Keep up with this weekend's IHRA North American Nationals by reading our behind-the-scenes event notebook. We bring you the stories behind the numbers and win-lights throughout the course of the weekend. Tune in daily for the latest news from the pits.  



Last season Bobby Lagana Jr. won his second career IHRA Knoll Gas Nitro Jam Top Fuel event at New England Dragway, claiming a final round win over his drag racing mentor and idol, Chris Karamesines. This year the opponent was different, but Lagana ended up in the same place Sunday afternoon by visiting the winner’s circle after a finals win over T.J. Zizzo during the Amalie Oil North American Nationals presented by New England Dodge Dealers.


Other professional winners include Dale Creasy Jr. (Nitro Funny Car), Mike Janis (Pro Modified), Mark Thomas (Alcohol Funny Car) and Frank Gugliotta (Pro Stock).


Lagana, from Scarsdale, N.Y. carded a 4.980 at 285.23 mph to secure the win over Zizzo, who ran a 5.714 at 171.93. Despite losing, Zizzo leaves the race No. 1 in the points chase over Bruce Litton.


“I really just wanted to qualify so we could come out here and have some fun on Sunday,” said Lagana Jr. “My dad, he came down to top end crying. He was so happy. Problem is now he wants to take a lap in the car.”


Mike Smith’s Knoll Gas Torco Racing Fuels Pro Nitro Funny Car debut was a success, but in the end he came up just short. Smith fell to defending world champion Dale Creasy Jr. with the Ironman on the line. Creasy Jr., Beecher, Ill., took a free run down the quarter-mile strip when Smith broke after his burnout and could not get his car into gear.


“Every time we get to the winner’s circle it feels like the first,” said Creasy Jr. “The whole season is going so well I hate to even bring it up.


“This weekend the car was going down the race track, the driver just couldn’t keep it together. I was struggling. And the more I thought about it, the more I struggled. First round I really tried to calm myself down and it worked,” added Creasy Jr.


Mark Thomas advanced to his fifth final round of the 2007 IHRA Nitro Jam campaign and built his national points lead by topping Rob Atchison in the final. Atchison did defeat Paul Noakes, who he fell to in the last two national events, in the semifinal but could not get past Thomas in the money run. Atchison is now second in the points, trailing Thomas.


“You always want to race hard and win in close races, and that’s what we did here,” said Thomas. “Rob and I are good friends, and it was just really cool that we ran so close, 5.80 to 5.80. It’s nice to keep that points lead going too.”


Mike Janis claimed his 16th career Torco’s CompetitionPlus.com Pro Modified Ironman, his first of the season, by stopping defending world champion Quain Stott in the final round. Notably the Pro Modified field proved diversity is back in the class as seven of the 16 car field were nitrous-powered entries.


Janis won by clocking a 6.087 at 235.64 mph after setting the world speed record earlier in the event with a 240.21 pass.


“After the year we’ve been having struggling, this is great,” said Janis. “I made it to the final in Grand Bend but couldn’t win. Small things have been biting us all year and today we ran consistent and it finally came together.”


Frank Gugliotta continued his march towards the top of the national points standings, winning his second consecutive national event. Gugliotta, who defeated Larry O’Brien in the final round last weekend in Martin, topped current points leader Robert Patrick in the final round in Epping. Gugliotta carded a 6.417 at 220.22 mph to defeat a red-lighting Patrick.


“To win two in a row, in two weekends, this feels really good,” said Gugliotta. “But you know how it is in this deal, you gotta ride it while you can. It can end at anytime.

”I’m really proud of my team. We struggled this weekend, had some engine problems, but we prevailed. That shows how good of a team we have and I’m really proud to be racing with them.”


The next event on the $19.5 million Knoll Gas Nitro Jam Drag Racing Series is the Suzuki Motor City Nationals presented by Heritage Newspapers and GM Performance Division, August 24-26, at Milan Dragway.



