IHRA - NORTH AMERICAN NATIONALS NOTEBOOK - Epping, NH.
Litton recovering – Veteran driver Bruce Litton was injured when his car hit the wall during his semfinal match-up with eventual winner Bobby Lagana Jr.
Litton, of Indianapolis, was flown to Massachusetts General Hospital. He suffered a concussion in the crash, and received an injury to his right arm.
Doctors will operate on Litton on Monday to replace a plate on his right shoulder, which is from a previous injury. He is expecting to be back out racing in the near future.
Not greek to him - Bobby Lagana Jr. became the first two-time professional winner in the IHRA this season, and the victory was made sweeter by the fact that he beat Chris "Greek" Karamesines, one of his heroes, in the final round.
"I have a diecast of one of Greek's cars, and I had him sign it for me the other day," Lagana said. "That's how much I think of him. To race him in the final, and win, on a weekend where we never made a full pass down the track is unbelievable. The coolest thing is that he played some games with me on the line, and I was laughing my head off inside my helmet. I'm thinking 'here's this 78-year-old guy working on me like this.' It was unbelievable."
New leader - Doug Foley passed season-long points leader Clay Millican on Sunday. Millican went down at the hands of bruce Litton in the first round, while Foley went on to the second round where he was taken out by Chris Karamesines.
Foley now leads the chase for the championship crown by six points with three
races left to go.
Nitro Funny Car
Tightening up - With his win in Epping, Bob Gilbertson has made it a three-way battle for this year's Nitro Funny Car championship.
With three races left on the schedule, Gilbertson is in third with 574 points, behind Jack Wyatt, who has 589 markers, and Dale creasy Jr., who holds the top spot with 603.
"My guys have worked really hard this season, and they want the championship money," Gilbertson said. "I have a big decision to make real soon, because the rain date for Cayuga is the same weekend as the NHRA race in Dallas. We'll have to see where the people who pay me to run this car want us to go. I'd like to win an IHRA championship for my team, though."
Alcohol Funny Car
Back on top – As in every professional class in IHRA this season, the Alcohol Funny Car category has been a beehive of activity at or near the top of the points list.
Three-time and defending class champion Rob Atchison has been lurking within striking distance, and on Sunday he made his move. He started the day as the No. 2 qualifier, and went on the win the event with victories over Dr. Thomas Carter, Neal Parker, and Terry Munroe.
In his match-up with parker, Atchison set a new class speed record of 249 mph.
First time for everything - "Disturbed Motorsports" Pro Mod driver Eddie Ware is always a theat to win, and on Sunday he emerged as the class of a very tough field as he claimed his first IHRA Ironman trophy.
Ware, of Marietta, Georgia, set a Torco's CompetitionPlus.com Pro Modified E.T. record in the second round of eliminations by clocking a 6.035. He did not need to be that quick in the final against Harold Martin, who lit the red-light by -.02.
"This win is a major stepping stone," said Ware. "We got our first major sponsor this year, and kind of had a bad start to the year but he stuck through it with us, so we're thrilled to finally get this IHRA win. Hopefully we can keep this up for the rest of the season."
Patrick rambles - It was a huge weekend in New England for Pro Stock standout Robert Patrick, who smashed existing IHRA performance records en route to the winner's circle.
Patrick, who was not in the field going into the final qualifying session, stunned fans and fellow competitors alike when he took out No. 1 qualifier Rob Mansfield in the final with a monster pass of 6.315, 221.27.
“It was on a run,” Patrick said. “I knew when I let out the clutch this was going to be a good one. I am very proud of what this team accomplished this weekend. It just goes to show the strength of Bob Ingles horsepower and the consistency of this Jerry Haas car. I couldn’t be any happier than I am today. This was a complete victory.”
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Once in a lifetime – Normally when rain storms make their way into the general vicinity of a race track, bad stuff happens. No so this weekend at Epping.
Like something out of the Good Book, the storm literally parted as it passed over the Epping area where the drag strip is located. The track caught a light sprinkle which delayed action for 30 minutes, but it was back to business after that.
Local track employees were surprised at the positive turn of events,
“Normally we get hit when there isn’t another spot on the radar, this was a
really lucky break for us,” one was overheard to say.
Something new and exciting – Normally the “Night of Fire” at eMax Drag Racing Series events is closed with a fire works display. Not so this weekend, as the IHRA has decided to try something new. A laser light show was used as a preamble to Bob Motz’s jet truck and was greeted by a sound ovation from the fans here in Epping.
