IHRA SOONER NATIONALS - EVENT NOTEBOOK
EVENT FINAL - AN ALTERNATE TO THE WINNER’S CIRCLE
Kevin Jones, the fourth alternate after final qualifying, completes storybook weekend with Top Fuel Ironman victory at Tulsa Raceway Park
Kevin Jones, a barber from Berea, Ky., will probably be sending Doug Foley a gift card good for a lifetime of free haircuts. When Foley decided to pull out of the Skull Shine Sooner Nationals presented by Wolverine and Academy Sports + Outdoors to compete in the NHRA race in Englishtown, Jones and Sipple Family Racing were contacted by IHRA to see if they were interested in filling out the Knoll-Gas Torco Racing Fuels Pro NitroTop Fuel field by competing at the Nitro Jam event in Tulsa.
They had three days to get ready and head to Oklahoma, but the trip was more than worthwhile.
Jones drove past Bruce Litton, Indianapolis, to claim the first career Ironman for Sipple Family Racing. He carded a 5.138 at 260.71 mph to defeat Litton, who lost traction at half-track and lifted out of the run. Jones and crew chief Mike Sipple were thrilled with the victory, but they wish John “Doc” Sipple, the patriarch of Sipple Family Racing, could have been there to enjoy it with them.
“Doc” recently had a stint put in his heart and was back home in Kentucky recovering, unable to make the trip to Tulsa.
“This was the first time a Top Fuel team has ever pulled out of Berea without him in the rig,” Jones said. “It was kind of an emotional thing, but we knew we had to do what we had to do. If the Lord lays the way out for you, doggone it, that’s just the way it has to be. We may not understand it or like it, but if the grass is green the grass is green. You just have to follow that path.”
Dale Creasy Jr., the defending Knoll-Gas Torco Racing Fuels Pro Nitro Funny Car world champion from Beecher, Ill., continued his early-season success by stopping Andy Kelley in the final round. Creasy entered the event with a slim three-point lead over Jack Wyatt in the championship points standings, but he topped Wyatt in the semifinals before a 5.078/289.14 pass in the final round gave him the Ironman.
“The only thing that could have ruined this thing today was the driver,” Creasy said. “My crew did a tremendous job. After the first run we didn’t like the way the motor looked. We didn’t hurt it but the crew didn’t like something about it. They changed it and 40 minutes later it was running great. These guys are the best. My crew and Evan Knoll. I just got off the phone with him and he’s ecstatic. I love the guy and he has done everything for me.”
Rob Atchison, London, Ont., tightened up the championship points race with a victory over defending world champion Mark Thomas in the final round. Atchison, who had the quickest car all day, put together a 5.846 at 241.89 mph to claim the Alcohol Funny Car Ironman.
“This is getting fun,” Atchison said. “I still think the car has more to give, but we’ve figured out how to consistently get down the track and that’s half the battle. This class is getting really exciting. Terry Munroe is running well early and you know Mark and I are going to be there all year. Any time you can beat Mark in a round, whether it’s the final round or whatever, it’s a big deal.”
Pat Stoken, Eureka, Mont., won his first career national event when he defeated defending world champion Quain Stott in the Torco’s CompetitionPlus.com Pro Modified final.
Stoken was the first nitrous-powered Pro Modified to claim an IHRA national event victory since Mike Castellana captured the Ironman at the President’s Cup Nationals in Budds Creek during the 2005 season.
“This is great, it really hasn’t sunk in yet,” Stoken said. “I don’t know if there was ever a time during the race where I thought “you know, I could win this thing’ but the car was incredibly consistent and I was able to go rounds. I guess a nitrous car can win.”
Defending Torco’s CompetitionPlus.com Pro Stock world champion Pete Berner took an early step towards a successful title defense when he knocked off Brian Gahm in the final round. Berner posted a 6.419 at 216.27 mph with a .070 reaction time to top Gahm’s 6.414/216.03 with a .077 reaction time. Berner’s margin of victory was a scant .002 of a second.
