MILLICAN CLINCHES CHAMPIONSHIP WITH TOP FUEL WIN IN MARYLAND
Diehl, Smith, Stott and Parker Also Claim Torco President's Cup Nationals Wins
BUDDS CREEK, Md. (October 2, 2006) -- Two races after losing the Knoll Gas -- Torco Racing Fuels Pro Nitro Top Fuel points lead, Clay Millican, Drummonds, Tenn., has clinched his sixth consecutive IHRA world championship by defeating Rick Cooper in the final round of the Torco Racing Fuels President's Cup Nationals in Budds Creek, Md. Millican now leads Doug Foley by 117 points.
Other professional winners include Jeff Diehl (Nitro Funny Car), Ricky Smith (Pro Stock) Neal Parker (Alcohol Funny Car) and Quain Stott (Pro Modified).
Millican, who entered Top Fuel eliminations Sunday as the No. 3 qualified car, took out Kevin Jones in round one with a 4.685/314.97, then won against No. 1 qualifier TJ Zizzo to advance to the final with Cooper, who would have lane choice. Millican didn't make a clean pass, but didn't need one, as Cooper left the line early and lost with a red-light.
With this win, Millican has clinched the world championship, assuming he shows up at the final event, October 20 -- 22, in Rockingham, N.C., where he'll be granted the 31 bonus points IHRA awards for attending every national event. Foley, who missed this race due to injuries sustained during a race in Cayuga, Ontario, will not be able to make up the 148-point difference, even if he does show up to Rockingham.
"It's been one of the hardest years, but obviously it has been one of the most rewarding," Millican said. "Every guy on this team hung in there and did what they had to do. We never gave up...there is not a quitter on this team. It's very, very satisfying to win this championship. I wish we could have finished it out by racing Doug at the end, but Doug will be back."
Diehl won his first IHRA Knoll Gas -- Torco Racing Fuels Pro Nitro Funny Car Ironman when he defeated the heavily favored Paul Lee, who was making his fourth final round appearance of the year. Lee, who has yet to win, has proven he's capable of making 4-second runs, but Diehl had the better car in the final. En route to his win, Diehl took out Dale Creasy Jr. in round one and Jack Wyatt in round two. Creasy and Wyatt are locked in the championship battle.
"We came in here with a new car and were going to treat it as a test session," Diehl said. "Then we got to the first round and I just lose it. All the sudden I want to do something for this team, I know I have to do something for this team. I got braver and the car started reacting. Even though I didn't make it all the way to the finish line I wasn't going to quit until the car quit. There was no way I was going to stop."
In his first Torco's CompetitionPlus.com Pro Stock final of the year, Smith used a holeshot -- 0.042 to 0.084 -- to defeat a faster Tony Gillig. The pair also engaged in a 30-second staging battle prior to the run. Smith took out Pete Berner, Brian Gahm and Bert Jackson before taking on Gillg, who defeated John Nobile, John Montecalvo and Robert Patrick in previous rounds. Gillig entered this race with the points lead, and will leave with it, 31 points ahead of Berner.
"That brought back old memories. It brought back memories of me and Ronnie Sox and Warren Johnson because we had those kinds of burndowns," said Smith, referring to the staging battle he had with Gillig in the final. "It really gets the fans into it. It came out in my favor this time, but could end up on the other side the next time. But I love the game and love being back over here in IHRA."
In the Alcohol Funny Car class, the upsets came early as defending world champion Rob Atchison, the current points leader when this race began, failed to qualify, opening the door for Thomas to take the points lead. Thomas defeated Tom Carter and Larry Dobbs, gaining more-and-more points with each round. He eventually met Parker in the final round, who had a solid car all weekend, but slightly slower than Thomas. Despite that, Parker used a holeshot to win the race, a 0.006 light to Thomas' 0.094, which was enough to put his 5.841 ET ahead of the five-time world champion's 5.773.
"This feels great," Parker said. "It's been six years since we've won a national event and that was in Pro Outlaw. To have a small budget team and be able to pull it out for the team, and do it on a holeshot, it doesn't get any better than that."
In somewhat unusual fashion, Stott won his second Torco's CompetitionPlus.com Pro Modified race of 2006 against teammate Tommy D'Aprile, who was in his second final or the year. The two left the starting line and coasted to the other end of the track, stopping just before the finish. Stott eventually crossed the line first, in 41-seconds at 25 mph and now leads the Pro Modified points by 10 over Glen Kerunsky, who Stott took out in the second round.
"For a lot of years I've watched these two-car teams, and sometimes not teammates, play the game of laying down and," Stott said. "That was the first time I ever did that. There weren't any team owners, it was Tommy's decision. We decided if we were going to do it we were not going to lie to our fans and not going to lie to our sponsors. We were going to let everyone know what we were doing. I've been knocked out of a lot of championships on the other side, and I'm still a long way from winning this one. But now we're back in the hunt."
Bo Kenney won the JEG'S Top Stock world championship run-off by defeating Monty Bogan Jr. Kenney lost traction off the starting line but Bogan crossed the center after a big wheel-stand. Kenney was awarded with the $40,000 prize, the biggest single payout of the weekend.
The next event on the 2006 eMax Drag Racing Series is the IHRA World Finals, October 20 -- 22, at Rockingham Dragway, Rockingham, N.C.