The 25 th Annual Torco Racing Fuels Northern Nationals was a weekend of firsts for Illinois-based racer T.J. Zizzo. He claimed his first career pole position when final qualifying was said and done and, back where he made his first IHRA appearance last season, registered the low ET of the meet and captured his first career national event victory at US 131 Motor sports Park.


Zizzo was the best Knoll Gas-Torco Racing Fuels Pro Nitro Top Fuel car all weekend. After his Friday qualifying hit stood up he knocked off J.R. Todd, a recent two-time NHRA national event winner, in the first round of eliminations. He then handled Bruce Litton in the semifinals and Doug Foley in the finals to take home his first Ironman.

“This is an all-volunteer team, and I mean all volunteer,” Zizzo said. “Not even Dave Settles, the Crew Chief, gets paid a dime on this deal. US 131 is one of my favorite race tracks and I’ve won here before in an alcohol dragster, so this win really means a lot to us.”

Martin, Michigan


SUNDAY - T.J. Zizzo Breaks Through for First Career Top Fuel Victory at Torco Racing Fuels Northern Nationals; Wyatt, Carter, Gillig and Hernandez also win at US 131 Motor sports Park

(8-6-2006) - The 25 th Annual Torco Racing Fuels Northern Nationals was a weekend of firsts for Illinois-based racer T.J. Zizzo. He claimed his first career pole position when final qualifying was said and done and, back where he made his first IHRA appearance last season, registered the low ET of the meet and captured his first career national event victory at US 131 Motor sports Park.

Zizzo was the best Knoll Gas-Torco Racing Fuels Pro Nitro Top Fuel car all weekend. After his Friday qualifying hit stood up he knocked off J.R. Todd, a recent two-time NHRA national event winner, in the first round of eliminations. He then handled Bruce Litton in the semifinals and Doug Foley in the finals to take home his first Ironman.

“This is an all-volunteer team, and I mean all volunteer,” Zizzo said. “Not even Dave Settles, the Crew Chief, gets paid a dime on this deal. US 131 is one of my favorite race tracks and I’ve won here before in an alcohol dragster, so this win really means a lot to us.”

Zizzo won the Ironman when he defeated Foley in the final, but it was his first-round match-up with J.R. Todd that Zizzo was most keyed-up for.

“To race J.R. Todd in the first round, I mean, he has won two of the last three NHRA national events,” Zizzo said. “We had to show J.R. Todd what IHRA racing is all about. He has some experience over here, I understand that. But that team doesn’t. IHRA right now is where it’s at. I never wanted to beat anybody so badly in my life. This IHRA circuit, and all the drivers here, teach me how to drive. Look at reaction times across the board, IHRA guys usually have better reaction times than NHRA guys. We’re all trying real hard over here.”

Jack Wyatt is another racer who is trying real hard. After losing his sponsor following an event win earlier this season, Wyatt is working as hard as he can to be able to continue racing. After almost not being able to afford to come to the Torco Northern Nationals, Wyatt scraped together enough funding at the last minute, literally, and headed to Martin. He ended up in the Winner’s Circle after defeating Bob Gilbertson in the Knoll Gas-Torco Racing Fuels Pro Nitro Funny Car final.

“This really pays off for all the hard work,” Wyatt said. “We’ve worked hard and things haven’t gone our way recently, and we lost our sponsor. We almost never got here. I didn’t know we would have enough money until Wednesday night, then we drove up here and got here Thursday morning, just in time to park.

Josh Hernandez won his second Knoll Gas-Torco Pro Modified Ironman in as many appearances on the IHRA circuit when he defeated defending world champion Mike Castellana in the final. Hernandez, who knocked off local favorite Steve Bareman in the semifinals, clocked a 6.131 at 235.56 mph to take home the title.

He also set the IHRA speed record in the process, clocking a 237.09 during Saturday qualifying.

“This was a storybook ending to a storybook weekend,” Hernandez said. “Setting the IHRA speed record says a lot about the preparation of the track. The weather was great, the crowd was great and this whole weekend was just perfect for us.”

It was a perfect weekend for Tony Gillig as well. Gillig knocked off John Nobile, the 2004 IHRA Torco Pro Stock World Champion in the final round, to put some distance between himself and his closest competitors in the 2006 points chase.

“I couldn’t have written a better story,” Gillig said. “My wife and daughter are my biggest fans and they don’t come to the races very often, and my mom hasn’t been to a race since I started driving this car for my car owner. They were all here. If I had to pick a bigger race to win, this was it. Between that and the points chase, and everything else under the sun that goes with this whole deal, it was perfect. I couldn’t have written it better if I had sat down and plotted it out on a piece of paper.”

Gillig overcame a huge disadvantage at the starting line, .014 for Nobile to .050 for Gillig, to win with a 6.468/213.94. Nobile registered a 6.531/215.37 pass.

Tom Carter became the first three-time winner in Alcohol Funny Car when he defeated Terry McMillen in the final Sunday. After defeating #1 seed Rob Atchison in the first round, Carter now trailed Mark Thomas by 46 points in the championship chase.

“We just came together today, and the biggest thing was beating Rob Atchison in the first round,” Carter said. “I knew I had to do that, then after I did it I had to face Terry Munroe. So this win wasn’t easy, but it really helps us.”

The next event on the 2006 eMax Drag Racing Series is the SKULL SHINE World Nationals presented by ACDelco , August 24 – 27, at Norwalk Raceway Park in Cleveland, Ohio.

Sunday's final results from the 25th anniversary Torco Racing Fuels Northern Nationals at US 131 Motorsports Park.  The race is the seventh of 11 in the 2006 eMax Drag Racing Series:

Top Fuel -- T.J. Zizzo, 4.773 seconds, 306.46 mph  def. Doug Foley, 8.123 seconds, 92.68 mph.

Nitro Funny Car -- Jack Wyatt, Pontiac Firebird, 4.980, 272.01  def. Bob Gilbertson, Dodge Stratus, 7.298, 116.98.

Pro Modified -- Josh Hernandez, Chevy Camaro, 6.131, 235.56  def. Mike Castellana, Chevy Cavalier, 6.180, 230.06.

Alcohol Funny Car -- Thomas Carter, Chevy Camaro, 5.955, 238.76  def. Terry McMillen, Dodge Avenger, 6.139, 231.68.

Pro Stock -- Tony Gillig, Ford Mustang, 6.468, 213.94 def. John Nobile, Ford Escort, 6.531, 215.37.

Top Sportsman -- Bob Mandell, Oldsmobile Cutlass, 7.339, 178.47 def. Jeff Pittman, Chevy Chevelle, 7.202, 187.08.

Top Dragster -- Nick Folk, Dragster, 6.995, 187.68 def. Ricky Adkins, Dragster, 7.057, 190.19.

Quick Rod -- Chris Schneider, Dragster, 8.916, 167.91 def. Keith Williams, Dragster, 8.907, 172.23.

Super Rod -- Brian Folk, Chevy Cavalier, 9.889, 148.22 def. Pat Martin, Ford Roadster, 9.863, 155.60.

Hot Rod -- Matt Albright, Chevy Chevelle, 10.873, 133.42 def. Tony Elrod, Plymouth Duster, 10.854, 130.61.

Super Stock -- Craig Marshall, Pntiac Grand Am, 9.115, 148.79 def. Kevin Helms, Oldsmobile Achieva, 9.463, 124.11.

Stock -- Gale Pinkston, Chevy Camaro, 11.387, 114.87 def. Craig Marshall, Dodge Dart, 10.883, 115.90.

ET Bracket -- Garrett Marhanka, Dodge Daytona, 12.660, 99.78 def. Rick Van Wyhe, Ford Thunderbird, foul.

ET Box -- Garrett Marhanka, Dodge Daytona, 10.159, 125.80 def. Rod Brower, Chevy Camaro, 10.021, 131.36.

ET No Box -- Rick Van Wyhe, Ford Thunderbird, 9.544, 135.97 def. Bryan Craner, Chevy Camaro, 13.270, 60.51.

Final round-by-round results from the 25th anniversary Torco Racing Fuels Northern Nationals at US 131 Motorsports Park, the seventh of 11 events in the  2006 eMax Drag Racing Series:


ROUND ONE -- T.J. Zizzo, 5.054, 214.42 def. J.R. Todd, 6.594, 125.51; Doug Foley, 5.128, 211.46 def. Louie Allison, broke; Bruce Litton, 4.807, 306.05 def. Bobby Lagana Jr., 4.786, 308.43; Rick Cooper, 4.672, 314.90 def. Clay Millican, 4.724, 313.80;

SEMIFINALS -- Zizzo, 4.757, 284.87 def. Litton, 4.868, 302.28; Foley, 5.065, 210.54 def. Cooper, 6.664, 126.60;

FINAL -- Zizzo, 4.773, 306.46 def. Foley, 8.123, 92.68.  


ROUND ONE -- Dale Creasy Jr., Chevy Monte Carlo, 4.990, 266.11 def. Gary Cooper, Dodge Stratus, 5.705, 175.48; Jack Wyatt, Pontiac Firebird, 6.153, 153.25 def. Vincent Arcadi, Monte Carlo, foul; Bob Gilbertson, Stratus, 4.990, 293.22 def. Terry Haddock, Stratus, 5.149, 295.72; Mike Ashley, Stratus, 4.931, 304.32 def. Paul Lee, Monte Carlo, 4.926, 303.23;

SEMIFINALS -- Wyatt, 4.926, 280.95 def. Creasy Jr., 4.982, 277.37; Gilbertson, 4.952, 306.12 def. Ashley, 7.703, 113.22;

FINAL -- Wyatt, 4.980, 272.01 def. Gilbertson, 7.298, 116.98.


