Bill's IHRA Prez Cup Notes, Day Three
By Bill Pratt
Hey, I'm somewhat caught up on sleep, so let me get the rest of this info out. You've seen the official results as Monday's story of the day, so I won't get all the numbers AFTER the decimal places covered here... Thanks to Bill Ott for stepping up and posting a great story of the day yesterday while I recuperated from the weekend!
The 2001 IHRA President's Cup jumped right into eliminations at noon on Sunday. But although it was bright and sunny, it was COLD for southern Maryland in late September... I had my Standard 1320 jacket on all day long with an MIR Drag Racing T-shirt on underneath, and yeah, I'll admit that there were times I wanted a sweatshirt, too... Call me a baby, but I'm used to the climate-controlled comfort of the announcing booth! I have to say that it was absolutely great to be outdoors, hanging out with the racers and getting the scoops. I love announcing, but I surely do miss the interaction I enjoyed during the President's Cup.
The racing kicked off in front of another sparse Sunday crowd. The joint was completely packed on Saturday, but on Sunday, you literally could choose any seat in the house. I've seen the same thing at Norwalk after a rocking Saturday night crowd. I think it's time to cut the Sunday ticket prices in half, if only to get some butts in the bleachers for the TV cameras. Oh yeah, speaking of TV, the President's Cup will air on TNN on October 13 at 2 pm. Check your local listings...
Pro Eliminations kicked off with Mountain Motor Pro Stock. The cars were deep into the 6.50s, including the GM cars for a change. The GM racers and fans were hoping for their first win of the season. Gene Wilson had won all the races save one, that GM Pro Mod defector Brian Gahm had won that race in a Ford Mustang. Round one kicked off with Gahm beating Tommy Lee, who just hasn't had the luck he enjoyed in 2000. John Bartunek's interestingly-painted Chevy took a close 6.61 to 6.64 victory over Elijah Morton's Ford, then Terry Leggett took his 2000 Mustang to an upset win over John Montecalvo, returning the favor. Ron Miller, driving his 1999 Monte Carlo after determining that he did not like the 2001 Grand Am, defeated Steve Williford in a good race, 6.58, 211, to 6.60, 210.
Tony Fox (who was the ONLY Pro Stock car to attempt a run during Saturday night's dew-plagued final session), then took an upset holeshot win over Dewayne Rice, 6.64 to 6.63. Rice was driving the number two Moser Engineering car, the very 2001 Grand Am that team captain Ron Miller rejected. Doug Kirk beat Wally Stroupe, 6.61 to 6.67, and Tim Nabors continued to impress with a 6.59, 210 win over a redlighting Chris Holbrook. Gene Wilson then lined up against Jason Collins in the most anticipated Pro Stock run of the event. Everyone was wondering if Wilson could back up his first leg of two world records, a mind-numbing 6.53 at 213.27 recorded on Saturday. Wilson launched the yellow Mercury Cougar and by 1000 feet, it was evident that he was marching to a different tune than the rest of the pack. The scoreboards rang out Wilson's triumph - 6.55 at 213.23 mph! Gene Wilson had bombed the IHRA Pro Stock world records DEEP into the 6.50s and well over 213 mph. Oh... I have absolutely no idea what Jason Collins ran in the other lane...
Next up were the neat Screamin' Eagle Nitro Harleys. These guys are insane! One of the little tidbits of info I pull out of my announcer's bag of tricks when the bikes run is to inform the fans that the nitro bikes don't set their front wheel down until the eighth mile mark. From my vantage point at the 1000-foot mark, I can see that I've been lying all these years... These guys don't set the front wheel down until WAY PAST the eighth mile mark!
Sixty-four year old Ray Price -- who, let me state right now, is THE MAN - lined up against Doug Vancil in their first round race. Price left hard and immediately went into a wheelstand that he controlled all the way down the track. At the 660-foot mark, his front wheel was STILL three feet off the track surface! He muscled it back down to beat Vancil with a 7.06! Incredible! Up next was Mancuso, who in addition to taking a great 6.57 to 6.58 win over his opponent, didn't set HIS front wheel down until well past the 1000-foot mark! I came away from this race with a new respect for the raw power and excitement of these machines and their riders.
Pro Funny Car kicked off with a resurgent Fred Tigges facing Bobby Baucom's Rampage machine. Tigges went 5.95 at a booming 242.84 as Baucom broke on the line. Dale Brand then took a coasting single in the Co-Line Metal Stamping car when Paul Lee didn't show for the first round. The announcer was surprised at the no show, but WE all knew it right? (wink). John Vouros then took a great 5.87, 237.38 win over Dave Ray's troubled 8.37, and folks began to wonder about the left lane.
