Championships are on the line this weekend as the IHRA's 12-race tour concludes on the hallowed drag racing grounds of Rockingham Dragway. 




SUNDAY - Bruce Litton Clinches First Career World Championship with Victory in Rockingham


Veteran Bruce Litton overcame years of championship frustration Sunday,littonDSA_9811.JPG claiming his first IHRA series championship in impressive fashion by winning the Top Fuel championship at the 12th annual Knoll-Gas Nitro Jam World Finals at Rockingham Dragway.

Although he clinched the $150,000 championship with a first round win over veteran Luigi Novelli of Crete, Ill., the 51-year-old Indianapolis businessman closed the deal by stopping six-time former IHRA Pro Modified Champion Scotty Cannon in a classic final round.

Litton won one of three championships that remained undecided entering Sunday’s eliminations, but was the only new champ to also win the race.

Robert Patrick, who won his first Pro Stock title, was beaten in the final round by Jeff Dobbins of Wilmington, N.C., and Mark Thomas, who became the most prolific champion in IHRA, lost to Rob Atchison of London, Ontario, Canada, in the Alcohol Funny Car finale.  Mike Janis of Lancaster, N.Y., won the Pro Modified title, falling 15 points shy of the championship. 

The door swung wide open for Litton when points leader T.J. Zizzo of Lincolnshire, Ill., was upset in the first round by Ken Jones of Berea, Ky., and the Indiana driver didn’t fumble the opportunity, winning at Rockingham for the first time since winning the Spring Nationals in 2000.

gilbertsonDSA_9760.JPGIn getting his third win of this season and the 12th of his career, Litton put behind him the bridesmaid tag that had followed him throughout his pro  career.   In addition to runner-up finishes to Clay Millican in 2002, 2003, 2004, he was third in points in 2000, 2001 and 2005.  Now he finally is the Top Fuel champion.

“It’s awesome,” Litton said of the double victory.  “(But) I’m very humbled at the same.  We’ve had some good cars and some really good teams (in the past) but.I think the key to this season was I got my guys back together.  I love these guys and I I think I needed to be surrounded by friends I really trust.

“Second (three times in the past) was okay,” Litton said, “but it wasn’t our goal.  This was our goal and we finally achieved it.  In fact, we realized all our goals this weekend except for qualifying No. 1.  We fell a little short last night but our big goals were to win the race and win the championship.

“They told me right before the final, ‘hang on, it’s gonna be a good one,’” Litton said.  “Now they’re back there picking it apart because they thought it should have run high 50s.  I just get to drive the car.  My crew does all the work.”

janisDSA_9602.JPGIn one of the day’s most surprising developments, No. 1 qualifier Pete Berner squandered his chance to repeat as Pro Stock champion when he was guilty of a first round foul start against former champ Brian Gahm of Lucasville, Ohio.  Berner’s unexpectedly early exit, which came after he had lowered the Rockingham track record to 6.281 seconds during qualifying, opened the door for Patrick.

Scott Cannon, who locked up his first series championship – and his family’s seventh – by qualifying No. 1 on Saturday, saw his Rockingham winning streak ended in round two by Pat Stoken.  The 27-year-old son of six-time Pro Modified champ Scotty Cannon had won his last two starts at The Rock but was victimized Sunday by tire shake that slowed his replica 1966 Pontiac to 6.727 seconds, well off the track record-setting 5.969 he recorded in qualifying.

In the Nitro Funny Car class, someone finally wrestled a Rockingham win away from journeyman Jack Wyatt of Corydon, Iowa.  Wyatt had won three straight Funny Car events at the Carolina track before Bob Gilbertson prevailed on Sunday, ending a frustrating season on a positive note.

“I’ve been waiting for this all my life,” Gilbertson said of his first victory on his home track.  “I always thought it would be really cool to win a race here.  I’ve set track records and qualified  No. 1 but this is the first time we ever won at The Rock and it was pretty cool.  I just wish it was the first race instead of the last.

dobbinsDSA_9492.JPG“I’ve got to credit my crew chief, Tommy Delago.  He made the right decisions today.  If I was my own crew chief, I’d be in the burn center every race because I’d be way crazy with the tune-up.

