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Drag Racing Story of the Day!

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 advance billing.


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 tires.

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 Fuel Championship.


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 World Record. 

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 himself.

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 Championship.


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 Corvette.


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.

Billy Anderson


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