MIR Pro Challenge 2001 - Day
by Bill Pratt
Photos by Tim Pratt
Bunny Burkett had a great day at the MIR Pro Challenge, recording a super
6.02 at 233.
Photo by Tim Pratt
MIR's 2001 Pro Challenge event continued Sunday with eliminations in Northeast Pro Shootout Association (NPSA), Frantic Four Doorslammer, and Frantic Four Dragster/Altered. Tommy Gray and Paul Athey returned to continue their Pro Modified match race, and Bunny Burkett was on hand with her popular funny car. Saturday's qualifying session was a slipping, sliding, and possibly treacherous affair that saw six Compulink foam timing system blocks bite the dust from racers running over the centerline. After that, the racers, fans, and Maryland International Raceway staff were ready for a more normal day of eliminations. It was not to be.
On the very first pass of the Frantic Four Doorslammers, Ed Burnley lined up his immaculate Sorcerer '63 Corvette against Marc Hayes' pretty orange Monte Carlo. At the hit, Burnley grenaded the top off his motor in the biggest nitrous explosion witnessed to date. The impact sounded and looked exactly as if someone had tossed a hand grenade underneath the Corvette's fiberglass front end. Pieces of fiberglass sailed 200 feet into the air, and rained down on the photographers. Luckily, the fiberglass front end contained most of the shrapnel, none of which seemed to land on the spectators. Burnley was fine as well, the safety equipment doing its job. Our photographer Tim Pratt was only feet away from the car, but had decided not to take the shot. Tim was OK, although his ears were ringing a little. Track photographer Charlie Willis got the entire thing on video, and it is simply unreal. Johnny Rocca, who was providing color commentary in the tower, noted that Burnley had probably just lost a minimum of $15,000 worth of equipment in the blast. Almost unnoticed in the other lane, Marc Hayes recorded a 6.986, 198.06-mph victory.
The MIR staff surveys the remains of Ed Burnley's Sorceror nitrous Corvette
after possibly the worst nitrous explosion in history. Photo by Tim Pratt
The craziness continued in the second race, as Chris Krajewski immediately caught the motor on fire in Randy Delano's immaculate ex-Kenny Tripp '41 Willys. The fire extinguished quickly, but fans were disappointed that they couldn't see the ill-handling machine make another pass. Frank Snellings, Jr., was having his own problems, pedaling the car twice. Snellings still recorded a 7.843, 197.36 mph win in the mountain motor Lumina.
Tommy Howes then faced off against Robert Tyree's immaculate '57 Chevy. Or should we say, was expected to face off against Tyree. Robert's purple-blue Bel Air came up lame with a flat tire, sending Howes on a 6.725, 174.66 early chute win.
Billy Farmer then took out Perley Toye's 7.813, 174.80 pass with an early shut off 6.935 at 168.81 mph.
Frantic Four Dragster/Altered began with Mike McKenzie taking a win over Vince Fourcade, 6.693, 198.15 to 6.913, 193.43. Fourcade put more than a tenth on the Miller Lite car at the tree, but it wasn't enough.
Dan Dietrich was supposed to be easy pickings for Phil Adam's 6.50 nitrous car, and that seemed certain after Adams killed the blown machine on the tree, .436 to .863. However, Adams had problems and slowed, allowing Dietrich's immaculate (and LOUD) dragster to record a 6.843, 192.17 upset win.
Charlie Gambino and Phil Soucy then staged an entertaining race. Soucy, who used to fly the SR-71 Blackbird jet (at 3,000 mph!) grabbed a huge holeshot over the Florida altered, .495 to .666. Gambino had more power, however, and caught up quickly. Neither driver made a full power pass, however, and the lead changed about ten times! Finally, Soucy held off Gambino's charging blown machine by .002 seconds! The final numbers were a winning 6.906, 195.96 for Soucy to a losing 6.737, 206.64 for Gambino! As usual, Charlie Gambino not only drove all the way to Maryland from Florida to attend the race, he put up some of his own money to increase the Frantic Four payout!
Mike Yohn of the Bruce Mullins FC was helping Bunny this weekend.
