Sickles, Spiess Back Up Records in Toronto
Friday night, in almost perfect weather and track conditions, Steve Spiess (Manhattan, Ill.) and Jim Sickles (Caledonia, N.Y.) each set provisional IHRA world records during the first round of professional qualifying for the ACDelco Canadian Nationals at Toronto Motorsports Park. Saturday afternoon they both finished the job.
Spiess, campaigning a new '05 Chevy Cobalt, ran both the fastest and quickest Torco Race Fuels Pro Stock passes in IHRA history Friday evening when he clocked a 6.408 pass at 217.81 mph. Both marks topped the standing IHRA world records (Spiess' 6.426 pass at Rockingham in '05 and Brian Gahm's 217.39 run in San Antonio earlier this season), but were not official records until they were backed up. IHRA world records are not official until the driver registers a run within one percent of the provisional record at the same event.
Spiess was looking for a 6.472 elapsed time and a 215.64 mph speed to etch his name in the record book. His 6.444/217.21 pass Saturday afternoon was good enough to turn the trick. But Spiess was not done as he and Crew Chief Jason Been had a little surprise up their sleeves for the fans in the evening qualifying session.
Lenco Transmission started a program this season that will recognize the first 16 Torco Race Fuels Pro Stock drivers who run a sub-6.40 pass in official IHRA qualifying or competition. As of now it is a club with no members, but Spiess came as close as humanly possible during the evening qualifying session as he posted a 6.400 pass to miss entering the club by a thousandth of a second.
"The whole combination is working well," Spiess said. "I felt that the car was lazy and there was more in it. We ran the same tune-up as the night before because all the conditions were the same. So we really didn't step on it because last night was perfect."
Spiess currently leads the Torco Race Fuels Pro Stock world championship points race, and has been at or near the top of the Pro Stock heap all season. He has one national event victory this season, at Rockingham Dragway, and has a pair of runner up finishes.
"Everything is working well. Jon Kaase provides good power and Rick Jones builds a great chassis," he said. "I have to give special thanks to Bob Book, our carburetor guy, and Dave Hughes. They are working with some other teams, but we might have just hit on something.I don't know. I love the new Cobalt, it is a great car."
Been is thrilled with the Cobalt as well.
"My gosh it's a great car," he said. "Rick Jones built the car and it is the best one I've ever had. We have had six cars in the 10 years we've been doing this, and this one is by far the best."
Sickles also took care of his second matter of business in the Saturday early qualifying session. He needed to at least hit 244.11 miles an hour to back up his Friday 246.57 run and displace Laurie Cannister as the IHRA world speed record holder in the Funny Car class. He easily hit that number, registering a 245.45 pass to seal the deal. Sickles might have secured the world record, but two-time defending IHRA Funny Car World Champion Rob Atchison (London, Ont.) secured the #1 qualifying position.
Atchison's 5.760/243.33 set a new track elapsed time record and nudged Sickles into the #2 slot. Atchison has been the top Funny Car qualifier in six of seven Hooters IHRA national events this season, something he feels has attributed to his world championship points lead.
"There is a definite advantage to being the #1 qualifier," Atchison said. "When you are everyone is taking a shot at you, but that's where you want to be. You are the first person to get a bye and you can get a good shot at the racetrack. Good things happen when you are the #1 guy. We are just trying to earn our way to the finals whether it is through byes or getting to run a slower race car."
Eaton Cutler-Hammer driver Carl Spiering (Jordan Station, Ont.) found himself on top of the Torco Pro Modified qualifying ladder when all was said and done Saturday evening. Spiering's Friday evening 6.151 pass stood up as the field took shots at it Saturday. Jim Halsey (Street, Md.) claimed the #2 spot at 6.186 while defending Pro Mod World Champion Mike Janis (Lancaster, N.Y.) ended up #3.
Spiering was excited to be on top of the qualifying field for the first time in his career.
"To do it in front of a thousand Cutler fans at my home track was phenomenal," Spiering said. "Having all those people here with Cutler-Hammer was a lot of pressure. We went for the throat on that last run. We gave it everything we had and it was going to either go or it wasn't. And it didn't. We're really happy to have the mile per hour record here.we wanted the ET record as well but it didn't work out."
The Top Fuel battle between four-time defending champion Clay Millican (Drummonds, Tenn.) and Doug Foley (Sewell, N.J.) remained heated as Foley saved his best for last as he knocked Millican from the #1 qualifying position on the final Top Fuel pass of Saturday's qualifying session. Foley, the defending champion at Toronto Motorsports Park, ran a 4.640 to move into the top slot.
"Toronto's great," Foley said. "It's great to come back to the place where you won your first race because there are a lot of memories. After we had a rough weekend in Milan we remembered we had good things happen here last year and we focused on this weekend. We're looking real positive for tomorrow."