Group One Results: 2024 Winternationals & National Drag Racing Championship

The winners and grinners from the 2024 Gulf Western Oil Winternationals

Photographers: Ashleigh Wilson, Cackling Pipes

The first National Drag Racing Championship (NDRC) came to a suitably sensational climax at the Gulf Western Oil Winternationals, held at Willowbank Raceway over the weekend.

After more than a decade of turmoil in the sport, the NDRC pulled together an ambitious, sanction-agnostic series of 11 Group One events that saw the competing teams travel to Willowbank, Sydney Dragway, Perth Motorplex and Dragway at the Bend, all with top-notch live coverage on 7Plus.

The Sportsman Championship was divided into Eastern and Western Conferences, to give these racers a chance to compete for the title, without having to cross the continent to do it. The Western Conference champions were crowned at the Riverbend Nationals in April with the Eastern Conference winners being decided at the Winters. The highest performers from each conference will meet in the Grand Final, to be held at Dragway at the Bend, 18-20 October.

Check out the Eastern Conference results from the Winters here.

And while the championships and their accompanying Gold Christmas Trees are the highest levels of achievement for any racer from Top Fuel to Junior Dragster, winning the Winternationals meeting is highly prestigious. Simply put, it is to drag racing what the Bathurst 1000 is to the Supercars and the winners of each class at the event also nab a (albeit smaller) Golden Christmas Tree.

Top Fuel

Top Fuel started the day with a bang, with three rounds of racing left to decide if Damien Harris would claim the first-ever NDRC Top Fuel championship, or if his team-mate Wayne Newby would snatch it away. 

With no team orders in play for the Rapisarda Autosport International teammates, the intensity was high throughout the event, but when both Harris and Newby found themselves in the A-Final, Harris was confirmed as the title winner, making it two championships on the trot.

The RAI teammates had the crowd on their feet in the A-Final with a side-by-side drag race to the end which saw Newby take the Winternats honours with a blistering 3.779-second, 520.75km/h pass over Harris’s [email protected]/h run.

In the B-Final Xiberras laid down a flame-throwing solo [email protected]/h solo. Earlier, Xiberras and Newby thrilled the crowd with side-by-side 3-second 500km/h+ runs, with Newby besting Xiberras by just .032sec, before a red-lighting [email protected]/h performance in round two against Harris.

Phil Read should have met Xiberras in the B-Final; but it was not to be for the Jim Read Racing team. In the first round their air timer log blew out, ruining their run, and then an unknown issue put an end to their weekend when a fireball erupted as Read left the line in round two, with the Sydneysider putting in a fantastic drive job to keep all four wheels on the ground and away from the other lane.

XPRO Nitro Funny Car

The XPRO Nitro Funny Car A-Final saw Justin Walshe and Brandon Gosbell line up for the final championship race of the weekend, crowning Walshe as not only the inaugural NDRC champion but also delivering the Harts Paints racer the Winternats event with a [email protected]/h run against Gosbell’s [email protected]/h.

Walshe had earlier recorded two wins against Josh Leahy with a [email protected]/h performance in round one and a [email protected]/h effort in round two, to Leahy’s [email protected]/h and [email protected]/h runs. Gosbell meanwhile had taken a win from Murrihy in round one and Begley in round two, with the second race seeing him drop it into the threes for the first time ([email protected]/h) over Begley’s 10.860-second run at 131.99km/h.

In the B-Final, Morice McMillin and Adam Murrihy lined up alongside each other for the second time today, with the previous pairing seeing Murrihy shattering McMillin’s A-Final and championship hopes in the second all-run round. This run, however, would go to McMillin with another three second performance – an impressive [email protected]/h pass (a new PB and national record) over Murrihy’s [email protected]/h run. 

In the C-Final, Begley took the win with a [email protected]/h pass over Leahy, who was left on the tree before shutting it down to record an 8.666-second ET.

Top Doorslammer

Top Doorslammer rookie and Top Qualifier Russell ‘Ice Man’ Taylor claimed his first NDRC championship title in the semi-finals when fellow newcomer Ronnie Palumbo ([email protected]/h) knocked out John Zappia ([email protected]/h) on a holeshot in the second semi-final run. 