”It was flawless all weekend,” Dobbins said of his 2006 Ford Escort that cruised to victory in Pro Stock.  “It was a really good racef or us and I was motivated in the final round to be the first guy to give a whipping to the new world champion.”

Janis actually lost the Pro Mod championship off the racetrack, the result of a decision not to compete in the July 6-8 race at Edmonton, Alberta, Canada.  That cost the veteran the 41 bonus points awarded to those who participate in every event.

  “It all boils down to not making that trip to Edmonton,” Janis said, “but that’s racing.  We had some clutch issues today but, all in all, it was a great day and it gives us a great start on the 2008 season.”

Thomas, who finished 15 points ahead of race winner Atchison, relished his seventh series championship.

atchisonDSA_9550.JPG“I love Rockingham,” he said.  “I was tied with Scotty Cannon and Clay Millican and it’s wonderful to be able to get that No. 7.  It all worked out.” 

‘If I had a chance to race against Mark in an early round I thought I had a chance,” Atchison said, “but he landed on the other side of the ladder.  Racing Mark in the final meant that we won the battle, but not the war. 

“But it’s okay because he’s been my idol since I started racing 10-12 years ago.   I love the guy.  He’s a great champion.  Besides, with three or four races left, I didn’t think I had a chance but we turned it around at the end.  Some days you’re at the peak others you’re in the valley.  We’ll try to get back to the peak next year.”



a d v e r t i s e m e n t

Click to visit our sponsor's website



Sunday's final results from the IHRA World Finals Presented by The U.S. Air Force featuring UTI CHampionship Sunday at Rockingham Dragway.  The  race is the 11th of 11 in the $19.5 million 2007 Knoll-Gas Nitro Jam Drag Racing Series:


Top Fuel -- Bruce Litton, 4.606 seconds, 318.92 mph  def. Scotty Cannon, 5.014 seconds, 234.82 mph.


Nitro Funny Car -- Bob Gilbertson, Dodge Stratus, 4.877, 314.53  def. Cory Lee, Chevy Monte Carlo, 4.977, 303.30.


Pro Modified -- Mike Janis, Chevy Cobalt, 5.995, 239.31  def. Kenny Lang, Chevy Corvette, 6.080, 235.27.


Alcohol Funny Car -- Rob Atchison, Chevy Monte Carlo, 5.922, 241.80  def. Mark Thomas, Monte Carlo, 5.910, 243.06.


Pro Stock -- Jeff Dobbins, Ford Escort, 6.313, 221.34  def. Robert Patrick, Shelby Cobra, 6.304, 221.05.


Summit SuperSeries Box -- Chad Hedgecock, Dragster, 7.450, 176.93  def. Steve Ferstl, Chevy Monza, 9.219, 145.96.


Summit SuperSeries No Box -- Will Steckly, Dodge Charger, 8.992, 144.97  def. Ed Talbert, Chevy Chevelle, 11.676, 112.89.



a d v e r t i s e m e n t

Click to visit our sponsor's website

SATURDAY - Scott Cannon Clinches Pro Mod World Championship with No. 1 Qualifying Effort in Rockingham Father Scotty Cannon Sr. shares spotlight as No. 1 qualifier in Top Fuel

