Keep up with this weekend's IHRA Motor City 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.





Kevin Jones was just one of a handful of nitro racers who tested the limits of mechanical boundaries in Milan.

THE BLOW-IT-UP NATIONALS - IHRA Vice President of Operations Skooter Peaco has experienced easier race weekends.

You know the situation is tough when you can order a pizza and have time to eat between clean ups. (Brian Wood).
Over the course of the three-day event there were eighteen oil downs resulting in several hours of racing downtime.

One of those marathon oil downs transpired on race day delaying the event by nearly an hour.

Peaco searched his memory for when he’s had a more frustrating day.

“Let’s see, other than blowing up the motor in my own race car, this would be the next most frustrating day that I've had,” Peaco admitted.

Seven oil downs were charged to the nitro classes, three of which transpired consecutively on Sunday.
“We sent Mike Baker [IHRA Director of Competition] around to talk to a lot of the Pro teams that blew up and tried to see if we could come to a common denominator,” Peaco said. “Most of them, I'm going to say 80%, said that the track was so good that they had to give it more power so that the tires wouldn't shake and then that was leading to their catastrophes. Now that doesn't explain the E. T. guy that blew the rear end up for sure but I'm just talking about nitro in particular.”

Yes, a bracket racer blew the drive train completely out of his Plymouth Sundance; depositing the drive shaft and rear-end housing on the starting line.

Never in his drag racing experiences has Peaco ever attended a drag race where 15 oil downs have transpired over the course of a single weekend.
“I was a participant at the Rockingham race that was the pollen race,” said Peaco. “I was witness to the Amalie oil down nationals in San Antonio not too long ago, but this one I'm not even sure that we have records that will come close to this. This is the league leader so far in my particular five years.”

Chances are if you ended up in the left lane you were catching the early flight home. Billy Gibson tries to take off in the first round of Pro Modified eliminations. Only four drivers in his class won from that side.

ONE LANE BLACK TOP – IHRA announcer Bob Unkefer repeatedly referred to the professional races as “Pick 'Em Races” and he was correct to a point, as long as one picked the right lane.

Lane choice clearly made a difference in this event as only 12 of 51 professional rounds were won from the troubled left lane.

Jeff Dobbins won the Pro Stock division from the right lane, after picking up the fourth round won from the left within his class.

There were no winners in the nitro Funny Car class from the left lane.
THE NEXT RACE TO THE FIVES - The battle for bragging rights amongst the nitrous Pro Modified entries used to be for the quickest run. With Pat Stoken’s first round 6.022 elapsed time at 237.13 miles per hour the focus has now turned towards the first sub-six second run.

Mike Castellana’s 6.052, 236.96 might not have been quicker than Stoken’s, but the performance only emphasized further the race to the five-second zone was on.

A third player in the battle is Jim Halsey who has run in the mid-6.0 range.

The controversy of parity amongst the supercharged and nitrous combination within the same class has been forgotten. A new war will be waged over the next few IHRA events.

“It's a big deal between the engine builders, chassis builders and the nitrous system guys who will get that first five second run,” said Stoken. “It’s not only big to them; it’s big to all the racing community and especially the Pro Modified fans.”

Castellana fired the first shot earlier and waded his way through eliminations en route to the final round.

"It just shows that hopefully we can keep nitrous cars competitive," Castellana added.

Stoken was next in line to run when Castellana laid down what then amounted to quickest nitrous doorslammer pass in drag racing history at the time; snagging the honor away from Stoken.

At the time, Stoken admitted he was happy for Castellana. Both drivers utilize engines from Reher-Morrison.

“I was really happy for him,” Stoken admitted. “I didn’t think we could go quicker but we did and I was just along for the ride. I think the mark will fall in Budds Creek.”

THE NEXT LEVEL OF IHRA PRO STOCK - Five years ago, the IHRA Pro Stock division relied on two major engine builders to service as many as twenty to thirty Pro Stock teams. If you ran a Ford, you had Jon Kaase horsepower. A Chevrolet or GM meant you relied on Sonny Leonard for your engines.

Today’s IHRA Pro Stock division stands prepared to reach for the next level with in-house engine programs.

As many as four prominent teams have embarked on exclusive engine programs. The IHRA’s Pro Stock division has always been considered a less expensive alternative to the highly-complex 500-inch NHRA programs. 

