IHRA TORCO PRESIDENT'S CUP NATS - Event Notebook
Keep up with this weekend's action in Budd's Creek, Md., the 10th event on the 11-race tour.
'The sun will come out tomorrow' -- IHRA President Aaron Polburn pulled the plug on the day's rain-interrupted activities at around 7:30 p.m., saying the effort to prepare the track was as much a battle with the cold as well as moisture.
"You could ice skate down both sides of the track right now," he said. Citing safety concerns, he said, "We could not in good conscience send a car down the race track.
"We'll pick it up at 10 a.m. Monday."
'THIS ONE'S FOR THE GIRLS':
Several drivers paid tribute to their wives this weekend.
"There is nobody tougher than women. They put up with us," Clay Millican said.
"To put up with this profession is amazing," Top Fuel team owner Tim Lewis added.
"Let's face it," Thomas said to Millican. "If your wife and a bunch of her friends left every weekend and came back beat up and tired with a bunch of dirty clothes and was cranky for a few days because they hadn't slept that wouldn't last very long, would it?"
Replied Millican, giving credit to wife Donna, "We [men] don't know how to pay the bills. We don't know how to do much of anything. Those women can get it done."
World's quickest bracket car -- T.J. Zizzo's Torco-sponsored dragster looked like a bracket car this weekend, as the Chicagoan has turned in four straight passes in the 4.6-second range. He qualified with three 4.6-second E.T.s, including the 4.615 that earned him the No. 1 qualifying position.
Next best scenario -- Clay Millican isn't able to continue his championship battle with the injured Doug Foley, so he is preparing to do the next best thing: raced Foley's teammate, Rick Cooper, in the final round.
Millican won the previous race, the make-up of the Cayuga, Ontario, event, as Foley crashed in the final round.
"It didn't mean anything," Millican said of that victory. "That was the worst win that I ever had. This year has been so exciting. These two teams have been hammering back and forth. But none of it meant anything. When Mike [crew chief Kloeber] came on the radio and said Doug was crashing -- We race our tails off, but we've really become friends. The rivalry is on the race track and not in the pits.
"We know this is part of the sport, but it piled up on us the last few races," Millican said, referring also to Bruce Litton's season-ending crash in the semifinals at Epping, New Hampshire.
The spirit is willing . . . -- Right after getting a bit (but evidently not completely) oriented his wits about him after his accident, Doug Foley instructed co-owner Tim Lewis to make sure his Torco Dragster and team were ready to compete this weekend at Maryland International Raceway. Of course, he wouldn't be able to drive and he wouldn't have Another car prepared.
Because Foley has a broken left leg and a separated right shoulder and broken ribs on the right side, he really can't even use crutches well right now. Just the same, he might try to go to North Carolina later this month to watch the season finale.
"He's just not able to get around yet," business partner Tim Lewis said. "I can't speak to when he'll be up and around, but knowing his determination, I wouldn't be surprised to see him at Rockingham, coming over and giving you advice, although our season's over."
Funky finalists -- The Nitro Funny Car class is assured of a new winner with Jeff Diehl knocking off two-time winner Jack Wyatt and Paul Lee running away from Terry Haddock in the semifinals.
Diehl is a San Clemente, California, racing veteran who technically attended his first race when he was two weeks old but drove the "Witch Doctor" Fuel Altered and the RB Entertainment front-engine Top Fuel dragster. The crew chief on his entry, which is sponsored by a local Toyota dealership, is Spike Gorr, a/k/a "The Medicine Man." He and wife Leeza, a model who designs handbags she says reflect "ultra girly-retro chic" styles inspired by drag racing, have a website called "Nitroagogo."
Lee, driver of the Rislone Engine Treatment/J&B Motorsports Chevy Monte Carlo, had to choose between racing here or at the National Hot Rod Association's rain-delayed event at Maple Grove Raceway, just miles from his home in Bala Cynwyd, Pennsylvania (outside Reading). He and his team, which he described last month as being "in a building phase," reached the final round at Epping, New Hampshire. Lee red-lit, allowing Bob Gilbertson to win despite blowing up his Dodge.
