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Steve Witherow and Brad Keyton Win Points Championships in Autofab Raider ET Challenge Series


October 17, 2012


Press Release courtesy of:  Robbie Parlett


Steve Witherow has had a rough year, but not on the race track. A fire at his race shop a couple of months ago cost him the majority of 20+ years of racing equipment. He lost multiple racecars, along with multiple engines as well as countless parts and tools accumulated throughout the years. One of the few things to survive the fire is the ’68 Camaro he has been footbraking for a little over a year now with tremendous success. Coming into the final weekend of the year, the 2010 Autofab Raider ET Series Mod ET Champ, was in pretty good shape to do the near impossible; win both the Raider Top and Mod Championships in one season. Steve entered the weekend in the lead in the Top ET points, and 3rd in Mod, 19 points behind defending Raider Champ, Larry Keyton. With no dragsters left in his personal stable to drive, Witherow, who has enjoyed the Raider Top ET points lead pretty much all season, found himself driving a car he sold earlier this year. Just weeks before the fire, Steve sold his familiar black Race Tech dragster to Jeff Lyons. Since the fire, Lyons has been letting Steve drive the car when he needs, giving Witherow the best shot he could to win the Autofab Raider Points Series.

In Top ET, Witherow entered the final weekend with a full two round lead over Candi Derry and a 4 round lead over Todd Welzel. Steve didn’t make it easy on himself Saturday, losing in both first and second round, but was able to make it through both available re-entry rounds. Candi made an early exit in 2nd round re-entry, giving Witherow an opportunity to widen the gap between him and second place. Both Todd Welzel and Witherow went down in fourth round. With the fourth round showing, Steve was able to extend his points lead to 4 rounds over Welzel and Derry, who ended the day Saturday tied for second.

Although the points leaders went out relatively early in the rounds, the racing was far from over, as there was still $5,000 up for grabs Saturday in Top ET. In a class generally dominated by dragsters, door cars were having their day. In round 6, only 3 of the remaining 8 cars were dragsters, and none of the three survived to the semifinals. In 6th round, Larry Boswell picked up an easy win over Bob Patton when Bob missed the tree by nearly half a second. Michael Cockrell took down the dragster of Wyatt Colbert in a tough double breakout race. Bob Avalos got past the second dragster, when Bruce Hensley turned it -.004 red sending Avalos to the semis in his ’70 Monte Carlo. Dink Holmes, in his ’68 Camaro, kept up the door car streak when he took down Bobby Spence in a very tight race by just .002 at the stripe. In the semi’s, Larry Boswell, the lone, non-yellow car remaining in competition, faced off with Michael Cockrell. They were close on the tree, with Larry getting a .007 advantage. Cockrell took the stripe but had to break out to do so, sending Larry to the finals. Dink Holmes then came out on top in yet another very tight race, this time against Bob Avalos. Dink got the advantage on the tree with his .027 light and got to the stripe first by just .003 to take the win and move to the finals. The all Camaro final was over pretty quickly when Larry turned it way red, handing Dink, from Richmond, VA, the win and the $5,000 payday.

In Mod ET, the points leader entering the weekend was defending Autofab Raider ET Series Champ, Larry Keyton. Former Raider Champ, Rocky Pintavalle sat just 9 points back with Witherow and Tony Mattera definitely within striking distance. Points leader Larry Keyton went down in the 3rd round to Frank Thompson, opening the door for the rest of the top 5 to close the gap. Rocky Pintavalle went down just 3 pairs later, keeping him 9 points back. Tony Mattera lost in first round re-entry to Witherow, leaving Steve alone to try to close in on that points lead. He made it round 4 where Butch Weinreich put together a .017 package to knock Witherow out. But Witherow wasn’t done, winning the mulligan and getting put back in the race in 5th round. There he faced off with Johnny Mattera in a clash of two heavyweights. Both drivers were good on the tree with lights in the .020’s, but Johnny was able to hold on for the win in a tight double breakout race. In 6th round, Steve Cross Jr. took down Andy Mattingly who was having mechanical issues. Mattera got past Jimmy Smith on the strength of a holeshot with his .026 light. And Frank Thompson got the bye into the semi’s. In the semifinals, Thompson faced off with Cross. Thompson got the jump on the line with his .017 light to Cross’s .046. Thompson was able to take the stripe without breaking out to move on to the final where he would meet up with Johnny Mattera who had the semifinal bye run. The final was over quickly when Thompson tried to hit the tree a little too hard and turned it -.018 red. Johnny, who was consistent on the tree all day, with lights ranging only from .015 to .036 in 8 rounds, picked up the $2,000 payday in Mod. At the end of Saturday, the Raider points were tightening up, with Keyton still in the lead, but Witherow and Pintavalle tied for second just 9 points back. George Windsor was sitting only 18 points back with Tony Mattera and Jason Stern 5 rounds out of first.