ROUND ONE -- Danny Rowe, Chevy Corvette, 6.195, 229.35 def. Quain Stott, Corvette, 6.193, 230.88; Kenny Lang, Corvette, 6.261, 227.73 def. Scott Cannon, Pontiac GTO, 8.528, 114.31; Josh Hernandez, Chevy Camaro, 6.132, 234.29 def. Pat Stoken, Camaro, 12.504, 68.29; Harold Martin, Pontiac Grand Am, 6.223, 226.77 def. Carl Spiering, Camaro, 6.203, 228.69; Jim Halsey, Camaro, 6.196, 226.85 def. Alan Pittman, Chevy Bel Air, 6.251, 226.01; Steve Bareman, Dodge Stratus, 7.931, 157.83 def. Matt Hagan, Corvette, 11.257, 76.09; Mike Castellana, Chevy Cavalier, 6.161, 229.39 def. Tommy D'Aprile, Corvette, 6.909, 152.23; Mike Bell, Ford Mustang, 7.175, 149.53 def. David Roemer, Camaro, 10.272, 85.97;

QUARTERFINALS -- Hernandez, 6.138, 227.38 def. Bell, 11.686, 74.37; Martin, 8.057, 128.74 def. Lang, broke; Bareman, 6.176, 233.76 def. Halsey, 6.182, 227.31; Castellana, 6.142, 230.80 def. Rowe, 6.294, 211.23;

SEMIFINALS -- Castellana, 6.240, 229.00 def. Martin, 11.231, 76.46; Hernandez, 6.167, 234.41 def. Bareman, 9.597, 92.25;

FINAL -- Hernandez, 6.131, 235.56 def. Castellana, 6.180, 230.06.


ROUND ONE -- Thomas Carter, Chevy Camaro, 5.926, 230.45 def. Rob Atchison, Chevy Monte Carlo, 5.870, 244.74; Mark Thomas, Monte Carlo, 5.889, 241.20 def. Paul Noakes, Ford Mustang, 5.912, 238.68; Terry Munroe, Monte Carlo, 5.916, 234.00 def. Chris Foster, Dodge Avenger, 5.942, 223.67; Terry McMillen, Avenger, 5.935, 239.27 def. Larry Dobbs, Chevy Corvette, 5.989, 232.59;

SEMIFINALS -- Carter, 5.932, 239.10 def. Munroe, 6.018, 222.62; McMillen, 5.905, 238.17 def. Thomas, 8.695, 99.57;

FINAL -- Carter, 5.955, 238.76 def. McMillen, 6.139, 231.68.


ROUND ONE -- John Nobile, Ford Escort, 6.479, 213.87 def. Richard Penland, Escort, 6.512, 214.62; Tony Gillig, Ford Mustang, 6.478, 212.63 def. John Konigshofer, Mercury Cougar, 6.515, 213.98; Rick Jones, Chevy Cobalt, 6.456, 215.03 def. Larry O'Brien, Dodge Stratus, 6.513, 212.33; Jeff Dobbins, Escort, 6.488, 214.62 def. Rob Mansfield, Cobalt, 8.967, 104.90; Steve Spiess, Cobalt, 6.492, 214.35 def. Brian Gahm, Mustang, 6.501, 212.03; Frank Gugliotta, Escort, 6.441, 215.31 def. John Bartunek, Cobalt, 6.509, 215.51; Pete Berner, Pontiac GTO, 6.427, 216.13 def. Elijah Morton, Ford ZX2, foul; Bert Jackson, Chevy Cavalier, 6.548, 193.82 def. Robert Patrick, Shelby GT 500, foul;

QUARTERFINALS -- Dobbins, 6.501, 214.55 def. Jackson, 6.511, 215.65; Nobile, 6.472, 215.72 def. Spiess, 15.884, 74.80; Gillig, 6.462, 214.11 def. Gugliotta, 6.463, 216.58; Berner, 6.431, 216.03 def. Jones, 6.466, 215.44;

SEMIFINALS -- Gillig, 6.461, 213.57 def. Dobbins, 12.536, 85.32; Nobile, 6.470, 214.86 def. Berner, 6.457, 214.89;

FINAL -- Gillig, 6.468, 213.94 def. Nobile, 6.531, 215.37.

PRO MODIFIED SHOOTOUT (contested Saturday):

ROUND ONE -- Jim Halsey, Chevy Camaro, 6.235, 227.08 def. Steve Bareman, Dodge Stratus, 12.756, 81.43; Mike Castellana, Chevy Cavalier, 6.177, 231.12 def. Rick Distefano, Chevy Corvette, foul; Quain Stott, Corvette, broke def. Mike Janis, Chevy Cobalt, broke; Scott Cannon, Pontiac GTO, 6.197, 231.99 def. Carl Spiering, Camaro, 6.193, 231.95;

SEMIFINALS -- Stott, 6.199, 232.11 def. Halsey, 7.637, 139.17; Castellana, 6.145, 232.27 def. Cannon, 6.140, 234.66;

FINAL -- Castellana, 6.141, 232.31 def. Stott, 6.166, 232.91.

Point standings (top 10) for IHRA professional categories following the 25th anniversary Torco Racing Fuels Northern Nationals at US 131 Motorsports Park, the seventh of 11 events in the  2006 eMax Drag Racing Series -

Top Fuel

1.  Clay Millican, 482; 2.  Doug Foley, 445; 3.  Rick Cooper, 386; 4.  Bobby Lagana Jr., 381; 5.  Bruce Litton, 341; 6.  T.J. Zizzo, 260; 7.  Andrew Cowin, 240; 8.  Chris Karamesines, 230; 9.  Louie Allison, 194; 10.  Mitch King, 157.

Nitro Funny Car

1.  Dale Creasy Jr., 466; 2.  Jack Wyatt, 450; 3.  Bob Gilbertson, 402; 4.  Vincent Arcadi, 389; 5.  Gary Densham, 322; 6.  Terry Haddock, 315; 7.  Gary Cooper, 228; 8.  Paul Lee, 221; 9.  Doug Kalitta, 97; 10.  Mitch King, 84.

Pro Modified

1.  Glen Kerunsky, 416; 2.  Danny Rowe, 356; 3.  Quain Stott, 354; 4.  Tommy D{Aprile, 293; 5.  Mike Janis, 292; 6.  Jim Halsey, 290; 7.  Mike Castellana, 289; 8.  Carl Spiering, 283; 9.  Steve Bareman, 263; 10.  Scott Cannon, 253.

Alcohol Funny Car

1.  Mark Thomas, 505; 2.  Thomas Carter, 459; 3.  Rob Atchison, 458; 4.  Terry McMillen, 373; 5.  Frederick Tigges, 269; 6.  Terry Munroe, 258; 7.  Larry Dobbs, 248; 8.  Trevor Lebsack, 241; 9.  Paul Noakes, 223; 10.  Chris Foster, 168.



Top Fuel

It feels good - He's recognized more for his sponsorship efforts but this weekend, Evan Knoll was known as a Top Fuel driver. The former Top Alcohol Dragster driver first licensed at the same event two years ago and was sidelined when he suffered a severe concussion just months later in a non-racing automobile accident.

Knoll test fired his dragster for the first time on Friday afternoon to the approval of crewchief Jimmy Walsh and a loud cheer from onlooking fans. He operated over the course of the weekend utilizing the J.R. Todd crew with a mix of Dale Creasy team members.

A last minute discovery of a problem with the clutch prevented a Friday run.

"I didn't mind it at all," Knoll said. "I was a little bit disappointed, but when you look at the big picture, it was probably for the best. I'm not a big fan of night time driving since my accident. On my first run down the drag strip I would have preferred to do it during the day."

Knoll made his first run Saturday afternoon and lifted early when the car began to drift toward the centerline. He was on a single and lifted 1,000 feet into the run. As it turned out, a parachute malfunction prevented them from launching but Knoll brought the car to a safe stop.

Welcome home? - J.R. Todd summed up his return visit to International Hot Rod Association Top Fuel racing in six years with five words: “We just struggled all weekend.”
Driving the SKULL Shine/Knoll Gas-Torco Racing Fuels dragster for owner Dexter Tuttle, Todd and the team were stalked by problems from the first qualifying attempts to Todd’s opening-round loss to No. 1 qualifier and eventual race winner T. J. Zizzo.
“We were on a good qualify run Friday night when the blower belt broke,” said Todd, who had a brief, six-race stint driving an IHRA Top Fuel car six years ago. “The car was on a mid-60s (4.6-seconds) run.”
His best qualifying time for Sunday’s eliminations came Saturday, 4.722 seconds at 298.27 mph, putting him fifth in the eight-car field but shook hard on its final attempt.
“The car shook again in the first round,” said Todd.  “I pedaled (the throttle) against Zizzo, looking for traction, but there wasn’t any.”  He coasted to the finish line in 6.594 seconds at 125.51 mph.  Zizzo, meanwhile, was slowed by a broken blower belt but got the win light in 5.054 seconds at 214.42 mph.

