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
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
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.
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, 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.
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 -
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.
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.
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 Bertozzis 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.
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.