CLONE WARS: DEVIL’S DUEL DIVIDES AGAIN
WILEY FORD, WV – The thundering hoard that is the Capital Area Cobra Club proved themselves again to be good sports and fast racers, responding strongly to National Road Autosport’s carrot and stick approach to a challenging match-up for Devil’s Duel 3.
The CACC gang ambled in on Friday of the Summer Sizzler weekend behind their Four Horseman – defending Top Gun Chamberlain, Kelley, Casey and Hubbell. In support were the Smith Brothers, Ben Lambiotte, Ron Hawkins, Al Schmidt, Wayne Orchard and recently hot Tink Phillips.
The boys in mostly blue suffered split decisions in previous Duels…losing twice to Steel Town Corvette teams but crowning Top Guns each time. This time, they were deep enough to easily take it all, one school of thought allowed. With that possibility in mind, Cumberland Airport autocross organizers conjured up a new match. A spreadsheet-based Airport All Star ranking system emerged and email invitations flashed out.
The Shelby cloned gunfighters dodged big bullets with the vacationing Feltens, then offered ill-gotten loot to Greg Honeycutt to serve as race director instead of running, but still had to contend with a swarm of fast shooters led by…guess what? Hint: correct answer is “Clone Cars.” This night would belong to purpose-built specials on both side of the fight.
Gary Hughes and Jeff Duncan earned their way onto the All Star team in Lotus 7 inspired racers sourced from different continents. SCCA standout Jason Becker’s scary M-Coupe was mostly from one country and very fast, within an eyelash of winning the Cumberland weekend double triple (FTD, Class and Pax) at the 2006 May Icebreaker. Mix in the Flying Moran Brothers representing SM with muscle car terrors Ken Bane and Karl Loper, SS champs Harris and Miller in ZO6 rides, AS champs Dotts and Harrison, BSP champs Hotchkiss and Nyga. If that didn’t stack the deck enough, the All Stars added early CBE shoot-out ace Keith Baxter’s Pittsburgh based XP Corvette at the 11th hour.
Challenges are many in this trademark two-part Cumberland format. Making the Top Eight, helping your team and moving forward into the Shoot-Out comes first. Things then change altogether as the now-seeded Sweet Sixteen shoot-out, one-on-one bracket style, down to one Top Gun.
Devils Duel 3.0 opened with a 24 car run group to determine the drivers with eight fastest individual runs on each team - the winning team based on the lowest sum of those eight drivers’ best times.
On the All-Star side of the team championship round, lightning fast Jason Becker led all racers with a best pass of 44.4 seconds. Gary Hughes and Jeff Duncan logged 45-second runs followed by fendered 47s from Smooth Jim Harris, Mike Moran and Ron Dotts. Local All Stars Ken Bane and Pete Harrison secured the team title for the All Stars by running in the 48-second range to round out the Top 8.
The promoter’s dead reckoned match-up proved too challenging for the CACC to claim their first Duel team title. Chamberlain’s 45.23 was the best Cobra. Larry Casey also reached the 45s, with Fred Kelley, Doug Smith and Uncle John Hubbell running in the 47-second range. Al Schmidt and Tink Phillips were in the 48s and Ron Hawkins tailgate 48 rounded on the CACC Top 8.
In the end, the final cumulative margin of some 4.7 seconds was spread evenly across the two sets of Shoot-Out Qualifiers….a roughly half second per driver difference.
But Salvation was just around the corner for the Cobra Crowd.
Early round drama in the single elimination brackets came from All Star Ron Dotts, whose Gran Sport C4 upset Fred Kelley in the Sweet Sixteen by a tenth of second and from CACC star Larry Casey who trailered Jeff Duncan’s Ultralite in the Quarters with a 44.8 run.
The semi-finals were thus as promoters hoped. Best against the best - with no intramural match-ups. But Chamberlain/Hughes misfired as Gary strayed from the course, giving the Cobra a leisurely walk-over. Then, choosing to run first in his semi, the usually unflappable Becker made his only mistake of the day and missed a gate, conceding Larry Casey a parade lap to reach the finals.
The Top Gun finals pitted the immovable object of Wade Chamberlain’s steady 44-second passes against the irresistible force of Casey’s competitive fire. The top seeded Chamberlain opted to let Larry run first. He chose wisely. Mr. Personality charged out to the terminal turn with impossible momentum, broke traction at turn-in and delivered the title to Chamberlain who stroked through another workmanlike 44.8 to claim his second Cumberland Top Gun title. Oh, the humanity, indeed.
In the waning Summer light, team photos were taken, hands were shaken, the Ignominious Piston Rod of Shame was returned to the Capital Area Cobra Clubhouse and the Airport All Star concept seemed to fit nicely as another one of the those “instant traditions” that make the Cumberland Airport such an interesting place to autocross.