The capacity crowd stayed glued into their seats as a 40-foot screen was unfurled from a lift at the starting line. After roughly five minutes of set-up time the show began with coordinated music and lasers. It was different and definitely provoked a positive reception from the New England Dragway faithful.
Rise of the sticks –- As much as we love to see manual transmission cars at the races, it has become rare to see racers “shifting their own.” It seems to be the opposite here in New England. There are an abnormally high number of stick-shift cars present at this race, to the delight of fans.
All manner of “crash boxes” are represented, from Ford “Top-Loader” four speeds, GM Muncie “Rock Crushers”, and even a couple of cars equipped with the venerable Doug Nash 5-speed.
It makes for interesting racing, especially in the bracket classes.
Truly International - The "I" in IHRA stands for International, and this weekend's race in New Hampshire is a perfect example of that. There are race teams from 29 states, 8 Canadian provinces and three countries on hand. In addition to the U.S and Canada, Trinidad is also represented.
Happy birthday dear…errr….asphalt? – New England Dragway is celebrating the 40 th anniversary of the track opening this weekend. Opened September 11, 1966, New England Dragway has risen to become the preeminent drag racing facility in the Northeast region of the country.
Track manager Joe Lombardo said, “We’re very happy to be celebrating 40 years in business this weekend. The North American Nationals are the highlight of our season and now with the addition of Nitro Funny Cars, it has only gotten better.”
New England Dragway and the IHRA recently announced that the track had signed a multi-year commitment to remain an IHRA member track. That announcement ends the nagging rumors that have persisted over the last couple of years regarding the sanctioning of the race track.
Record-setting run – Top Fuel Dragster pilot Doug Foley picked the perfect time to break out of the uncharacteristic slump he’s been in of late. With rival Clay Millican, who has also been struggling lately, getting a handle on his 8,000-horsepower ride, Foley’s record-breaking performance during tonight’s final qualifying session was timely indeed.
Foley paced his New Jersey-based dragster to a new track elapsed time mark of 4.590-seconds, claiming top qualifying honors in the process. He was followed by Millican and teammate Rick Cooper.
With only seven cars on hand for this weekend’s event, Foley has a bye in the first round tomorrow morning.
Nitro Funny Car
No. 1 with all the trimmings – Before the 2006 season started, Nitro Funny Car competitor Bob Gilbertson declared his intentions of winning the class championship, and his performance thus far in Epping has helped his cause considerably.
Coming into this weekend’s event Gilbertson was third in points behind Dale Creasy Jr., and Jack Wyatt. He ended the first two days of preliminary action in New Hampshire as the No. 1 qualifier after being disqualified last night after he clipped a cone at the end of his run.
He has his work cut out for him, however, as Creasy qualified No. 2, and Wyatt was right behind him in third. It’s just possible that Gilbertson holds the trump card, though, as his pass of 4.768, 315.78, if backed up, will set new national elapsed time and speed records for the class.
Gilbertson has a first-round bye on Sunday.
Well-rounded - Paul Lee isn't your typical grease monkey, although most of the time he can be found elbows-deep in the clutch can of his Rislone-sponsored 2004 Monte Carlo Funny Car.
In fact, Lee holds four university degrees, including two of the undergraduate variety from the University of Pennsylvania, an MBA in Business Administration and a law degree from Rutgers.
"Anybody can be anything they want to be,"said Lee."I always tell that to the kids who come to our pit at the races. Education opens a lot of doors, even in the world of drag racing, and I want them to understand that."
lee qualified No. 5 for this weekend's show with a best pass of 5.064, 296.70. He'll face points leader Dale Creasy Jr., in the first round of eliminations.
Alcohol Funny Car
The spoiler strikes again – Fred Tigges has been a thorn in the side of a number of Alcohol Funny Car frontrunners over the years, and he played the role to the hilt again here tonight in Epping.
Tigges, a local favorite from Holbrook, Massachusetts, knocked three-time and defending champion Rob Atchison out of the No. 1 qualifying spot with his run of 5.749, 244.29 in tonight’s final session.
Notably absent from the final order heading into the elimination rounds on Sunday was Terry McMillan. His sponsor, Amalie Oils, is also sponsoring this weekend’s event.
Tigges is scheduled to face-off against perennial class champion Mark Thomas in the first round on Sunday.