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Sunday's final results from the Amalie Oil North American Nationals presented by New England Dodge Dealers at New England Dragway.  The  race is the seventh of 11 in the $19.5 million 2007 Knoll-Gas Nitro Jam Drag Racing Series: tf-finalDSC_7104.JPG
Top Fuel -- Bobby Lagana Jr., 4.980 seconds, 285.29 mph  def. T.J. Zizzo, 5.714 seconds, 171.93 mph.nfc-finalDSC_7112.JPG
Nitro Funny Car -- Dale Creasy Jr., Chevy Monte Carlo, 5.211, 292.52  def. Mike Smith, Chevy Camaro, broke.
Pro Modified --
Mike Janis, Chevy Cobalt, 6.087, 235.64  def. Quain Stott, Chevy Corvette, 18.234, 52.65.
Alcohol Funny Car -- Mark Thomas, Chevy Monte Carlo, 5.800, 247.11  def. Rob Atchison, Monte Carlo, 5.803, 246.21.
Pro Stock -- Frank Gugliotta, Chevy Cobalt, 6.417, 220.22  def. Robert Patrick, Shelby Cobra, foul.

Top Sportsman -- Jason Lynch, Cavalier, 7.199, 183.00  def. Gary Bingham, Grand Am, 7.243, 183.79.

Top Dragster -- Wayne Hoffman, Dragster, 7.253, 183.97  def. Jeff Brown, Dragster, 7.248, 182.82.

Quick Rod -- Jim Ditucci, '23-T Ford, 8.903, 159.64  def. Joe Hoyle, Dragster, 8.874, 163.29.

Super Rod -- Chuck Rothermel, Cutlass, 9.921, 161.69  def. Charlie Kenopic, '27-T Ford, 9.951, 150.26.

Hot Rod -- Kenny Underwood, Camaro, 10.936, 129.82  def. Dennis Altman, Camaro, 10.926, 131.41.

Super Stock -- Joe Santangelo Jr., Camaro, 11.236, 90.21  def. Anthony Bertozzi, Grand Am, 13.338, 67.68.


Stock -- Jim Boudreau, Camaro, 10.411, 125.67  def. Gregory Gay, Super Bee, 10.888, 121.35.

ET Bracket -- Scott Curtis, Monte Carlo, 9.857, 134.30  def. Jared Kinson, Camaro, 9.809, 134.79.

ET Box -- Scott Curtis, Monte Carlo, 9.864, 132.74  def. Alan Elliott, Dragster, 7.674, 173.74.

ET No Box -- Jared Kinson, Camaro, 9.837, 132.66  def. Mike Piela, Mustang, 9.989, 133.87.



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2gilbertsonDSA_6068.jpg Bob Gilbertson, Gastonia, N.C., qualified No. 1 in Knoll Gas Torco Racing Fuels Pro Nitro Funny Car during the Amalie Oil North American Nationals presented by New England Dodge Dealers. Gilbertson covered the New England Dragway quarter-mile in 4.953 seconds at 309.91 mph, also earning Last Man Standing in front of the capacity crowd.


Other professional No. 1 qualifiers include TJ Zizzo (Top Fuel), Mike Janis (Pro Modified), Terry Munroe (Alcohol Funny Car) and Brian Gahm (Pro Stock).


Trailing Gilbertson in Nitro Funny Car qualifying is Andy Kelley and Mike Smith, two and three. Points leader Dale Creasy Jr. sits fourth, followed by Jack Wyatt, Mitch King, Jeff Diehl and Terry Haddock.


Zizzo topped the Knoll Gas Torco Racing Fuels Pro Nitro Top Fuel class with a 4.610, 320.13, which earned the Lincolnshire, Ill., driver Last Man Standing as well. Terry McMillen qualified second, 4.663, followed by Scotty Cannon 1zizzoDSA_6111.jpgand Bobby Lagana Jr. Current points leader Bruce Litton is fifth. His lead over Zizzo is less than one round, and the two will meet in the first round of eliminations.


In Torco’s CompetitionPlus.com Pro Modified, Janis, Lancaster, N.Y., used the afternoon qualifying session to set the No. 1 mark at 6.064, 239.74. The speed is fast enough to give him the world record if he can back up the run. He’s trailed by Ed Hoover, who earned the Last Man Standing. Shannon Jenkins sits third and Jason Hamstra, who won the last IHRA event in Martin, Mich., is fourth. Harold Martin holds the bump spot.


Alcohol Funny Car driver Munroe, Beaver, Pa., who entered the event second in points, earned top qualifier and Last Man Standing. His 5.771, 242.54, was enough to outlast No. 2 qualifier Rob Atchison, current points leader Mark Thomas and Paul Noakes. Neal Parker locked up the bump spot with a 5.962.