Up next were Mark Thomas in the Ethanol Performs Dodge Avenger against Bunny Burkett in the, you guessed it, Ethanol Performs "Bunny and the Boys" Dodge Avenger. Lots of subplots swirled around this match-up. Move closer and let me tell ya about it. First of all, the Ethanol Performs folks were in attendance, and they were hosting congressional staffers for a day of racing, beer drinking, and BBQ rib eating. Now THAT'S how to get through to the Midwest congressmen - get their staffs to a drag race to see the stuff in heavy-duty action. This was a nice bunch and Bunny even pulled me over for photos and ribs. Thanks, Bun... I talked to Mark Thomas over there, as well, and was reminded that he is one of the sport's truly nice guys.
SO anyway, there we are, Thomas versus Bunny, Ethanol versus Ethanol, World Championship points chaser versus beloved match racer, with the sponsors wondering why it couldn't have been the final. Thomas was there because of the incredible horsepower provided him by crewchief Jim Lape. Bunny was there because of an all night thrash on Friday to completely rebuild a bullet from the bare block, followed by a conservative 6.10 to squeak into the show.
Next came the burnouts, and that's subplot two. Bunny has this HUGE American flag that she displays during her burnouts. She mounts a long flagpole right through he injector hole in the body and flies the colors proudly on a patented half-track burnout. Bunny says she told the Thomas crew that she was going to do a half track burnout and that once she completed it and backed up, she would wait for as long as they needed to complete their burnout and get ready for the match. If that was the agreement, then the Mark Thomas team must have forgotten it, because Thomas came out immediately, laid down a short burnout, and then backed up quickly.
Bunny went into her 660-foot smoker, flag waving, and was still coasting at 900 feet. She then began to back up, but by now the team was getting hassled by the officials to get her back in to the line right now! The Bunster is neither rattled nor hurried after 40 years in the seat; she went back and did her thing. At the green, Bunny murdered Thomas on the lights. The pink and black car had a huge lead on the green car and it looked like a major upset was in the works until the Bunny and the Boys machine tossed the blower belt and Mark Thomas drove by for a 5.92, 240.51 win. A look at the computer later revealed that Bunny was indeed on her way to a high 5.90, a number that would have easily taken out the four-time world champ based on the reaction times. More on this later...
The first good race of the first round occurred next, as Ronnie Midyette defeated the surprising Mike Comella on a holeshot, 5.99/231 to 5.97, 236. The race proved three things: 1) that Rockingham finalist Midyette is no fluke, 2) that Comella's 5.85/240 qualifier was no fluke (and that the guy will only get better as he goes on to his FOURTH event and beyond), and 3) The left lane might just not be as bad as folks were starting to think. That third point was proven in spades as Terry McMillen upset Laurie Cannister with a left lane 5.87, 235.93 that easily defeated the Girl Power machine's 5.98, 235.93. It was by far the best ever run for McMillen's Amalie Motor Oil machine.
Up next were NHRA Division 1 Roots blower stalwart Bruce Mullins and Larry Dobbs in the Sportz Truck Tent Corvette. Mullins and team made one run on Friday - a killer 5.869 at 235 mph - and put the car back in the trailer until Sunday morning. The War Horse Mustang features the best stuff from Brad Anderson, but from back when Brad Anderson himself was running it! The heads are a 15 year old combination and the rest of the engine setup is stark indeed compared to the other high tech offerings in the category. Still, the scrappy Virginia team coaxes fives from the combination and currently ranks fifth in NHRA's killer Division One. You know the place, the realm of Manzo, Newberry, Bartone, and other 5.60 screw blower players like Paul Gill, Fran Monaghan, and others.
The Mullins team couldn't spare an extra run, because they need to attend NHRA Maple Grove, followed by the Division Two race at Bristol to retain their points position. Top five racers get free entry into the races the following year - a benefit worth about $3000 in cold cash. Dobbs seemed up to the challenge. The Canadian racer was hitting career best times at MIR, as were so many others. At the green, Dobbs grabbed a slight .478 to .480 holeshot. The two cars stayed glued together all the way down the track until the very end, where Bruce Mullins and the War Horse pulled ahead to record a 5.94, 235.19 to 5.95, 233.84 mph win. GREAT race!
In the final race of the round, Jimmy Rector took out Tony Bogolo's unlettered Olds Achieva with a stout 5.86, 239.57 mph run to keep his world championship hopes alive. Bogolo was with him for most of the way, but big smoke at the top end resulted when the Hemi died. Bogolo slowed to a 6.22 at 193.21.
A quick check of the Bruce Mullins camp showed Bruce and crew members Rob Ostrander, Scott Ankrom, and Mike Yohn, hard at work replacing the clutch disks. Bruce stated that he nearly burned the clutch out of it on the starting line in the first round match.