Hitters miss – A good weekend can go sour very quickly, as a number of top Pro Modified competitors found out tonight. Some of the names on the long DNQ list included Tony Pontieri, Steve Vick, Burton Auxier, Dennis Radford, Charles Carpenter, Billy Harper, and Alan Pittman.
The bump for the 16-car field was a slower-than-normal 6.215, but with 28 teams on hand for this weekend’s national event, 12 racers faced the inevitable prospect of heading home early.
The 6.102 that Canadian Kenny Lang posted on Friday held up for the No. 1 qualifying spot. Ed Hoover came in second, while another Canadian, Carl Spiering, anchored the top three. Keeping with the north of the border theme, Lang will face yet another Canadian, points leader Glen Kerunsky, in the opening round on Sunday.
Cleaning house - Rookie Matt Hagan deposited a large quantity of fluid on the track when an improperly fastened oil line came loose during his burnout on Friday night. As a result, the Virginia-based driver received a black flag penalty and squandered an opportunity to make the show.
It was just the latest in a string of maintenance-related problems that have plagued Hagan this season, and he had had enough. After the incident, Hagan fired several of his crew members and sent them packing.
He continued to work with a skeleton crew, and made the show on his last
attempt, taking the No. 16 spot with a pass of 6.215, 226.73.
Diminishing returns - Not that anyone is counting, but there are only three nitrous-injected cars in the qualified field here this weekend.
Defending champion Mike Castellana tops the list at No. 5, while Jim halsey sits tenth and Harold martin is fifteenth.
In an interview with 1320 TV on Saturday, Pro Stock and Pro Modified standout Rickie Smith commented that he felt it was time for the IHRA to create seperate classes for blown and nitrous combinations. Check out the complete interview here: Rickie Smith
So sorry - "One of the things I always preach to other racers about is for them to pull over as soon as they have a problem on the track so that they don't oil down the groove," said Alan Pittman. "Well, I did it myself last night, and I feel real bad about it."
One of Pittman's crew members left the cap off the oil tank on his '62 Chevy, and after a strong launch he saw his last chance to make the show go up in smoke, literally.
"I just didn't react to the situation fast enough, and I don't know why,"
Pittman said. "I feel real bad about oiling the track, and I want to apologize
to the fans and my fellow racers for the delay. From now on, even if I just miss
a shift I'm pulling over."
Happy but not satisfied – Ed Hoover and Paul Trussel have been through their share of ups and downs and the last two seasons have been more on the down trend. It does appear that the pair is starting to really build some momentum here in Epping. With a solid 6.11 pass on Friday night to grab a spot in the field, the team went to a race day tune up today.
“It was really nice to get a clean run on the car,” Hoover said. “The car worked right and the driver did his job, it felt great. We’ve been struggling for a while so it would be great to start making some consistent runs with the car this weekend.”
Tough and getting tougher – Just ask Jerry Haas, Rickie Smith, Larry O'Brien and Bert Jackson, among others, how tough it is to qualify for a Torco CompetitionPlus Pro Stock field.
These top competitors were among the 11 drivers who missed the cut for Sunday’s big show.
A resurgent Rob Mansfield led the way, his 6.380, 218.90 effort from Friday, the only “30” posted during qualifying, holding up with no trouble through today’s two sessions. He’ll face No. 9 qualifier Richard Penland in Sunday’s opening round.
Other top first-round match-ups are Pete Berner versus Tony Gillig, and John Nobile versus Rick Jones.
The growth continues – Continuing the season long trend, The Amalie Oil North American Nationals surpassed last year’s car count numbers by noon time yesterday. An official car count is not available as of yet as tech cards are still being processed, but all signs seem to point to a stout increase over left year’s numbers. The cars are packed in here with a density close to that of downtown Tokyo.
SS/AM = Super Stock/A Monster – Record runs are being made during qualifying for Stock and Super Stock this weekend. Scott Gove from Dennysville, Maine came to Epping to reset his own record. The magic number that Gove was trying to top was 8.253. He tattooed that number with an 8.10 second blast.
Missed it by “that much” – That’s what it look like here in Epping as both Top Fuel and Nitro Funny Car have seven competitors. There may be late arrivals tomorrow morning, but there are a couple of cars that typically make the whole tour that have not towed in. Most notably Jack Ostrander is absent. It will be interesting to see if any competitors show up tonight and prepare themselves for two rounds of qualifying tomorrow.
