IHRA Amalie North American Nationals
By Billy Anderson
The fifth annual IHRA Amalie North American
Nationals took place September 8-10 at New England Dragway, and did not
disappoint. Epping, NH, was once again the home to classic drag racing story
lines: world record performances, upsets, exciting finals, close racing, and
stories of epic proportion. The 2000 edition of the event surpassed its
While points leaders Paul Romine and Bruce Litton were
garnering all the press heading into the event, Clay Millican and Jim Head
excelled in performance. Millican opened qualifying in the eAuto.com
dragster with a 4.74, 310.84 performance on Friday. Head struck back with a
4.72 in Saturday's opening session, but it was Millican ultimately landing
the pole position by resetting the IHRA World Record with a 4.715, 310.20
pass. During the New England Dodge Dealers Night of Fire, Millican attempted
to rotate the earth and failed, as Head set Low ET of the session at 4.74.
Litton and Romine were paired up for round one after
qualifying fourth and fifth respectively. Litton reset the IHRA speed record
with a 4.78, 313.37 pass as Romine smoked the tires. Head continued his
reign of terror with a 4.76, 309.63 to defeat Wayne Bailey. Millican shut
down to a 5.17 in an easy win over Louie Allison. The other round one winner
was Snap-On Tools driver Jim Bailey who defeated rookie J.R. Todd in the
best race of the round, 4.86 to 4.90.
The semi-finals featured possibly the best IHRA Top Fuel
racing of the year. Mike Kloeber tuned Millican to a new IHRA World ET
record and both ends of the track record with a 4.683, 316.97 pass that
narrowly beat Litton's 4.79, 312.15 from the Wix Filters entry. Not one to
be left out, Head answered back with a 4.73, 304.60 as Bailey smoked the
In the final, both cars hooked up in the best conditions of
the weekend. A consistent Head scored his first IHRA victory in over a
decade, and first national event victory since Memphis 1997 as the former
U.S. Nationals champion ran a 4.75, 306.74. Millican picked the wrong time
to fall off pace as his 4.77, 298.73 was edged out. With the final round
appearance, Millican has put himself in contention for the 2000 Summit Top
Doug Vancil scored a Nitro Harley victory for Vance &
Hines by using quick, consistent numbers, just like Jim Head in Top Fuel.
Vancil did not score the headlines in qualifying, although
his string of 6.73, 6.66, and 6.60 numbers were impressive. Instead, it was
Jim McClure who electrified the New England Dodge Dealers Night of Fire
audience with a number one qualifying 6.50, 214.76 from his Harley. The
speed served as a back up to an earlier 216.76-mph charge for a new IHRA
Eliminations day was a whole different story, as McClure
broke in his round one race and watched Jack Romine win with a 7.09. Vancil
recorded the best winning lap of the round, a 6.621, 214.62 to best Ray
Price's 6.620, 205.79, but found himself in good company when Jay Turner
ran a 6.64, 206.10 over Johnny Mancuso in the battle of the only two Nitro
Harley IHRA Champions.
Points leader Turner broke in his match-up with Vancil, who
would have been tough at a 6.58, 212.40 lap. Meeting him in the final would
be Mancuso team driver Steve Stordeur. Stordeur smoked the tires in round
one while beating defending event champion Bill Furr, then picked up to a
6.85, 210.21 for a semi-final win over Jack Romine's 6.94.
In the final, Stordeur was ahead until just past half-track
when his engine gave up, allowing Vancil to storm past with a 6.56, 206.70,
Low ET of eliminations. Like Head, it was Vancil's first victory of the
2000 IHRA season.
The blower vs. nitrous controversy only heated up in
Epping. Troy Critchley put forth a near dominating performance in Johnny
Rocca's Prolong Ironhorse Mercury with a new blower created by Rocca
Critchley opened qualifying with a 6.28 and never looked
back. In weather that favored blower cars anyway, Al Billes and Fred Hahn
qualified second and fourth respectively; both were gone after one round,
victims of tire shake. Quain Stott set top speed in qualifying with a 6.36,
228.58, which he failed to backup for a world record. Stott lost in round
two to Steve Vick after an aggressive launch turned scary and Stott was
forced to shut off. Meanwhile, Quain's brother Mitch Stott was the highest
qualified nitrous driver, and he used his 6.32 momentum to bring him into
the final round.
Stott's Radiac Maniac Corvette opened with a narrow win
over Billy Harper's Viper, 6.40, 222.95 to 6.41, 219.61. Harper's
teammate, Jenkins, also was defeated after the Iceman Viper opened a large
lead on Stott. Jenkins blew an engine and watched as Stott won at a 6.43,
222.87 performance. In the semi-finals, Stott employed the same method when
Ronnie Hood lost an engine while leading the race. Stott's 6.35, 223.95
set up his final round match with Critchley.