“I knew I would have to be on my game because Brian is a two-time world champion,” Berner said. “That was the best drag race I have ever participated in. I actually had no idea who had won it and, truthfully, if Brian would have pulled it out I would have been thrilled for him.”
a d v e r t i s e m e n t
Click to visit our sponsor's website
SUNDAY NOTEBOOK - IHRA POSTPONEMENT EXTENDS SUSPENSE AT
International Hot Rod Association fans
will have to wait nearly a month to see if top qualifier Bruce Litton will earn
his second Top Fuel victory in three races or just what will happen in the Nitro
Funny Car class, with Gary Densham and Tim Wilkerson, the top two qualifiers,
absent, honoring NHRA commitments at Englishtown, New Jersey.But they'll
have plenty of time to second-guess the hard-pressed IHRA and Tulsa Raceway Park
officials, who consulted evidently inaccurate weather forecasts before making a
decision Sunday to reschedule the Skull Shine
Sooner Nationals. Immediately after they announced the third race on the Knoll
Gas Nitro-Jam Series schedule will be completed Saturday, June 23, the Oklahoma
skies cleared and even though it remained breezy, it was dry and partly sunny
the rest of the day.
Weather particulars aside, the Tulsa crowd, welcoming IHRA racers back for a national event for the first time since 1994, will get to watch some intriguing developments.
In Top Fuel, Luigi Novelli's improved performance only will make him more upset-minded against Litton in the opening round, which also will see two-time finalist T.J. Zizzo meet Bobby Lagana, the man he defeated to win at Rockingham in Race No. 2. Scotty Cannon will have some time to rest his back after recent surgery before going against Mike Strasburg, and Doug Foley (a two-time top qualifier this season) will meet Oklahoma favorite son Scott Palmer.
The Tulsa trip turned out doubly ugly for Scott Weis, who failed to qualify for the eight-car field. While servicing the car Saturday night, he cut a finger and ended up in a hospital emergency room, receiving five stitches.
In Nitro Funny Car action, rookie Jon Capps, who led the field at Rockingham and was runner-up there, will have his chance in Round 1 to avenge his loss to Jack Wyatt. He clocked his first pass at more than 300 mph (300.60 in 5.051 seconds in his first qualifying chance and a career-best 304.05-mph speed the next day in securing the No. 3 spot), and the Vegas Fuel- and Warren Cat-sponsored driver said he is ready for Wyatt.
Pete Berner has taken charge of the Pro Stock class, with his runner-up finish at Rockingham and No. 1 performance in Tulsa qualifying, which includes both ends of the track records (6.370-second E.T., 219.72-mph speed). He credits Dave Braswell's talk-of-the-pits carburetor magic that complements his reliable Jon Kaase power.
Rob Atchison is back in the Alcohol Funny Car mix for the first time this year. Maybe the Ottawa Senators' appearance in the Stanley Cup Finals has been an inspiration for the three-time champion from London, Ontario. Atchison said he's just hitting his stride and that the 11-race season is early. That could spell trouble for fellow Chevy Monte Carlo drivers Terry Munroe and six-time champ Mark Thomas, who will line up third and fourth, respectively. Munroe and Thomas have traded final-round results to open the season, and Atchison's top-qualifier award put the brakes on Munroe's modest streak. Canadian Larry Dobbs opened eyes as the early leader at Tulsa and eventual No. 2 qualifier.
IHRA is returning this year for the first time since the 1994 Grand American Nationals -- which, incidentally, featured Shannon Jenkins beating Scotty Cannon in the Pro Mod final round. The make-up of the classes has changed, the E.T.s and speeds are quicker and faster, and it's certainly nothing like bracket racer and popular local engine builder Gene Carter remembers. Carter, 81 (yes -- no misprint), who's entered in the 2007 Sooner Nationals with his snazzy-looking '62 Corvette, began drag racing in 1952 at Pampas, Texas, when the entry fee was a mere 25 cents and action took place on the half-mile. He said he recalls one race that had such a large car count that it had eight lanes operating at once. But this June 23 make-up day at Tulsa Raceway Park will bring a new chapter to the IHRA history books.
a d v e r t i s e m e n t
Click to visit our sponsor's website
SATURDAY NOTEBOOK -
TOUGH SESSION - When the flames remain on the track after the car has competed it‘s engine explosion, chances are the track will need a bit of cleaning up.
Such was the case when Chris Karamesines’ engine let go at the 200-foot mark. The engine produced a huge fireball that burned all the way until it came to a stop in the shutdown area.
At the time, only Bobby Lagana had a chance of bumping his way into the field. That Fate placed Lagana next in the lane Karamesines’ dragster soiled.