Welcome back - Top Fuel competitor Todd Paton celebrated his return to the class with a No. 1 qualifying effort on Friday night.
Paton, who lives in Bluff City, Tennessee, recently purchased the car driven by Rhonda Hartman-Smith earlier this season. He and his crew put the finishing touches on the machine just hours before the 7 PM qualifying session.
He planned to go just to half track tonight, but with the engine running on all eight and the car going straight he opted to take it a little farther down the quarter-mile, finally clicking it off around the thousand-foot mark. His 4.960, 241.76 posting was good enough for the provisional top spot with two sessions remaining.
Nitro Funny Car
Watch the paint! - One week ago, at the U.S. Nationals in Indianapolis, Bob Gilbertson's newly painted 2005 Dodge Stratus was awarded Best Appearing Car honors. The striking Jungle Jim-themed graphics were put in jeopardy, however, when "Gilby" took out the top-end cones during his qualifying attempt tonight.
The car was spared major damage, but the excursion over the center line cost the FRAM/Autolite team a No. 2 berth in the field. Their 5.023, 231.08 effort went for naught as Gilbertson was disqualified after the run.
Alcohol Funny Car
Yearning to return – He has three consecutive IHRA Funny Car champions to his credit, but there’s something missing in Rob Atchison’s life these days. Visits to the winner’s circle had become pretty commonplace for the Canadian star, but as of late he’s missed the thrill of hoisting an “Ironman” trophy in front of the fans.
“Even though the Erickson Monte Carlo has run some impressive numbers we sure miss being in the winner’s circle,” said Atchison. “We have been pleased with the performance lately and we are just tweaking it a bit to get our consistency level to where we want it. My dad and crew have been working feverishly this year trying to sort out the new combination and I think we can see the light at the end of the tunnel.
“The past few races we have managed to gain some ground toward the championship but it would be real sweet to get a victory here in Epping,” he said. “This year the points race is extremely close, with Mark Thomas leading by just five points and Thomas Carter trailing us by just 25.”
“Fred Tigges is always a strong runner here at his home track, so it will be
real exciting this weekend," Atchison said. "Fred has stuck his nose into the
championship fray the last couple years and has made a big impact on the points
standings. The listed track elevation here is 90 feet above sea level, and with
the right air conditions record runs in all the classes are possible.”
Let’s make a deal - The racing gods must be a fickle bunch. Terry McMillen, driver of the Amalie Oil InstiGator Funny Car wonders if it's time to make a deal with the devil. Over the past 31 races, McMillen has been in the semifinal or final round 12 times [4 finals, 8 semifinals]. McMillen is still chasing his first “Ironman.” Adding to McMillen's frustration there have been three have been three first-time winners [Thomas Carter, Paul Noakes, and Tim Stevens] during the 2006 season.
"I'm not taking anything away from those guys, they worked hard for their win," McMillen said. "Everyone keeps telling us it's our turn, but nobody is telling me what kind of deal I've got to make with the devil to get that first win."
McMillen continues to push the envelope on performance forhis car, destroying an engine earlier this season to win a round against five-time champion Mark Thomas. "We're definitely going to push this car as hard as we can," McMillen said. "We've gone through more pieces and parts than we ever have. Whatever it takes, that's what we're going to do."
McMillen even went to Thomas for a new blower. "Webought a great blower from Mark going into Norwalk," McMillen said. "I really thought that the blower would be the last piece of the puzzle that we needed, and I still think it is, we just couldn't find the tune up to go with it in Norwalk. We've got a handle on it now, we'll see what happens in Epping."
Tigges grabs top billing at home track – Fred Tigges, the Massachusetts-based Alky Funny Car racer, was able to grab the second spot in A/FC tonight with a 5.82 second shot into the Epping night.
“We were thinking about the dew coming in so we backed the car off a little,” Tigges said. “We could have probably hit it a little harder, but we’re in the field. We’ll do better tomorrow.”
With a signature New England accent and a wide smile, Tigges is really winning the New England Dragway faithful over with each appearance he makes at the venerable drag racing plant here in New Hampshire.
What could possibly go wrong? – Well if you are Paul Athey and the Mohegan Sun Pro Mod team, just about everything this week. Outside of signing Sterling Homes as a sponsor for the remainder of this year and into next season, everything else has been an uphill battle.