Back on the track, Pro Mod was up. Mike Lockwood beat Mitch Stott (who must have gotten in because someone broke - on Saturday night, his brother Quain bumped him out of the program). Lockwood went 6.54, 213 to take out the Radiac Abrasives machine. Ed Hoover and Indy winner Ronnie Hood then staged a great race. Hoover squeaked out a win 6.31, 223.91 to 6.32, 222.03. Shannon Jenkins and Marc Hemling then had a bizarre encounter. From my vantage point at 1200 feet, I couldn't make out what had happened, but the announcer stated that both cars
had broken. That couldn't be the case because Jenkins' Iceman '68 Camaro came blowing by on the top end to win a strange 6.94, 217.77 to 7.79, 212.09 race. Obviously, something happened to scrub off lots of ET from each car, but the speeds showed they were still under power.
Mike Janis then lined up against Quain Stott. Janis had rotated the earth on Saturday with the quickest run in Pro Mod history, a 6.112 at 230.53 mph. A few quick taps of the calculator showed that he needed to run 6.173 at 228.22 to back up the run for the new world records. The newly crowned World Champion leapt off the line and headed toward history, opening several car lengths on Stott by the time he crossed the finish line. The number? 6.173 at 229.90! He got both records! Man, talk about shaving it close... a 6.174 would not have done the job for him... Oh yeah, Stott went 6.45, 221.60.
Up next was Fred Hahn, who not only lost the world championship to Janis, but also lost Saturday's thunder when his own 6.12, 230.49 numbers were eclipsed by the Jan-Cen Racing machine. Hahn got a measure of revenge, however, as he blew through the quarter mile to retake the speed record with a fantastic 231.20 mph pass in 6.16 seconds! It looked like Hahn and Oddy were not going to go down without a fight! Kevin O'Dell was hopelessly outdistanced and coasted through seconds later.
Chip King, who won at MIR last year, ran a good 6.30, 223.54 in the Indy Cylinder Heads machine to defeat Al Billes shut off 11.41. Again, doubts started being raised about the left lane. All the winning runs had occurred in the right. Alan Pittman went 6.26 at 225.22 to beat Steve Cossis at 8.24, 116. Texan Thomas Patterson's PMS Excavating '63 ''Vette went 6.26 at only 209.23 as he smoked a motor while beating Harold Martin, who could only muster a 9.19 at 121 in the left lane.
Round two pro action kicked off with the Mountain Motor Pro Stocks again. Doug Kirk solidified his co-favorite status with a killer 6.57, 211.53 defeat of John Bartunek's 6.71, 208.39. Terry Leggett then scored one of the upsets of the day as he went 6.78, 203.83 to defeat Tim Nabors, who slowed to an 8.29 at 116. Ron Miller stayed sharp with a 6.59, 211.20 victory over Tony Fox's Mustang at 6.68, 210.05. Brian Gahm then took giant killing to a new level as he took out Gene Wilson. Wilson somehow lost a tenth at the wrong time. Gahm recorded a 6.60, 210.64 to defeat the new World Champion's 6.63 at 211.96.
The funnies were up next and the round kicked off with a real barn burner. Low qualifier Dale Brand coasted through in round one, so he did not have lane choice over Jimmy Rector. Nonetheless, he got the win in a terrific race, 5.80, 240.04 to 5.82, 240.21. Mark Thomas faced Bruce Mullins next and had a chance to extend his points lead over nearest challenger Rector, who had just lost. Thomas had lane choice, but inexplicably chose the left lane. Thomas again did a short burnout, and backed up quickly. At the green. Mullins grabbed the holeshot, then extended his lead at every increment, defeating the four time world champ with a 5.93, 233.20 to Thomas's 6.01, 239.61. Back at the starting line, Bunny Burkett nearly jumped into the arms of Mullins crewmember Scott Ankrom when the Mustang lit the win light. The Bunster was still clearly upset about her team match-up in round one. John Vouros then took an impressive 5.85, 238.98 win over Terry McMillen's 6.04, 214.25, and Fred Tigges took out Ronnie Midyette's Charmarie Sims Foundation car in a great race, 5.93, 243.72 to 5.98, 232.91.
Pro Mod round two kicked off with a great nitrous versus blower battle between Shannon Jenkins and Alan Pittman. It was hammer and tong all the way, with Jenkins pulling out a narrow 6.26, 224.28 to 6.27, 225.60 victory. Mike Janis stayed head and shoulders above the competition with a 6.18, 229.63 victory over Mike Lockwood's improved 6.38, 222.77. Chip King improved to a 6.27, 225.03 win over Thomas Patterson's hurt 8.13, 117. The Janis/Hahn slugfest then came to a disappointing end, as Hahn and Oddy could not return after their record 231 mph blast. Ed Hoover singled to a 12 second victory.