Lagana had a front-row seat to the clean-up and watched patiently as the safety crews scraped the rubber off a sixty-foot section of the lane to the point where the fire began. Then they laid down oil-dry from the wall to the centerline and worked it into the scraped surface.
Their labor was for naught. It became apparent to the IHRA officials after 90 minutes of non-stop labor, the synthetic oil was not going to work away from the racing surface regardless of what they did. That prompted the decision to run the balance of Top Fuel in the left lane.
If only it could have been that easy.
The oildown extended into the left lane requiring additional grooming before Lagana could run. The story had a happy ending for Lagana as worked his way into the seventh position.
NITRO FUNNY CAR
TOP CAR ‘ACTING STUPID’ -- Gary Densham said his new Chevy Impala SS "acted stupid" in the Saturday afternoon qualifying session. "That's a technical term," he added with a grin.
And despite his complaints about the performance of his car compared to its potential, Densham will lead the field into Sunday's eliminations.
"I don't want to think I'm whining even a little bit," he said after rewriting both ends of the track record with a 4.878-second elapsed time and 314.02-mph speed.
The problem, he said, was a new clutch. "What we changed [from Friday night's session that left him in first place also] shouldn't have made it as fast as it did," he said. "We dialed it back. All of a sudden it tried to run fast."
His complaint was that "we don't spend money to run the same or slower."
NIGHT OF FIRE -- Jack Wyatt knew the IHRA would be presenting its Night of Fire program Saturday night. But he hadn't planned to be part of it. Nevertheless, he started the show a bit early -- and Top Fuel's Chris Karamesines added to the sensational with a trail of flames from his dragster that cost nearly an hour and a half cleanup.
"It was a pretty big bang," Wyatt said of his burst. "We're trying to stay in this championship race, and you've got to take a little bit of a chance." Then jokingly, he said, "It's Night of Fire. That's what it's all about."
THEY’RE ALL TOUGH - Jon Capps qualified third in his third race behind the wheel of the Paul Smith flopper.
"Everyone over here is so tough," Capps said. "and with several NHRA teams coming in to test for Topeka we knew it was going to be a solid field. The track is definitely capable of holding a 4.80 run. We were working more towards our tune up for eliminations tomorrow. Paul is just trying to get a good tune up for race day. The Vegas Fuel team has been doing a great job all weekend and I can't mention enough how much I appreciate our guys and how hard they work."
GOING FOR IT -- Scott Cannon jumped from 11th place on the 16-car grid following Saturday's first session to the top spot for the second straight race.
"We knew we made it in, so we just went for No. 1," he said.
"We're No. 1 in points and we were trying to get the Last Man Standing. I messed up on the light a little bit and lost that. I had to get the RPM exactly right, and I was more worried about making a good run than a light. It cost me the Last Man Standing. One thing worked out," he said with a shrug.
DADS WILL BE DADS -- Scott Cannon said he was concerned about his father's return to the cockpit of his Top Fuel dragster for the first time since undergoing back surgery. "The first run, we were all a little shaky," the second-generation Pro Mod driver said, "but he made a run that didn't bother him any. We still worry about him." However, Scott Cannon said, "He's working on my car and running around better than he was before. He stays on us."
EXTRA CHORES -- Despite the effects of a last-minute change in race-weekend personnel, Scott Cannon put his '68 Firebird at the head of the Pro Mod pack.
"We're a little shorthanded this weekend on help. I wound up being the clutch guy this weekend," he said. "I went from being a motor guy and had to train somebody to do my job and then do the clutch work, too. I was kind of worried that I had it in there right. It seemed like I did."
With a 10-place improvement and a track-record elapsed time of 6.053, it definitely seemed like he did.
Cannon said he's a bit out of his comfort zone with the temporary assignment -- and he's already particular about what hands touch his race car.
"I like the motor part. I build all our motors," Cannon said. "I'm pretty picky about who I let work on my car. I let 'em start on a little bit and when they work through that, then they get a major job." As far as being a taskmaster, he said, "I may be worse than my dad."
That's saying a lot for a 28-year-old -- especially one who looks so youthful he hardly seems 28. "I feel it," Cannon said. "Today I do."
OUT IN FRONT - Some drivers prefer not to be out in front in the points chase early, choosing instead a strategy of lurking in second or third and mounting an ambush. Not Scott Cannon. "We've never been leading the points before. We're just trying to stay out there and let them chase us. We just try to run our own game and not worry about it," he said. Still, he said, "I'd rather be No. 1."