Lee is an Ivy League alumnus with four college degrees, including one from the Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania and a law degree from Rutgers University in his native New Jersey.
And it was going so well -- Robert Patrick certainly enjoyed his Saturday. He was $20,000 richer after winning the Torco Pro Stock Showdown specialty race for the class' top eight qualifiers from the previous year. In addition, he was No. 1 qualifier for the fourth time this season, posting a 6.320-second elapsed time at 221.20 mph effort that set both ends of the track record.
He also recorded a 6.312-second E.T. -- the quickest ever in Pro Stock history. However, it didn't count as an official record, because it occurred in the second round of the Showdown -- which was not part of a qualifying session.
It's good that Patrick enjoyed Saturday -- because he couldn’t have enjoyed Sunday. Points leader Tony Gillig, the No. 9 qualifier, used a holeshot to eliminate Patrick by five-thousandths of a second in the first round.
Helping where help is needed -- Bobby Lagana has become the social secretary, of sorts, in the Top Fuel class. It seems a natural role for the affable New Yorker, who has made a special point to walk through the pits at races this year, just to become acquainted with drivers in classes other than his own. "Man, you learn a lot about different people," he said.
Deceptive Flying - No one was more surprised with the 6.01 elapsed time from Scott Cannon Jr., than the second-generation racer himself. He admitted his pace-setting run felt almost one-tenth of a second slower.
“I was expecting a 6.10 to be honest,” Cannon said. “It just didn’t feel any quicker than usual. We knew last night’s run would be fast. The car was on a good run when the front wheels got up in the air. If last night’s run would have been on Sunday, I wouldn’t have lifted.”
Gee Thanks – Pete Berner gained low elapsed time for the first round of the Torco’s CompetitionPlus.com Pro Modified Shootout and sill lost. Berner left .031 on the starting line and that relegated his 6.349 to a qualifying run.
“It goes without saying that the car made an exceptional run,” Berner said. “The track was really awesome and the guys made a great job in tuning this Rick Jones car. It is exceptional.”
Berner made the switch in 2006 from a Ford combination to a Pontiac GTO and the results have been phenomenal. He’s been to three finals, winning twice.
Berner is utilizing a secret weapon and gaining a lesson in carburetion at the same time.
“We actually have carburetor specialist Dave Braswell with us this weekend and he’s giving us advice,” Berner said. “He’s really made in-roads to providing more power. I think we can go faster. This wasn’t as fast as we could go. We still have some on the table.
Really Good On The Tree - Tony Rubert, aka “the Entertainer”, and his Top Sportsman 1980 Malibu wagon are known for the strange things that occur during some of his runs. Today’s pass looked to be a very straight and smooth run until the car reached the finish line. As the chute deployed, something seemed to fly off and sail through the air. Shortly afterwards, the call came over the emergency radio from one of the top end track crew: “Cover for me for a couple of minutes, I have to go into the woods to get that door.”Two minutes later a follow up call came across the radio: “We are going to need someone who can climb a tree. That door is going to be here a while. It is 30 feet up a tree.”Apparently, the boom truck used for the TV crew was pressed into service to retrieve the errant door. - Roger Richards
Field depleted -- With Bruce Litton's injury during the semifinals at Epping, N.H., and Doug Foley's in the finals of the star-crossed make-up at Cayuga, Ontario, the IHRA Top Fuel field is decimated. Only nine dragsters are entered at this event. Bob Leverich, a journeyman from Michigan, with his injected-nitro with nitrous oxide combination, was the odd man out Friday night.
Wounded warrior -- Doug Foley was at the office of his orthopedic specialist Friday instead of at Maryland International Raceway, continuing his battle with Clay Millican for the Top Fuel lead. The Sewell, New Jersey, driver is starting to mend from injuries he sustained in this past Monday's final round against Millican at the rain-delayed Canadian Nationals finals.