“We took the motor down this week and were expecting to simply got through things and put it back together,” Athey said. “What we found, among other things was a cracked crankshaft that we thrashed to find and replace to get here this weekend.”
When we stopped by the pit space, the team was desperately looking for a battery to fire the hot rod up in order to make final preparations for tonight’s qualifying session.
Rubbed the wrong way - Pro Mod veteran Quain Stott is enjoying a successful season thus far. He is currently third in one of the tightest championship points races in the history of the class, and his other car, driven by Tommy D'Aprile, sits in the No. 8 spot.
So it's obvious that Stott needs everything to go his way as the season winds down if he's to challenge for his first IHRA Pro Modified title.
Just getting to the track with his car in one piece proved to be more of a threat to his season than he anticipated, however. Thanks to some rough roads between his North Carolina home and Epping, Stott's supercharged '63 Corvette came loose in the transporter and suffered some damage. It could have been a real problem, but fortunately it was mostly cosmetic, with the body suffering some scrapes and scratches.
It didn't change the way his self-tuned hot rod performed out on the quarter-mile, as Stott claimed the No. 7 spot on the provisional grid after Friday night's first qualifying session. D'Aprile is currently in the No. 11 position
Heavy Chevy - With the 2006 eMax IHRA Drag Racing Series schedule entering the home stretch, Pro Modified competitor Alan Pittman feels that the knowledge and experience he and his team have gained this year will see them through to a solid top-ten finish.
Currently sitting in the No. 10 spot, Pittman has lived through every possible scenario, good and bad, since he and team owner Mel Bush brought their distinctive supercharged 1962 Chevrolet “bubble top” to the Pro Mod wars at the beginning of the season.
He knew it would happen, expected it to happen, in fact, but it was still hard to deal with at times.
“We started off strong in San Antonio at the beginning of the year, and we went to the winner’s circle at Grand Bend, Ontario, in just our third race of the season,” Pittman said. “We thought we had dodged the ‘new car blues’ bullet since we had done well right out of the box, but looking back now it’s clear that we overlooked a lot of small things that eventually came back to bite us.”
Because of these “small things,” Pittman was unable to sustain any momentum the victory in Grand Bend had given him as his South Carolina-based team failed to qualify at the next two events. It was a humbling experience, and a real wake-up call to the veteran racer.
“We knew we were in for a fall, and it came,” Pittman said. “We had to go back to square one with our entire program and start fresh. We built the car ourselves, and we knew the chassis was working the way it was supposed to, so we began to look in the clutch can and in the engine compartment. We spent a lot of time in the dyno room at [engine builder] Carl Spiering’s shop, and we were able to pick up some additional horsepower. We’re still fighting with the clutch, but things are much better now, and we want to prove it by putting on a good show the rest of the year.”
With just four more races left on the IHRA schedule Pittman wants to prove to himself, and to the racing community, that he’s been able to pull his program back together.
“We started strong, fell behind, and then slowly picked up the pace again,” he said. “With the things we’ve learned, the changes we’ve made, and the help of some good people, we’re in a good position to finish well in the points. All in all, I think we’ve done real well for a new team. We have a good car and a good engine program, and I firmly believe we can challenge for the title next season if we get a few breaks along the way.”
Fighting back - When the deployment for the Evan Knoll sponsored "Support Our Troops" Corvette driven by Tommy D'Aprile began its rookie season, the mission was clear, finish in the top 10 of the Torco Competitionplus.com Pro Modified class. D'Aprile spent much of the first part of the season contending in the top half of the points standings. Then there was the Norwalk battle, where a broken rear-end kept D'Aprile from qualifying, adding his name to the list of six other top 10 drivers who have failed to qualify for a race this season. The tough outing also dropped D'Aprile from fifth in points to eighth.
"That just shows us how close this battle is," D'Aprile said. "We're not discouraged, because if we can fall that far in one race we can make up that much ground in one race also."
With four races remaining, D'Aprile's Quain Stott-owned machine has a chance to fight its way back into contention. "This season is far from over as far as I'm concerned," D'Aprile said. "I just need one of those classic Quain Stott tune-ups to go a few rounds and then we'll be right back in the thick of the battle."
D'Aprile is in the middle of a tight pack of cars, which includes defending
champion Mike Castellana, just 31 points from being back in the top 5. "This is
a lot of fun if you just step back and look at it a little," said D'Aprile.