Zizzo sizzles – It was a great one-year anniversary celebration for Illinois-based Top Fuel racer T.J. Zizzo, who made his IHRA debut at the Northern Nationals in 2005.

Zizzo was on a mission all weekend long, claiming his first career pole position, registering low E.T. of the meet and capturing his first career national event victory. En route to the winner’s circle, Zizzo knocked off J.R. Todd, Bruce Litton, and Doug Foley.

“This is an all-volunteer team, and I mean all volunteer,” Zizzo said. “Not even Dave Settles, the crew chief, gets paid a dime on this deal. US 131 is one of my favorite race tracks and I’ve won here before in an alcohol dragster, so this win really means a lot to us.”

The victory was a sweet one for Zizzo, but he admitted that his first-round match-up with J.R. Todd was one of the high points of the weekend.

“To race J.R. Todd in the first round, I mean, he has won two of the last three NHRA national events,” Zizzo said. “We had to show J.R. Todd what IHRA racing is all about. He has some experience over here, I understand that. But that team doesn’t. IHRA right now is where it’s at. I never wanted to beat anybody so badly in my life. This IHRA circuit, and all the drivers here, teach me how to drive. Look at reaction times across the board, IHRA guys usually have better reaction times than NHRA guys. We’re all trying real hard over here.”

Nitro Funny Car

Small budget, big heart – After losing his sponsor following his win at the IHRA event in Rockingham, North Carolina, earlier this season, Nitro Funny Car racer Jack Wyatt’s operation has just barely had a financial pulse.

He wasn’t even sure he could afford to come to this weekend’s Northern Nationals, but he scraped some money together at the last minute and headed for Michigan from his Iowa home.

Wyatt qualified No. 8 for the eight-car field, but he gained strength as the weekend went along, taking out Vinny Arcadi, points leader Dale Creasy Jr., and Bob Gilbertson on his way to another victory celebration.

“This really pays off for all the hard work,” Wyatt said. “We’ve worked hard and things haven’t gone our way recently, and we lost our sponsor. We almost never got here. I didn’t know we would have enough money until Wednesday night, then we drove up here and got here Thursday morning, just in time to park.”

Pro Modified

The few, the proud, the nitrous cars – The latest rumbling from the Pro Mod pit area centers around parity between the supercharged and nitrous-injected combinations. Some feel that the nitrous cars are in a deficit situation where performance is concerned, but in Martin this weekend the folks who bring their horsepower to the track in bottles acquitted themselves pretty well.

On Saturday, in a blower versus nitrous final, defending Pro Mod champion Mike Castellana topped Quain Stott in the Torco Race Fuels Pro Modified Shootout in a final between two evenly matched cars. In a great side-by-side race, Castellana prevailed, has 6.141, 232.31 edging out Stott’s 6.161, 232.96.

In class competition, just four of the 16 cars in the qualified field were nitrous-injected, but two of those made it through to the semifinals, and one, the 2005 Cavalier driven by Mike Castellana, went to the final, where he met Josh Hernandez and his supercharged 1968 Camaro. Hernandez took the win light, his 6.131, 235.56 good enough to earn him a victory over Castellana, who posted a mark of 6.180, 230.06. The bottom line is that both of the big Pro Mod races at Martin came down to a blower versus nitrous shootout, with one win going to a blower car and one to a nitrous car.

The numbers game – Here are some interesting figures from the Northern Nationals. There were 41 Pro Mod cars in the pits, and the average elapsed time through three rounds of qualifying for the blown cars was 6.224-seonds, while the nitrous cars weighed in with an average of 6.270. In the final 16-car field, the average E.T. for a blown car was 6.153, while the average for a bottle-fed car was 6.171.

Two-for-two - Josh Hernandez has only been to two IHRA national events this season, but he’s hoisted an “Ironman” trophy in the winner’s circle at the end of both of them.

Hernandez, of Conroe, Texas, drove the AMS – Rage 1968 Camaro to the Torco IHRA Northern Nationals title by stopping defending world champion Mike Castellana in the final round. He qualified fifth and took out Pat Stoken, low qualifier Mike Bell and Steve Bareman to reach the final against defending class champion Mike Castellana. Along the way, Hernandez also set a track record speed of 237.09.

“The results speak for themselves,” Hernandez said. “We have been off for a few weeks and to come out here and put these kinds of numbers on the board says a lot. This was a team effort. The only downside is that my teammate Troy Critchley wasn’t racing us in the final. He went out early in a horrible crash. We pooled our resources and everyone chipped in and we scored the victory. You can see what happens when you throw that much talent into a single project.”


SATURDAY - T.J. Zizzo Top Fuel No. 1 Qualifier at the Torco Racing Fuels Northern Nationals; Friday pass holds up in front of largest crowd in US 131 Motorsports Park history

(8-5-2006) - All day the fans kept piling into US 131 Motorsports Park in Martin, Mich. The largest single-day crowd in the facility’s history was treated to a record field in Torco Pro Modified, a first-time pole-sitter in Knoll Gas-Torco Racing Fuels Pro Nitro Top Fuel, a defending champion getting back in the groove in Alcohol Funny Car, an NHRA regular setting the bar in Knoll Gas-Torco Racing Fuels Pro Nitro Funny Car and a new Shelby Mustang rising to the top in Knoll Gas-Torco Pro Stock.

T.J. Zizzo started Saturday on the Top Fuel pole on the strength of a career-best 4.664/314.61 pass Friday night. After the field took its shots at Zizzo’s number during two qualifying rounds Saturday, he finished on the pole. The Lincolnshire, Ill. resident captured his first career IHRA Torco Racing Fuels Pro Nitro Top Fuel No. 1 qualifying position and will square off with No. 5 qualifier J.R. Todd ( Avon, Ind.) in the first round of eliminations Sunday.

“This is my first professional start at No. 1,” Zizzo said. “I don’t know who we race tomorrow, but we have a bad hot rod. This thing went down the race track all three passes. To qualify No. 1 for our team really means a lot. This team deserves it and I’ve known that all year long. We went out there and struggled a couple of races, but the team stuck together and hopefully we’ll win tomorrow together.”

Five-time defending Top Fuel World Champion Clay Millican (Drummonds, Tenn.) jumped into the No. 2 position in his final Saturday pass, blistering the quarter-mile strip in 4.672 at 315.78 mph. Millican will face No. 6 qualifier Rick Cooper (Boise, Idaho) in the first round Sunday. Bobby Lagana, Jr. ( Scarsdale, N.Y.) finished third on the ladder with a 4.689 pass at 305.77 while Sewell, N.J. resident Doug Foley’s final shot at the track Saturday put him in the top half of the field in the No. 4 spot.

Mike Ashley, Melville, N.Y., held onto his Friday No. 1 Torco Racing Fuels Pro Nitro Funny Car position with his 4.866/311.99. Ashley holds the track ET record and No. 3 qualifier Bob Gilbertson, Charlotte, N.C., who ran 4.901/316.38, holds the track speed record. Class points leader Dale Creasy, Jr., who’s won two events on the 2006 eMax Drag Racing Series, sits in the No. 2 position with a 4.877/298.87. Jack Wyatt, who came into the Northern Nationals second in the championship chase, nearly missed making the field but slid into the final No. 8 spot during the final qualifying session.

In the $51,000 Torco Racing Fuels Pro Modified Shootout, Mike Castellana, Westbury, N.Y., who won the Northern Nationals in 2005, took home the $20,000 first place prize by defeating Quain Stott, Columbus, N.C. En route to the win, Castellana defeated Scotty Cannon, Jr., and Rick Distefano.

In Torco Pro Modified qualifying, it was Mike Bell, Asheboro, N.C., who took the top spot amongst the quickest field in IHRA history. Kenny Lang sits on the No. 16 spot with a 6.188 ET, bettering the previous quickest field – 6.195 – set this spring during the Amalie Oil Texas Nationals. Bell managed to set both ends of the track record with his 6.108/232.67, followed by Danny Rowe and Alan Pittman.

It was all London, Ontario-native Rob Atchison during the final round of Alcohol Funny Car qualifying. The defending champion and event winner topped the field with a track record-setting 5.743/245.54.

“I think I realized Friday night if I could get a hold of this thing we’d be in great shape,” said Atchison. “This car makes big power and my guys did a really great job with the tune-up. I think we are finally starting to figure this thing out.”

Mark Thomas was over ½-second behind Atchison to tie up the second spot, followed by Terry Munroe and Terry McMillen.

After Friday night Torco Pro Stock qualifying, Frank Gugliotta, Mt. Airy, Md., held the top spot. However, he was topped by Pete Berner, Crete, Ill., with a 6.425/216.83 who goes into Sunday second, behind Robert Patrick, Fredricksburg, Va., with a track record setting 6.408/217.14. Gugliotta ended up third, followed by Steve Spiess and Rob Mansfield.

Professional eliminations for the Torco Racing Fuels Northern Nationals at US 131 Motorsports Park begins Sunday at 11 p.m. Final round starts at 4:15 p.m.

First-round pairings for professional eliminations Sunday for the 25th anniversary Torco Racing Fuels Northern Nationals at US 131 Motorsports Park, the seventh of 11 events in the 2006 eMax Drag Racing Series. Pairings based on results in qualifying, which ended Saturday.

