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Drag Racing Story of the Day!

7th Annual Amalie North American Nationals

By Billy Anderson

The rich got richer during the 7th annual Amalie North American Nationals, as points leaders in three of the five Professional IHRA Hooters classes were victorious. Clay Millican (Top Fuel), Jimmy Rector (Alcohol Funny Car) and Brian Gahm (Pro Stock) all cushioned their respective points leads. Second place Steve Stordeur (Nitro Harley) and fourth place Mitch Stott (Pro Modified) also scored at fabled New England Dragway.

TOP FUEL

Millican joined Doug Herbert as a two-time North American Nationals Top Fuel winner with a dominating performance from the Werner Enterprises entry. Crew chief Mike Kloeber gave Millican a substantial advantage entering eliminations with a 4.74, 302.48 pass recorded during the New England Dodge Dealers Night of Fire. Bruce Litton and 1999 event winner Paul Romine were second and third respectively, at 4.86 and 4.88.

In round one, Romine appeared to take the advantage with a 4.78, 292.77 blast from the CarQuest dragster that ended Bobby Lagana Jr.'s hope for an upset victory. Litton's Lucas Oil entry was the second quickest run of the round, a 4.94, 298.47 that stopped local favorite Grant Flowers' 5.24, 280.25 from the Voodooist. Millican smoked the tires at the 330-foot clocks on a single, after Roger Dean could not make the call.

Romine's performance advantage disappeared in a cloud of smoke just off the starting line in the semi-finals, as Litton's consistent 4.91, 303.57 scored a victory for him. Millican returned to form with a 4.90, 295.14 that easily bested Louie Allison's smoked-in entry.

The final was one that was seen all over the IHRA Hooters tour, and Millican continued his dominance, scoring his 10th IHRA national event in a row. The Werner dragster set both ends of the performance marks with a 4.73, 316.08, as Litton dropped cylinders and fell back to a 5.06, 230.51.

The warm weather wasn't the only reason new track records were not set in Top Fuel. A rule change at the beginning of the year mandated the usage of a newer, safer Goodyear tire. The tire features a stiffer sidewall, and also a change in the engine combination for most teams to get down the track. Nitro cars in both sanctioning bodies have seen performances decrease a little over last season's numbers.

PRO MODIFIED

New England Dragway, with its proximity to sea level, has always been a track that has favored supercharged Pro Modified entries, and the 2002 edition was no exception.

The qualifying war produced new track records by Quain Stott, 6.16, 230.61. For Stott however, he did not get down the track on any of his other passes and was defeated by his own teammate, Paul Athey, in round one. The quickest driver during the New England Dodge Dealers Night of Fire was Mitch Stott, as he matched his #3 qualifying-6.22 to set-up his bonanza during eliminations.

Mitch Stott opened his march with a 6.32, 225.67 in the blown ‘63 Corvette that bested Pat Moore's close 6.36 in Ed Steffey's ‘57 Bel Air nitrous entry. In round two, Stott defeated a team that has never had good luck at the IHRA North American Nationals, Jim Oddy's Summit entry. Oddy, and driver Fred Hahn have never made it past round two, and the bad luck continued in 2002, suffering tire shake while Stott blasted to a 6.35, 202.15. In the semi-finals, Stott stopped defending champion Mike Janis' Jan-Cen blown ‘63 Corvette. Janis was hoping to become the first to win a second North American Nationals title in Pro Modified, but he shook the tires to allow Stott a 6.30 win, and lane choice over Shannon Jenkins' nitrous entry in the final.

Jenkins, fresh off a victory in Indianapolis one week prior, was the class of the field for most of eliminations. One of only six nitrous entries to qualify, Jenkins laid down Low E.T. of round one with a 6.29 defeat of 1999 event winner and current points leader, Al Billes. Another 6.29 was enough to beat Thomas Patterson in round two, to set up an all-nitrous affair in the semi-finals with 1992 event winner Ed Hoover.

Hoover, the only nitrous winner in the history of the IHRA North American Nationals, ran a 6.30, 224.47, but lost to Jenkins' ‘69 Camaro on a holeshot. Jenkins recorded a 6.31, 222.03.