Pete Berner, 2006 IHRA Pro Stock world champion, became the latest to announce such a program. He will partner with former Pro Stock racer Jerry Janota.

Berner joined 2007 champion Robert Patrick, Robert Mansfield and Elijah Morton, all who branched out of their own since 2004. At least two of the four have NASCAR connections.

Each team, when queried why they went this route, agreed a desire to keep research and development secrets as a major factor. They all had other reasons to add.

“You want to be able to control your own destiny and when you get your own program going you certainly have got it and you keep it so therefore once you get ahead, you stay ahead,” Morton said.

For Berner, the decision to step up with the engine program didn’t necessarily mean he wanted to dominate the IHRA mountain motor market. He’s using the experience to eventually test the waters of the 500-inch market.
”We're not going to go any farther if we can't compete with the Mountain Motors because there's just a lot more technology involved with the 500-inch guys,” Berner admitted. “They live, breathe and do everything they can to make horsepower in 500 inch racing. You basically have to have that same discipline. We're going to see if we can retain that discipline.”

Patrick’s insatiable desire to distance himself from the rest of the front-runners started with a desire to join up with Ingles on his program prior to the 2005 season.  

“The way I felt about it was when you had two engine builders that had 85% of the field they could kind of control what was going on because as long as one of them didn't get too quick they kept everybody running the same then they didn't have to do a lot of work,” Patrick said. “I know they were trying to make their stuff better but they were happy but it looked to me when I was involved was in finding one or two little updates and then giving that to everybody for the next year and that's it. Then once the season started basically they didn't try to find power, because they had so many customers they were just busy trying to keep everybody's motors running.

Mansfield’s program began in 2004 when he left Sonny Leonard to join forces with Ron Hutter, a known figure in NASCAR engine technology.

Not every IHRA Pro Stock racer believes having an in-house program is the best route to travel. Current points leader John Montecalvo has been a longtime customer of Leonard’s and he’s content to remain that way for a long time.

“I think we're in a better situation than with the guys with the in-house programs,” Montecalvo said. “Sonny and Kaase both have a lot of customers each, but they can try things on different cars, they can try one camshaft in my car, another in someone else's car and come to some type of conclusion of what works best in their applications. To me if they've got 7 or 8 customers each they are at an advantage over the guys that only have the one customer.”

Montecalvo believes such a move does nothing more than increase the price on competing in the class.

“It means taking your dollars to the next level,” Montecalvo added. “It would definitely cost a lot more money, at least now the r&d with the Sonny's people and Kaase's people the data is shared among 5,6,7, or 8 customers. I think that we have an advantage that way, I think it cost us less money and I think we get better results.”

One of the positive byproducts, Morton adds, is the opportunity to recoup some expense through engine lease programs.

“There’s so much money invested in building your own engine program and when you consider there's people calling everyday wanting to lease an engine, that day is coming,” Morton said. “We're not quite to the point where we want to do that yet. Once it does get to the point like the NHRA Pro Stock lease engines get to, there's big dollars there just to lease your engines. It saves the racers from spending the money to develop their own, and they get to ride fast and enjoy it.”

Morton said the lease engines could be one year away from coming out.

THE NEXT BIG THING? - A torque converter in a full-fledged national Pro Modified race may have been a far-fetched idea in the early stages of the class, but after the IHRA Motor City Nationals in Milan, Michigan, the performances of two teams has a cast of other supercharged teams pondering replacing their clutches with a torque converter for their Lenco transmissions.

Jason Hamstra (6.053) and Carl Spiering (6.054) qualified fourth and fifth to mark the first time two cars have qualified in the top half of the Pro Modified field with torque converters.

The Lenco drive combination was legalized in 2004 and for the most part, Hamstra has been the poster boy for perfecting the combination. Milan marked the first time out with the combination for Spiering.

“Basically it's just a torque converter, replaces the clutch,” Spiering explained. “It still has the Lenco transmission, still shift it manually, we still have to leave off a clutch pedal, the trans-brake is under the clutch pedal. All we're doing is taking the clutch mechanism out of the car and putting a torque converter in, the torque converter drives the Bruno BRT unit and that's what drives the Lenco, so we're just utilizing the torque converter to drive the car verses a clutch.”

