup. Morris Police Chief John Severson rounded out the Grundy County dominance with a win over Joliet Police Chief Brian Benton.

An all new event for Route 66 Raceway premiered September 7-8 when Discovery Channel’s hit series Street Outlaws stopped in Joliet, Illinois. Oklahoma City boasted that they had the fastest underground street racers in America. Fans were encouraged to strap-in as these racers put the pedal to the floor at Route 66 Raceway as the series moved off the street and onto rough and relentless tracks. The No Prep Kings featured  a racing surface with zero prep; nothing had been done to the track to help the drivers out.

The season opened with the first of 14 scheduled Race Your Ride Presented by O’Reilly Auto Parts kicked off in April, giving racers some time to dial in their car and work out the winter kinks. This helped set the stage of the first of eight scheduled Rockett Brand Racing Fuel ET Bracket Series races. At the season finale on August 19, five class champions were crowned: Connor Lawson (High School), Bruce Damewood (Pro Bike), Dave Ancel (Super Pro), and Herman Zahnder (Pro).

Lawson earned three wins on the way to his championship in the High School Division. Damewood tied Lawson with three wins of his own in the Pro Bike Class. Ancel proved that consistency is key, winning the Super Pro Class, beating Bill Chase by just two points. Zehnder made history as he became the first five-time champion in Route 66 Raceway history by claiming his fifth Pro Class championship.

In the Junior Dragster Modified Class, Ryan Elberts used his lone win to win the championship. Cooper Hamlen won back-to-back championships in the Junior Dragster Sportsman Class with two wins on the season.

Damewood added some hardware to his trophy room, winning the NHRA King of the Track Award. Damewood faced Bill Chase in the final after besting Meghan Hurley in the semi. Damewood jumped -.006-seconds early while nailing the dial as Chase broke out. By default, Damewood’s red light foul trumped the breakout, giving him the distinct title.

Route 66 Raceway played host to the hit reality show No Prep Street Outlaws onSeptember 7&8. The two-day event will be packaged for a scheduled air date in the first quarter of 2018 on Discovery Channel.

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