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2014 IHRA Top Sportsman Champion – Mike Koontz

Friday, 31 October 2014

Don’t be late. Those three words were the only words being muttered by Top Sportsman racer Mike Koontz as he pulled into the staging lanes for the finals of the IHRA Summit Racing Equipment Tournament of Champions presented by AMSOIL.

Last year, Koontz lost in the finals of the IHRA’s championship tournament with a sleepy .092 reaction time in a loss to Graham Foster. This year, Koontz was determined not to let that happen again.

“What can I say? I messed it up last year by being late on the tree. I knew I wasn’t going to let that happen again,” Koontz said. “I just kept telling myself ‘don’t be late, don’t be late.’ I knew if I could hit the tree, I was in the race.”

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   Mike Koontz

Fortunately for Koontz, he accomplished his goal with a championship-worthy .013 light in the Top Sportsman final of the 2014 edition of the tournament. Unfortunately, he didn’t get to see how the run would play out as final round opponent Calvin Snow took a little too much at the tree, going -.014 red to hand Koontz his second championship in IHRA’s TOC.

“This championship is pretty awesome. It is hard to believe we are here again,” Koontz said. “I wouldn’t say this championship is any different, harder maybe. The first time you are just out there racing and seeing what happens. This time, the nerves are there as you are there to win it again. It is hard enough to make it into this thing, let alone get another chance at the championship.”

Koontz’s win in the Tournament of Champions capped a solid year for the veteran racer out of Warrenton, Virginia, with one win at the IHRA Spring Nationals at Rockingham Dragway earlier this year and a third place finish on the Summit Racing Equipment Pro-Am Tour presented by AMSOIL. That third place finish was just enough to get Koontz and his bright red 2000 Chevrolet S-10 pickup into the show and a shot at the title.

“We had a pretty good season. We won down in Rockingham and just kept going from there,” Koontz said. “Unfortunately, we really blew it in Pittsburgh. We needed to go a few more rounds to stay in second in the division, but we went out first round and fell to third. All in all, it was a good year. Last year we were second in the division, this year we were third. But this year, we also won the world. You certainly can't beat the finish.”

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   Summit Tournament of Champions Top Sportsman Final: Mike Koontz (near) vs. Calvin Snow

With a spot in the Tournament of Champions in hand, Koontz traveled to Memphis International Raceway and went to work. He put in five rounds of work on a wet and wild weekend that saw weather push the two-day event into a third day.

“The truck ran great all weekend, but the weather – the constant waiting to make a run – that can take a toll on you,” Koontz said. “When you are racing, you get into a groove. But when you have to wait, you end up spending too much time thinking instead of just going out there and running your race.”

Despite the delays, Koontz put together a masterful afternoon that included wins over Cody Liwiski, Rube Allman and Jeff Southerland on his way to the final. He also received a bye in the second round.

His closest race came in the first round, when Division 6 racer Cody Liwiski pushed him to the limit. Koontz had a 7.476-second pass on a 7.44 dial at 182.75 mph in the matchup with a .007 light, while Liwiski had a 7.567 on a 7.53 at 179.71 mph with a .013 light.

In his other rounds, Koontz used an advantage on the tree in both rounds to advance to the finals. In the semifinals, Division 3 champion Southerland struggled at the tree with a .140 reaction time, helping propel Koontz into the championship round.

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   Mike Koontz

“The whole event went really well. We had a bye in the second round and after that, I did what I needed to do and took care of business,” Koontz said.

Championship runner-up Calvin Snow, who finished second in Division 9 this season with one win, had wins over Steve McIntyre, Travis Housh and Steve Corker to reach the finals.

All together it was a tremendous finish for Koontz in recording his second career championship with the IHRA after winning the inaugural Summit Tournament of Champions back in 2009. Now, with another championship in hand, he is ready for another title defense with his us-against-the-world operation.

“It is just me and my wife out here taking on the world,” Koontz said. “I really want to thank my wife for putting up with me and letting me do what I enjoy. I also want to thank the IHRA, Summit and all of the sponsors that help make this all possible. If it wasn’t for them, we couldn’t do what we do.

“We can’t wait to see what 2015 holds.”

Last modified on Friday, 31 October 2014