Jenkins was hoping to take victory for the nitrous contingent, but Stott had other ideas, as the Radiac Maniac entry blasted to a huge holeshot lead off the line and never looked back, 6.31 - 6.29.

NITRO HARLEY

Stordeur started the weekend off well with a 6.38, 212.83 on Johnny Mancuso's entry that broke his own track E.T. record and placed him first in the field. He then called on a bit of luck to score his first round victory when he got out of shape on the launch. Luckily for him, opponent Mark Romine was smoking the tires. Both riders recovered, and Stordeur went on with a 7.78-7.94 run. The bike was tuned properly in the semi-finals, as a 6.44, 210.37 easily dealt out Mark Cox's 6.63.

Meeting Stordeur in the final was Mark Conner, who had done Stordeur a huge favor in the first round. Conner, riding Jim McClure's motorcycle, dealt out points leader and defending event champion Doug Vancil with a 6.47, 217.42. After a 6.60 - 6.57 holeshot win over Johnny Mancuso in the semi-finals, the McClure team was forced to deal with the other Mancuso machine.

Stordeur was just too much in the final, as a consistent 6.44, 213.13 drove around Conner's holeshot-aided 6.65, 197.45.

ALCOHOL FUNNY CAR

The Jimmy Rector/Dale Brand show continued at New England Dragway. The two most dominant teams on the IHRA Hooters tour in Alcohol Funny Car qualified one-two and also met in the final in Epping, NH.

Brand's Firebird claimed the top spot on the qualifying sheets with a 5.79, 239.19, and continued the dominance in eliminations. He set Low E.T. of round one with a 5.80, 241.15 defeat of George "of the Jungle" McNeil's 6.16. Brand followed with a 5.88 to defeat John Vouros' Competitionplus.com entry, and then a 5.86 to defeat Canada's Rob Atchison. Atchison had defeated New England's own David Rowe in the semi-finals, at an event where Rowe ran a career best E.T. of 5.85 to qualify fourth, but could not match those times in eliminations. Atchison suffered a fire in his semi-final match reminiscent of Rich Fenwick's Alcohol Funny Car fire at the 1993 IHRA Northeast Nitrous Nationals. Atchison emerged from the incident unscathed.

Rector landed in the second spot in the field with a 5.81 to start his march to defend his title at the event, much like Von Smith did in 1999 to defend his 1998 title.

In round one, Rector laid down a 5.84, 242.50 to best Dan Roman's 6.06, 235.56 from the Absolute Pleasure Firebird. Terry McMillen, in event sponsor Amalie's entry, put up a very good fight in the quarter-finals. Both entries shook the tires, with Rector driving around McMillen's holeshot by .005 seconds, 6.02 - 6.08. The semi-finals found fan favorite Laurie Cannister going down to defeat in a 5.86 - 5.86 tussle.

The final was the best race of the day, as Rector continued his incredible season with a 5.84, 241.71 win over Brand's 5.86, 241.37.

PRO STOCK

The Pro Stock cars are the class that generally enjoy the sea level conditions at New England Dragway the most and they proved it by qualifying the quickest Pro Stock field in IHRA history. Rick Jones' 6.626 from his Dodge Neon was the quickest bump qualifier ever, in a field led by Steve Williford's Cavalier, who set a new track E.T. record at 6.552. Williford bumped Jones in round one, who was promptly defeated by eventual winner Gahm.

The biggest news during qualifying was Jason Collins who reset the IHRA speed record with the fastest time in Pro Stock history, a 214.42 blast from his nondescript Cougar, backed up by a 213.87 pass during the New England Dodge Dealers Night of Fire. Collins continued his histrionics by defeating the hottest Pro Stock pilot John Konigshofer in round one. Konigshofer was coming off of two straight IHRA victories, but could not make it nine rounds in a row, as Collins' 6.64 beat the Canadian team's 6.65, despite qualifying in the bottom half of the field. Collins' day ended in round two at the hands of eventual runner-up Elijah Morton.

