Budds Creek, MD-Troy Critchley followed up Friday's amazing last ditch qualifying effort at the IHRA Expressautoparts.com Nationals by advancing to the second round during eliminations on Saturday. Critchley drove Johnny Rocca's gorgeous '49 Mercury to a first round victory over Billy Harper before losing an incredibly close race to eventual event winner, Steve Vick.
The weather was fantastic all weekend at Maryland International Raceway, but it still took Rocca and Critchley until the final qualifying session before they were securely in the show. It was high drama indeed as Critchley entered the staging beams qualified in the 26th position and looking to run quicker than a 6.44 to make the show. Johnny Rocca went into his traditional Native American dance when his "Ironhorse" thundered to an awesome 6.264 at 224.58 mph, which thrust Critchley up to the No.2 qualifying spot. Rocca and his Australian-born driver were near the top of the quickest 16-car field in Pro Modified history.
On Saturday, Critchley would square off against Harper during the opening round of eliminations in Mopar Pro Modified. Harper left first on Critchley with a .458 to .528 reaction time. The '49 Mercury was all over the lane but the Rocca horsepower carried Critchley to an impressive 6.30/224 win over Harper's 6.62/215. The "Iron Horse" would have lane choice over Vick in the second round.
Critchley was well aware of second round opponent Vick's nearly perfect .408 reaction time from the first round. He deep-staged against Vick, and while he had a quicker reaction time, he lost the advantage a near rolling start that conventional staging provides. That was what bit him in the end. In the closest race of the day in Pro Modified, Critchley put out the top bulb and left first with a .434 to .441 reaction time. The pair ran identical speeds as Vick pull out the win with a 6.35/223 to Critchley's 6.36/223.
Combined with his recent win at Epping, Critchley's quarterfinal finish at Budds Creek places him in third place in the IHRA Pro Modified point's standings. He is just 1 point ahead of fourth place Ronnie Hood and only twenty points ahead of Ed Hoover, in fifth place. There is little doubt that the "Ironhorse" will return to the warpath at the IHRA Mopar Parts World Finals in two weeks.