The Lenco drive combination was given a huge publicity push in 2003 during the race for doorslammers into the five second zone. Outlaw doorslammer racer Ron Muenks bolted one into his supercharged car and drove his way to an unheard of 6.096 elapsed time.

The technology has greatly increased since Muenks made his monumental pass in testing.
“It's the next thing,” Spiering added. “I believe that the class is getting down to the point where low ET's not winning the races anymore, the consistent ability to cut the tree down is important and the class is becoming a real fast Pro Stock. The class is tightening up so much and I think it's probably the next thing that's going to develop in the Pro Mod and we've done it for two seasons with Jason Hamstra, our motor - his car. We’ve been testing and testing and he's running pretty good so it intrigued me enough to do it.”

Other upper echelon supercharged Pro Modified teams testing the combination are Scott Cannon Jr. and Ed Hoover. A score of other teams are seriously considering making the switch.

The ease and efficiency of the combination is what Spiering says provides the incentive to test the waters.

“You need one less crew member,” Spiering said. “That helps pay for the gas and the fuel in the trailer right. I mean, we've reduced our crew number, we've reduced our expense in the clutch can. Is it the answer? We don't know yet. It's like anything else these days if you don't try it, you won't know.” 




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A sign of the times?

GENERATION NEXT - The 2008 IHRA season has proven to be the year of the nitro rookies.

Twenty-five year old Spencer Massey has won two races thus far in IHRA Top Fuel. He won in his first national event.
Top Fuel freshman Spencer Massey won his first Top Fuel event just days after procuring his license and twenty-one year old Dan Wilkerson drove his way to a provisional IHRA Funny Car world record on his first pass as a professional drag racer.

Massey is the senior of the two having two more races under his belt. He is also the point leader based on victories at those events.

If anyone could relate to the euphoria the young Wilkerson experienced on Friday, Massey could.

“I knew exactly how Dan felt to do so well in his first time out,” Massey said. “He’s a good driver and good kid. He’s been around the sport all of his life kind of like I have. That’s what it takes to be where we are at this young. We’re not just some random kid coming and jumping in a race car.”

Wilkerson said if anyone understands finding the career baseline it’s those veterans they will one day replace.

“They didn’t start as veterans,” Wilkerson added. “I’m sure they have always known there was another generation moving ahead behind them.”

The NHRA has a full crop of rookie youngster drivers coming in, but most of those are part of the fully financed operations. For aspiring drivers counting the budgeted dollars, the IHRA provides an excellent place for them to get started.

“There’s no doubt the IHRA provides a good starting point for a new driver,” Massey said. “Over in the NHRA, it’s hard to compete unless you have the major budgets and multiple teams. It’s really hard to make a name for yourself if you’re outside of that and get the exposure you need when you are just starting your career. Over here is the place to be if you’re starting off.”

Dan Wilkerson went to the top spot of the nitro Funny Car class in his first pass.
Massey said he’s talked with a few major teams, but this was done prior to his success in the IHRA. He’s had a few more conversations since.

“The next generation is certainly starting to make their presence known,” Massey said. “You have quite a few kids coming up through the junior dragster ranks and they are coming to the sport with a lot of experience already. I think a lot of the team owners and those who are in the position of power are starting to notice the talent they are bringing to the game. They are starting to notice the young drivers can be marketable and bring a new face to the game. This sport can always use new faces to replace those who are moving on.”

But even these new drivers know their strength comes directly from those turning the wrenches. Massey’s is tuned by decades-long veteran Paul Smith and as for Wilkerson; he’s got the old man hard at work.

Tim Wilkerson is one of those seasoned veterans leading the pack in today’s drag racing community. He’s warmed by the influx of young talent into the sport. In his eyes, the only downside is that he’s not ready to step aside yet.

“It warms you heart and even though no one wants to get old I think we are all victims of getting older,” Tim Wilkerson said. “No one wants to quit and you see John Force out there still racing. Kenny Bernstein was out there racing and he’s still an excellent driver. He did terrific last year. I see my day coming when I’ll need to step away. I hope it isn’t tomorrow but I see it coming. It makes me feel good to see them out here and we need to see these young drivers out here.”