The Raider points in Junior Dragster were not quite as tight as Top and Mod entering the weekend. Brad Keyton had a 5+ round lead over Robert Estevez and Cory Maloney who sat second and third respectively. JC Gloyd and Christopher Mattera sat more than 10 rounds back, tied for 4th. JC Gloyd did not attend the race, and going into 4th round, only Robert Estevez had been knocked out of competition, losing in round 3 to Adrianna Estevez. Adrianna then took down points leader Brad Keyton in round 4, opening the door for Mattera and Maloney, but neither could capitalize on the opportunity as they both also lost in round 4. In 5th round, Adrianna Estevez’s winning streak was stopped by Zoe Jackson. Mulligan winner Blair Buckler took down Christian Walston on the strength of a .013 light. Shane Parker put together a .009 package to take down Roger Thornton, and Michael George Jr. used a huge holeshot to beat Allison Lloyd. In the semi’s, Shane Parker picked up the win over Zoe Jackson by running dead-on his 7.97 dial to overcome his starting line disadvantage. In the finals he would face off with his “teammate” Blair Buckler who was able to get around Michael George’s .006 when George broke nearly a tenth taking the stripe. In the final, Blair made the most of his mulligan purchase picking up the win when Parker turned it -.018 red. At the end of the day, only two drivers had a mathematical chance of catching Keyton in the points. Cory Maloney still sat 52 points back with Robert Estevez sitting 61 points back. For either driver to have a chance, Keyton was going to need to go down early.

On Sunday in Juniors, Keyton almost got knocked out in round 1. Alyssa McFadden had the holeshot with a .030 light, but broke out by just .001 more than Keyton, and Keyton moved on. Keyton then got past a red-lighting Shane Parker in round two to lock up the points title. Robert Estevez went down in round 1 re-entry to Christopher Mattera. In round 5, Brad Keyton and Cory Maloney were still in competition. Keyton was pulled for the mulligan, even though he was still in competition and he elected to put Michael Hankinson back into the race in round 5 using his mulligan. In round 5, Christopher Mattera got past a red-lighting Jacob Bowie. Next up was a matchup of 1 and 2 in the Autofab Raider points, Maloney and Keyton. Keyton got the slightest holeshot, .039 to Maloney’s .040 but Maloney was able to run closer to the dial to pick up the win and move to the semifinals. Hunter Levin then took down Jacob Mattera who broke out and Michel Hankinson took advantage of the mulligan getting past a red-lighting Logan Hubbell. In the semi’s Maloney got a big holeshot over Christopher Mattera, but Mattera was able to pull out the win by running much closer to his dial. In the finals, Mattera would face Hankinson who used his holeshot advantage to pick up his semifinal win over Hunter Levin. In the final, Hankinson tried to hit the tree a little too hard and turned it -.018 red handing the final Junior Dragster win of the 2012 season to Christopher Mattera. In the end, Brad Keyton took home a dominating Autofab Raider ET Series Championship by more than 4 rounds. Cory Maloney finished second with Christopher Mattera jumping to third over Robert Estevez who ended up 4th. Roger Thornton rounds out the top 5.