cannonDSB_7376.JPG Pro Modified driver Scott Cannon Jr. of Lyman, S.C., shattered the Rockingham Dragway track record Saturday, qualified No. 1 for Sunday’s 12th annual Knoll Gas Nitro Jam World Finals presented by the U.S. Air Force and, in the process, clinched the IHRA season championship.
 By qualifying No. 1 the second generation pro increased his points lead over Mike Janis to an insurmountable 82 points, adding his first IHRA title to the six earned in the 1990s by his dad, Scotty Cannon.
  cannonDSB_7155.JPGNot to be outdone, the elder Cannon followed his son’s lead and will start Sunday from the No.1 position in the featured Top Fuel division after recording a best of 4.603 seconds at 307.72 miles per hour.  It’s the first time in drag racing history that a father and son have led the pro qualifying in the same event.
 Scott Cannon, who will be bidding Sunday for his third straight Rockingham victory, was clocked in 5.969 seconds at 239.27 miles per hour Saturday in the replica 1966 Pontiac Firebird in which he set the national record earlier last month at Budds Creek, Md. (5.938 seconds).
 Other No. 1 qualifiers were Bob Gilbertson of Charlotte in Nitro Funny Car; points leader Pete Berner of Crete, Ill., in Pro Stock; and Laurie Cannister of Johnstown, Ohio, in Alcohol Funny Car.
  Berner, driving a 2007 Pontiac GTO, equaled the existing national record in Pro Stock with a time of 6.281 seconds at 220.80 mph.  He will move into Sunday eliminations leading Robert Patrick of Fredericksburg, Va., by 10 points in one of the three races still undecided.  As the No. 1 and No. 2 qualifiers, Berner and Patrick could meet in a decisive final round on Sunday. 
 For Scotty Cannon, 45, it was a good news, bad news Saturday.  The good news was his No. 1 qualifying effort, the first of his Top Fuel career; the bad was that he was mathematically eliminated from a points race which will be decided in the first two rounds on Sunday.   If both win in the first round, current leader T.J. Zizzo of Lincolnshire, Ill., and perennial title runner-up Bruce Litton of Indianapolis would meet in round two to determine who gets the $150,000 bonus.
The third undecided points race, that for the Alcohol Funny Car title, could be decided in a first round race between former champion Rob Atchison of London, Ontario, Canada, and Cannister, who recorded a career best 5.669 at a track record speed of 246.89 mph to qualify No. 1.  Atchison, down 35 points to Mark Thomas, must win to keep his slim title hopes alive.


