Foley takes Top Fuel Victory, Atchison, Harper and Berner also Winners at President's Cup Nationals It was a weekend of firsts at this weekend's 13th annual President Cup Nationals, and even though Top Fuel winner Doug Foley has already...
Foley takes Top Fuel Victory, Atchison, Harper and Berner also Winners at President's Cup Nationals
It was a weekend of firsts at this weekend's 13th annual President Cup Nationals, and even though Top Fuel winner Doug Foley has already celebrated one big win this season, his exciting victory over perennial champion Clay Millican here was certainly a landmark event for the Sewell, New Jersey rookie.
Joining Foley in the winner's circle were Billy Harper (Pro Modified), Rob Atchison (Funny Car) and Pete Berner (Pro Stock).
Foley, who qualified in the No. 2 spot, defeated Todd Paton and Bruce Litton on the way to his dream match-up with top qualifier Millican. In the final, Millican left first, .038 to .085, but Foley powered by Millican to trip the scoreboard lights first, 4.720, 309.49 to 4.782, 305.56.
"I had said that if we could beat Millican in a flat-out head-to-head race that it would mean more to me than the first win we had this year in Canada," Foley said. "This is just a huge accomplishment to beat such a great team, and I have to take my hat off to my team and my partner Tim Lewis. We have put together a championship-caliber team in a short period of time, and I can't be more excited."
For his part, Millican was gracious in defeat, saying "well, this just goes to show you how good this Top Fuel program is getting here in the IHRA. There are guys here now that can beat you, and we have to work harder to stay on top. I guess I was a little too quick to pull the trigger when the car went into tire shake in the final, but that's the way this deal is. In any case, it was a real entertaining race for the fans, and that's why we're out here."
In the Pro Modified final, points leader Mike Janis was looking to get a hammerlock on the 2004 championship, but he left the door open just a crack when he blew the tires off his supercharged '63 Corvette and watched as Billy Harper paced his nitrous-injected Dodge Viper to his first IHRA win.
"We've been working real hard to get the nitrous system on the car working right," Harper said. "It's actually been a problem for the last couple of racers, but we finally found something that has us going in the right direction again. We leaned on it pretty hard in the final and burned it up, but that's all right, because we won the race.
Janis, who said he and his team concentrate more on individual races than the year-end championship, was nevertheless upset at giving away the chance to put the title on ice. "We would have been in better shape in the points race if we would have won, that's for sure, but we still gained some points," he said. "I don't have any idea what happened in the final - we just blew the tires off at the hit. In any case, we need to look ahead to the last two races and see if we can wrap up the championship."
The Funny Car title fight is building up to be one huge blowout as perennial rivals Rob Atchison and Mark Thomas head into the last two events of the year separated by just one round of competition. This weekend in Maryland, perhaps the most important races of the year took place when the two faced off in the second round of eliminations. With the season literally on the line, Thomas left too soon, lighting the foul light and allowing Atchison to advance to the next round.
He went on to meet Joe Comella in the final, and again a mis-step by an opponent gave Atchison the win, moving him closer to Thomas in the overall standings.
"This was a fantastic weekend for our team," Atchison said. "We struggled a bit early on, qualifying in the ninth spot, but we worked through it. We had a tough group of guys to run against, but that second round against Mark was huge. By winning that one, there's just a round of competition between us with two races left to go. It's going to be a real brawl to the finish."
Veteran racer Comella was philosophical about the result of the final round, saying "I guess I had some brain fade or something in the final - I left before the tree came down and that was the end of it. We had a tough time figuring out the atmosphere here this weekend, but overall I think we did a pretty good job, and going to the final was really a good deal for this team."
Another first-time winner at MIR was Sunoco Pro Stock competitor Pete Berner, who outlasted Frank Gugliotta in a great final round of competition. The pair left the line together, with Gugliotta's .013 just slightly ahead of Berner's .016. The two battled the entire length of the quarter-mile, and at the stripe it was Berner crossing first, 6.511, 215.41 to Gugliotta's slowing 6.596, 213.27.
After the race, Berner said "I have to give this one to the team this weekend. They made the right calls every time, and our runs were very consistent. We're really excited about getting our first win in the IHRA - we've had some runner-up finishes, and we won the Sunoco Shootout in Norwalk, but this is an awesome feeling!"
For his part, Gugliotta said "we really had a good weekend, and going to the final against my friend Pete Berner was great. Of course we would have liked to have won the race, but as tough as this Pro Stock class is these days, just going as far as we did is an accomplishment. I can't think of anybody I'd rather race than Pete, and I'm glad that he was able to get his first win here this weekend."