WEST PALM BEACH, Fla.- Toby Daniels was well prepared for the International Hot Rod Association (IHRA) Summit SuperSeries World Finals when he got to Memphis International Raceway last week.
After all, he had faced some of the toughest competition all season at his home track of London Dragway in Kentucky and in visits to neighboring tracks like I-64 Dragway and Knoxville (Tenn.) Dragway.
So, while he was competing for the most prestigious national championship in bracket racing, he approached it like facing the competition he does on a weekly basis.
“There are some pretty tough ones, quite a few good racers, at London,” Daniels said. “I’ve been racing at London since ’98 and am there about every weekend. It’s 37 miles from my driveway to the track and it’s a great crew of racers. They’re tough racers, but they’re also like family.”
Coincidentally, it was Daniels’ family, who first got the 44-year-old from Barbourville, Ky., into drag racing more than two decades ago. Daniels and one brother were playing on local softball teams, while another brother and his father headed to the race track.
They got Toby to tag along for a few races and once he got inside the car to drive for one race, he was hooked. Now, he and his blue 1980 Chevrolet Malibu are fixtures at the track.
Daniels began his IHRA Summit SuperSeries World Finals run by beating New York driver John Cira Jr. in the first round. He defeated Canadian driver Drew Buchner in a closely-contested second round and used a .013 reaction time to take down Texas racer Ryan McDonnell in the third round.
The fourth round saw Daniels go even quicker on the tree with a .005 reaction time to beat Aaron Disinger from Indiana. That made an all-Kentucky matchup in the semifinals where Daniels used a solid effort to get past Lauren Lockhart.
In the finals, Daniels was once again great at the starting line with a .012 reaction time paired with a 6.843 run at 100.13 mph against a 6.85 dial-in to beat the appropriately named Aaron “Hotrod” Brock from South Carolina.
“It was pretty neat,” Daniels said. “The first few rounds I was kind of nervous, but I got settled down and did what we normally do. We had the old car running good and I didn’t think much about it the last round.”
While he was thrilled to win a prize package which included $20,000 thanks to sponsorship from Summit Racing Equipment, an eight-day, seven-night trip to Aruba courtesy of All Around Aruba Tours and an IHRA World Championship Diamond Ring, the most prized possession was the IHRA Ironman Trophy to signify he was the best of the best for 2018.
“To win the world championship, it’s a pretty good accomplishment,” he said. “My brothers were telling me how this race was like a once in a lifetime deal. It was great just to get there and then it’s great how it worked out that we ended up winning.”