(Words by Caleb and Samantha Sewell. Photos by Caleb Sewell) The Southeast Gassers Association started off 2018 with record-breaking car counts and crowds at the SEGA home track Shadyside Dragway in rural Shelby, North Carolina, where winding roads and farmland turn to a legendary 1/8th mile drag strip owned and managed by the Buff family for the past 38 years.
Stop one of eleven for the Southeast Gassers brought a handful of new cars and drivers with many more expected throughout the 2018 season. Some of the new drivers included Timothy Hall in his 1967 Rambler “Scalded Dog”, Todd Rosenberry in his 1964 Chevy II “II Bumpy”, Gary Smith in the Smith Brothers built 1951 Henry J. All three will be competing in the C/Gas category. The newly formed H/Gas exhibition class even has a new contender. Nick Ruhl in his beautiful 1937 Chevy Sedan will provide competition for Paul Combest in his 1965 VW Beetle “Sour Kraut”.
Following two rounds of action packed qualifying, the cars to beat were those of Jimmy Huff in the tire smoking 1964 Falcon Station Wagon “Hoopty Wagon” in C/Gas, Todd Blackwell 1966 Chevy II “Slingshot” in B/Gas, and Gary Cline in the fan favorite 1941 Willys “Tasmanian Devil” in A/Gas.
After the traditional pre-race prayer and playing of the star spangled banner it was time for eliminations. In C/Gas, two drivers that have been fighting for a win for quite some time got to battle it out for the trophy. Jimmy Huff was able to take the win from Larry Noel to claim his very first win in his history with SEGA. Jimmy later quoted his dad at the Winner Circle having said “You can win today with that.”
In B/Gas, another strong competitor Todd Blackwell faced off against Rusty Sampsel, which led him to the finals against the legendary Danny Byrd in the “Junkyard Dog.” Danny has a lifetime of drag racing history under his belt. With Todd Blackwell off the line first, he was able to win the 2018 season opener on a holeshot. It’s easy to tell that Todd will continue to be a real competitor.
Last but definitely not least, Todd Oden in his newly built 1956 Chevy “Double Down” took on Kenneth Phillips in the “Silver Streak II” for the final round in A/Gas. This would be Todd’s first final round in the A/Gas class. With both cars in the air off the line, Kenneth Phillips was able to finish with the win by a car length. Kenneth has taken the points lead in A/Gas and has plans on continuing the fight for the 2018 Championship.
With the first race of the 2018 season completed, we want to take a moment to remember Sonny Hall who accomplished so many things for the SEGA. The A/FX cars from the Platt family made a special pass down the track and back to honor both their fathers as well as Sonny Hall. We would also like to send our condolences to the Buff family over the recent loss of Ronnie Buff. He was the owner of Shadyside Dragway and he had a true passion for racing. It is very clear that his passion was passed down to his family. We would like to thank them for all the work they put into these races with us.
If you are interested in coming out and seeing one of these races for yourself, you can see us at our next stop in Clay City, KY on May 5th. After Clay City, we will be at Piedmont Dragway in Julian, NC on May 26th for Memorial Day weekend. Both races will be sure to put you on the edge of your seat. Also you can see the highlights from every race on our YouTube channel by simply searching “Southeast Gassers Association. You can also follow us on Facebook and Instagram for updates.