Carl Spiering qualified fifth in his first race running a Bruno's-Lenco torque converter combination.


The IHRA President smiled as he chatted about his take on the impending nitro crisis that

IHRA President Aaron Polburn says the IHRA will face no shortages of nitromethane.
threatens drag racing’s supply. He explained that he got a call asking him if he feared having enough nitro to finish the season.

“I asked them if they were talking about 2008 or 2009,” Polburn mused.

Polburn has assured his nitro racers the lifeblood supply concerns will not affect the IHRA whatsoever. Their eight-car fields and 11-race schedule significantly reduce their demand. IHRA nitro cars only have three sessions.

“We have no nitro crisis,” Polburn said. “We have secured enough nitromethane to make it through the 2008 season. Regardless of what is happening elsewhere, we have it and it’s in the barrels.”

What inspired the IHRA to make this move?

“I would call it a pre-emptive strike,” Polburn said. “As the rumors got bigger and the topic of conversation focused more on the nitro supply, we knew we needed to do something. We really owe a lot to Skooter Peaco and Terry McMillen to help make this come to pass.”

Had the IHRA not procured the supply, the end results could have been catastrophic.

“We sell tickets to a circus and our trapeze artist and lion tamer are our Top Fuel and Funny Car drivers, as well as all of our other classes. It would be a devastating hit to our front gate business if we couldn’t run this portion of our business.”

Zizzo loses a tire as he goes through the lights.

SCARY MOMENTS - Top Fuel driver T.J. Zizzo walked away from a high speed accident during Saturday’s first qualifying

The end result of Zizzo's engine explosion. (Brian Wood)
session. An engine explosion reportedly sent shrapnel into his one-run old left Goodyear tire puncturing it and forcing him over into the wall.

“I didn’t even have enough time to get scared,” Zizzo said. “I was talking to my crew while I was sliding down the track. This was my first accident in 17 years of racing.”

Remarkably, Zizzo was able to qualify sixth on the run with a 4.740 elapsed time.

Crew chief Tony Zizzo was able to diagnose the cause of the accident rather easily based on the evidence presented.

“The car was set up conservative and somewhere before the finish line, at a thousand foot or so, the engine went lean because of the BDK valve,” Tony Zizzo said. “It kicked the rods out and hurt a few more engine parts. It blew the blower.

“I’m almost certain a piece of the blower casing pierced the tire. The tire came off and part of the tire hit the front of the car. TJ worked the car over towards the wall and slid it in gently to shave off some of the speed. We did end up breaking the front controls doing this.”

Zizzo had no reason to believe all hell was going to break loose just before the finish line. Even when the tire let go, the impact was minimal to the driver.

“The car left the line really lazy and it started trucking pretty fast,” Zizzo recalled. “The car started laying over just a touch past a thousand feet, I didn’t feel an engine explosion, but I did feel the car cut down a tire pretty fast. As I went through the lights, I felt the tire let go and I tried to steer it the best I could. I hit the wall and came to a nice screeching halt.”

No driver ever wants to crash, but Zizzo believes his first accident was the exception to the standard.

“The crash was as simple as a 300-mph crash can get,” Zizzo said. “If all of them were that simple, this would be an easy sport. I came away from this accident very fortunate. To be able to walk away from that virtually painless except my left hand and my neck. Other than that, I am just fine.

“Safety Solutions came through for us on this one. I credit them with being able to walk away.”


Todd Paton explodes the engine at the hit of the throttle.


Matt Hagan landed in the fourth spot with a 5.045, 298.67. He entered the event fresh off of a win in Rockingham, N.C. last month.


Jeff Dobbins walked away with a new Milan Dragway track record with a 6.294 elapsed time at 222.40 mph.

THE COST OF RACING IHRA PRO STOCK - Robert Patrick left the IHRA’s mountain motor format to run in the NHRA’s 500-inch

The next two races for Robert Patrick will determine if he attends the event in Edmonton. His assessment is the Pro Stock purses have not increased at the level the costs of maintaining the cars have.
program in 1995. The defending world champion eventually returned in 2003 after the spiraling costs of remaining competitive didn’t jibe with his financial bottom line.

He says the cost is getting comparable in today’s IHRA Pro Stock division.