Gahm, Lucasville, Ohio, used a 6.343 ET to take the No. 1 spot in Torco’s CompetitionPlus.com Pro Stock, as well as the3janisDSB_3369.jpg Quarter-Max Pro Stock Challenge. His speed of 221.27 tied the world record set by Robert Patrick at New England Dragway in 2006. Patrick finished second, followed by Frank Gugliotta, Rob Mansfield and Pete Berner. Dan Sweeney, Groton, Mass., qualified twelfth.


Professional eliminations are scheduled for Sunday at 10:30 a.m., 12 noon, 2 p.m. and 4 p.m. The Amalie Oil North American Nationals presented by New England Dodge Dealers is the seventh of eleven events on the $19.5 million 2007 Knoll Gas Nitro Jam Drag Racing Series.


First-round pairings for professional eliminations Sunday for the Amalie Oil North American Nationals presented by New England Dodge Dealers at New England Dragway, the seventh of 11 events in the $19.5 million 2007 Knoll Gas Nitro Jam Drag Racing Series.  Pairings based on results in qualifying, which ended Saturday.


Top Fuel -- 1. T.J. Zizzo, 4.610 seconds, 321.04 mph  vs. 5. Bruce Litton, 4.917, 298.21; 2. Terry McMillen, 4.663, 297.68  vs. 6. Jim Cavalieri, 5.007, 233.12; 3. Scotty Cannon, 4.768, 305.98  vs. 7. Jeff O'Neill, 5.080, 296.05; 4. Bobby Lagana Jr., 4.854, 267.27  vs. 8. Mitch King, 11.725, 71.11.


Nitro Funny Car -- 1. Bob Gilbertson, Dodge Stratus, 4.953, 309.91  vs. 5. Jack Wyatt, Stratus, 6.224, 153.61; 2. Andy Kelley, Pontiac Firebird, 5.101, 294.43  vs. 6. Mitch King, Chevy Corvette, 6.546, 138.70; 3. Mike Smith, Chevy Camaro, 5.429, 270.59  vs. 7. Jeff Diehl, Firebird, 9.939, 81.38; 4. Dale Creasy Jr., Chevy Monte Carlo, 5.633, 184.14  vs. 8. Terry Haddock, Stratus, 10.688, 90.59.


Pro Modified -- 1. Mike Janis, Chevy Cobalt, 6.064, 239.74  vs. 9. Scott Cannon, Pontiac Firebird, 6.164, 214.93; 2. Ed Hoover, Chevy Corvette, 6.071, 235.35  vs. 10. Quain Stott, Corvette, 6.165, 232.55; 3. Shannon Jenkins, Pontiac GTO, 6.090, 234.57  vs. 11. Jim Halsey, Chevy Camaro, 6.179, 230.02; 4. Jason Hamstra, Corvette, 6.096, 230.13  vs. 12. Burton Auxier, Corvette, 6.180, 225.67; 5. Matt Hagan, Corvette, 6.098, 234.74  vs. 13. Pat Stoken, Camaro, 6.209, 228.96; 6. Mike Castellana, Ford Mustang, 6.121, 230.49  vs. 14. Steve Salvadore, Firebird, 6.216, 229.27; 7. Chip King, Dodge Daytona, 6.145, 235.93  vs. 15. Danny Rowe, Corvette, 6.285, 230.25; 8. Kirk Kuhns, Willys, 6.160, 224.51  vs. 16. Harold Martin, Pontiac Grand Am, 6.285, 221.67.


Alcohol Funny Car -- 1. Terry Munroe, Chevy Monte Carlo, 5.771, 242.54  vs. 5. Larry Dobbs, Chevy Corvette, 5.878, 240.04; 2. Rob Atchison, Monte Carlo, 5.794, 244.96  vs. 6. Scott McNiece, Olds Cutlass, 5.919, 238.89; 3. Mark Thomas, Monte Carlo, 5.833, 247.07  vs. 7. Frederick Tigges, Dodge Avenger, 5.958, 241.89; 4. Paul Noakes, Ford Mustang, 5.842, 243.77  vs. 8. Neal Parker, Monte Carlo, 5.962, 236.88.