Top Fuel -- 1. T.J. Zizzo, 4.664 seconds, 314.61 mph vs. 5. J.R. Todd, 4.722, 298.27; 2. Clay Millican, 4.672, 315.78 vs. 6. Rick Cooper, 4.790, 299.93; 3. Bobby Lagana Jr., 4.689, 305.77 vs. 7. Bruce Litton, 4.796, 307.44; 4. Doug Foley, 4.702, 315.93 vs. 8. Louie Allison, 4.828, 283.67.

Nitro Funny Car -- 1. Mike Ashley, Dodge Stratus, 4.866, 311.99 vs. 5. Paul Lee, Chevy Monte Carlo, 4.973, 301.47; 2. Dale Creasy Jr., Monte Carlo, 4.877, 298.87 vs. 6. Gary Cooper, Stratus, 5.058, 239.82; 3. Bob Gilbertson, Stratus, 4.901, 316.38 vs. 7. Terry Haddock, Stratus, 5.242, 290.88; 4. Vincent Arcadi, Monte Carlo, 4.925, 298.01 vs. 8. Jack Wyatt, Pontiac Firebird, 6.076, 156.10.

Pro Modified -- 1. Mike Bell, Ford Mustang, 6.108, 232.67 vs. 9. David Roemer, Chevy Camaro, 6.164, 229.35; 2. Danny Rowe, Chevy Corvette, 6.130, 231.64 vs. 10. Quain Stott, Corvette, 6.166, 233.64; 3. Alan Pittman, Chevy Bel Air, 6.135, 230.06 vs. 11. Jim Halsey, Camaro, 6.179, 228.58; 4. Carl Spiering, Camaro, 6.136, 232.39 vs. 12. Harold Martin, Pontiac Grand Am, 6.182, 227.31; 5. Josh Hernandez, Camaro, 6.139, 237.09 vs. 13. Pat Stoken, Camaro, 6.182, 227.04; 6. Mike Castellana, Chevy Cavalier, 6.141, 232.31 vs. 14. Tommy D'Aprile, Corvette, 6.186, 233.24; 7. Steve Bareman, Dodge Stratus, 6.145, 234.49 vs. 15. Matt Hagan, Corvette, 6.187, 230.29; 8. Scott Cannon, Pontiac GTO, 6.155, 233.12 vs. 16. Kenny Lang, Corvette, 6.188, 230.65.

Alcohol Funny Car -- 1. Rob Atchison, Chevy Monte Carlo, 5.743, 245.99 vs. 5. Thomas Carter, Chevy Camaro, 5.881, 238.72; 2. Mark Thomas, Monte Carlo, 5.816, 244.78 vs. 6. Paul Noakes, Ford Mustang, 5.886, 241.58; 3. Terry Munroe, Monte Carlo, 5.833, 235.64 vs. 7. Chris Foster, Dodge Avenger, 5.937, 238.64; 4. Terry McMillen, Avenger, 5.862, 240.94 vs. 8. Larry Dobbs, Chevy Corvette, 5.970, 232.15.

Pro Stock -- 1. Robert Patrick, Shelby GT 500, 6.408, 217.95 vs. 9. Bert Jackson, Chevy Cavalier, 6.469, 215.37; 2. Pete Berner, Pontiac GTO, 6.425, 216.83 vs. 10. Elijah Morton, Ford ZX2, 6.480, 216.17; 3. Frank Gugliotta, Ford Escort, 6.441, 217.95 vs. 11. John Bartunek, Chevy Cobalt, 6.483, 216.55; 4. Steve Spiess, Cobalt, 6.446, 216.76 vs. 12. Brian Gahm, Ford Mustang, 6.485, 215.27; 5. Rob Mansfield, Cobalt, 6.447, 217.00 vs. 13. Jeff Dobbins, Escort, 6.490, 215.86; 6. Rick Jones, Cobalt, 6.453, 216.93 vs. 14. Larry O'Brien, Dodge Stratus, 6.502, 214.45; 7. Tony Gillig, Mustang, 6.454, 216.90 vs. 15. John Konigshofer, Mercury Cougar, 6.522, 214.96; 8. John Nobile, Escort, 6.468, 216.38 vs. 16. Richard Penland, Escort, 6.522, 215.00.


SATURDAY NOTEBOOK - Castellana Back in Winner’s Circle; 2005 Knoll Gas-Torco Pro Mod World Champion wins Torco Pro Mod Shootout in Martin, Mich.

(8-5-2006) - Mike Castellana flexed his muscles with great regularity last season, winning four of the last six IHRA national events en route to his first career Knoll Gas-Torco Pro Modified World Championship.

This season Castellana has found the going a little tougher as he had not visited the Winner’s Circle before the 25 th Annual Torco Racing Fuels Northern Nationals at US 131 Motorsports Park. Things all came together for Castellana during the Torco Pro Modified Shootout, however, as the Westbury, N.Y. resident topped Quain Stott in the final to collect the $20,000 winner’s check. It was the first significant victory for Castellana this season and, he hopes, a springboard toward better things the rest of the season. His 6.141 at 232.31 mph put him in front as Stott posted a 6.161/232.96.

“This feels great,” Castellana said. “We’ve kind of struggled this year and it has nothing to do with nitrous cars or blower cars, we just kind of struggled to find our combination that we had last year. Things really came together at the right time this weekend. We’re thrilled with this. We needed a little shot in the arm to get things going, now we feel like we have things headed in the right direction. Hopefully we can keep it going.”

Castellana, one of two nitrous-powered cars in the field, went from the #3 seed to the championship. In the first round he squared off with the ’53 Corvette of Rick Distefano. He took advantage of lane choice against the seventh-seeded Distefano, posting a 6.177 pass at 231.12 mph to top Distefano’s tire-shaking pass.

Stott might want to think about adding Mike Janis to his Christmas list after the first-round gift he received on the other side of the ladder. Stott’s ’63 Corvette shook its tires hard at the hit of the throttle, forcing him to pull out of the run. Janis, in the other lane, had smooth sailing into the second round with nothing but clean track in front of him. The problem for Janis, however, came at about half-track when his ’06 Cobalt started drifting towards the center line. Janis could not recover and ended up crossing the center line, handing the victory to Stott.

In the second round Castellana knocked heads with Scotty Cannon, Jr., who took out defending Shootout champion Carl Spiering in the first round. Castellana won this semifinals match-up at the tree, throwing a holeshot at Cannon to advance to the final. Castellana used a .035 reaction time to back up his 6.145/232.27 pass. Cannon’s .055 6.140/234.66 package took him out of the running.

In the semifinals Jim Halsey made a strange choice. With lane choice over Quain Stott, Halsey put Stott into the right lane…the lane of choice of most drivers during the day. Halsey must have been banking on Stott being set up for the left lane, but in the end it did not matter as Stott’s 6.199/232.11 pass eliminated Halsey, who drifted towards the wall at the 330-foot mark and lifted.

This set up the nitrous vs. blower match-up in the run for the money, a battle that many have speculated nitrous could not win. Castellana enjoyed proving everyone wrong.

“We just kind of lost our combination a little bit earlier in the season and we seem to have it back,” he said. “Hopefully we can hang on to it, keep tweaking and improving on it. We’ve had our problems, now we’re just going to keep moving forward.”

In front of the largest single-day crowd in the history of US 131 Motorsports Park, Castellana got a charge out of performing in front of a huge audience. He also wanted to express his appreciation towards Evan Knoll, the owner of Knoll Gas and Torco Racing Fuels, for putting the program together.

“It’s awesome what Evan does for this class and for racing in general,” Castellana said. “The Shootout really gives us Pro Mod racers something to look forward to other than just the points chase. You lean on it as hard as you can at every race because you really are looking for those Shootout points. You give it everything you have.”

IHRA Breaks Attendance Records at Torco Northern Nationals

When records are discussed regarding the IHRA eMax Drag Racing Series, the topic usually centers on performance on the track. Saturday, at the 25th Annual Torco Racing Fuels Northern Nationals, all the talk was about everything surrounding the race.


Waves of people filed into the facility from the time the gates opened until just after the final professional qualifying sessions were completed. IHRA officials had to delay pre-race ceremonies for 45 minutes while the late-coming drag racing fans made their way through the line of traffic that backed up down the access road and onto US 131 in both directions.


“I have never seen anything like this,” IHRA President Aaron Polburn said. “We are having trouble keeping up with the demand for tickets at the gate. It is amazing to me that Jason and Stephanie Peterson and their staff are still standing when you consider everything they have been put through today. I have to take my hat off to them because they are performing way above and beyond the call of duty.”


Ticket sales for the 25th Annual Torco Northern Nationals surpassed last season’s sales before the first pair of cars went down the track Saturday. Saturday ended up being the single largest day, crowd-wise, in Northern Nationals history. That record was not broken by hundreds, it was surpassed by thousands.


“We had a lot of attention in the media and through advance promotion for this race, and that really helped,” Polburn said. “But, in the end, I think it was the fact that this drag racing series is growing well beyond our expectations. This is the most fun I have had in a long time and the weekend is far from over.”


The Torco Northern Nationals featured the regular power-packed IHRA Drag Racing Series slate, and it was supplemented by the Torco Racing Fuels Pro Modified Shootout, a $51,000 class shootout that was run off during Saturday qualifying.