“We're spending about the same right now to race as we were back in the late 1990's in NHRA,” said Patrick. “I think you're going to see all that come to a head with the way the economy is going, the diesel fuel price and the fact the purses aren't going up. The costs of racing the motors are 50% more than they were 10 years ago. The tires costs more, clutches costs more, transmissions are a third more than when I started racing. The purses really haven't gone up, so there comes a point when you got to say hey you know this is a business and if you can't make a profit at it, you know you're going to have to fold your tent down and go home.”

Patrick is just one of a handful of IHRA Pro Stock teams who have invested in an in-house engine program. His program is headed up by championship assembler Bob Ingles.

“This could all change if the IHRA ups the purses,” Patrick said. “I think you could see Pro Stock reached that next level but who’s going to go out there and invest another half-million dollars in an engine program when the purses are staying the same. That just doesn't make good business sense.”

With the complexity of today’s U.S. economy and the spiraling costs of diesel fuel, Patrick and other teams are carefully plotting the balance of their travel schedule.

“Right now looking at the next two races honestly to see where I'm at in the points and if I'm not up where I need to be, I'm not going to go to Edmonton. I can run a Ford race an hour and a half from the house that pays the same money. I'd love to go to Edmonton and support IHRA and if I'm in the points I will, but basically if you don't go to the final out there you're not going to break even for the trip.

“You're looking to spend $5000.00 in fuel to go out there and the national average of diesel fuel is $5.66 a gallon, it's hard to justify driving 50 hours and airline tickets, food and everything else and you're going to walk away with a measly few grand for qualifying.”


Dale Brand unleashed his power on the Alcohol Funny Car class by strapping a tenth on the next quickest qualifier with a 5.654, 245.90.

Tim Wilkerson knew the kid could handle driving an 8,000-horse nitro Funny Car, but he just had to see it
Somewhere in the photo you will see a smiling Tim Wilkerson.
for himself. The kid was Wilkerson’s 21-year old son Dan, who was making his professional drag racing debut in the same nitro Funny Car which leads the NHRA championship standings.

Dan drove to a provisional IHRA world record on his maiden nitro voyage with a 4.831 elapsed time at 316.01 miles per hour.

“I knew he was capable of showing me up,” Wilkerson said. “We didn’t get after it as much as we could have. He got out of the groove a little bit but he can see really well out of the car.”

Friday evening was the first time the second-generation Wilkerson had ever driven the Monte Carlo.

“I was a little afraid of that but he shut it off when he was supposed to have,” Wilkerson added. “He got the parachutes out on time and did really good. He needs about another 300 laps and I’ll turn him loose.”

If Dan had his way those 300 laps would come in 2009 on the IHRA tour. Wilkerson would love to put Dan on the IHRA series full time in 2009, but the cost and time constraints may prohibit.

“If we had a sponsor, we’d make it happen,” Wilkerson said. “There’s no doubt it would be great for him to gain experience. The problem is that the nitro car takes up so much of my time. I wouldn’t have time to come and I don’t know that I’m comfortable enough to let someone else watch over him yet.”

One thing Wilkerson is assured, the IHRA atmosphere is the perfect place for his talented son to cut his teeth in nitro racing.

“It’s the perfect place because the program is so laid back,” Wilkerson said. “There are some good Top Fuel teams and Funny Car programs capable of running over in the NHRA. You’re not quite as tense and in a crazy atmosphere. That place is so structured and runs go off at a certain time and there no missing them … the oildown issue … yada yada yada. This place is a little easier to deal with when it comes to that. For a guy starting out, this is the perfect place. The IHRA people have bent over backwards for us.”

So what advice does a seven-time national event winner provide his rookie son on his first run?

Rob Mansfield qualified fifth with a 6.327. Three other drivers recorded the same elapsed time and forced appointment of position of speed.
“We had our normal talk about how he didn’t need to be a hero,” Wilkerson said. “I told him not to drive over his head and to shut the car off when we needed to. The problem is that it’s tough to make a fast car slow. That’s our problem.

“I got on him yesterday [about moving around on the run] and said good job, you probably beat us out of .01,” Wilkerson added. “I showed him my runs and he came back at me rather quickly.”

Wilkerson confirmed that he learned a lot about the way John Force and his team communicate with their drivers after an unfortunate situation and he applied that to his post-run experience with Daniel.