NEW CAR WOES -- As exciting as it is to have a new car, it can often be tricky finding that strong tune-up. That's what Matt Hagan is finding out with his Torco Racing Fuels Accelerator '68 Camaro.
"It's tough," Hagen said after qualifying 12th in the 16-car lineup. "We have a lot of work ahead of us tonight. We got a decent run tonight and yesterday, and we have something to work with. Now we just want to improve on what we did and hopefully go out there and get this Accelerator car in the winners circle tomorrow.
"We have had some clutch issues going on, getting things to hook up. The track is really good right now. We can't hang enough weight on it. We just changed our whole clutch program this last run. It worked, but we were a little off again because we had made some changes. I think once we get that ironed out tonight, and get a good game plan for in the morning, we will be all right," Hagan said.
"This is still a new car. We've had about 60 hits on this car in the last few months, and it's going to take some more. Some of these guys have had their cars two or three years, and they know everything that is going to happen on their car. Hopefully we'll get everything ironed out. It's just going to take some time."
LAST MAN STANDING -- Shannon "The Ice Man" Jenkins was the winner Saturday night for the five-point bonus award. "The GTO made a good run," Jenkins, who'll start third on the strength of a 6.112-second elapsed time. "We hope to take this momentum into tomorrow, and see what happens."
That E.T. and his 231.79-mph speed were career bests, although his teammate, Mike Castellana, has the distinction of having the quickest and fastest nitrous car. He recorded a 6.106-second E.T. at Rockingham in October 2005 and a 232.31-mph run at Martin, Michigan.
KING OF BAD LUCK - Chip King knows all too well the highs and the lows of racing. The Pro Mod veteran unfortunately experienced more low then anything during qualifying. "Our first run we broke a U-joint in the driveshaft," King said. "It took out the transmission and shot a piece of the U-joint out of the roof of the car. The second run, we went solid and drove through the clutch, and made it down [the track], which is what we were looking for. We were in pretty good shape for the last run, when the drain plug vibrated out of the oil pan on the burnout."
SUCH A THING AS TOO GOOD? -- The consensus is that the Tulsa Raceway Park surface is excellent, meaning that using power to their advantage is becoming the trick. Said Danny Rowe, "We are very happy with where we are. I think the track is good for all the racers. We are very comfortable. We didn't have any problems with the car. We would have gone a lot quicker, but we had a little driver brain-dead thing. But the car is running very well.
"Jimmy has done a great job with the car," he said, referring to crew chief Jimmy Rector. "And we are moving in the right direction. I still think we can improve on it. It should get better and better as we get more and more laps in it. I think it has been great so far. Tommy Mauney builds a great car, so I think we are moving in the right direction."
BUDGET BUSTERS - Reigning Pro Mod champion Quain Stott had a few thoughts about the recent rule changes.
"The competition hasn't really stepped up. The rule changes screwed everybody up. It's thrown us a curve, and we really haven't quite figured it out yet," he said., although he qualified in the top half of the field at seventh.
"We don't have the budget to go out there and wear motors out trying to figure this new rule out with the 4:30 gear they have. The higher-funded teams are obviously figuring this out quicker then we are. We are getting better every race. This is the first race this year we've been in the top half, but actually believe it or not, I’m in better shape now than I was this time last year.
"I'm probably higher in the points now. We want to repeat, but it's hard to do," Stott said. "It seems like winning a championship is a curse, because nobody repeats. Scotty Cannon is the only one who has ever repeated. They repeat but never two in a row.
Stott said he understands the "strength in numbers" concept and misses having Tommy D'Aprile help him run interference a little.
"[The big numbers] aren't necessarily the better funded, but the team cars. We are by ourselves this year. We had a team car last year that helped us a lot, but we don't have that this year. Now we only get but one run where they get two or three. "I don’t know how many cars [Al] Billes is tuning, but it's a lot. He's obviously getting a lot of information we are not getting. They are just making a poor boy mad now. We’ll work harder.
"I've often said I have to outrun them with hard work. When you don't have the money, you have to outrun them with hard work," he said. "We've done it before and we'll do it again."