Back in the FC pits, Bunny Burkett's crew pitched in to help Bruce Mullins patch the War Horse together for one more round. The car was prepared within the allotted hour, but then came the rains. Just a drizzle, nothing too bad, but it persisted for over an hour. When the rain stopped, but track crew got busy and Top Sportsman racing got underway, but OH NO, one of the first pair of Top Sportsman cars blew oil down the entire length of the right lane. Back out came the PTS team, while everybody waited and the track kept getting colder. All in all, it took two and a half hours to get back to action and the Top Sportsman round continued. The right lane seemed to be great, but the left lane was even worse than before. All three cars that ran in that lane lost badly, and it those racers were said to have stormed the tower, looking for answers. I didn't see any reruns later, but the officials knew the left lane was bad because the PTS came back out for another 15-30 minutes to work on the lane before bringing out the funny cars.
Funny Car round three began with John Vouros Competition Plus.com machine facing Bruce Mullins and the War Horse. While we are at it, just how does Bobby Bennett sponsor both a Pro Funny Car and Steve Cossis's Pro Mod Corvette? They must make a lot more money over there at Competition Plus.com than we do here at draglist.com <g>! I'm open to any money-making secrets anybody has... But back to the racing... Vouros and Mullins left pretty much together and it was close for the first half, but the War Horse slowed considerably as Vouros' bright orange and yellow machine took an easy win with a 5.87, 237.84 to Mullins' slowing 7.32, 128.14. In the other pair, Dale Brand absolutely ROCKED THE HOUSE with a 5.72 at 242.28 mph! It was the quickest run in the history of the IHRA, including Scott Weis's injected nitro car from 1999. It was fair to say to NOBODY was ready for a 5.72 at this point. Fred Tigges shut off with parts breakage...
In Pro Stock, Brian Gahm's Mustang lined up against Ron Miller's Monte Carlo in what looked to be an excellent Ford versus Chevy match-up. It was, but Miller lost a step. Gahm stayed consistent to take a 6.60, 210.87 to 6.64, 209.85 win. The next pair was Terry Leggett and Doug Kirk. Leggett, who had survived by sheer luck all day, looked to be in deep trouble against Kirk's 6.50 car. But again, Leggett proved that he must have had a horseshoe placed in a strategic anatomical location, as Kirk had problems. I was at 1200 feet again, so I was somewhat perplexed when Leggett's 9.33 beat Kirk's 9.14, but I later learned that Doug Kirk had fouled. There would be no GM winner at this race.
In Pro Mod, we had a nitrous battle and a blown battle facing off to guarantee a blower versus nitrous showdown in the final. Ed Hoover strapped a huge holeshot on Shannon Jenkins in their race, but the Iceman had the power to drive around the
Trussell Bros. Corvette to take a narrow 6.36, 223.50 to 6.42, 222.95 win. The margin of victory was .008 seconds, and right there at the top end, it showed. Mike Janis stayed amazing, as his 6.170, 230.29 defeated Chip King's respectable 6.29, 224.77.
Back in the pits, the cause of Bruce Mullins abrupt slowdown had been found. The clutch completely came apart. In doing so, it zinged the motor to about ten thousand RPM, which
threw the blower belt with such force that it took a huge chunk out of the injector scoop and bent the butterflies! What a mess. Bruce related that when rolling forward on his burnout, the clutch pedal kept coming up and coming up and wouldn't engage. Finally it did and the car moved forward. But Mullins knew something was wrong at that point. It was a good outing for the NHRA team and there were nothing but smiles all around. NHRA Maple Grove looks pretty iffy at this point, however, because the team just doesn't know how extensive the damage is to the engine. They wanted to go to Maple Grove, but they feel they MUST attend the Division Two race in Bristol to solidify their Division One points standings. That's the goal
The Pro Finals rolled around sometime later. Ray Price, at 64, won the Screamin' Eagle Nitro Harley title. This guy is just plain BAD! Dale Brand defeated John Vouros in Pro Funny Car, his 5.773 at 241.84 not only defeating Vouros's great 5.84, 239.19, but also backing up the 5.722 as the new IHRA ET record. Mike Janis singled to a ten second shut off as Shannon Jenkins's car was too badly damaged to make the final. And in a battle of Ford Mustangs, Brian Gahm claimed his second IHRA victory of the 2001 season in a win over Terry Leggett, 6.59, 211.10 to 6.69, 207.78.
The IHRA President's Cup again was a smorgasbord of fantastic numbers. Every
IHRA Pro Record except the Funny Car Speed was reset and reset BIG. If you get a chance, come down to southern Maryland next year to take it in. I'll be glad to show you around the new facility, and maybe we can witness some IHRA Top Fuelers in the low 4.50s or even 4.40s! See you next year!