Taylor would go on to set his quickest ET of the season in the final, where he also claimed the Winternats event win with a [email protected]/h run over Palumbo ([email protected]/h). Earlier in the day, Taylor took wins from Nasser Matta in round one and Neil Murphy in round two, while Palumbo took out Peter Lovering in round one.

“This is unbelievable, a dream come true, I am just speechless,” Taylor said.

“I have a lot of people to thank, all of my crew, Steve Ham and Stew Rowland – they are both drivers and have both done a lot in their careers of driving and tuning and without them I am lost. And all my crew, Al, Josh, Adam, young Jack and also Ian and Joe Ham, they have helped out all weekend, and also Royal Precision Lubricants, I couldn’t do it without all of them.”

Pro Alcohol

In Pro Alcohol, Russell Mills was the inaugural NDRC champion elect coming into the Winternats weekend and also had his sights set on picking up an event Gold Christmas Tree. However, it would be local racer and championship runner-up, Daniel Reed, who would take the event honours. 

‘Batmobile’ racer Mills made his way through the two elimination rounds against Chris Hargrave in round one and Gary Phillips in round two to line up in the final against Top Qualifier Reed in the final. 

Mills’s wild ride is essentially a (very) extended funny car chassis, with a 225-inch wheelbase and wearing a body designed and built in-house by Mills’s team.

Reed took the event win by laying down a new career-best run of [email protected]/h over Mills ([email protected]/h), having earlier taken round victories over John Cannuli in round one and Luke Marsden in round two.

Top Fuel Motorcycle

Benny Stevens took out the Top Fuel Motorcycle championship, while his Dananni Hotshots teammate Aaron Deery took the event win on ‘The Gorilla’ with a [email protected]/h pass over Corey Buttigieg – who had dispatched Stevens in round two following a win over Damian Martini in round one.

Pro Stock

In Pro Stock, Rob Dekert claimed his first NDRC championship win, decided in the nail-biting first elimination round of the weekend. With Rick Chilton knocked out in the first round by Omar Sedmak, all Dekert needed to do was claim victory over John Barbagallo to clinch the championship, which his [email protected]/h round one pass more than enough to do.

Heading into the final run of the day, Dekert and Top Qualifier Tyronne Tremayne had been relatively evenly matched, with Dekert running lower ETs and Tremayne quicker on the tree in rounds one and two. Ultimately it would be Tremayne who would claim back-to-back Winternats event victories when both racers red lit on the line, with Dekert being the first to do so.

Earlier in the day, Tremayne had taken wins over Shane Tucker in round one and Sedmak, who red lit in round two. 

Pro Stock Bike

Inaugural NDRC championship-winning racer Luke Crowley also secured event honours, notching up a third consecutive Winters victory in the process.

As the Top Qualifier, Crowley ran a bye in round one, before a win over Tony Frost in round two. In the final, Crowley took the win with a [email protected]/h run over Jason Lee’s [email protected]/h effort. Lee earned his way to the final with victories over Paul Andrews and Daniel Rabnott.

FuelTech Pro Mod

In FuelTech Pro Mod, Top Qualifier Craig Burns went on to take home the first NDRC Pro Mod championship win, even though his Sunday running was cut short when he rolled the beams in round one due to a mechanical failure in his match-up against Daniel Camilleri.

Zoran Gajic’s Mustang would go on to claim the Winternats event honours with a round one win over Steve Smith and a round two victory over Frank Tarabay, taking the final race win over Camilleri with a [email protected]/h run over Camilleri’s [email protected]/h drive.

“We are rapt!” Burns said. “It was a relief at first because we sucked at it today, with a mechanical failure in round one with the trans brake failing, but these things happen. We are pumped – we won two meetings out of four, top qualified three times out of the four, and the car has been super consistent. Racing against guys who have all the electronic gizmos and so on, to be able to come through with a little bit of an old school deal and run well, it certainly gives us the warm and fuzzy feelings!”