Tom Gall explained it was a long journey to win the International Hot Rod Association (IHRA) Top World Championship last weekend at the Summit World Finals.
The 28-year-old driver wasn’t talking about the 800-mile drive from his hometown of Beresford, South Dakota, to Memphis International Raceway. He was talking about the decade it took to capture the largest and most prestigious bracket racing championship in drag racing.
“I made it to the World Finals when it was back in North Carolina in 2007,” he said. “The transmission let go in round one and I’ve been fighting 10 years to get back. We got it done. You just can’t believe how excited I am to win this. It’s been a long journey 10 years in the making.”
Gall started racing at age 16 with his dad’s 1964 Chevelle. After that season went well, they built a new dragster in 2006 and Gall has been racing it ever since. He has won several big races at his home Thunder Valley Dragways, but is so grateful for the Summit SuperSeries program where nearly 100 IHRA-sanctioned tracks from all over North America meet annually to compete at the Summit World Finals.
“It’s the biggest opportunity. Summit does something that’s just unheard of,” said Gall, whose margin of victory in the final was just .0012 of a second. “To race every weekend at my local track with my family and friends, and then you get a chance to do something like this, it just blows your mind. At the World Championship, to be that close, it’s how the final should be.”
His final round consisted of a 5.059-second pass at 134.55 mph against a 5.04 dial-in. But, he was scrambling after his opponent Jerry Cotton from St. John, Ind., representing US 41 Dragway, had the better start with a .018 to .035 reaction time.
“I felt like I had been treed,” Gall said. “So, I just hung on and held my foot in it as hard as I could. The car won it for me.”
Gall’s own reaction time, a nearly perfect .001 start, led to a holeshot win in round one against George Coleman from Barton, New York.
Facing drivers from all over North America, Gall defeated James Rutherford from Wembly, Alberta, Canada in round two and Greg Roberts from Whitehouse, Texas in round three. Then, he had to get by Chad McKee, a Tennessee driver who had won the Division 2 West Summit Team Finals race at MIR just weeks earlier, in the fourth round.
In the semifinals, Gall matched his dial-in to down Mike Lamberson from Amarillo, Texas.
For his victory, Gall won a $20,000 check from Summit Racing Equipment, an eight-day/seven-night vacation to Aruba, an IHRA Gold Card, a World Championship diamond ring and the World Champion Ironman trophy.
“What you go through with your nerves, it’s not pretty,” he said. “The first round was the hardest for me. After that, the second and third rounds felt more like a normal race. When you get down to the semis and the final, I wasn’t even thinking about all the great prizes, the $20,000 check or the trip to Aruba. What was most important was that trophy that says World Champion on it.”