Here he meets "Lugnut," the new MIR mascot. Photo by Tim Pratt
Neal Parker then took an easy win over Karen Haddock's supercharged dragster. 6.636, 160.04 to Karen's troubled 7.625, 165.50. Parker was down to the last crankshaft on the Excavator altered, and he wanted to save the 6.20 runs for when they counted most.
Up next were the "professional hobbyists" of the Northeast Pro Shootout Association (NPSA) who returned with 14 cars. Up first were Bob Losordo's nitrous Trans Am and Albert Bonamici's wild 2000 Chevy Astro Van. Losordo took the win at 6.943, 199.26 to the van's 7.460, 180.81 pass. Matt Deitch then took his "Modern Day Outlaw" Camaro to a 6.797, 194.38 win over Jim Barker's tire smoking 11 second shutoff.
Alan Juhasz then recorded a great 6.742, 202.39 victory over Mark Pullen's neat '57 Chevy at 7.508, 185.84. Sal Passarelli then took his radical blown Chevelle to an out of shape, 7.155, 169.34 win when Andreas Karampelas' unloaded the chassis and shut off. Mike Ghiraldi then took a 7.116, 195.25, bye run, as Mark McHugh couldn't show.
Marc Hemling and Steve Cossis lined up next. Hemling had qualified #2 at an off pace (for him) 6.69. Cossis had done even worse - the 6.30 nitrous machine had never gotten down the MIR quarter on Saturday, qualifying dead last with a 20-second shutoff. The racers did a complete role reversal in their first round match-up, as Cossis found the combo and ran 6.473, 215.17 as Hemling shut off to an 11.17.
Up next were side by side bye runs. John Bartunek had a bye because he was the #1 qualifier in a 15 car field. Paul Rocco had a broke bye because his opponent - Gary Courtier - had damaged his '55 Chevy on a Saturday qualifying pass. Rocco took the "win" at 6.724, 175.87 but took out the SEVENTH timing block of the weekend when his wheelie bar broke and sent him over the top end lights. Bartunek had nothing but problems and shut off to an 8.87.
Paul Rocco's Saturn is definitely not your average
doorslammer. Photo by Tim Pratt
The Pro Mod match race was next. After losing two straight to Paul Athey in Johnny Rocca's Ironhorse Saturday, Tommy Gray was ready for revenge in the Undertaker '53 Corvette. He got some in the first round, running a good 6.502, 214.31 to defeat Athey's pedaling 9.13.
Bunny Burkett then lined up for a single exhibition run in her Bunny & The Boys Dodge Avenger funny car. After overpowering the track with her five-second combination Saturday, Bunny's crew detuned the car to run a good 6.12. With that same combination in the car, however, Bunny ripped off a superb 6.027 at 233.16 on Sunday! This was only seven hundredths and four mph slower than Bunny's career bests. Clearly, having Dennis Whitestone aboard to offer tuning advice and sponsorship dollars is going to help Bunny remain competitive on the IHRA national event trail in 2001.
Round two kicked off with a great match-up between Frantic Four Doorslammer rivals Frank Snellings, Jr., and Tommy Howes. Howes, whose blown Camaro crossed the centerline last night, nearly did it again in the race with Snellings. "The Who" wrestled it back in time to record a 6.749, 200.41 mph win over Snellings' 814 cubic inch Lumina, which trailed at 6.877, 203.16. Billy Farmer then took an effortless 6.646, 209.82 pass when Marc Hayes couldn't return for the round.
Neal Parker then lined up the Excavator blown Fiat against Mike McKenzie's brand new 2001 Ed Burnley built Miller Lite machine. Parker returned to Saturday's 6.20 form with a 6.242, 222.18 mph win over McKenzie's 6.621, 201.49. Phil Soucy then took a great 6.686, 202.15-mph win when Dan Dietrich broke on the line.
NPSA action kicked off with Matt Deitch taking a consistent 6.788, 199.73 win over Mike Juhasz, who basketballed his tires on a 7.369, 199.94 never-say-die effort. Steve Cossis retained his resurgent combination with a 6.505, 213.50 decision over Paul Rocco's 6.824, 173.09 after a .399 foul.