He called the track "perfect" and said, "We are changing a bunch of stuff for tomorrow. I'm the kind of guy that will go out tomorrow and go faster and not go down. I would rather shake the tires and not go than to get outrun. So tomorrow we're going to get after it and hopefully go rounds. The middle of the field used to be good before IHRA screwed the ladder up. It doesn't give you any incentive to qualify good. You still try to for bragging rights, but No. 8 is really the best place to be. I'm No. 7, so I'm really in a good spot. It shouldn't be a good spot, but it really is."
Stott will face Ed Hoover in Sunday's first round.
ALCOHOL FUNNY CAR
HITTING A CURVEBALL -- Rob Atchison, No. 2 Friday night, replaced fellow Ontario driver Larry Dobbs as No. 1 qualifier with an early-Saturday effort at 5.820 second s at 245.85 mph.
"It's a lot trickier than we thought it was going to be," Atchison said. "I didn't expect this kind of weather in Tulsa, so it threw us a curveball. I didn't know it was going to be that humid. We were able to adapt, and the car came around for us. Last night it was much more feel it out. We didn't know how many [sessions] we were going to get, and we didn't know how much it was going to rain."
He said his '06 Chevy Monte Carlo is "still a little bit soft. If we're going to have to run somebody who's going to be really tough" -- he mentioned Mark Thomas and Terry Munroe -- "we've got a little bit more to play with. The (5.)82 is a little soft, but we're just happy to see the car go down the track."
POISED -- Rob Atchison said he's ready to make his move to the top of the standings, ready to break up the Terry Munroe-Mark Thomas act.
"For sure, I want to get back in there and get back the points I think they're taking away from me," he said. "It's good to see Terry Munroe step up. He's always had a fast car, but he had a lot of inconsistencies. He did a lot of things over the winter. And Mark's always a tough competitor, so that's no surprise. It definitely makes the class exciting.
"We've been able to move our way into things," Atchison said. "You've got to make sure you have the car for the last three or four races. We're only a few rounds back."
THIRD TIME IS THE CHARM - Call it deja-vu for Pete Berner. First No. 1 position in three years for Berner and the first in two years for engine builder Jon Kaase.
He said he remembers that feat at the Spring Nationals at Rockingham: "We had a brand-new Kaase motor and we qualified for the pole on our first run."
Berner said, "We were somewhat conservative" with the track "because we'd never been on it."
He said he showed up at Tulsa Raceway Park prepared to compete -- and go one step farther than he did last month at Rockingham, where he was runner-up to John Montecalvo.
He and his team tested last Tuesday at Route 66 Raceway in Joliet, Illinois. "With the barometer at 29.31, kind of comparable to here, at 2500 feet [above sea level], we ran 6.35 at 221.17 miles an hour. We knew we had a really nice combination to come here with," he said.
Berner, a regular at Route 66 Raceway's test-and-tune nights, said the state-of-the-art dragstrip that Bill France and Tony George have an ownership interest in is "a phenomenal track. It's fast, and it's smooth."
He said his motor "was brand-new at the end of last year. Jon did some work to it over the winter and it got to be a real animal. It's just an unbelievable motor." He said Dave Braswell, with his new carburetor and castings, has been instrumental in the performance increase. "With this new motor combination it just works really well.
"We always knew we had great power but not killer power."
He said the class is tough and "there aren't going to be any runaways." He said all the engine builders "have a good handle on power. A lot of the engine builders have caught up with Bob Ingles, who builds Robert's [Patrick's] motors. I think they're very close. It's just the way you run the car, the combination that you come up with."
He credited his crew, including key member Pat Norcia. "We don't have a set crew chief," Berner said. "We all get together, and we all talk about a combination. Everybody's input is valuable. When we come here, we're ready to race. We have a baseline set-up."
And he said he loves being No. 1 qualifier. "You can strut your stuff," he said.
THE NAMING OF AN ENGINE - Berner had bantered around a few nicknames for the new engine prior to this weekend. One of the more popular titles amongst the team was “Shaft,” the name based on the name of an iconic fictional 1970s movie character.
Isaac Hayes sang in his tribute song, “That Shaft he’s a bad mutha.”
Hush your mouth. At least that’s what Hayes followed that memorable line with.
Berner used the line in not so many ways as he silenced the competition Saturday night. The defending IHRA Torco’s CompetitionPlus Pro Stock world champion not only won the Kaase Tuning Challenge and the Quarter-max Challenge, but claimed his first top qualifier of the 2007 season.
Berner’s 6.370 elapsed time and 219.72 mile per hour speed also served as new Tulsa Raceway Park track records.