“The parking situation was really creative,” IHRA Vice President of Human Resources Debra Sue Tobak said. “We had to move the fireworks because we needed the space we had designated for that for parking. We were backed up onto the highway twice today…it was unbelievable.”


Top Fuel

Zizzo holds on – T.J. Zizzo led the way on Friday, and on Saturday he held off the best efforts of the other 10 Top Fuel teams anxious to take his No. 1 qualifier status away.

Zizzo, of Lincolnshire, Illinois, is racing with backing from race sponsor Evan Knoll and Skull Shine, and he carried the Torco corporate flag high on the strength of the 4.664, 314.61 he posted in the first session.

Defending and multi-time champion Clay Millican mounted the most serious challenge to Zizzo’s top spot in the last session, but his 4.672, 315.78 fell just short. Bobby Lagana also made a game effort, but his 4.689, 305.77 was only good enough for the No. 3 spot.

Nitro Funny Car

Ashley on top – NHRA regular Mike Ashley is in Martin to support Evan Knoll and all the teams racing under the Torco Race Fuels banner, and he’s doing his sponsor proud, at least in the preliminaries of the Northern Nationals.

Ashley took the provisional top spot in the Nitro Funny Car field on Friday night, and he survived two more sessions today to emerge as the quickest of the nine racers in competition this weekend. His 4.866, 311.99 closed the door on class points leader Dale Creasy Jr., who is in the No. 2 slot with a 4.877, 298.87. Bob Gilbertson is third after two days of qualifying with a best-of-three pass of 4.901, 316.38.

And the beat goes on - For drag racers, it’s burnouts, shifting gears and parachute pops – but this weekend in Martin Funny Car driver Mike Ashley will be moving to a different beat, adding his own creative flair. Along with his Sponsor, Evan Knoll, Ashley and his team will be involved in the shooting of a music video with a drag-racing theme.
Having captured the attention of all drag racing fans with their “Go Hard or Go Home” song which is featured on NHRA POWERade drag racing telecasts on ESPN2, The Formula Project will compile drag racing footage for their new rap/hip-hop song “The Choice.”
Ashley was so impressed with the Formula Project the first time he heard their song that he jumped at the opportunity to become one of the band’s sponsors.
“I fell in love with their songs the first time I heard them because the lyrics embrace everything I believe in life  -- whether it’s in racing or whatever you do,” Ashley said. “Our team marches to the beat of those lyrics and I know Evan Knoll and the Torco team does the same. That’s why I got involved in the project.”

Pro Modified

Here’s the beef – The latest controversy swirling around the always-contentious Pro Modified class is the lack of parity between the blower and nitrous classes. This time around it’s the nitrous runners who are feeling less than competitive. On this night, however, Mike Castellana struck a blow for the bottle brigade when he took home the $20,000 winner’s check in the Torco Race Fuels Pro Modified Shootout.

Castellana’s Western beef-sponsored 2005 Cavalier was one of just two nitrous cars in the eight-car field, with Jim Halsey’s 1967 Camaro being the other.

Castellana and Halsey both went to the semifinals, with Castellana and Quain Stott moving on to provide fans with a great blower versus nitrous final round. Castellana’s 6.141, 232.31 took care of Stott, who posted a respectable 6.161, 232.96 in a losing effort.

Mr. Sandman – Troy Critchley put the Dr. Moon’s Rage AMS ’57 Chevy in the sand, and in the air, at the end of his qualifying attempt on Friday, and in an interview with John Waldie and 1320 TV he explained what happened and how he managed to walk away from the scary crash with no ill effects.

“We seem to be testing the boundaries right now,” he said. “Our other car, the ’70 Cuda, has been 237 miles an hour three times now, but the second time we did it we had problems with the chutes. The chutes went down under the car and wrapped around the rear-end, actually. It’s pretty hard to pull one of these things up – 2700 pounds at 237 miles an hour.

“The Cuda is in the chassis shop, so we put the engine out of it into the ’57. On the pass, I rolled the lights, so I didn’t get a time, but by the computer it did 235 plus, and it had trouble with the chutes again. They crossed over and wrapped themselves around the wheelie bar. It was going too fast and I couldn’t get it stopped. If you had a mile or two you might be able to get it stopped. I thought it was going to slide through the sand, but a header dug in and it flipped once in the air and it landed on all fours again.

I spent the last month getting used to a HANS device. It felt a little awkward to start with but my hat goes off to those guys. I flipped a car yesterday and I’m not sore anywhere. (Check out the entire video at 1320 TV.com)

Pushing the envelope – The Pro Modified class just keeps getting quicker and faster, and the 16-car field here at Martin underscored that fact by producing a record-setting bump of 6.188, which was posted by Kenny Lang. Ed Hoover came out on the short end of the deal, his 6.188 matching that of Lang, but his 229.16 mile-per-hour did him in. Lang ran 230.65 to nail down the No. 16 spot. He’ll face top qualifier Mike Bell in the first round of eliminations on Sunday.

A tough field - With 41 cars on hand for a 16-car field, it's to be expected that a number of "name" drivers were going to make the dreaded DNQ list.

Among those spectating on Sunday are: Ed Hoover, former champion Shannon Jenkins, Rick Distefano, former champion Mike Janis, and points leader Glen Kerunsky.

Pro Stock

Oh, so close – Despite predictions to the contrary, there were no 6.30s run in tonight’s final Pro Stock qualifying session, but there were more than a few good shots at it. Top qualifier Robert Patrick did his best to get his slick new Ford GT into the zone where few have gone before, but his best-of-the-weekend pass of 6.408, 217.14 was as close as he could get. He was followed by Pete Berner’s GTO, which posted a mark of 6.425, 216.83, and the Ford Escort of Frank Gugliotta, who finished qualifying with a solid 6.441, 216.41. Notable among non-qualifiers were John Montecalvo, Doug Kirk and Kenny Benso.

Suitcase Gary – Veteran tuner Gary Henry has packed up and moved from the camp of Mike Bruno and Dan Sweeney. He will now assume crew chief duties for Doug Kirk. This is the second time that Henry has served in this capacity with Kirk’s team.

My little GTO – Master builder Jerry Haas will be bringing a very cool new car to the World Nationals in Norwalk. His new 2006 Pontiac GTO will be painted to resemble a classic 1969 GTO Judge.

Alcohol Funny Car

Atch attack – Defending and three-time Alcohol Funny Car champ Rob Atchison has been struggling this season, and after dominating the class for so long this uncharacteristic slump has been a surprise to many people.

He took a major step towards getting back into championship contention with his final qualifying shot tonight.

His 5.743, 245.54 outpaced the No. 2 effort of rival Mark Thomas, who finished up with a mark of 5.816, 244.78. Terry Monroe, who led the pack after Friday night’s session, slipped to third with a best pass of 5.833, 235.64.


FRIDAY - Ashley Sizzles at US 131 Motorsports Park

Sets pending IHRA world speed record during Friday qualifying of Torco Racing Fuels Northern Nationals

(8-4-2006) - Mike Ashley made his name in the early days of the Torco Pro Modified class, appearing in three IHRA national event finals and winning one Ironman by defeating Blake Wiggins at Bristol International Dragway in 1990.

After the Friday qualifying session at the Torco Racing Fuels Northern Nationals, Ashley, a Melville, N.Y. resident, might want to think about taking up the Nitro Funny Car class full time. Ashley jumped to the top of the qualifying sheet at US 131 Motorsports Park and set a pending IHRA world speed record in the process, blistering the quarter-mile strip with a 4.866 pass at 311.99 mph. He will have to drive his Torco-sponsored ’05 Stratus to at least a 308.88 to back up the record either Saturday during qualifying or Sunday during eliminations.

“What a job by my team,” Ashley said. “We wanted to do this for Evan Knoll. How about this IHRA drag racing? This is my home…where I got started. It’s good to be home.”

Ashley is just one of the many Torco Racing Fuels-sponsored cars Evan Knoll - owner of Knoll Gas, Torco Racing Fuels, Skull Gear, Skull Shine, Skull Gear, MACH Series Accelerator Fuel Additive and others - brought to the closest IHRA event to his corporate headquarters in Decatur, Mich. Dale Creasy, Jr., another Torco-backed entry, was #2 on the qualifying ladder after Friday with a 4.877 pass at 298.87 mph. Creasy ( Beecher, Ill.) is the current IHRA Nitro Funny Car points leader.

Another Knoll-backed car jumped to the top of the Torco Racing Fuels Pro Nitro Top Fuel qualifying sheet as T.J. Zizzo posted a career-best 4.664 et at 314.61 mph. Zizzo finished in front of Doug Foley, another Knoll-backed racer, who posted a 4.729 pass at 297.75 mph. Clay Millican (Drummonds, Tenn.), the current Top Fuel championship points leader, was third after Friday with a 4.790 pass.

Danny Rowe ( Rossville, Ga.) claimed the provisional pole in the Knoll Gas-Torco Pro Modified class by driving his ’63 Corvette to a 6.130/231.64. The Jimmy Rector-tuned Rowe ended up at the top of the largest Pro Modified field of the season as 42 cars took a shot at the track Friday.

Alan Pittman ( Greenville, S.C.) qualified provisionally in the #2 position with a 6.135/230.06 pass while Steve Bareman ( Holland, Mich.) spent Friday night in the #3 slot by carding a 6.168/234.49.