a d v e r t i s e m e n t

Click to visit our sponsor's website


First round pairings for Sunday’s 12th annual Knoll Gas Nitro Jam World Finals presented by the U.S. Air Force at Rockingham Dragway:
gilbertsonDSB_7196.JPGTOP FUEL – 1. Scotty Cannon, Lyman, S.C., 4.603, 307.72 mph, vs. 5. Bobby Lagana Jr., Scarsdale, N.Y., 4.733, 309.56 mph; 2. Bruce Litton, Indianapolis, Ind., 4.617, 314.83, vs. 6. Luigi Novelli, Crete, Ill., 4.760, 291.82 mph; 3. Terry McMillen, Elkhart, Ind., 4.617, 314.83 mph, vs. 7. Jeff O’Neill, Harrisburg, Pa., 4.841, 301.33 mph;
4. T.J. Zizzo, Lincolnshire, Ill., 4.622, 321.42 mph, vs. 8. Dave Gallegos, St. Mary’s, Kan., 4.907, 286.01 mph.
 NITRO FUNNY CAR – 1. Bob Gilbertson, Charlotte, N.C., 2005 Dodge Stratus, 4.916, 305.91 mph, vs. 5. Dale Creasy Jr., Beecher, Ill., 2007 Chevy Monte Carlo, 5.033, 290.88 mph; 2. Cory Lee, Oceanside, Calif., 2004 Chevy Monte Carlo, 4.931, 305.22 mph, vs. 6. Jack Wyatt, Corydon, Iowa, 2006 Dodge Stratus, 5.067, 283.19 mph; 3. Terry Haddock, Lynnwood, Wash., 2007 Chevy Monte Carlo, 4.981, 292.27 mph, vs. 7. Todd Simpson, Ponder, Teas, 2001 Chevy Camaro, 5.075, 284.99 mph; 4. Jeff Diehl, Salinas, Calif., 2000 Pontiac Firebird, 4.985, 304.37 mph, vs. 8. Andy Kelley, Piedmont, S.C., 2002 Pontiac Firebird, 5.205, 285.41 mph.
  PRO MODIFIED – 1. Scott Cannon, Lyman, S.C., 1966 Pontiac Firebird, 5.969, 239.27 mph, vs. 9. Tony Pontieri, Bolton, Ontario, Canada, 1957 Chevy Bel Air, 6.082, 234.53 mph; 2. Mike Stawicki, Medina, N.Y., 1967 Chevy Camaro, 5.979, 233.16 mph, vs. 10. Chris Russo, Cedar Grove, N.J., 1963 Chevy Corvette, 6.084, 229.90 mph; 3. Mike Janis, Lancaster, N.Y., 2007 Chevy Cobalt, 6.008, 237.13 mph, vs. 11. Matt Hagan, Christiansburg, Va., 1968 Chevy Camaro, 6.095, 233.80 mph; 4. Kenny Lang, Grande Pointe, Manitoba, Canada, 1953 Chevy Corvette, 6.016, 236.42 mph, vs. 12. Mark Nielsen, Brandford, Ontario, Canada, 1968 Chevy Camaro, 6.104, 234.17 mph;  5. Chip King, Semora, N.C., 1969 Dodge Daytona, 6.017, 230.06 mph, vs. 13. Pat Stoken, Eureka, Mont., 1968 Chevy Camaro, 6.122, 231.56 mph; 6. Quain Stott, Columbus, N.C., 1963 Chevy Corvette, 6.056, 235.93 mph, vs. 14. Burton Auxier, Dixie, West Va., 1953 Chevy Corvette, 6.143, 224.43 mph; 7. Shannon Jenkins, Tuscaloosa, Ala., 2007 Pontiac GTO, 6.077, 231.16 mph, vs. 15. Jason Hamstra, Demotte, Ind., 1963 Chevy Corvette, 6.162, 229.20 mph; 8. Jim Halsey, Street, Md., 1968 Chevy Camaro, 6.081, 231.28 mph, vs. 16. Tommy Gray, Baltimore, Md., 2007 Pontiac GTO, 6.174, 233.72 mph.
  patrickDSA_8721.JPGPRO STOCK – 1. Pete Berner, Crete, Ill., 2006 Pontiac GTO, 6.281, 220.80 mph, vs. 9. Brian Gahm, Lucasville, Ohio, 2007 Ford Mustang, 6.345, 220.22 mph.
2. Robert Patrick, Fredericksburg, Va., 2006 Ford Shelby Mustang, 6.291, 220.04 mph, vs. 10. Dean Goforth, Holdenville, Okla., 2007 Pontiac GTO, 6.348, 218.69 mph; 3. John Nobile, Dix Hills, N.Y., 2008 Ford Mustang, 6.305, 219.47 mph, vs. 11. Bob Bertsch, Willis, Mich., 2007 Ford Mustang, 6.351, 219.58 mph; 4. Cary Goforth, Holdenville, Okla., 2006 Chevrolet Cobalt, 6.313, 219.54 mph, vs. 12. John Montecalvo, Center Moriches, N.Y., 2006 Chevrolet Cobalt, 6.355, 219.72 mph; 5. Jeff Dobbins, Wilmington, N.C., 2006 Ford Escort, 6.319, 220.66 mph, vs. 13. Elijah Morton, Jacksonville, N.C., 2007 Ford Escort, 6.378, 199.79 mph; 6. Frank Gugliotta, Mt. Airy, Md., 2007 Chevrolet Cobalt, 6.324, 218.62 mph, vs. 14. Dan Sweeney, Groton, Mass., 2006 Pontiac GTO, 6.385, 216.39 mph; 7. Rickie Smith, King, N.C., 2007 Chevrolet Cobalt, 6.337, 212.22 mph, vs. 15. Tommy Lee, Statesville, N.C., 2007 Ford Mustang, 6.429, 215.24 mph; 8. Steve Spiess, Manhattan, Ill., 2007 Chevrolet Cobalt, 6.342, 219.09 mph, vs. 16. Rob Atchison, London, Ontario, Canada, 2003 Pontiac Firebird, 5.788, 243.41 mph.
  cannisterDSB_7523.JPGALCOHOL FUNNY CAR – 1. Laurie Cannister, Johnstown, Ohio, 1999 Chevrolet Camaro, 5.669, 246.89 mph, vs. 5. Rob Atchison, London, Ontario, Canada, 2003 Pontiac Firebird, 5.788, 243.41 mph; 2. Mark Thomas, Louisville, Ohio, 2007 Chevrolet Monte Carlo, 5.719, 245.18 mph, vs. 6. Melinda Green-King, Norfolk, Va., 2007 Ford Mustang, 5.808, 240.99 mph; 3. Terry Munroe, Beaver, Pa., 2005 Chevrolet Monte Carlo, 5.739, 242.45 mph, vs. 7. Tim Stevens, Dorr, Mich., 2006 Dodge Stratus, 5.826, 214.89 mph;4. Neal Parker, Millville, N.J., 2005 Chevrolet Monte Carlo, 5.767, 241.76 mph, vs. 8. Bunny Burkett, Spotsylvania, Pa., 2006 Dodge Avenger, 5.833, 239.95 mph.  


