BUDDS CREEK, Md. (October 1, 2000) - The Johnny Rocca-owned USA Racing Team gained valuable ground in the International Hot Rod Association (IHRA) championship chase this past weekend, with his "Ironhorse" '49 Mercury moving up two point positions in the hotly-contested Pro Modified division.

The Presidents Cup Nationals, held at Maryland International Raceway, in Budds Creek, Md., was the ninth of 11 Summit Drag Racing national events sanctioned by the Norwalk, Oh-based IHRA.

It was a race filled with drama in the sport's premier and full-bodied division, as Rocca's Australian-born hired driver, Troy Critchley, made the 16-car eliminator on the team's third and final attempt, as the former record-holding and supercharged machine also tied for low elapsed time at 6.264-seconds in the process. The Prolong Super Lubricants/Somerset Refinery, Inc.-backed car's speed of 224.58 fell just short of the proverbial pole position, bested only by Chip King's identical et, and faster speed at 227.54.

Perhaps the biggest story of the weekend came from one of Rocca's main counterparts, with current point leader and nitrous oxide proponent, Quain Stott, failing to qualify, as his Inman, SC-based '63 Corvette proved unable to negotiate the newly-paved MIR quarter-mile surface.

Final eliminations began with Critchley taking a convincing win over the nitrous racecar owned and driven by Billy Harper, 6.300, 224.55 to Harper's slower time of 6.622 at 215.82 mph.

USA Racing's momentum ended in the second set, when Critchley left the starting line first, but was driven past by the event's eventual winner, Steve Vick, 6.350 at 223.73, to the Aussie's close behind time of 6.365, 223.25.

The second round finish, coupled with Stott's absence, moved the recent national event-winning team from fifth to third in the Summit Drag Racing world championship point race. In fact, Stott's recent domination has been nearly matched by current ET record-holder, Fred Hahn, who sits just two points behind in the chase, 580 to 578. Critchley's third place tally is 446, followed by Ronnie Hood, 445, and Quain's brother, Mitch Stott at 422.

Just two races remain on the 2000 calendar. The Mopar Parts World Finals, originally planned as the final event of the IHRA season, is scheduled for October 12-14, at Red River Raceway, near Shreveport, La. It will also host the highly anticipated, eight-car Mopar Performance Parts Pro Mod Shootout, of which Critchley and "Ironhorse" are defending champions.

The recently rained-out CARQUEST Autumn Nationals will now conclude the IHRA season, with division championships to be decided the weekend of November 3-5, at Rockingham Dragway, in Rockingham, NC.

Each of the 11 IHRA Summit Drag Racing events is nationally aired on the newly-renamed `The National Network" (TNN), with one-hour programs shown on Sundays, beginning at 10:30 p.m. (Eastern Standard Time).

Stay tuned for more news and information on the USA Racing Team's official website at