In Top ET, points leader Steve Witherow made it through the first three round of Sunday’s race unscathed. But in round 3, a big matchup between the two racers tied for second took place. Todd Welzel got the slight jump with his .011 light to Candi Derry’s .017 but killed a little too much at the stripe giving the finish line back to Derry by just .002, essentially eliminating himself from the points battle barring a miracle in the mulligan. In round 4, Witherow ran into Jason Stern who strapped a .008 light on him and was able to take the stripe by just .005, knocking Witherow out of competition and with 5 rounds remaining in the race, there was room for Derry to catch him. Candi got the bye in round 4, and in round 5 she put together a .013 package to take down former Top ET Raider Champ Al Burkett by just .005 in a very tight race. Just two rounds back with 3 to go, Derry had a clear shot at the Raider points title going into round 6. In round 6, Candi’s sister, Chelsea Derry took down her fiancÚ, Bobby Spence, when Bobby missed the tree. Then Candi faced off with Duane Marquess. Duane put together a .018 package to end Candi’s Raider ET Series title run, and clinch the title for Witherow. Mulligan winner, Robert Jones then took down Marshall Grooms in a double breakout race, and Mike Koontz rounded out the semifinal foursome with a win over Kenny Young who had issues on the tree with a .263 light. In the semifinals, Duane picked up a very tough win over Mike Koontz by just .005 at the stripe. Robert Jones then used a perfect light to take down Chelsea Derry and move to the final where he would face his good friend Marquess. Marquess was once again tight on the tree with a .011 light and ran dead-on with an 8 to pick up the win over a red-lighting Jones. For Marquess, the $5,000 payday was a very nice way to wrap up the season. The Autofab Raider Top ET points shook out like this; Witherow took home the points title, with Candi Derry finishing second, two rounds back. Todd Welzel ended up 3rd with Wyatt Colbert and Bobby Spence rounding out the top 5. With one points title in the bag, Witherow was looking to make it two with a Mod Championship as well.

In Mod ET, of the top 3 points runners, only Pintavalle had a scare in the first 2 rounds with a round 1 loss, but he was able to get back in competition with a re-entry win over Wesley Washington Sr. In round 3, Witherow picked up a round win over David Whitesell Jr. and Rocky Pintavalle used a .007 light to get past Jesse Long. In the very next pair, Larry Keyton lost to Jesse Roberts when he took too much stripe and broke out. With Keyton’s loss, Witherow and Pintavalle found themselves in a tie for the Mod points lead. Both drivers made it through round 4 on the strength of very good lights, Witherow with a .009 and Pintavalle with a .017. In round 5, both Witherow and Pintavalle got a little lucky. Pintavalle missed the tree with a .060, but Dave Hill was .101 beside him giving plenty of room at the finish line to pick up the round win. Witherow also missed the tree with a .092 light but Bradley Tippet had already gone red in front of him, guaranteeing the round win for Steve. In round 6, they pair faced off in a winner take all race. It was as good as could be expected with both drivers up on the wheel. Witherow got the slight advantage on the tree with a .012 to Pintavalle’s very tough .015. Both drivers dropped at the finish line with Witherow running closer to his dial and picking up the win and his second points title of the day, and third overall in the Autofab Raider ET Series. Witherow would be joined in the semifinals by Tony Mattera who used a holeshot to take down Joe Goldey and by Robert “Hambone” Copsey who had a bye run in round 6. In the semifinals, Witherow was drawn for the bye. In the finals he would face Hambone, who used a holeshot to take down Tony Mattera who broke out taking the stripe. In the final, Witherow gave another example of why he is the champ, slapping a .001 light on Copsey, and killing several mph at the stripe to take down Hambone’s dead-on 1 run. The win was Witherow’s second Raider win of the year in Mod ET, and third in the Raider Series overall. The win boosted his points championship to more than 3 rounds over Rocky Pintavalle. Larry Keyton finished third in the points, making it an all former Autofab Raider ET Series Champ top 3 this year. Tony Mattera and Jason Stern round out the top 5 in Mod points.

While it can’t replace what he lost in the fire, the two points titles this season with products from dozens of major vendors will certainly help Steve on the path of rebuilding his racing operation. The Autofab Raider ET Series has once again proven to be the top Mid-Atlantic big money points series around. This year, 191 Mod ET competitors, 97 Junior Dragster racers and an amazing 303 Top ET competitors took their shot at the big purses and big championship payouts offered up as part of the Raider ET Series. Many thanks to all the sponsors of the program, namely Autofab Racecars, and to Richmond Dragway, Virginia Motorsports Park as well as Maryland Int’l Raceway who host the 4 weekend, 8 race series throughout the year. Congratulations again to Steve Witherow for his unprecedented double points championships in Top and Mod ET, and to Brad Keyton in Junior Dragster, in what may be the first of many points championships to come.



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