“What more could you ask for,” said Berner, whose monumental run came during Saturday’s first session. “Our testing paid off. We made a lot of runs on this new engine to get it dialed in for this weekend. This is a new combination and each time
we come out with it, we find something new to pick it up even more.”
Berner originally ran the Jon Kaase-built “Shaft” in Rockingham. The new engine exhibited lots of potential, but was fairly green to the team. They spent most of the weekend acquainting themselves to its likes and dislikes. Then in an interesting twist, the then unnamed engine rode Berner to the final round.
“We had no tune-up for it in Rockingham outside of our traditional baseline,” Berner said. “We just kept throwing stuff at it and it kept responding. It has been a bad-to-the-bone engine.”
The one thing “Shaft” has loved more than anything has been the new 7520 carburetors prepared by specialist Dave Braswell. Berner says that has been a major factor in the secret of his success.
“These are custom made just for IHRA Pro Stock,” Berner said. “I rank him as one of the best ever in working with carburetors. The new ones have their own castings unique to them. They are bigger and better for tuning than any we’ve had before. Everything about this carburetor is better. The more we tune it, the better it gets.”
NIGHT AND DAY - What a difference 24 hours can make. Robert Patrick sat on top of the field following Friday's qualifying and held the elapsed time track record. By Saturday, his top run was only good enough for sixth.
Patrick's best Bob Ingles engine dropped a valve necessitating an engine change between sessions. The replacement engine was his back-up motor which was wounded a week earlier in a special Ford event. The Purvis Ford-sponsored driver didn't have the opportunity to take the engine to Ingles' shop for a full repair.
"We are going into Sunday with only one engine," Patrick said. "We'll just do the best we can and let the chips fall where they may."
FRIDAY NOTEBOOK -
He said fresh funding from sponsor Race News Magazine is making a difference for him and the Dave Settles-led crew. He said driving the car aggressively never had been a luxury for him before this season.
“I was never able to do that,” he said, “because we never had the budget. In years past, I would just take my foot off the throttle and coast. If the guy in the other lane was going down the race track then, I wasn’t in the mood to hunt him down. But now we have a little different mentality because of Race New Magazine. We have the opportunity to hop on the gas and do whatever you need to do to get down the quarter-mile.”
“It was cool to win, but reality set in once I got home,” he said. “The IHRA had arranged for me to do an interview with a radio station in Ohio, and I did it over the phone from home. You could hear my son crying in the background and my daughter whining, and I thought, ‘Well, this is reality, man.’
“You might win a race, but when you go home, you’ve got the same complaints, no matter if you win or lose,” Zizzo said. “You still have to be a dad and a husband. You still have to feed the cats. You still have to go sand Bondo and deal with customers. I found that pretty hilarious. You’re supposed to be professional, and you have to go into another room during a live radio interview.”
Traction trouble left Foley with an 8.002-second elapsed time at 89.94 mph. Following him in the order were Scot Weis, Jim Cavalieri, Kevin Jones, and Michael Gunderson.
Despite getting up with the chickens, McMillen had something to crow about by the end of the first day of qualifying. He already had nabbed the provisional fifth spot in the Alcohol Funny Car lineup as he prepared to run the Torco-sponsored dragster in evening action.
He didn’t fare as well in Top Fuel. He aborted the run because of tire shake and needs Saturday’s chances to break into the field of eight. He closed the day 12th with a 10.056-second, 86.72-mph clocking.
Later Friday morning, IHRA officials suspended all on-track activity until further notice. Excessive rain all day Thursday prevented race teams from moving into the pits, and that delayed Friday racing. A shower at about 5 p.m. set back the program even further.
Gilbertson already has skipped a few NHRA races this year, and he said he regrets the budget restraints that have plagued him
"Once again this was a tough decision to make," Gilbertson said. "The same factors that caused us to miss Las Vegas and St. Louis figured into the equation. The new diesel engine emissions law that was implemented January 1, 2007 has had a direct impact on our racing budget. Freightliner, the largest truck manufacturer in the world, is one of my company's biggest customers, we supply them with air tanks and they've seen their sales drop off 40 percent and they've laid off over 6,000 people so far and with that, the demand for air tanks has dropped like a rock. They don't expect sales to improve until the fourth quarter and look to increase production then and into 2008.