a d v e r t i s e m e n t

Click to visit our sponsor's website


FRIDAY - A Good Start for Litton; Pulls Closer to T.J. Zizzo atop the Top Fuel Points Standings

littonDSB_7159.jpgBruce Litton's Top Fuel Dragster didn't quite make the full distance on his first qualifying run at the IHRA World Finals presented by The U.S. Air Force at Rockingham Dragway Friday evening, but his engine lasted just long enough to make him the provisional No. 1 qualifier and earn five bonus points as "The Last Man Standing" for Top Fuel. Current Top Fuel points leader T.J. Zizzo could only manage a fourth-place in the first of three qualifying sessions for the IHRA finale, reducing his margin in the championship chase to just 21 points.

In other eliminators, Pete Berner earned the "Quarter-Max Pro Stock Challenge" bonus points to narrow No. 1-qualfier Robert Patrick's lead in the season-long points Pro Stock battle to just 14 points; while Bob Gilbertson, Mitch King and Rob Atchison King earned both the No.1 spot and the bonus points in Nitro Funny Car, Pro Modified and Alcohol Funny Car, respectively.

patrickDSA_8153.jpgLitton coasted across the finish line with a 4.736 second, 251.44 mph run that put him atop the Top Fuel qualifying list, with teammate Jeff O'Neill second at 4.841 and 301.33, Scotty Cannon third at 4.856 and 282.78h, and Zizzo fourth with a tire-shaking 5.161 at 250.92 mph. Litton's bonus puts him one round and one point behind Zizzo with two qualifying runs remaining. Cannon is still mathematically in the chase, but he is 91 points behind Zizzo and Zizzo has not stopped earning points.

Patrick took the top spot in Pro Stock with a 6.354 second, 213.91 mph effort, with Berner and Brian Gahm close behind at 6.372 and 6.377, respectively Three drivers are still in the chase for the Pro Stock championship, Berner less than one round behind Patrick, with Frank Gugliotta still in the running, 46 points behind Patrick and qualified seventh at 6.431.

Atchison extended his championship lead over Mark Thomas to 32 points by taking the five-point "Last Man Standing" bonus for Friday night, as well as qualifying first with a 5.823 at 239.14. Terry Munroe is third in the points, but is not yet qualified after breaking before he could make a run, and Thomas is qualified seventh, barely in the field. Neal Parker, Laurie Cannister, and Paul Noakes round out the top four in the category after the first round.

kingDSA_8191.jpgScott Cannon almost clinched the Pro Modified championship when he claimed a 41-point bonus to take a 75-point lead over Mike Janis for the season, but Cannon sits 16th after the first round, while Janis is solidly qualified third with a 6.127 at 235.64 mph. Chip King is finishing the season with strong performance, but is out of championship contention despite a session-best 6.081 second,
230.06 mph run, with Jim Halsey second at 6.121 and 228.42.

Gilbertson carded a strong 4.927 at 302.14 mph to take the provisional pole position for this event, with newcomer Cory Lee right on his heels at 4.931 and 305.22. Jack Wyatt and Jeff Diehl round out the tup four after the first round. Dale Creasy Jr. clinched the Nitro Funny Car championship two races ago  and found himself fifth after the first round of qualifying.

Two more rounds of qualifying, at 2 and 6 p.m. Saturday, will set the field for Sunday's eliminations.


a d v e r t i s e m e n t

Click to visit our sponsor's website

Results Friday after  qualifying for the IHRA World Finals Presented by The U.S. Air Force featuring UTI CHampionship Sunday at Rockingham Dragway, 11th of 11 events in the $19.5 million 2007 Knoll-Gas Nitro Jam Drag Racing Series. Qualifying will continue Saturday for Sunday's final eliminations.