"Doug's doing a lot better. He's still really sore," Tim Lewis, business partner with Foley for the past six and a half years and co-owner of the Torco-sponsored dragster with him, said Friday.
Foley, recovering from a concussion, is banged up from head to toe and, according to Lewis, is "full of bruises."
Foley's left leg is broken in two places, just above the ankle and just below the knee. He has a separated right shoulder and four cracked ribs on his right side. He also suffered a chipped tooth.
Lewis said Foley complained of a sore tongue, and everyone assumed he had bitten his tongue during the accident. However, he said, the doctor discovered that a chipped piece of Foley's tooth was embedded in his tongue.
Lewis said Foley "has no recollection of the run. He has no recollection of the entire day."
The crash "really rang his bell pretty hard," Lewis said "He would speak. The words were clear . . . but the sentences didn't make sense. I could see that his thought pattern was not right, and it concerned me a great deal. But it got better and better and . . . now his thought process is working."
Lewis said when the accident occurred, "I was a nervous wreck. I just was sitting there, watching my world come down, crashing around me. But I could see he was in good hands and he was going to get through this. . . . I'm confident now he will be."
Tee'd off -- One of the more unconventional T-shirts for sale at the race track is found in Top Fuel driver Bobby Lagana's "Twilight Zone" Dragster pit. The "Don't make me mad!" warning printed on the back is credited to the driver's father, Bobby Lagana Sr. -- whose likeness appears on the front of the shirt. In the photo, Lagana Sr. appears to be seething with rage.
He was -- when the photo was taken.
It turns out that Bobby Jr. was doing some repair work on the roof of the family home at Scarsdale, New York, and his father was on the ground, three stories below. He called down to his father for something he needed, and the exchange turned into a shouting match. Father and son became more and more animated, shouting and swearing at one another. At some point, without tipping off his dad, Lagana Jr. saw the silliness of it all and decided to play a joke. He scurried down the ladder, ran into the house, and came out with a camera he had hidden from his dad. Then he started the fight again and stirred his father to anger again. At the height of his father's fury, Lagana whipped out the camera and snapped the photo.
Both dissolved into hysterical laughter. And they decided to market the T-shirt.
Lagana Jr. said about 30 fans have purchased the shirt -- "people who know the old man and wanted to get one."
Ghoulish Pleasure – Tommy Gray established himself as a Pro Modified icon in the latter part of the 1990s. His Undertaker theme was a memory maker with crewmen dressed in grim reaper garb with sparking sickles. Then he got out of Pro Modified racing for a while.
The Undertaker has returned.
“It feels good to be back and I’ve missed everyone,” Gray said. “I am glad to have my own team out here again.”
Gray is campaigning a 2006 Pontiac GTO and this marks his first attempt at running a late-model car since 1993, when he campaigned a ZR-1 Corvette. He may be in trouble now with the latest class rule that mandatesPro Stock body styles cannot be legal for the Pro Modified division.
“That might do us in before we get started,” Gray said. “We wanted to get the best advantage we could, but this rule might put me out of business.”
Gray said he has planned to run a combination of IHRA and NHRA events, as well as a few ADRL stops. He said he will concentrate on the one series that provides the best opportunity for a championship.
So Long, Solara – IHRA Tech Director Mike Baker has confirmed that a submission of a Toyota Solara body has crossed his desk but likely will not gain approval. The Solara was not the only body style turned down. Baker admitted he also said no to others, including a Ford GT500.
A rule will be implemented in 2008 which will eliminate any body style which could run in the Pro Stock division. Baker did point out that modern Corvettes and Dodge Vipers were safe choices and most any two-seater coupe.
The point of contention that has prevented the Solara is its resemblance to a GTO or Cobalt.
Mo Baker, Mo Willys – Mike Baker said he’s a fan of the 1941 Willys body style and is confident it fits the spirit of the category’s move to a nostalgic theme. He said he’s even considering special perks to teams who choose to go this path.
