September 18, 1999 (Sacramento Raceway): The 1999 season for the California Independent Funny Car Association has been anything but status quo. There has yet to be a repeat winner and the lack of dominance is resulting in very close racing.
The CIFCA funny car teams headed to northern California for the annual prestigious Governor Cup at Sacramento Raceway. Current point's leader Robert Lee qualified #1 with a very rare perfect 7.500 elapsed time. Mike Hilsabeck was second with a 7.52. These two would end up in the final round.
In the opening round of eliminations Lee paired off with CHP Dave McDannel. This race was the closest in CIFCA's 15-year history. Both drivers left with identical reaction times. Lee's Rebel Racing Firebird stopped the timers first (and McDannel hopes for the championship) with 7.605 to a 7.608. Margin of victory: .003 seconds! During the semi-finals, Lee held back the Perma-Cool Burnout Challenge winner Tony Rishton.
4-time and current CIFCA champion Hilsabeck was racking up points on the other side of the ladder. This Phoenix, AZ resident came into the race in 3rd place and winless for 1999. He got past the Godfrey & Close's Cavalier in the first frame. Hilsabeck then claimed the Enderle Quick Reaction Time bucks when he cut a .416 light coupled with a victorious 7.64 elapsed time against fellow Arizonan Sean Dale's 7.495.
These two drivers were dialed for the final. Both got caught off guard at the start with Hilsabeck's Arizona Thunder getting a sizable jump. On the top end it was a double breakout with Hilsabeck 7.46 taking the win light to Lee's 7.44.
The circuit now heads to Tucson, AZ for CIFCA's Championship finals. Lee still has the points with Hilsabeck moving up into a close second. Will we have a repeat 1999 winner? Will Hilsabeck be dethroned? Stay tune. –Jim Maher