Top Fuel -- 1. Bruce Litton, 4.736 seconds, 251.44 mph; 2. Jeff O'Neill, 4.841, 301.33; 3. Scotty Cannon, 4.856, 282.78; 4.
T.J. Zizzo, 5.161, 250.92; 5. Bobby Lagana Jr., 5.586, 176.95; 6. Terry McMillen, 8.079, 87.94; 7. Dave Gallegos, 8.627, 84.91; 8. Luigi Novelli, 12.833, 84.97.

gilbertsonDSB_7195.jpgNitro Funny Car -- 1. Bob Gilbertson, Dodge Stratus, 4.927, 302.14; 2. Cory Lee, Chevy Monte Carlo, 4.931, 305.22; 3. Jack Wyatt, Stratus, 5.067, 283.19; 4. Jeff Diehl, Pontiac Firebird, 5.082, 301.07; 5. Dale Creasy Jr., Monte Carlo, 5.102, 277.43; 6.Mitch King, Chevy Corvette, 5.183, 258.96; 7. Terry Haddock, Monte Carlo, 5.204, 275.73; 8. John Lawson, Chevy Camaro, 5.223, 233.76.

Pro Modified -- 1. Chip King, Dodge Daytona, 6.081, 230.06; 2. Jim Halsey, Chevy Camaro, 6.121, 228.42; 3. Mike Janis, Chevy Cobalt, 6.127, 235.64; 4. Matt Hagan, Camaro, 6.166, 229.63; 5. Quain Stott, Chevy Corvette, 6.169, 232.63; 6. Kenny Lang, Corvette, 6.188, 229.59; 7. Burton Auxier, Corvette, 6.207, 221.71; 8. Jason Hamstra, Corvette, 6.213, 225.41; 9. Harold Martin, Pontiac Grand Am, 6.244, 205.41; 10. Tommy Gray, Pontiac GTO, 6.248, 228.50; 11. Ed Hoover, Corvette, 6.250, 224.40; 12. Barney Squiers, Camaro, 6.277, 223.06; 13. Chris Russo, Corvette, 6.291, 227.08; 14. Mike Stawicki, Camaro, 6.317, 220.30; 15. Mark Nielsen, Camaro, 6.414, 227.80; 16. Scott Cannon, Pontiac Firebird, 6.443, 215.55.

atchisonDSA_8307.jpgAlcohol Funny Car -- 1. Rob Atchison, Chevy Monte Carlo, 5.823, 239.14; 2. Neal Parker, Monte Carlo, 5.865, 237.21; 3.
Laurie Cannister, Chevy Camaro, 5.883, 237.21; 4. Paul Noakes, Ford Mustang, 5.887, 239.44; 5. Larry Dobbs, Chevy Corvette, 5.920, 240.25; 6. Melinda Green-King, Mustang, 5.943, 232.47; 7. Mark Thomas, Monte Carlo, 5.954, 238.98; 8. Trevor Lebsack, Mustang, 5.975, 233.24.

Pro Stock --
1. Robert Patrick, Shelby Cobra, 6.354, 213.91; 2. Pete Berner, Pontiac GTO, 6.372, 213.98; 3. Brian Gahm, Ford Mustang, 6.377, 216.72; 4. Jeff Dobbins, Ford Escort, 6.406, 217.00; 5. John Nobile, Mustang, 6.425, 214.08; 6. Rob Mansfield, GTO, 6.429, 214.11; 7. Frank Gugliotta, Chevy Cobalt, 6.431, 213.13; 8. Steve Spiess, Cobalt, 6.434, 212.19; 9. Bob Bertsch, Mustang, 6.439, 213.91; 10. Cary Goforth, Cobalt, 6.442, 213.16; 11. Larry O'Brien, Dodge Stratus, 6.457, 213.06; 12. Dan Sweeney, GTO, 6.465, 213.87; 13. Rickie Smith, Cobalt, 6.466, 213.16; 14. Adelbertus Kelkboom, Escort, 6.490, 212.43; 15. Bert Jackson, Chevy Cavalier, 6.494, 212.23; 16. John Bartunek, Cobalt, 6.506, 212.79.

a d v e r t i s e m e n t

Click to visit our sponsor's website





The IHRA has only twelve races in their countdown for a championship and their format seems to work well. For the second year in a row, more than half of their Knoll Gas Nitro Jam championships could come down to the wire this weekend. When you add in scenarios such as the IHRA’s Last Man Standing and oildown penalties, it makes for a lot of added drama.

The tightest of the championship battles is in the Torco’s CompetitionPlus Pro Stock division where only seven points separate defending champion Pete Berner and Robert Patrick.

The point lead in the class has been a seesaw battle between the two for much of the season, with a brief interruption from John Montecalvo, who is no longer in contention.