Critchley was deadly en route to his first ever IHRA
national event win, setting Low ET of every round. A 6.27, 222.47 opening
shot sent Dale Brinsfield home. Brinsfield had qualified on the bump of the
quickest field in IHRA history at 6.446. That win set up a round two meeting
with Alan Pittman's blown Willys, the second quickest car of round one at
6.34. Pittman slowed to a 6.38, 220.37 while Critchley set Low ET in the
heat of the day, 6.24, 225.49.
In the semi-finals, Critchley found himself matched with
Vick. In 1999 at this event, Vick holeshot Critchley in the same round and
won the race. Critchley went in deep and proceeded to a 6.29, 222.95 as Vick
shook and shut-off. The final paired the quickest blower car against the
quickest nitrous car, and Critchley narrowly pulled out the win, 6.30,
224.28 to 6.33, 224.06.
Entering the 1999 edition of the IHRA Amalie North American
Nationals, the season of Pro Stock was dominated by Fords as Chevrolets had
failed to earn a winner's circle all year. That all changed in Epping when
John Montecalvo took his Citgo Monte Carlo to victory. Entering the 2000
event, the Ford contingent had failed to collect a win. Once again, Epping
proved to be the transition point when Jon Yoak's Probe collected the win
in mountain motor 800-plus cubic inch action.
Yoak was not the favored Ford entering eliminations after
Tom Lee set a new track record in his Autolite Mustang with a 6.628, 209.89.
Lee marched through the early rounds over Angelo Alesci and Carl Baker with
6.68 ETs to meet Yoak in the semi-finals. Yoak was busy resetting Top Speed
with a 6.67, 210.41 round one win over Wally Stroupe's 6.75 along with a
6.67, 210.47 win over Gene Wilson. Lee shook, sending Yoak into the final
with a 6.65, 210.60 pass.
The final was guaranteed one GM product when Jerry Yeoman
and Montecalvo paired up. While Yeoman was beating John Nobile and Floyd
Cheek with times of 6.66 and 6.67, Montecalvo was counting points. In a
pivotal round two pairing, he beat the driver one point behind him in the
points chase, Ron Miller. Leader Montecalvo ran a 6.69, 207.85 to Miller's
6.70, 209.01. Montecalvo fell off to a 6.74, 207.59 as Yeoman claimed lane
choice for the final with a 6.64, 208.88 lap.
In an incredibly close final, Yoak's 6.650, 210.64 from
his Probe beat Yeoman's 6.650, 208.71 from the Pontiac, and gave Ford its
first win of the year, and aided Yoak's cause for a second IHRA
ALCOHOL FUNNY CAR
For the third year in a row, the points leader in Alcohol
Funny Car entering the Amalie North American Nationals won the event. For
the first time in two years, it was not Von Smith. Instead, it was Scott
Weney who scored in one of the most exciting eliminators of the weekend.
Focus changed hands numerous times, as upsets and shockers peppered the day,
except in the final. Since the IHRA race took the place of the Fall Funny
Car Nationals, it only seems appropriate that Alcohol Funny Car contained
the most stories.
The biggest news early in the event was from Jim Lape. Lape
opened qualifying with a stunning 5.761, 243.77 blast that was the best run
ever for an IHRA Alcohol Funny Car. Unfortunately for Lape, he was not able
to back it up or use it as a catalyst for an event win. Lape ran a 5.88 in
Saturday qualifying, and did not participate in the New England Dodge
Dealers Night of Fire, knowing that the data he collected from that run
would mean nothing on race day.
Lape opened with a 5.89, 235.60 over a broken Bruce
Peterson, Jr. However, the BNR-powered Camaro could not return for round
two, handing the win to local favorite Dave Ray, who had won the 2000 Season
Opener. Ray's side of the ladder opened considerably when 1999 finalists
Von Smith and Fred Tigges lost in consecutive round one pairings. Larry
Dobbs advanced to the semi-finals to face Ray's Butler Construction
Cutlass. In that race, Ray used a holeshot to win, 6.10 to 6.08.
In the other half of the semi-finals, Weney would have run
1998 event runner-up Jimmy Rector. Unfortunately for Rector, who did set an
IHRA Speed Record at 242.80 in round one, his day ended earlier than he
hoped when his Avenger crashed into the wall following a quarterfinal
victory over George McNeil. The right-hand side of the body was wiped out,
as Rector emerged unhurt. Weney's 5.99, 233.83 single pass moved him into
the favorite's position.
Ray, hoping to bring home victory for the local New England
Alcohol contingent, gave a good account of himself in the final with a 6.09,
230.41, but was still beaten by Weney's 5.98, 232.75 in the Sheetz Racing
In Top Fuel, Jim Head and Clay Millican battled for top
honors. In Pro Outlaw, it was Laurie Cannister and Mick Snyder who traded
momentum. Cannister opened with her Nicoderm/Mopar dragster at a 6.17
Friday. Snyder answered back with a 6.11 in Saturday's opening session.
Both drivers ran 6.097 during the New England Dodge Dealers Night of Fire;
Snyder took the pole with a better speed by .04 mph, 218.72 to 218.68.