Rob Atchison may have set the US 131 Motorsports Park track speed record, but Terry Munroe (Beaver, Penn.) will spend Friday night on the top of the qualifying sheet. Munroe carded a 5.833 pass at 235.64 mph to claim provisional #1 qualifier honors, nosing out Tom Carter ( Cuero, Tex.) who clocked the second-best time at 5.881.

Atchison (London, Ont.) broke Munroe’s track speed record with a 245.99 mph hit at the finish line, but his 5.941 pass was only good enough for fourth on the qualifying ladder behind #3 Mark Thomas (Louisville, Ohio).

Frank Gugliotta ( Mt. Airy, Md.) posted the best time in the Torco Racing Fuels Pro Stock class Friday. Gugliotta’s 6.446 at 217.95 mph put him #1, a full mile-per-hour off the previous track speed record of 217.07 set by Steve Spiess ( Manhattan, Ill.) last year.

Robert Patrick ( Fredericksburg, Va.) drove his ’06 Shelby Mustang to the #2 spot with a 6.455 pass while Spiess rounded out the top three with a 6.464 hit at 215.72 mph.

Qualifying resumes Saturday for the Torco Racing Fuels Northern Nationals at US 131 Motorsports Park. Gates open at 8 a.m. with Sportsman eliminations at 9 a.m., Professional qualifying at 3 and 7 p.m. Professional eliminations start Sunday at 11 a.m.

Results Friday after qualifying for the Torco Racing Fuels Northern Nationals at US 131 Motorsports Park, seventh of 11 events in the 2006 eMax Drag Racing Series.

Top Fuel -- 1. T.J. Zizzo, 4.664 seconds, 314.61 mph; 2. Doug Foley, 4.729, 297.75; 3. Clay Millican, 4.790, 292.77; 4. Bruce Litton, 4.796, 307.44; 5. Bobby Lagana Jr., 4.801, 304.05; 6. Luigi Novelli, 4.849, 284.69; 7. J.R. Todd, 5.234, 193.18; 8. Louie Allison, 5.272, 199.82.

Nitro Funny Car -- 1. Mike Ashley, Dodge Stratus, 4.866, 311.99; 2. Dale Creasy Jr., Chevy Monte Carlo, 4.877, 298.87; 3. Paul Lee, Monte Carlo, 5.052, 301.47; 4. Vincent Arcadi, Monte Carlo, 5.143, 274.94; 5. Terry Haddock, Stratus, 5.512, 273.11; 6. Bob Gilbertson, Stratus, 6.942, 126.15; 7. Gary Cooper, Stratus, 12.303, 84.79; 8. Jeff Diehl, Pontiac Firebird, 15.183, 59.60.

Pro Modified -- 1. Danny Rowe, Chevy Corvette, 6.130, 231.64; 2. Alan Pittman, Chevy Bel Air, 6.135, 230.06; 3. Steve Bareman, Dodge Stratus, 6.168, 234.49; 4. Quain Stott, Corvette, 6.171, 233.64; 5. Mike Castellana, Chevy Cavalier, 6.174, 231.16; 6. Ed Hoover, Corvette, 6.188, 229.16; 7. Rick Distefano, Corvette, 6.192, 231.20; 8. Jim Halsey, Chevy Camaro, 6.192, 226.28; 9. Kenny Lang, Corvette, 6.200, 228.89; 10. Tommy D'Aprile, Corvette, 6.201, 232.23; 11. Mike Janis, Chevy Cobalt, 6.217, 232.23; 12. Glen Kerunsky, Bel Air, 6.218, 228.27; 13. Steve Vick, Corvette, 6.238, 223.43; 14. Josh Hernandez, Camaro, 6.261, 230.21; 15. Eddie Ware, Camaro, 6.274, 230.37; 16. Burton Auxier, Corvette, 6.289, 224.06.

Alcohol Funny Car -- 1. Terry Munroe, Chevy Monte Carlo, 5.833, 235.64; 2. Thomas Carter, Chevy Camaro, 5.881, 238.72; 3. Mark Thomas, Monte Carlo, 5.893, 216.65; 4. Rob Atchison, Monte Carlo, 5.941, 245.99; 5. Paul Noakes, Ford Mustang, 5.963, 237.55; 6. Tim Stevens, Dodge Stratus, 6.030, 233.72; 7. Trevor Lebsack, Mustang, 6.090, 234.98; 8. Larry Dobbs, Chevy Corvette, 6.090, 232.15.

Pro Stock -- 1. Frank Gugliotta, Ford Escort, 6.446, 217.95; 2. Robert Patrick, Shelby GT 500, 6.455, 216.51; 3. Steve Spiess, Chevy Cobalt, 6.464, 215.72; 4. Tony Gillig, Ford Mustang, 6.467, 215.00; 5. Bert Jackson, Chevy Cavalier, 6.469, 215.37; 6. John Nobile, Escort, 6.471, 216.38; 7. Pete Berner, Pontiac GTO, 6.473, 215.51; 8. Elijah Morton, Ford ZX2, 6.480, 215.58; 9. Rick Jones, Cobalt, 6.499, 216.76; 10. Larry O'Brien, Dodge Stratus, 6.508, 214.45; 11. Brian Gahm, Mustang, 6.514, 213.94; 12. Jeff Dobbins, Escort, 6.518, 215.03; 13. Michael Bruno, GTO, 6.522, 207.72; 14. Cary Goforth, Cobalt, 6.536, 213.54; 15. John Konigshofer, Mercury Cougar, 6.571, 212.86; 16. Bob Bertsch, Mustang, 6.573, 212.76.


FRIDAY NOTEBOOK - Torco Northern Nationals Largest Event Ever at US 131 Motorsports Park

If the staff at US 131 Motorsports Park wants to top the record-setting car count at this weekend’s Torco Racing Fuels Northern Nationals they will have to do some real estate shopping. Simply put, the facility ran out of room Friday morning.

A massive car count was realized as rigs streamed into the facility well into the night Thursday. IHRA officials worked until 2 a.m. parking over 700 cars that rolled through the racer’s gate, eclipsing the previous car count record for the event of 675. In fact, after all the pit parking was assigned some race rigs ended up being redirected to spectator parking out of necessity.

“The turnout has been amazing,” IHRA President Aaron Polburn said. “The funny thing about it is we are starting to expect situations like this. The growth of this series has been consistent and we prepare for car counts we haven’t seen before. We had a solid plan in place for supplemental racer parking that would still leave plenty of parking for spectators. But it’s still nice to see. I took a walk around the pits this morning and the cars just kept going and going. I couldn’t find the end of the pits. It was a virtual sea of race cars.”

Over 30 nitro cars pre-registered for the race, while in the other professional classes the turnout was heavier than expected. The Knoll Gas-Torco Pro Modified class saw its usual heavy hitters joined by Josh Hernandez and his Dr. Moon’s Rage team and Troy Critchley. The Torco Racing uels Northern Nationals will be a Pro Mod fan’s delight as the $51,000 Torco Pro Modified Shootout will be contested along with the regular class competition.

J.R. Todd, who became the first African American driver to win a professional Top Fuel national event when he won an NHRA event in Denver, will compete for his first Ironman against a loaded Knoll Gas-Torco Racing Fuels Pro Nitro Top Fuel field. Evan Knoll, the Michigan-based fuel magnate who sponsors a slew of professional and sportsman entries, will also drive in the Top Fuel class in Martin this weekend. “This is going to be an incredible show for the fans,” Polburn said. “The addition of the Nitro Funny Car class, thanks to Evan Knoll, has elevated our professional show to new and exciting levels. This series has incredible momentum right now and we have no intention of slowing down.”




Sitting one out - Evan Knoll, the head man at Torco Racing Fuels, is making his return to Top Fuel here in Martin this weekend. His return to the seat has been put on hold for at least one more day, however, as last-minute mechanical problems with his car forced him to make the decision to wait until Saturday before trying to qualify for the eight-car field.

"We had some minor problems, and the guys worked real hard to sort things out before we had to go to the lanes, but it was just too much of a thrash," Knoll said. "I'm here to have some fun this weekend, and I figured there just wasn't any sense in going out for my first pass under those conditions. We'll hang loose and try again on Saturday morning."

Zizzo in the zone - The 25th annual Torco Racing Fuels Northern Nationals is the fifth event of the year for Top Fuel pilot T.J. Zizzo and his Skull Shine Torco Racing Fuels Dragster. Coming in, Zizzo had his sights set squarely on US 131 Motorsports Park with very high expectations.

The scenario played out exactly as planned, at least on the first day of qualifying, as Zizzo took the No. 1 spot on the provisional qualifying sheet with a sold 4.664, 314.51 pass. Doug Foley is No. 2 with 4.729, 297.75, and defending champion Clay Millican is third despite blowing an engine in spectacular fashion at the end of his 4.790, 292.75 run.



Demolition derby - The stakes are high for many in the Pro Modified contingent here at Martin this weekend, especially those in the Torco Race Fuels Pro Modified Shootout, and many drivers are pushing their cars to the limit in an effort to make Sunday's show.

Two who suffered the consequences of living on the edge were Troy Critchley and Mike Lockwood, who suffered crashes in tonight's qualifying session.

