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First Trip to IHRA World Finals Quite Memorable for Sportsman Runner-Up Blankenship

Thursday, 19 October 2023

Gary Blankenship didn’t know exactly what to expect with his first trip to the IHRA Summit SuperSeries World Finals presented by Strange Engineering.

It turned out to be much more than he ever imagined. The 45-year-old who works in the paint department at the General Motors plant in Ft. Wayne, Indiana made it all the way to the final round of Sportsman eliminations.

His 1969 Chevy Camaro with a 383 cubic-inch small block motor and a 3-speed transmission was tuned perfectly. Blankenship, representing Muncie Dragway, put forth a good effort in the final round with a .034 reaction time and a 7.512-second pass on a 7.50 dial-in. It was just that Aaron Richards from US 41 Dragstrip had a package of an .008 start and plus-one on his 7.57 dial-in.

Blankenship, who used the same consistent efforts to win the IHRA Division 3 (North Stars) Summit Team Finals race, was still pleased how the IHRA Summit SuperSeries World Finals went.

“It was my first time at the World Finals, but it was such a good time,” he said. “A lot of great people, a great atmosphere, then racing the best of the best and making it all the way to the final, that was an amazing feeling.”


Blankenship made the finals when his semifinal opponent, IHRA Division 2 (Heat Wave) champion Jordan Johnson from Music City Raceway, fouled at the start. He had gotten by Glenda Cochran, a multi-time World Finals qualifier from Roxboro Dragway, in the quarterfinals.

The only thing missing for Blankenship was that fellow Muncie driver Derek Simon lost to Richards in the semifinal. Blankenship also praised the effort of Shane Daugherty, who made it to the No Box quarterfinals before falling to eventual IHRA Summit SuperSeries World Champion Wesley Lockhart.

“We tried to make it an all-Muncie final with Derek,” Blankenship said. “He got to the semis, but I’m so proud of these guys. Shane got to the quarters. It was a great showing for Team Muncie.”


The Muncie racers set up together in the pits and they cheered each other on through each round. Blankenship’s time was made even more special with one of his daughters getting to make the trip to Mississippi with him. His wife and other daughter was able to watch it on the IHRA.TV channel on YouTube.

“We all pitted together and that’s what it’s all about, the fellowship,” Blankenship said. “Drag racers are a great big family who hang out and look out for each other. We fellowship all the time at Muncie. Then, we followed each other here, pitted together and just enjoyed ourselves as one big family.”

Last modified on Saturday, 21 October 2023