“I remembered seeing them when Mike Neff blew up in Bristol and they were asking him if he was okay, right off the bat,” Wilkerson said. “The first thing I asked him if his chutes were out and the car was stopped. He came back to me and said, ‘The car is bouncing, I’ll get back to you.

“He came back to me after he stopped and said, ‘That was a lot faster than it was the last time I drove it.”

Dan’s side of the exchange was slightly different.

“We had like a two minute conversation and the car was still rolling,” Dan recalled. “The first thing he did was to make sure I was stopped and then he asked if I wanted to know what I ran. Of course I did. He just kept on teasing me and wouldn’t tell me what I ran.”


Tim Wilkerson said he'd love to let Dan run a season of nitro on the IHRA tour but time and sponsorship remain the deciding factor.


Seven-time IHRA Alcohol Funny Car world champion Mark Thomas missed the cut for the second 2008 event in a row.



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DAN IS THE MAN - Dan Wilkerson has given explicit directions to his crew. Don’t wake him up if he’s dreaming.

In his first professional qualifying attempt, Dan Wilkerson went to the No. 1 positiion.

The second-generation Wilkerson, son of NHRA Funny Car point leader Tim Wilkerson, made his professional driving debut at the NHRA Motor City Nationals in Milan, Michigan.

“It really didn’t hit me until I woke up this morning,” Wilkerson said. “I was checking around and saying to myself, ‘I'm not dreaming, I'm here, I'm running this deal”

“I kind of got a little nervous, but got over it.”

Wilkerson isn’t getting overly nervous this weekend, but he’s fending off the butterflies as quickly as they materialize. This weekend’s outing is his first but he’s planning on other races next season.

“I'm going to try,” Wilkerson said. “I'm actually thinking about doing this next year rather than running the alcohol deal, we've batted it around so we're going to see what comes of this.”

Yes, a Levi, Ray and Shoup Funny Car on both major drag racing circuits.

“We'd like to try something like that,” Wilkerson said.  “We’re just hitting it around. We really don't know for sure what we're doing.”

What’s a veteran nitro Funny Car driver to do when he is forbidden to get anywhere near the cockpit? If
Tim Wilkerson [left] may be the NHRA Funny Car point leader, but this weekend he's forbidden to climb behind the wheel.
you’re Tim Wilkerson, you handle the important chores like cleaning out the driver lounge, stocking away the groceries and organizing the Little Debbie cakes.

“I'm organizing all the grub to make sure the crew’s happy and fat, and when they're happy and fat the car usually runs faster and that's where we like it,” Wilkerson said.

Wilkerson isn’t working this weekend. He’s stepped away from his traditional role to give the next generation a chance to earn his stripes. One mistake and the seasoned veteran will take over. At least he says that in jest.

“I already told that kid if he mucks up one run I'm back in there, so we'll re-tech this car in a heartbeat,” Wilkerson said with a laugh. “I'm just kidding you. It's kind of interesting to be in this position, I'm up here cleaning the lounge, and really relaxed, and he's pacing around there like an alley cat.”

He’s not worried about driving this weekend because the kid doesn’t make many mistakes.
“We know what we're here for,” Wilkerson added. “We're here to learn and testing some stuff on our car for ourselves also. So the car may do something stupid, but I don't think so.” 



Fred Farndon pushes out a head gasket and flamed the engine down the strip.

HOOVER’S DIVERSION – The drag racing community knows Ed Hoover as the winner of the first sanctioned Pro Modified

Meet Ed Hoover, former diesel mechanic and avid do-it-yourself airplane pilot.
national event. Two little know factoids about the Columbia, SC.-based driver for construction magnate Paul Trussell is that he once earned a living as a diesel mechanic and in his spare time flies airplanes he constructs.

“I learned in my teenage years that if I was going to support my racing habit that I needed to open a business of my own,” Hoover said. “That’s the first thing I did right out of high school. I did it for about fifteen years and we had ten employees.”

Hoover juggled his racing and work until he admitted, “I found someone with more money than I had.”

Hoover’s full time job is drag racing and because he no longer operates the diesel repair business, he‘s got time to pursue a hobby. His spare time is spent fabricating and flying airplanes.