Lockwood brushed the wall with his '63 Corvette, but Critchley's incident was more serious. A parachute malfunction caused him to hit the sand trap at speed. As a result, the car rolled over twice. Critchley emerged unhurt, but since he was driving a borrowed car, it was a painful episode nevertheless. Critchley was in the '57 Chevrolet normally driven by Josh Hernandez in Outlaw competition as his '70 Barracuda is in the shop for repairs.

Shootout update - The big Pro Modified Shootout is on tap for Saturday, but it's interesting to see how the eight drivers involved made out during tonight's qualifying session.

No. 1 man Carl Spiering blew the tires off his '67 Camaro, and he sits in the No. 41 spot. Scott Cannon also failed to make it down the track, and he sits 40th.

The other six fared better, and are ranked as follows: Steve Bareman, 3, Quain Stott, 4, Mike Castellana, 5, Rick Distefano, 7, Jim Halsey, 8 and Mike Janis, 11.

Get well weekend - After two consecutive DNQs, weeks of work, and a disappointing rain-out in Toronto, Alan Pittman turned it all around in just over six seconds in Martin tonight.

Pittman, who hadn't had a chance to run since he spent several days in engine builder Carl Spiering's dyno room last month, claimed the No. 2 spot in the provisional field with a stout 6.135, 230.64 blast.

"I couldn't believe it when they told me what I had run," Pittman said. "It felt as good as any pass I've made in this new car, but I had no idea it was a thirteen. I honestly thought I had run a 6.20. I'm thrilled for my team and my car owner Mel Bush. It's great not to have to worry about qualifying this weekend now."

Pittman is just behind Danny Rowe, who claimed the top spot with a five-thousandths-better mark of 6.130-seconds at 231.64. Steve Bareman is in third with a 6.168, 234.49 effort.




Gilby's toy - On his way to the track for last month's Motor City Nationals in Milan, Michigan, Nitro Funny Car competitor Bob Gilbertson spied a used Cadillac limo for sale in a farmer's field. He pulled in, made a quick cash deal, and not long after proudly wheeled his new toy through the gates at Milan Dragway.

His trip to the track wasn't without drama, however, as the exhaust system fell off just a few miles down the road, and was subsequently run over. The nest of hornets that had taken up residence in the muffler didn't take too kindly to this, and "Gilby" suffered a few painful stings as a result.

The venerable prom chariot was in need of considerable ork, needless to say, but Gilbertson was determined to get his new toy back to his home base in Charlotte, North Carolina, for a radical makeover.

After a new exhaust system, which "cost more than what I paid for the car," was installed, Gilbertson set out for his overnight run to Charlotte. "It was quite a ride back," he said. "Me and a lot of Prestone, three tanks of gas and half a pack of cigarettes. And I was wearing dark glasses."

The car delivered Gilby safely home, and now it's undergoing its transformation. Extensive engine and other mechanical work, 22" wheels, gull-wing doors, a new interior and lots more are in store for the old luxury hauler. "She's going to be sweet," said Gilbertson. (Click here to view the complete video at 1320 TV)

Ashley rambles - So far his first foray into IHRA Nitro Funny Car competition has been a success for NHRA regular Mike Ashley. Here this weekend to support his Torco Racing Fuels sponsor and teammates, Ashley unleashed a best-of-the-night pass of 4.866, 311.99 to lead all qualifiers. Just behind him are IHRA points leader Dale Creasy Jr., 4.877, 298.87, and Paul Lee, 5.052, 301.47.




Meatball still flying - For a guy who didn't have a ride just a few days before the season started, Frank "The Flying Meatball" Gugliotta has been enjoying a banner year in the tough mountain motor Pro Stock category. A last-minute deal with Charlie Taylor put Gugliotta behind the wheel of Taylor's 2005 Ford Escort, and as of this weekend he's just eight markers behind points leader Tony Gillig.

Gugliotta leads the way after one session of qualifying with a pass of 6.446, 217.95. Behind him are Robert Patrick, 6.455, 216.51, and defending class champion Steve Spiess, 6.464, 215.72.

Fish out of water - John Nobile spent most of last week at his Dix Hills, N.Y., home building a fish pond on his property. His team kept telling him that he should wait until cooler weather to finish the project. However, Nobile reportedly “nearly killed himself” in the heat, finishing just in time to make the race here in Martin. Nobile, who didn’t have time to enjoy the pond at all, arrived Friday at US 131 to find that his crew had installed a miniature pond complete with fish in his pit for him to enjoy.



Heatwave Reprieve? – Martin, Michigan was just like the rest of the country earlier this week – trapped in a heat wave. The blistering heat may be behind U.S. 131 Dragway after a series of thunderstorm cells moved through on Thursday evening dumping much needed rain. Today appears to be wet and cooler but Friday will be back to warmer conditions. The temperatures are expected to reach 90 degrees by Sunday.


Knoll Gas – Torco Top Fuel

Just call Him Daddy – The grandmaster of sponsorships will be racing this weekend. Evan Knoll has sponsored numerous teams and programs but he’ll tell you this weekend he has the best sponsorship package of them all – "Momma" and the girls.

Knoll has a mission for this outing. He’s provided so much to the racing community that now he wants to give back to his family. Adorning the side of his dragster will be likenesses of his daughters Betsy, Kim and Julia as well his late father Ward A. Knoll. It also has his new seven-month old granddaughter Jenna Louis Knoll. And don’t forget the one person who has been a driving force behind one of the most influential figures the sport has ever known. She answers to "Momma.”
Not only will Dorrie Lou Knoll’s likeness adorn the side of her son’s car with her granddaughters, but at 80 years old, she will deliver the National Anthem prior to Saturday evening qualifying.

“Words can’t describe just how excited I am about all of this,” Knoll said. “Returning to driving is an exciting thing but it’s nothing like the thrill I am going to have seeing my family ride on the dragster with me. They always ride with me in my heart…but this will show the racing community.”

Knoll’s return to the cockpit of his personal Top Fuel dragster marks his first driving appearance since a non-racing accident sidelined him in October of 2004. His dragster will be tuned by Jimmy Walsh, along with a blend of J.R. Todd’s crew and Dale Creasy’s team.

Knoll obtained his Top Fuel license at U.S. 131 Dragway just two years ago as a relative unknown drag racing entity. Today, with major sponsorships within both major sanctioning bodies, he stands as one of the largest single backers in the sport.

“It’s just what you do,” Knoll said. “I love drag racing and I want to see it prosper. For it to grow and maintain a strong fan base, you have to always ensure the underdogs are out there racing. I’m a sucker for the underdog.”


Welcome Back – When J.R. Todd first donned a Top Fuel driving suit in 2000 for Bruce Litton, those around him knew he was destined for greatness. The journey to success took him from driver to crew member and back to driver again.
Todd, along with team owner Dexter Tuttle, Jimmy Walsh and the SKULL Shine/Knoll-Gas Torco Racing Fuels team, won two of the three events on the NHRA’s grueling Western Swing – races in the mile-high altitude of Denver, to sea level in Seattle and Sonoma, Calif.
The real transformation began in the last few months when Todd – given an NHRA driving opportunity to drive by Tuttle this year – received sponsorship from Evan Knoll’s SKULL Shine/Knoll Gas - Torco Racing Fuels in May. 
Now Todd is returning to IHRA Top Fuel racing on a certifiable hot streak – thanks to Walsh’s tuning and Todd’s impressive driving style on the hot racing surfaces as a favorite this weekend. 
And there’s nothing he’d like more than to plunk his first Ironman trophy on the shelf next to his Wallys.
“It’s pretty exciting,” said Todd.  “It’s kind of a homecoming because that’s where I got my first start in Top Fuel and a lot of old friends and family will be there.  It will be nice to see them and now that we have a pretty competitive car in NHRA, it will be nice to go over there with a really competitive car. 
“It would be cool to line up against Bruce. I’ve never raced him before and it would be neat to race my old car owner, for sure.  I’m looking forward to it. It’s Evan Knoll’s race and we’re his car. Hopefully we can put it in the winner’s circle for him, SKULL Shine and Torco Race Fuels. 
“We are racing today because of Evan Knoll, and I can’t thank him enough.  That allows us to run until the end of the season,” continued Todd, now 24 and six years removed from his first nitromethane-fueled driving assignment with Bruce Litton.  “Since that happened we’ve been qualifying well and, in the last five or six races, we’ve been going some rounds and winning races.”
Todd has gone some rounds alright – he won 10 in the last three races when he was suddenly thrust onto center stage after winning in just his ninth NHRA race.  He’s beaten some of the best along the way, including Tony Schumacher, whom he defeated in both final rounds. 

Todd has one IHRA final round to his credit – a runner-up finish during the 2000 Northern Nationals when the event was contested at Mid-Michigan Dragway in Stanton, Michigan. 


Knoll Gas – Torco Nitro Funny Car

Welcome Back, Part 2 – Mike Ashley was one of two drivers who re-introduced the nitro Funny Cars to the IHRA community last year in Rockingham.

This weekend marks Ashley’s first official IHRA nitro Funny Car appearance since he and Del Worsham combined for an exhibition at "The Rock" last fall. The class was officially announced within a month thanks to backing from Knoll Gas and Torco Race Fuels.
“I’d like to think we were there for the start of something big,” Ashley said. “I’ve always enjoyed interacting with the IHRA fans. I’ve raced once at US 131 Dragway and it is a great facility.”

Ashley is in a giving mood this weekend but not to his competition. He wants to give his friend and longtime sponsor Evan Knoll a victory.