Frank Gugliotta has an outside chance of wrestling the title away but it’s a slim one.

A ten-point Last Man Standing Award (2 possible in a weekend) or a better qualifying effort by Patrick could spell the difference between the two drivers. Based on the last event where the record was set and re-set as many as four times, an additional twenty points could be on the line as well.

Neither driver will admit to counting points headed into this weekend.

“Whatever happens is going to happen, I’m just going out to do the best job I can,” Berner said. “We have a really good team that is really capable of making good runs but there are two other teams in the running that can do the same thing. I really don’t put a lot of pressure on myself nor do I allow others to do that. We’ll go out there and do the best we can. We are ahead and all we have to do is maintain that pace.”

Berner should know the potential a driver has of coming from behind to win a title. After all, he won the 2006 championship from third place at the last event.

DSA_6029.jpg“My crew keeps track of that [the points] but I’ve never really raced that way,” Berner said. “I think the most pressure I’ve even been under was trying to win for that lady in Maryland.”

Berner was referring to a spectator who requested he win for her because she is terminally ill with cancer.

“I’m typically better when the pressure is on,” Berner said. “That’s when I usually do my best driving. I’ll keep myself focused. I’ve been working out hard and dialed in on the simulator.”

Patrick had the point lead until the last race when he lost in the first round of Sunday’s final eliminations.

“I’m not even thinking about the points, nor am I worried about them,” Patrick said. “It hasn’t even crossed my mind. All I know is I am headed to Rockingham with the objective of setting the record and winning the race. Whatever happens beyond that point – happens. If we win it, we win it.”

Patrick said he hasn’t had a hard time blocking out this weekend’s challenge.

“To be honest, I am so ticked off at losing in the first round of the Showdown and then first round on Sunday that I am focused in on doing well to make up for that,” Patrick said. “As much as everyone would love to hear me say I am tensed up over it – I haven’t thought much of it.

“We have a new engine coming in that has a lot of power and we’ll test it in the days leading up to the event.”

Patrick feels the potential is there in Rockingham this weekend for a new elapsed time record assault.

“We set the record during the last race in 2005,” Patrick said. “We went a 6.32 there last year. I think with the power that we are making and if the air is there, you will see some runs. If it’s there, I am going for it.”

The Alcohol Funny Car division is not as close, but like Pro Stock it has three drivers battling for the crown – two with a good chance and a third with a mathematical shot.

Mark Thomas leads Rob Atchison by 37 points and he’s hoping there isn’t a chance of déjà vu. Only two years ago, Thomas came into the final event with the points lead and ended up losing to a last minute Atchison championship surge.

Atchison has momentum on his side by advancing to the finals in four of the last six races. The wildcard in the scenario is Terry Munroe, who has won two out of three final rounds. He’s 14 points behind Atchison.

“I can’t wait, I think about it every day,” Thomas said. “This is a three-horse race, but you really can’t worry about anyone but yourself. You just have to go out there and qualify as best you can, then see what happens.

"Every point is critical and every run will be huge. I think this is going to come down to a very exciting race in Rockingham. I always love going to that track…love everything about it. I hope I still love it as much when we leave.”

cannonDSA_2310.jpgThe Top Fuel division has come down to a battle between T.J. Zizzo and Bruce Litton for the championship. Zizzo holds a 24-point lead over Litton, and Scotty Cannon still holds onto a slim chance that could dissipate after qualifying.

Litton’s deficit is a round behind Zizzo.

After this weekend, there could be another Cannon championship headed to Lyman, South Carolina, but it’s not adding to the five already accrued by Scotty; it’s the first one for Scott Jr.

The big factor is the 41 bonus points awarded to those drivers who travel to all IHRA events. Second-place driver Mike Janis sacrificed his bonus points by sitting out the event in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada.

With 34 points separating Cannon from Janis, all he needs to do is show up and qualify and the championship could be decided. Pat Stoken and Ed Hoover have a chance, but only if Cannon DNQs.

Newly appointed IHRA PR director Mike Perry says that these last-race championship battles is proof positive that the old gather points as you go format still works in drag racing.

“We like to reward consistency throughout the season, where it is always possible for someone to catch fire during the season and for them to have a hot-streak for a number of races,” Perry said. “Our champion is usually the driver that is the most consistent from the start until the finish of the season.”