JOLIET, Ill. - John Stagner and Mason Marino walked a little taller on Saturday after the two were crowned 2009 Route 66 Raceway NHRA Jr. Drag Racing champions at their final event of the year.

The two, both first-time champions, had plenty to talk about. Stagner doubled-up in Sportsman Jr., winning the event and the season title over runner-up Nate Kelley, while Marino earned his Modified Jr. championship crown by a mere five points over Cody Medeisis.

“It's one of those things I've always wanted to do,“ said Stagner, of New Lenox, Ill.

Stagner drove his 2007 Nervo Coggin to a 13.144-second finish at 47.14 for the event win in a re-run against runner-up Meredith Miller, of Streator, Ill. Drew Zeller took home the event title for Modified Jr. in his 2000 Spitzer with a 9.209 at 69.38 when his opponent Elizabeth Galdikas red-lit in the final round.

Stagner will move up to the 8.90-second ranks next season. Until then, he'll practice on a hand-held Christmas Tree for 30 minutes a day with his sister Ashley.

“I'd like to thank my parents (mother Dina and father Don) for bringing me out here today and my sister for helping with the car,“ Stagner said.

Marino, of Tinley Park, Ill., said earning the championship title was definitely a goal for him. He came to the final race of the year fresh off of his best memory of the year - his win last week. Stagner said it takes final-round appearances, good lights and no break-outs to win the title. Marino added devotion to drag racing to the list.

“You have to race almost every week,“ Marino said. “I'm speechless, really.“

Zeller, of Boulder Junction, Wisc., leaves home with his family on Thursday to make the seven-hour drive to the track in time for weekend events. Saturday's win was his first.

“That was awesome,“ said Zeller, who planned to celebrate with pizza.

Best Reaction time honors went to Dave Kovar Jr. with a .002 in Sportsman Jr., and Troy “TB“ Lensing with a .006 in Modified Jr.

Kovar Jr., who with this race finished his rookie season, said Jr. Drag Racing was “the best thing that's ever happened to me.“ He plans to work on his car and choose a new paint scheme - one that resembles the Alcohol Funny Car his father drives - in the off-season.

Lensing, who started driving after attending his first NHRA National Event (his favorite driver is John Force), always thought about winning the award but “never really expected to get it.“ He'll practice his reaction times on his free-standing Christmas tree during the break.

Sportsman Jr.
1 John Stagner 195
2 Nate Kelley 173
3 Johnathan David 131
4 Tylor Williams 106
5 Todd Trench Jr. 97
6 Katelyn Rusiniak 95
7 Meredith Miller 66
8 David Kovar Jr. 61
9 Dan Kleinhoffer 61
10 Paul Douglas 41
11 Julia Hooten 10
12 Jake Hannah 10
Modified Jr.
1 Mason Marino 208
2 Cody Medeisis 203
3 Drew Zeller 162
4 Nichole Medeisis 153
5 Zach Sackman 151
6 Troy Lensing 132
7 Jessica McCorkle 131
8 Matt Sackman 124
9 Jeremy Lensing 120
10 Skylar Kunz 112
11 Elizabeth Galdikas 101
12 Briana Sevik 101
13 Robbie Vanderwood 100
14 Ashley Stagner 95
15 Tyler Hooten 90
16 Meghan Hurley 84
17 Miranda Zeller 83
18 Veronica Roscoe 74
19 Nicole Dorsey 74
20 Austin Raider 73
21 Tyler Kovac 64
22 Nick Mistrata 64
23 Max Lundy 56
24 Sarah Kovac 52
25 Ashley Headrick 50
26 Trevor Harisma 42
27 Vince Mistrata 31
28 Mason Lundy 31
29 Nick Hooten 30
30 Julia Hooten 30
31 Austin Hannah 21
32 Zachary Nave 21
33 Chase Nave 21
34 Kyle Dvorak 20
35 Marc Hammock 20
36 Anna Lundy 20
37 Collin Estes 10
38 Courtnee McCarten 10
39 Alexander Oppen 10
40 Dalton Hannah 10
41 Danielle Doyle 0
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500 Speedway Blvd
Joliet, IL 60433
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