Fatal Attraction – Ed Hoover is a veteran of fast doorslammer racing, and because of his vast experience he learned quickly about the temperament of Maryland International Raceway.
“The air is extremely good but the track can bite you because of it,” Hoover said. “It looks like the air is going to be extremely good this weekend. I would guess it will take a 6.18 to get in the field. A lot of teams will tune for the air and not for the track. Everybody had better be on their game this weekend, especially me.
“I’m swinging for the fence tonight. I have no other choice.”
Hoover missed the combination and slowed to a seven-second run in his first attempt. He is a past champion, having won the 1999 title behind the wheel of a nitrous car.
No Swinging for the fences – Carl Spiering ran a 6.086-second elapsed time but could have run quicker. He contends this was no “would’ve-should’ve” story. Spiering ran quick but didn’t try to rotate the earth and that was his game plan all along.
“You won’t see the ones in this title chase swinging for the fences tonight,” Spiering told Torco’s CompetitionPlus.com prior to the first session. “This race is too tight for us to take a chance on things. The ones who swing for the fences on Friday night most likely be on the sidelines on Sunday.”
Three other drivers posted a 6.08 elapsed time in the first session.
Rowed his Boat – Danny Rowe was one of those Pro Modified drivers who threw out a 6.08 when he recorded a 6.084.
“As usual, [crew chief] Jimmy Rector did a great job with the car. The car went straight down the track. It’s exciting how many good cars are out here, and we are excited to be competing among them. The fact that we have Jimmy Rector horsepower really helps. Running a 6.08 makes us very competitive, and hopefully we’ll be able to get after it a little bit more. However, we want to go rounds and we want consistency. That’s really what we are looking for, we want to go rounds. We get two rounds tomorrow, one at 3:00 and one at 7:00, so hopefully at least one of those rounds will be similar conditions as tonight. I believe we have a very good chance at running a similar number again. That is what we are wanting, consistency.”
Setting the Stage – Eight of the finest Torco’s CompetitionPlus.com Pro Stockers will battle it out for a $20,000 prize Saturday afternoon And Friday night, most ran competitive times. Robert Patrick leads the point-earners and on Friday night he threw down the gauntlet with a 6.332 elapsed time. Frank Gugliotta was the second quickest of the Torco’s CompetitionPlus.com Pro Stock Showdown qualifiers with a 6.366. The balance of the show will consist of Pete Berner (6.367 Friday), John Nobile (6.376), Tony Gillig (6.381), Steve Spiess (6.381), Brian Gahm (6.691) and Rob Mansfield (9.803).
Back in the Saddle - Robert Patrick sold last year’s Mustang and ended up with a former world champion as a teammate – at least for two races. Patrick sold his 2005 car to the duo of Tootie Jones and Patrick Leary, who in turn brought in past IHRA World Champion Dan Seamon Jr., to drive this weekend and in Rockingham next month.
“Part of the deal is that they wanted to run the car here and I couldn’t think of anyone better to drive than Dan,” Patrick said. “They are talking about running Rockingham and a few races next year. Dan is.
“This gives us all the perks of having a two-car team with the data and having a teammate that can take out a few drivers along the way. I have a lot of time invested in this program so whatever we can achieve will be a bonus.”
Seamon, who won the 1998 crown, is excited about driving and the opportunity to help Patrick.
“It would be neat if I could pull off some things to help him out,” Seamon said. “We’ll see what happens. Coming back out here is like riding a bicycle. You just don’t forget how to do it. I hope this turns into something big for next year.”
Rickie’s First 6.30 – Rickie Smith has won five championships and accumulated a number of awards in IHRA Pro Stock since joining the class in 1979. Smith was the first driver to record a seven-second lap as well as a 200-mph speed.
Tonight Smith ran his first 6.3-second pass with a 6.398/ 219.36 perfrmance to eclipse the year-old 6.402 track record. Smith’s run concluded the evening session as No. 8.