"We've got a chance to make a little noise in one of the tightest points races
in Pro Mod history. What more could we ask for."
Regrouping – Glen Kerunsky and team are looking to regain their early season form after two disappointing races where they couldn’t qualify in the tough Pro Mod class.
“We are looking to improve over our recent outings and the Amalie Oil IHRA North American Nationals is as good a place to start as any,” said Kerunsky. It has been really tough on the entire team not to be able to run on Sunday and we have made some changes that will hopefully get us back to being competitive. The car ran real well in the cooler weather in the spring so the fall swing should prove interesting. September is going to be tough on all of the teams, with three national events in a four-week period.”
Kerunsky and his bright yellow Breckenridge Excavating-sponsored ‘57 Chevy
Air still cling to the points lead, but he has seen it dwindle to just 6 points
because of the two consecutive non-qualifying efforts. “We are definitely in a
dogfight for the title, with five cars within 100 points, and the top three
within 17 points,” said Kerunsky. “This is really our first full IHRA season
where we have competed for points. It is a very tough class, with an average of
40 cars at each event trying to make the 16-car field.”
Starting from scratch - Every ending brings a new beginning. While Labor Day marks the end of summer, it also marks the beginning of fall. After seven races and a long grueling summer, Quain Stott finds himself right back where he started the season. "You might as well wipe all of the points out and start the season right now," Stott said. "This is anyone's championship. At this point it comes down to who makes the fewest mistakes. Every qualifying position, every round, every tune-up, there's absolutely no room for error if you want to be in this deal at the end."
With just four races remaining, Stott's LeeBoy team is in one of the toughest
brawls in the history of the Torco Competitionplus.com Pro Modified class. The
top four teams are in a virtual dead heat with just 32 points separating them.
Stott currently sits in the no. 3 spot, just 17 points behind points leader Glen
A score to settle - It has been five years since Mike Janis last visited the winner’s circle at New England Dragway, and as far as the two-time IHRA Pro Modified champion is concerned that’s five years too many. “We’ve been really up and down at this race since our win in 2001,” said Janis. “We’ve lost in every round, including the finals. I think we’re slowly gaining momentum this season and this race could be a good place for our team to grab another win.”
In 2001, the year Janis claimed his first Pro Mod title, he was the class of the field. At the Amalie Motor Oil North American Nationals that year, Janis qualified No. 1 with a then career-best 6.182-second elapsed time. He also was the quickest car each round and took home his third “Ironman” of that season.
In 2002 Janis lost in the semifinals. In 2003 he once again made it to the finals, but was unable to take the win. In ‘04 it was two rounds and out and in ‘05 he failed to make it out of round one.
“I’m not sure if there is some kind of pattern to our performance at Epping but if there is I think we’re about ready for a win,” said crew chief Mike Janis Jr.
Stretch run - With the IHRA eMax Drag Racing Series schedule winding down, every race and round win is crucial for drivers aiming for championship glory. This is especially true in the case of Pro Modified pilot Danny Rowe, who is only a handful of points behind current leader Glen Kerunsky. With just a round of racing separating the two, Rowe is on the fast track to the 2006 IHRA Pro Modifed championship.
“The points chase is as close as I have ever seen it, which makes it fun for the fans and sponsors alike,” said Rowe. “I know the people at Gainsborough Capitol are very wound up, so everything we do is important. However, we cannot get ahead of ourselves; we have to take it one round at a time and concentrate on this weekend. We still want to win this race no matter where we are in the points chase. Our team has worked hard all season. We really want to do well.”
Rowe, and his team led by crew chief Jimmy Rector, has performed very consistently all year. The current points chase is only reflective of season-long efforts. With consistency being one of the most important aspects of IHRA Pro Mod drag racing, Rowe certainly has the competitive edge.
“Heading into the home stretch of the 2006 season, every round counts towards the race to the championship,” he said.
Notably absent - Rob Mansfield returned to the form that had many picking him for a championship run last season, his impressive 6.380, 219.90 pass topping the list of 22 Pro Stock machines vying for a spot in the 16-car field.
Pete Berner, Steve Spiess, John Nobile, and Brian Gahm rounded out the top five, but it was the list of drivers not yet qualified that perhaps generated the most interest.
Rickie Smith, Jerry Haas, Jeff Dobbins and Robert Patrick are all on the outside looking in with two sessions remaining.
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