Pro Stock -- 1. Brian Gahm, Ford Mustang, 6.343, 221.27  vs. 9. John Montecalvo, Chevy Cobalt, 6.385, 219.61; 2. Robert Patrick, Shelby Cobra, 6.358, 219.65  vs. 10. Rickie Smith, Cobalt, 6.388, 218.97; 3. Frank Gugliotta, Cobalt, 6.363, 219.90  vs. 11. Elijah Morton, Ford ZX2, 6.396, 219.33; 4. Rob Mansfield, Pontiac GTO, 6.364, 220.55  vs. 12. Dan Sweeney, GTO, 6.397, 218.48; 5. Pete Berner, GTO, 6.365, 220.22  vs. 13. Jeff Dobbins, Ford Escort, 6.403, 219.65; 6. John Nobile, Mustang, 6.370, 219.58  vs. 14. Bob Bertsch, Mustang, 6.409, 219.79; 7. Cary Goforth, Cobalt, 6.375, 220.22  vs. 15. Dean Goforth, GTO, 6.442, 216.90; 8. Steve Spiess, Cobalt, 6.377, 219.61  vs. 16. Anthony Paone, GTO, 6.461, 217.25.


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An IHRA official was observed transporting what appeared to be a body bag from the property early Saturday morning. The speculation is that this could be the remains of the race director or the official who made the decision to run Top Dragster in the Friday night pro session resulting in lengthy oil down delays and eventual cancellation of the day's activities. 

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RAIN, RAIN, GOES AWAY - The day started out wet but not soggy at the Amalie Oil North American Nationals. Eventual the wet conditions gave way to beautiful weather and the sportsman was able to begin racing around 2 p.m. in front of a somewhat sparse crowd. The forecast for the rest of the weekend calls for mild temperatures as well as dry conditions which equals plenty of exciting racing.

Unfortunately for IHRA officials, racers and fans, cold temperature, down-time and the on-set of dew led to the decision.



NO FUEL FRIDAY - There was no nitro going down the quarter-mile on Friday at New England Dragway. IHRA officials decided to limit nitro qualifying to two sessions on Saturday in an effort to put on a better show for the fans.



A PAIR OF SMITH'S – Veteran crew chief and car owner Paul Smith was once again helping Mitch King in Epping. Smith tuned King to a runner-up finish at the last two IHRA races in Grand Bend, Canada and Martin, Michigan and King was happy to have him back in New Hampshire turning the wrenches once again. Smith's son, Mike, was also on hand in Epping, driving the National Tire & Battery car owned by Paul Richards Racing. Mike Smith hasn't raced since the first race of the season in San Antonio but has been staying busy tuning the Richards' car driven by Paul Lee prior to the Epping event.

NO MONEY, NO FUNNY- Independent Funny Car campaigner Terry Haddock has long been know for making the most with what whatever he's got, and now he has a new body to race with. Haddock took delivery of a Dodge Stratus body Thursday afternoon at Epping. The car was still adorned with the Brut stickers from the sponsor of former owner Don Schumacher, who used the body on the car driven by Ron Capps. All the pertinent stickers were removed by Friday morning, with only the Torco Racing Fuels logo still attached to the rear quarter panel.


SWINGING WITH THE JUNGLE – Bob Gilbertson isn’t taking chances this weekend. He’s bringing the Jungle Jim tribute body with him this weekend.

"I had Jungle riding with me last year in the final and he bought me some luck," Gilbertson said.  "Since then we've had the body repaired and it's always been the most popular Funny Car body at any race we go to.  Jungle has a lot of history at New England Dragway and the rabid New England fans remember him and his antics here in the 70s.  I'm proud that I can keep his memory alive and hopefully he'll help me out again this year."

Gilbertson is also hungry as he needs a win this weekend to keep his points hope alive; with a good showing he has a chance at the 2007 title.

"It's make it or break it time for me and this team," Gilbertson added.  "A win here will give us the points we need to stay in contention for the championship so we're going to pull out all the stops, if we can duplicate last year's performance and get the qualifying points, the record points and win the race we'll be in good shape to fight down to the wire for the title.  We've got four more races after Epping and if we get on a roll we'll be there at the end."

NEW GIG - Following the resignation of former team driver Paul Lee, the J&B Motorsports IHRA Torco Pro Nitro Funny Car team reached an eleventh hour agreement with Michigan local Rob Bruce to drive during this past weekend's IHRA Torco Race Fuels Nationals at Knoll Gas Motorsports Park.  Despite limited experience, Team Owners Jeff and Bonnie McGaffic were impressed at how quickly the driver they dubbed 'Ricky Bobby' adapted to their 8,000 HP Nitro Funny Car this past weekend.