“I can’t think of a person who deserves to win more than Evan Knoll,” Ashley said. “He has been one of the most positive influences this sport has seen in many years. I know I couldn’t do what I do if it wasn’t for him and I know there would be a lot of teams out of racing if he didn’t have such a passion for this sport. My vision is to put Evan, Latrell, our Nitro Funny Car, the team and myself in the winner's circle. I know we have a car capable of doing that.”
Ashley made the leap to the nitro Funny Car ranks last year and most recently assumed the driving chores on Knoll Gas – Torco Race Fuels corporate Funny Car team campaigned under the Don Schumacher Racing umbrella. The two-time Pro Modified champion enters this weekend’s IHRA Knoll Gas – Torco Race Fuels Northern Nationals on the strength of semi-final finish in Sonoma, California.

Ashley’s first national event victory came in the IHRA. The New York mortgage banker got his start in the Pro Modified division and has long been considered one of the pioneers of the class. It seems like yesterday that he won his first national event at the 1990 IHRA Spring Nationals.
“Time does fly by when you’re having fun,” said Ashley, who celebrated his 41st birthday on Sunday. “I got my start racing in the IHRA and it will be fun to get out here and mix it up with their new Funny Car class. There are some tough teams out here and certainly no one you can take lightly.”

One Track Mind - Bob Gilbertson will be thinking one thing this weekend – winning. Gilbertson wants to win the race and take over the eMax International Hot Rod Association's points lead.

Gilbertson is only 78 points out of first and taking over the top spot isn't out of the realm of possibility.

"We've been struggling lately but last weekend we found a big problem with the chassis," Gilbertson said.  "When we buried it in the sand trap at Milan's Motor City Nationals we evidently bent the car which made it a bear to drive.  We've brought out our back-up car and it drives like a Cadillac and hopefully it will take us to the winner's circle this weekend."

Gilbertson's co-crew chiefs Nick Boninfante Jr. and Tommy Delago believe that this will be the race that will show just how good the team is.

"We've had a lot of mechanical problems this year that have cost us round wins," Boninfante said.  "The bent chassis wasn't responding to the changes we were making, but now that we switched to our back-up car we should be in good shape.  We all want to win the Northern Nationals and with a little luck we should be the car to beat."


Knoll Gas – Torco Pro Modified

Did You Know? –
The Pro Modified winner at the Torco Race Fuels Northern Nationals is usually the odds-on favorite to win the championship. It started with 2003 champion Mitch Stott, continued with Mike Janis in 2004 and last year Mike Castellana completed the championship trend.

On Deck - Known to many as the birthplace of Pro Modified racing, it’s no surprise the IHRA eMax Drag Racing Series offers one of the biggest shootouts for the class. With a total purse of $51,000 - $20,000 going to the winner – the Knoll Gas – Torco Racing Fuels Pro Modified Shootout, held during the Northern Nationals, August 4-6 at U.S. 131 Motorsports Park in Martin, Mich., will feature the “great eight” of IHRA’s Pro Modified contingent, and give them the chance to race-off to see who’s best.

Leading the competitors this year is the 2005 Shootout winner Carl Spiering. The Ontario, Canada-native suffered a car-destroying crash at the first race of the season, but was able to rebuild his race program and not miss a beat. He’ll face-off in the first round against Scotty Cannon, Jr., son of multiple-time world champion Scott Cannon, Sr. Ironically, like Spiering, Cannon suffered a devastating crash in his new GTO to kick off the season, but has been running well since.

On the same side of the 8-car ladder will be Mike Castellana, the defending IHRA Pro Modified world champion. He’ll take on Alberta, Canada-native Rick Distefano, who’s qualified and ran good all year, with a number one qualifier at the Suzuki Motor City Nationals.

Former world champion Mike Janis will take his second-place position on the opposite side of the ladder to face off against Quain Stott, who won earlier this season at Edmonton’s Castrol Raceway. Rounding out the field is Jim Halsey, who finished second in last year’s shootout. Halsey’s first-round opponent is Holland, Michigan-native Steve Bareman, who calls U.S. 131 Motorsports Park his home track.

What is going on? - After a strong start this season, Alan Pittman, team owner Mel Bush, and Pittman’s crew have been frustrated by two consecutive DNQs. They expected to have some teething troubles when they introduced their unique supercharged ’62 Chevrolet Bel Air “bubble top” earlier this year, but a string of successful outings, culminating in a victory in just their third race, may have led the team to overlook a number of seemingly minor problems which resulted in failed qualifying efforts in Edmonton, Alberta, and Milan, Michigan.

In an attempt to get his program back on track, Pittman, a chassis builder from Greenville, South Carolina, spent the first part of the week leading up to the Canadian Nationals working in the dyno room of engine builder, and fellow Pro Mod competitor, Carl Spiering. Positive gains were realized as a result, and the better of his two rejuvenated powerplants was bolted back in the classic red hot rod just a day before the scheduled first day of qualifying in Toronto.

Since he didn’t have an opportunity to test before the race, it was going to take a do-or-die effort to shake out the new combination while attempting to make the tough IHRA Pro Mod field.

Unfortunately, the rains came before any professional qualifying could take place, and the plug was pulled on the event. Now, two weeks later, Pittman’s Chevy sits in the trailer, ready for the trip to Michigan. It still hasn’t turned a wheel on the quarter-mile since being upgraded.

“It was pretty frustrating to just sit around up there in Canada and not get a chance to run the car,” Pittman said. “We thrashed for three or four days to get the engines tested, and then we never had a chance to see if what we gained would help us out on the track.

“Once we got back home I had so much work to catch up with in the shop that we never even unloaded the car. So now we’re right back where we were two weeks ago – we’ll make our first test pass during Friday’s first qualifying shot. I’m pretty confident that we’re heading in the right direction. We want to make a strong move in the last half of the season, and we’re planning to start in Martin this weekend.”


Rain, Rain…Go Away - Charles Carpenter endured the "second-worst rainout of his career” two weeks ago in Toronto. The only rainout that Carpenter ranked higher in his 32-year career was a complete washout of a 1990 Super Chevy Show event in Sonoma, California, then called Sears Point Raceway.

“A rainout is a big disappointment no matter where you are, but the further you are from home, it seems to hurt a little worse. We also had our good friend Paul Albino join us this weekend, which added to the disappointment. I guess it’s the long ride back that lets it sink in,” Carpenter stated. “At least back in 1990 at Sonoma I was on my own little “western swing”, stringing together several races in Seattle, Sonoma, Bakersfield, and Sacramento one after the other.”

The downtime at the track brought on by the rain gave Carpenter extra time to field questions and comments on his recent letter to the IHRA and everyone involved with Pro Modified regarding the state of the class.

“The vast majority of the feedback I have received on my letter has been very positive,” Carpenter said. “A few people have had their qualms with it, but that’s certainly to be expected when addressing such a sensitive issue across every media outlet available.”

He does have a point – Never let it be said that Carpenter wastes media time. The legendary pro Modified figure has been on a media roll lately and a recent interview with Clay Millican on 1320tv.com he left the multi-time Top Fuel champion speechless – literally.

“Clay told me I get the award for being the first person to not let him get more than 5 words in during an interview,” Carpenter joked. (Click here to view the entire interview on 1320 TV.com)

A Pretty Place Glen Kerunsky wants to play in the Knoll Gas – Torco pro Modified Shootout, but he’ll be a spectator instead.

“We last raced at the Northern Nationals in 2004 where we finished runner-up,” said Kerunsky. “This part of Michigan is really scenic and the US 131 track is one of the best facilities in drag racing. One thing for sure is it’s going to be tough sitting back watching the eight cars race for all that money in the Torco Pro Mod Shootout. It would have been nice to have the points start at the first of the year and we would have had the Breckenridge Excavating sponsored 57 Chevy Bel Air in the Shootout but that is not the format.

Unfortunately, we ran the AMS/NHRA Pro Mod Series last year and missed out on our chance to gain 2005 points to qualify for the 2006 Shootout. It is still really great for our class that Torco Race Fuels puts up all that money to qualify at each race and the Shootout.

Entering the IHRA Torco Race Fuels Northern Nationals the Kerunsky Racing Team maintains a lead of 74 point over IHRA veteran Pro Mod racer Quain Stott.

Alcohol Funny Car

Need a new direction –
Three-time Alcohol Funny Car champion Rob Atchison wouldn’t mind catching a break this weekend.

“We have struggled a bit this year with consistency and we all look forward to coming back to Martin where we have had success,” stated Rob Atchison. We have won this race the last three years here so what better place to turn things around in 2006 and get our program back on track. The owners and the staff of US 131 deserve a lot of credit for making this facility one the finest places we race. Jason Peterson and his staff here have always treated us great here and we love racing in front of the great US 131 fans. We have been off for a month after the rain postponed the Canadian Nationals at Toronto Motorsports Park and we’re just itching to get back onto the track and get racing.”

Atchison is gunning for a fourth title and refuses to let main rival Mark Thomas get any further ahead of him than he already is.

“We are all positive about our chances and we know we have to make the car run more consistent,” said Atchison. “Although the car has been fast it has been inconsistent from one round to another with tire shake and we know unless we change that we will achieve our goals. This class is very competitive and you have to be on top of your game every round and we know we have to race a lot better if we want to win races and another championship.”

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