The Wild Tomato Nationals Roll into Immokalee

Bill Gregan Wild Tomato Nationals

The Wild Tomato Nationals VI were held on Sunday, January 12th 2014 at the Immokalee Regional Raceway in Immokalee, Florida. It was a weekend of racing, with test and tune Friday night, bracket racing, grudge matches and the first ever Junior Dragster Grudge Match on Saturday, and then of course, the big day of racing on Sunday.

My first question was “Why is it called the ‘Wild Tomato’ Nationals?”  As it turns out, Ralph Hester, owner of the Immokalee Regional Raceway, started the Tomato Nationals about six or seven years ago. Here in Florida, the seasons are not quite the same as in the North, so the Tomato Season actually starts in February, and Immokalee is a major tomato growing area. After the first two years of races, the race skipped a year; then the Southern Hot Rod Association came in and changed the name to ‘Wild Tomato Nationals”.

Friday Night Test and Tune

Now let’s sidetrack for a minute and talk about Grudge Matches. Let’s say that I have a fast car, and you have a fast car. I think my car is faster than yours, so I call you out and challenge you to a Grudge Match. We take a look at the cars, and the races we’ve been in, and we negotiate a strategy to make the race fair. For example, if our cars run about the same times, then we go “heads up” – we start at the same time from the same spot. But let’s say your car really is faster than mine – maybe you run the 1/8 mile in 6 seconds and I run it in 9. So, to be fair, we would negotiate a 3 second head start for me – or about a car length. We both still leave at the same time. Rumor has it that there is side betting on these races (shock! horror!) but I didn’t see any. J

Now for the Junior Dragsters, it was a little more like a lottery than a call out. Six racers were chosen with a $100 prize for the winner of each race.  Two of the races went head to head; the third was a negotiation between a 12 second car and a 9 second car.  The races were set to be no times, just a win light. There was a bit of teaching about negotiating, and off they went.

First Junior Dragster Grudge Match, Saturday

Unfortunately, due to some technical difficulties and the threat of rain, two of the races were scheduled to re-run on Sunday.

Sunday was a beautiful day for racing. No rain, slightly cooler weather (for Florida).  Everyone was ready to race!

However, in the late afternoon, the race was called due to safety reasons. A crash took out two of the safety walls at the track, and there was no way to replace them quickly.

We are definitely looking forward to next year’s Wild Tomato Nationals VII!

 The author would like to thank Tim, Todd and Tristan Maupin, Mike Faban and Steve Coccaro from SHRA, Stacy and Chris James, Nikki Rivera, Nickolas and Jason Stewart, Bill and Billy Stepp, Jason and Chris Hardman, Randy Blackmon, ‘Bum’ Harrison, and “Ernie” and his friends.

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