May 8, 1999 (Phoenix, AZ): The California Independent Funny Car Association (CIFCA) kicked off the 1999 season at the Coors 32 Funny Cars. This annual event at Firebird Int’l Raceway featured 8 nitro funny cars, 8 FM/FC alcohol funny cars, a couple of jets and 14 CIFCA style funny cars.
This was one of the largest turnouts of CIFCA cars prompting the program to step up to a 16 car ladder, compared to the normal 8 car ladder ran at most CIFCA events. The teams had only one qualifying session to get dialed in. Local favorites Gary and Sean Dale were the closest to the 7.50 index with a 7.491 but their elapsed time was good for only the 5th position. CIFCA penalize breakouts during qualifying by .3 seconds plus the amount one breaks out by. But the 7.49 proved the Dale’s Shakey Situation would be a contender. Steve Tryon 7.522 in his sharp ‘59 Corvette was good for the #1 spot.
Robert Lee of Whittier, CA is one of the more consistent cars on the circuit. He was a bit fast in qualifying with a 7.33 but sharp driving and good tuning placed his Rebel Racing Firebird into the final round. Lee first disposed of Tony Rishton’s Rishton Addiction Beretta in the opening frame on a close 7.502 - 7.568 decision. During the quarter-finals,Lee easily handle the Charlie Hupp driven Omni of Dennis Murphy. Hupp got out of the groove and had to click it off when he got very close to the concrete barrier. Jim Carter’s `57 Chevy was Lee’s semi-final victim. Carter left way too-soon lighting the red bulb.
Meeting Lee in the money round were the father and son team of Gary & Sean Dale. Dale advanced past Tim Scardino on a double breakout (7.43- 7.20) during first round of eliminations. His second round opponent, Steve Tryon showed the crowd both sides of his Corvette at the 900’ mark as Dale drove around to a 7.58 victory. They then faced the Perma-Cool Burnout Challenge winner, Mike Hilsabeck, in the semis. This was a close one with the Dales defeating the 4-time champ with a 7.51 to Hilsabeck’s game 7.56.
Lee vs. Dale. Both teams are relatively new to the CIFCA with one year of experience under their belts. Neither have won a CIFCA race so we will have a first time winner. Both drivers were pumped and prepared. They left the starting line together separated by only .008 seconds with the jump going to Dale. On the top-end, Dale stopped the timers first with a 7.534 to Lee’s slightly quicker 7.531. Margin of victory for elated Dale team was a mere .005 seconds!
Buzzz Miller, driver of the only non-blown funny car on the CIFCA circuit won the Enderle Quick Reaction Time $100 bonus by virtue of his .406 light. (He also won $94 in the 50/50 raffle).
A great season opener. The car count and performances are looking very strong . 1999 is CIFCA’s 15 season and is off to a good start. -Jim Maher