Gahm, unlike the two previous event winners Gene Wilson and Jon Yoak, who dominated from qualifying through to eliminations, snuck in from the number eight spot, but then proceeded to dominate eliminations. Gahm defeated John Bartunek, Williford, and Jeff Dobbins en route to the final. Morton's path to the final was Chris Holbrook, Collins, and Carl Baker's Summit Cougar.

Gahm ran a great 6.59, 211.66 to win the final over former Top Sportsman standout Morton's 6.61 in the all-Ford affair.

SPORTSMAN

The sportsman racing was again fast and furious, as the local New England contingent and other Northeast racers looked to take on the IHRA touring drivers in the hunt for the Hooters championships.

In Top Dragster, Britt Cummings was an easy winner when Bennie Ulmer, Jr. destroyed an engine on his semi-final bye run. Cummings had defeated Robert Brehm in the semi-finals, and had run consistent 7.4's all day in his Parts Pro dragster.

Gary Bingham won Top Sportsman for the first time at New England Dragway. The multi-time IHRA Series champion defeated Top Dragster winner Cummings in the final with a better run from his Doug Herbert Performance Parts Grand Am, a 7.43 on a 7.42 dial-in, versus a 7.54 on a 7.51 from Cummings' Firebird. Steve DeRosa's streak ended on a foul in the quarter-finals. The S-10 driver had won the 1999 Top Sportsman title, did not compete in that class in 2000, then returned in 2001 to "defend" his title, and entered the event on a 10-round win streak. After winning his first two rounds, DeRosa cut a .496 red-light, to lose to Gilmer Hinshaw, who would have been tough after cutting a .511 light in his Monte Carlo.

Former Pro Modified driver Chuck Nagy took the Modified title by defeating 1993 Modified titleist Anthony Bertozzi‘s Parts Pro B/D. Nagy cut a better light in his A/EA ‘97 Firebird, as both drivers ran a +.01 on their respective dial-ins.

Joe Santangelo, Jr. scored an easy win in Super Stock after multi-time IHRA national event winner Dean Ribeiro suffered engine problems in a .012 second victory over Allan Dame in the quarter-finals. Ribeiro managed to stage his GT/HA ‘85 Firebird on his semi-final bye run, but did not show up for the finals. Santangelo had defeated John Armstrong in the semi-finals.

Former NHRA Division One Champion Mark Dickerson took the Stock title in a double-breakout match with Jeff Coyne. Dickerson's F/SA ‘70 Duster was .01 seconds closer to his dial-in than Coyne's J/S ‘85 Camaro. Dickerson had defeated 1999 event winner Jim Harrington in the semi-finals, while Coyne took the measure of Jim Marshall.

Kent Hanley, the 1998 Super Stock event winner, added a Quick Rod trophy to his mantel with a final round defeat of a fouling Mike Sullivan. Hanley cruised through to an 8.899 after a .423 reaction time. Hanley had survived the closest match of the day in the semi-finals, when he bested Zac Biron by .0003 seconds, 8.941-8.939, after R.T.'s of .440 and .442 respectively.

Chuck Rothermel scored in Super Rod with a 9.91 defeat of defending champion Mark Horton. Horton's 9.94 from the Summit Firebird roadster was not enough. Rothermel's Grand Am had defeated Doug Marsters, Sr. in the semi-finals in an all-9.91 affair.

In Hot Rod, Bob Fuller's Rogers, AR-based ‘57 Corvette turned back the effort by Eddie Bolton's ‘67 Barracuda, 10.90 - 10.91.

SUMMARY

The 7th annual Amalie North American Nationals was significant in the fact that it produced the largest single-day crowd in the history of the event during the New England Dodge Dealers Night of Fire, which featured final session qualifying, along with wheelstanders, jets, fireworks, and Bob Motz's incredible Jet Truck. Not only did the event produce the quickest Pro Stock field in IHRA history, but the Pro Modified and Alcohol Funny Car fields were the quickest in the history of the event. The North American Nationals continues to thrive at fabled New England Dragway in Epping, NH.

Billy Anderson
Karp1149@aol.com

 

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