“I was turned onto that by [engine builder] Gene Fulton,” Hoover said. “He took me up in his Ultra-light [plane] and I had to go get me one. Now I’m into full-fledged planes. I’m always shopping for a good deal.”

Hoover’s current plane is amphibious since he lives on Lake Hartwell. He can actually take off from his front yard and land on the water in the back. The plane will take off in 200 feet and doesn’t need much more to land.

“The plane is designed to get in and out of tight places,” Hoover added. “It’s a rough-neck plane.”

The thirteen-time IHRA winner is quickly becoming an astute learner of the intricacies of amateur flying. The self-taught pilot has learned to never, under any circumstances start his plane while on the water if he’s not in the cockpit.

“If you’re not in it when it starts up, it can take off without you,” Hoover said, cracking a smile. “I have come close to losing them and that’s why I say you had better be ready to go when you crank it on the water because it will take off with or without you. There is no park on these things, if you’re headed towards the dock, there’s nothing you can do to stop it.”

Spencer Massey heads into the second day of qualifications on the outside looking in. What should have been an easy 4.7-second run was disallowed when a timing malfunction stopped the clocks prematurely.

Spencer Massey has been learning the intricacies of racing Top Fuel. He’s learned how to qualify, win rounds and events. Massey has even learned how to interact with the media.

Massey learned something new this week. He learned that being the point leader will get one “called out” by eager challengers. The week before the IHRA Motor City Nationals, fellow Top Fuel driver T.J. Zizzo challenged him in an article.

“If he can run with us and beat us more power to him,” Massey said.  “We're going to have a good time out here. I'm not going to be the kind that's going to talk trash back and forth like that. He can say whatever he wants to say.” 

Nothing seems to faze Massey because he’s still living the dream. He’s raced two national events and entered Milan undefeated.

“You can go the other way and never be called out, that means you're not doing anything,” Massey added.

After winning two in a row, the conversation has turned to whether or not he can win three in a row.

“I'm happy just to qualify for our first three you know and the thought of winning a third is more than I could fathom,” Massey said.

Massey isn’t assured that he’s going to run every event this season on the IHRA tour and for those hoping to see him running outside of the A/Fuel Dragster, don’t get your hopes up. The sticking point for the Mitch King team is the chassis. New NHRA rules mandate a back-half update. The dragster he runs in IHRA is still legal under their rules.
“Our main goal right now is for IHRA and keep a good running car,” Massey said. “Plus, we really don't want to mess up what we have right now. What we have is a good safe running tune-up and a car that gets down the track. We figured it's not going to make sense to chop up this car and start struggling the IHRA circuit just to go run the NHRA. We got a championship trying to win here and that's what we intend to do.”

Kenny Lang recorded the five second run of the first day with a 5.964 elapsed time to pace the Pro Modified division.

Jason Hamstra's 6.053 led the non clutch-equipped Pro Modified entries. He runs a Lencodrive with a torque converter in place of the standard clutch-equipped combination.

FIRST TIME FOR EVERYTHING – For the first time in 2008, Alcohol Funny Car racer Laurie Cannister didn’t lead a qualifying session. The former IHRA Pro Outlaw world champion pedaled her championship leading entry and ended up 5th quickest after the first day.

Jeff Dobbins entered this weekend’s IHRA Motor City Nationals as the Milan Dragway track record holder with a 6.311 elapsed time. He nearly nailed that mark with a 6.314 to not only take the top spot but also the Last Man Standing honors for the Pro Stock division.

Paul Noakes stepped up in the Alcohol Funny Car class and walked away with the quickest provisional run run, a 5.791, 244.03, which was .03 quicker than the next competitor.

Pro Stock point leader John Montecalvo was second quickest with a 6.320, 220.66.

One race after laying down the quickest-ever elapsed time by a nitrous-equipped Pro Modified, Pat Stoken is the only unqualified entry after two sessions.

Robert Patrick battled an undiagnosed transmission issue in the first session but rebounded in the second session with the sixth quickest run.

Jack Wyatt came up short on Friday's qualifying effort. He enters Saturday unqualified.

Defending world champion Dale Creasy's 9.531, 59.73 was enough to get him in the show but will unlikely stand with two more sessions left on Saturday.


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