Sal Passarelli then returned to form with a booming 6.550, 217.81 blast in the Advanced Cable Engineering car to defeat Bob Losordo's 6.920, 202.21 effort. Mike Ghiraldi then lined up against Andreas Karampelas, who filled in when John Bartunek could not return. Ghiraldi remained consistent with a 7.162, 191.16 win over Andreas's 17-second shut off.
Tommy Gray beat Paul Athey two straight today, avenging last night's losses.
Photo by Tim Pratt
Tommy Gray continued his vengeance with a second straight win over Johnny Rocca's Ironhorse, 6.476, 214.83 to 9.99 when the big orange Mercury would not shift for some reason.
The Frantic Four Doorslammer Final featured the first man in the six second zone with doors, Tommy Howes, against the man who has been "Mr. Everything" in MIR Frantic Four competition over the past few years, Billy Farmer. Farmer, who had lane choice, put Howes in the left lane. Since Tommy had had a hard time keeping the Chevy in the right lane, many wondered how Tommy would keep the car off the left guardrail. Howes answered all critics with a straight as a string, 6.637, 212.79-mph victory over Farmer, who ran 6.730, 199.97 despite blowing his engine at 1000 feet.
Tommy Howes' blown Camaro defeated Billy Farmer's nitrous Corvette in the Frantic Four final.
Photo by Tim Pratt
Neal Parker then completed his dominance in Frantic Four Dragster/Altered with a 6.636, 181.93 to 6.732, 202.18 win over Phil Soucy's nitrous car.
Neal Parker's Excavator Fiat took the measure of the Frantic Four
Altered program, defeating Phil Soucy in the final. Photo by Tim Pratt
The NPSA semifinal race between Sal Passarelli and Steve Cossis looked good on paper, with respective 6.55 and 6.50 numbers in the previous round. Passarelli welded Cossis to the tree, .484 to .581, and looked like the winner until he experienced tire shake and had to lift one time. That gave Cossis the edge he needed to pull around the brightly colored Chevelle for the win, 6.487, 213.94 to 6.804, 216.27.
Matt Deitch and Mike Ghiraldi then staged a strange one in the other NPSA semifinal match. Ghiraldi's car wouldn't start, and after waiting quite some time for his opponent, Deitch moved in and did his burnout. Then, Deitch's car lost fire after the burnout! Both crews worked feverishly to get their cars restarted. NPSA rules stipulate that in order to win, a car must stage under power. Matt Deitch finally got his car restarted and backed up to the starting line. As he left the starting line, Mike Ghiraldi finally rolled up, but it was too late. Deitch was gone. He left hard but got out of shape, almost hitting the right side wall on a 7.570, 133.07-mph pass! Following that, Andreas Karampelas finally got his nitrous Camaro down the strip (and almost across the centerline) on a 7.78, 122 time run shot.
Tommy Gray and Johnny Rocca volunteered to hold a third round, despite being booked only for two. The third round was no kinder to the Ironhorse team as they shut off to a 10.15. Tommy Gray's nitrous ''Vette ran another bracket-like 6.487 at 214.38 mph.
Bunny came back for her final run, looking for the fives after the surprise 6.02. Tire shake hampered Bunny's quest for the fives. Despite driving through the shake, the Bunster only got a 6.139 at 231.24 for her efforts. Bunny and the crew were still extremely happy with their weekend.
The NPSA final looked like a Steve Cossis cakewalk. While Matt Deitch had run consistent 6.70s, Cossis had found the 6.40s and 6.50s after nearly not qualifying. But this is drag racing, and just when the prognosticators had written the script, the underdog came through. Steve Cossis overpowered the track right off the line, and Matt Deitch took the title with a "good enough" 8.355 at 144.18 mph.
Crew chiefs turn on the data recorders as Steve Cossis and Matt Deitch face off in the NPSA final.
Photo by Tim Pratt
Finally, with an invitation to NHRA Atlanta next weekend, Johnny Rocca instructed his guys to set up for another test pass to try to relocate their recent 6.20 combination. It wasn't at MIR this day. Despite a good 1.042 60-foot time, the Ironhorse shook hard and Paul Athey shut her down. To add insult to injury, Tommy Gray came back out for a test pass and ran another robot-like 6.483 at 213.81 mph.
The next MIR special event is the U.S. Pro Stock Open on Wednesday night, May 16.