As of the Thursday prior to the event, the team was without a driver.  Fellow Nitro Funny Car and Top Fuel racer Mitch King referred Bruce, from nearby Flint, Mich., to the McGaffic's.

"We tried to call several drivers to come in and drive for us this weekend," explained McGaffic.  "None of the drivers we knew that would fit the car were available to drive the whole weekend.  Mitch told us about this guy Rob Bruce who lived a few hours from the track and was a competent driver with an IHRA license and would fit the car.  We called him on Friday and he dropped what he was doing and showed up at the track a few hours later.  Needless to say, we were impressed with his zeal and commitment from the get-go."

"We missed the Friday session getting him fitted for the car," McGaffic continued.  "While getting things ready to go for Saturday, he kept talking about wanting to go fast, so we nicknamed him "Ricky Bobby."  He was a great guy and worked well with our team.  We had a lot of fun with him."

In his first pass in a competitive Nitro Funny Car, Bruce rocketed to half track, running a 3.45 at 250 mph, which was the third quickest E.T. and second fastest mph.  Low qualifier and eventual winner Mike Ashley's half track speed was only two mph faster during that session.  The car started spinning the tires slightly further down track, prompting Bruce to lift.  Despite not qualifying, the team was impressed with his driving prowess.

"The first pass out, he took it down the track straight as a string," cited McGaffic.  "We feel we've fixed the issue that was causing us so many problems earlier in the year.  On the first pass Saturday, it went 250 mph to half track.  Mike Ashley, the No. 1 qualifier only went 252 mph, so it was on a heck of a pass.  Just past half track it started to break the tires loose and he lifted.  We didn't qualify, but we showed the car that took us to four finals last year is back."




NEED THE FUEL CARS – It’s a rare occurrence when Pro Stock racers say their performance depends on the nitro-powered cars for their success, but Robert Patrick did.

The Torco’s CompetitionPlus Pro Stock point leader Patrick, who hails from Fredericksburg, Va., says the optimum performances for his class during this weekend’s event will come after a session of Top Fuel is in the books. He said the fresh rubber laid down by those 8,000-horsepower monsters in the second-half of the track will be the key to Patrick’s Purvis Ford-sponsored Cobra SVT and others laying down the big numbers.

“This track always seems to come around after the fuel cars run on it, to put down rubber. The fuel cars don’t run until Saturday afternoon. It may be Saturday night before we can run to our true potential. The 330 on down is the key for us. When they lay that fresh rubber down, we can run strong.”

Another variable to strong performances in the Torco’s CompetitionPlus Pro Stock division will depend on Mother Nature. In seasons past, the incredible atmospheric conditions attributed to this track were a given. Not so this season, said Patrick, since the event is contested a month earlier than normal. Patrick said that shouldn’t pose a problem.

“I just don’t see us having the weather we are used to having when we come to Epping,” Patrick said. “But then again, Brian Gahm set the record in 1,500 air, so I don’t think that is something that is a prerequisite for the record. I think the potential for a record is there.”

UP AND DOWN THE HIGHWAY - After wounding an engine in the quarter-finals last weekend in Martin, Bob Bertsch took the 'long way' from Martin to Epping.  The team made the trek to horsepower guru/engine builder Jon Kaase's shop in Winder, Ga., for repairs during the week, then to N.H.

Despite a lengthy road trip, Bertsch, from Willis, Mich., feels it will be worth it.  The culprit of his engine woes last weekend was several broken pistons.  After analyzing the data, the team feels the damage occurred two races ago in Grand Bend.  The fact they qualified a career-best seventh last weekend with an apparently damaged motor gives the team high hopes for their Rislone backed 2007 Ford Mustang.

"We left Georgia at ten p.m. Wednesday night," said Bertsch.  "I met my son in Pennsylvania today and we plan to be at the track by Friday morning.  We found a few broken pistons that were causing our loss of power and vacuum.  We have been losing vacuum slowly since Grand Bend, so it might have been hurt all last weekend.  That gives us a lot of hope to run that well down on power.  Now we just have to get the power we've picked back up to the ground.  The track in Epping is pretty close to sea level, so it should be fast this weekend.  We're definitely looking forward to it, and hope to make a great showing for Rislone Engine Treatment, Bar's Leaks and our associates Share Capital and Ram Clutches."


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