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Drag Racing Story of the Day!

Roslansky, Hanna Jets Fly At Norwalk

By John Raffa

Rich Hanna, Enfield, Conn., and Dennis Roslansky, Benton, Ky., became the first jet-car drag racers to be awarded their sport's Oscar equivalent, the IHRA "Ironman" trophy, by winning their respective divisions at Norwalk (Ohio) Raceway Park's inaugural Budweiser/Ohio Lottery "Jet Warz" on May 12. Cornwell Tools presented the program.

Roslansky, a big time winner in the Jet Dragster ranks for the past five years, idled through the timing traps after his opponent, Toby Ehrmantraut, Bellville, Ohio, had mechanical problems as he lined up for their final.

Ehrmantraut had come to the race as one of the favorites due to his long experience in the ranks, and he set an all-time Ohio record for elapsed time, at 5.016 seconds, in edging Jessica Willard in her "Queen of Diamonds" dragster in their semi-final duel, which proved to be the closest race of the night in the dragster ranks. Ehrmantraut's speed was 299.40 to Willard's 5.082 at a meet- and personal-best 308.92 mph.

In the Funny Car final, Hanna, running a brand new Pontiac Firebird-bodied car out of his father's (Al) Hanna Motorsports stable - also owner of Willard's dragster - had a full quarter-mile duel with Jerry Gannon, representing the Hannas' longtime nemesis, Roger Gustin and his racing team from Columbus, Ohio, in their Workmat-sponsored Camaro. 

Gannon had previously defeated Al Hanna in the first round of eliminations, so there was a little extra on the table as the two finalists fired for the final.

The Funnies left the line nearly wired, with Gannon a scant 001-second ahead of Hanna, .465 to .466 reaction times; but Hanna's elapsed time at the finish showed his "First Strike/AJK Engineering Special" ahead of Gannon's crowd-favorite, JT-12 Pratt & Whitney-engined car, 5.446 at 291.57 mph to 5.575, 288.33. 

All in attendance agreed that it was a fitting end to an historic evening.

"I can't tell you how good I feel about this," an elated Bill Bader, Jr., track CEO, said in assessing the race. "Because the weather cooled off so much and it looked like rain most of the day, we had a late-arriving crowd. But by the time we got the jet eliminations started, you could tell that we'd guessed right: Ohio race fans love jets! And we plan to do this all over again next year on an even wider scale This was just an amazing race, and I think we proved beyond a doubt that the competition among jet racers is just as fierce as in any drag racing division."

Gustin, the founder of the jet racing movement, due to previous commitments, couldn't be at Norwalk, but he was superbly represented by Gannon. The team's beautifully painted, red, 6000-horsepower car drew oohs and ahhs from both competitors and fans.

Gannon declared, "That's about as close as it gets in racing without winning, but those guys (Hanna's team) better start right now if they hope to repeat next year. Roger's got stuff up his sleeve that will blow them away if they try to rest on their laurels."

Rich Hanna and his team just completed construction of their car the previous weekend, with help from another new associate sponsor, East Coast Aero Tech, and his final and winning run here was only his sixth full pass in the car.

"We're ecstatic," beamed Hanna. "This new car is phenomenal. Dan Page, our chassis builder, deserves a great deal of credit for this unique creation. It handles great, and believe me, there's a lot more in this car. If Gustin's team thinks we're resting where we are, I hope they read this: We're looking at 300 mph before the year is over - and you can quote me on that!"

The senior Hanna summed up his feelings by saying he'd like to "thank the Norwalk staff for taking the risk with the jet car category and creating 'Jet Warz.' This race should be the basis for a huge event in 2002. 

"Rich deserves all the credit in the world for his accomplishments. His ET and speed are as good numbers as anybody's ever put up. And as for Jessica's performance, the 308.92-mph mark was her fastest miles per hour ever. We're starting to refer to her as the 'Queen of Speed,' around here. You can say we're going home a really happy bunch."

John Raffa



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