"With the ever increasing cost of diesel fuel, the huge expense of traveling to Kansas for this race would be outrageous. I regret having to do this . . . but it's decision I'm forced to make. We will re-join the NHRA tour at Chicago and we'll also compete at the following race at Englishtown. I want to apologize to all my sponsors and fans who support this team and wanted to see us in Topeka but it's something I'm forced to do to keep this team alive for the rest of the season. just had to do."
He took the tentative No. 2 qualifying position in the Pro Modified class with a 6.203-second, 225.41-mph effort in his first full pass in his brand-new ’63 ’Vette -- after earning the No. 5 spot Friday in the Pro Stock category in his ’07 Chevy Cobalt.
He predicted he would be in the top half of the field at Tulsa Raceway Park, and he was right. Hagan closed the first day of qualifying in fourth place with a 6.214-second elapsed time at 228.23 mph.
The question is whether that will start to pay off on race day. "We're making great progress, and that's bound to pay off," Hagan said. "We'll just keep chiseling away at it, and sooner or later we're bound to end up in a final or get that big first win."
The Virginia driver, who won the season-opening Amalie Oil Texas Natonals from the top spot, edged reigning world champion Pete Berner with a 6.408-second, 216.31-mph opening salvo.
And he warned that his ‘07 Ford Cobra has the potential to lower that E.T. during Saturday’s final two sessions.
“That run wasn’t nearly as aggressive as we wanted to be,” Patrick said, “but exactly as we needed it to be. We had no data on this track, but we had a good idea of what it would hold. I don’t think we left a lot on the table tonight.
With rain having its effect on the track, it wasn’t prepped as much as drivers might have liked to see. In other words, it was green.
“That’s the nature of drag racing,” Patrick said. “This is not an easy sport. You don’t always get optimum conditions served up on a golden platter. You have to take what you can get and make the most of it. That’s what we did tonight and things turned out pretty good.”
Patrick won’t be satisfied with “pretty good,” not when his second No. 1 qualifying award of the season is at stake. So Berner, Oklahoma native Dean Goforth, of Holdenville, and the rest of the better Friday qualifiers can plan to watch out for Patrick.
Some drivers might be frustrated for leaving performance on the table, but not Berner. That’s exactly what the current Pro Stock champion intended to do during the first day of qualifying at Tulsa. He indicated that he wanted to leave just enough on the table to not overpower the track.
“We wanted to get down the track as our first objective,” Berner said. “We learned enough tonight that I think we can step up even more tomorrow. The track was not that bad tonight. In fact, I’d say that right lane was pretty good tonight.”
He said finding the right shot on an unfamiliar track is almost like being in the Showcase Showdown on the popular television game show The Price is Right. You try to predict a number the closest to the real price without going over. But he said he had lots of confidence in his baseline set-up.
“I wasn’t afraid in the least with what we had,” Berner said. “The key was not to get after it too much and shake the tires. I was pretty confident that we had a top five car going out there.
“We went back through our log books to the test sessions we had last week and set the car up just like we had it in St. Louis,” Berner said. “The two tracks are very similar, and because of that, we felt that was the best path to take. I think we will be solidly in the 6.30s before qualifying ends.”
a d v e r t i s e m e n t
Click to visit our sponsor's website
a d v e r t i s e m e n t
Click to visit our sponsor's website
THURSDAY NOTEBOOK - SIZING UP THE COMPETITION
Densham, running select Knoll-Gas Nitro Jam™ events in 2006, won two races and finished seventh in the standings. He was No. 1 qualifier and runner-up at the March season-opener at San Antonio.
And one of the hottest drivers he'll encounter tjhis weekend is veteran Jack Wyatt, who's fresh from his third straight victory at North Carolina's Rockingham Dragway. Wyatt is back at home, back in the nation's midsection. And the Corydon, Iowa, resident said this weekend's event is one in which he hopes to capitalize on his momentum.
Pro Modified class leader Scott Cannon will be trying to hold off Danny Rowe and Ed Hoover, while his father, Scotty, is recovered from recent back surgery and looking to improve from his No. 5 position among the Top Fuel contenders.
There are a lot of ways to lose in this sport, so when you win, you have to take advantage and try to learn as much as possible. We’ve been able to make 12 runs at just two races so far this season, and it has really helped. We figured out that that was 33 percent of all the runs we made last season. We're running the new tire for the first time, and we're still working out the bugs."
a d v e r t i s e m e n t
Click to visit our sponsor's website