Both drivers picked up for round one (6.04 for Cannister and
6.08 for Snyder) but it was Mike Decker who temporarily stole the spotlight
with a 6.021, 221.38 pass in his supercharged dragster. Snyder did not let
that deter him in the semi-finals, as the son of the two-time defending
champion of this event also answered Cannister's challenge with a 6.04,
218.02 when Decker broke. Cannister lost lane choice for the final with a
6.05. 220.91 over Dave Christensen's game 6.28.
Larry Snyder had eked out a win over Cannister in 1999 at
this race, but son Mick could not find the same magic. The Snyder
Motorsports/Spitzer Chassis fell off-pace to a 6.15, 215.75 while Cannister
stayed on course for victory at 6.04, 219.26.
The theme in the Sportsman categories seemed to be double
victories as both Dan Fletcher (Super Stock and Stock) and Glenn Ferguson
(Super Rod and Hot Rod) won two titles. They were not the first to do it at
this event. Fletcher and Ferguson joined Anthony Bertozzi (Top Dragster and
Modified in 1993) and Rusty Cook (Quick Rod and Super Rod in 1998) as double
winners at the North American Nationals.
For Fletcher, his road was not easy. The touring superstar
qualified number one in Super Stock with his SS/HA '69 Camaro and never
looked back. After a round one bye, he defeated Missy Phillips and Bob
Harris before facing Steve Kipp's GT/JA '93 Ciera in the final. Kipp broke
out by .04 seconds as Fletcher stayed above his dial-in, a +.01 10.06.
For Stock, the road was a bit tougher. Fletcher opened with
a win over Jerry Stein's Teacher's Pet, followed by a win over Gene
Monahan. Both drivers fouled. After beating Jim Whitehead, Fletcher ousted
1992 event winner and former NHRA Division One champion Johnny Williams in a
double-breakout affair. For the semi-finals, Fletcher's D/SA '98 Firebird
defeated multiple-time national event winner Bob Letellier in another
double-breakout battle. In the final, Randy Tatman's J/CM '65 Coronet ran
a +.08 11.82, which was not enough against Fletcher's +.08 11.32.
Ferguson's path to the final in Super Rod was filled with
the northeast's best drivers. Mike Moniz, Jerry Pierce, Tom Salmeri, and
Vito Bosca all fell to the '70 Maverick from North Carolina. Local points
racer Carl Monroe took his '82 Charger to the final, beating IHRA regulars
Charlie Kenopic and, in the semi-finals, Steve Furr. Ferguson's 9.91 in
the final pushed Monroe under to a 9.87.
For Hot Rod, Ferguson's '66 Nova defeated all New England
Dragway racers. After opening with a bye, he beat Tyler Dube's '70 Nova,
Ray Knight's Mustang, Michele Leo, Robert Baptista, and in the final,
Brett Albert's '27-T Ford. Albert had received the Drag Review Editor's
Choice Award earlier in the day, but his 10.92, 134.16 was not enough
against Ferguson's 10.907, 136.16.
Sal Passarelli may not have won a Super Slammer Challenge
race at New England Dragway, but he scored the coveted Omega Top Sportsman
Quick 8 title. Passarelli made the show on his last pass, then beat number
one qualifier Ron Iannotti (6.44, 213.50) when Iannotti broke. Passarelli
took the Neon Ground Shaker blown Nova to a 6.73 win over Scott Johnson,
then beat Glen Maine's ‘67 Nova in the final with a 6.91.
Sandy Wilkins won Top Sportsman with his '99 Camaro on a
holeshot over Dwayne Silance's '99 Firebird. Wilkins' 7.92 (+.04) bested
Silance's 7.68 (+.02).
Bruno Massel, Jr. was looking to defend his Top Dragster
title, but Slate Cummings had other ideas in his Parts Pro dragster.
Cummings strapped a .503 light on Massel, and Massel's dead-on 7.11,
190.19 in the Expressautoparts.com dragster was not enough.
1992 event winner John Markwat took his C/ED to the win in
Modified Eliminator. Markwat defeated number one qualifier Paul Jannoni and
local favorite Russ Glaude in rounds two and three before meeting Rocky
Hummel's Kooler A/D. Hummel fouled and shut-down early.
Gary Guarriello won Quick Rod as the Dan Page Race Cars
Quick Rod series drivers filled the semi-finals. Points leader Eric Cabral
lost to Guarriello in the semi-finals on an 8.88 breakout pass. Rich
DiBonaventura ran an 8.88 as well, while Al Staffieri ran an 8.901, 168.70.
Staffieri repeated the semi-finalists' mistakes with an 8.88 in the final
that lost to Guarriello's safe 8.91.
The IHRA also provided exhibition action in the form of
Kenny Nelson's Cool Bus Wheelstander, and the Jet Dragsters of Jessica
"Queen of Diamonds" Willard and Toby "Odyssey"
Ehrmantraut along with Bob Motz's wild Jet Kenworth Truck.
With record-setting performances and first winners of the
year, drivers are already drooling for the 2001 edition of the IHRA Amalie
North American Nationals.