: LEESBURG, Va. (August 31, 2000) - While in the midst of a tumultuous and ever-changing season, veteran drag racer, Johnny Rocca, could possibly get his hands around something with permanence this weekend. That's because his hired driver,...
LEESBURG, Va. (August 31, 2000) - While in the midst of a tumultuous and ever-changing season, veteran drag racer, Johnny Rocca, could possibly get his hands around something with permanence this weekend.
That's because his hired driver, 28 year-old Troy Critchley, is the current Pro Modified division point leader in the Canadian Drag Racing Series (CDRS), and could secure the USA Racing Team's first-ever championship title this weekend, when the tour concludes at Cayuga International Raceway Park, in Cayuga, Canada.
The 16-car format will feature a regularly-scheduled qualifying and elimination program on Saturday and Sunday, Sept. 2-3, while the CDRS point title will be decided from points tallied after a separate run-off for qualified cars from a previously rained out event, rescheduled for Monday, Sept. 4.
For Rocca and his Australian-born driver, Critchley, such honors would be a milestone under normal circumstances. However, given this year's Pro Modified rule adjustments and resulting point spiral in the stateside International Hot Rod Association (IHRA), where the Prolong Super Lubricants/Somerset Refinery, Inc.-sponsored "Ironhorse" '49 Mercury has been relegated from front-runner to back-marker, the title would provide a major psychological boost, and something tangible to show for the team's hard-fought efforts.
"We're very focused and determined to go back to Canada and claim the championship, in what has become a very tight point race," said Rocca, a former driver with over four decades served in the straight-line sport.
"At least we know that, whatever we accomplish there, it will be the end result of something that `we' did, especially as a total team effort.
"Yes, it will please me tremendously to salvage a championship this season," he continued, "even though it cannot erase the poor judgement and preferential treatment which continues to hurt our chances on the part of the rule makers in the IHRA series."
Rocca's reference to the Norwalk, Oh-based IHRA, whose Summit Drag Racing events include a Pro Modified class containing supercharged and nitrous oxide-assisted vehicles, concerns a series of debilitating, mid-season rule restrictions, which have all but stifled the supercharged contingent, including the former elapsed time record-holding "Ironhorse", whose mark of 6.227-seconds was only recently broken.
Adding insult to injury, not only were the supercharged vehicles saddled with restrictions from which they have yet to recover, but those nitrous drivers who perhaps complained the loudest - and successfully lobbied for the rule changes, have now become the division's runaway point leaders and pending speed record-holder.
The IHRA has since begun to give back to the supercharged racers several rule modifications aimed at parity, including a recently announced 75-pound weight reduction. But, Rocca feels that, at this point, it's too late to salvage the season.
"I'm not too optimistic with the latest rule change from IHRA," he said. "It will make the car lighter on the top end (of the racetrack). But, it's not the answer.
"At least I'm encouraged with the fact that they are trying to rectify the wrongs," he further explained. "But, it doesn't show good sense, or good planning.
"I have a problem with that."
Prior to the rule changes, Rocca and Critchley had placed as high as fourth in the IHRA point standings, and seemed headed to the season-ending and prestigious eight-car Mopar Parts Pro Mod Shootout eliminator in Shreveport, La., of which they are the defending champions. Currently, they reside in seventh place, with four events remaining.
Hopefully, Rocca and the USA Racing team will continue their trend of good luck in Canada, where they have established the CDRS point lead on the strength of consistency and late-round appearances. In addition, they made their first-ever Pro Modified final round appearance several months ago in national event competition, during the IHRA/Mopar Parts Canadian Nationals, in Grand Bend, Ontario.
After the Canadian stint, the next event on the IHRA Summit Drag Racing tour will find "Ironhorse" in competition the following weekend, during the Parts Pro North American Nationals, in Epping, NH, Sept. 8-10.
Each IHRA Summit Drag Racing national event receives prime exposure on cable TV, via a tape-delayed basis, on TNN (The Nashville Network). These one-hour shows air each Sunday, at 10:30 p.m. (Eastern Standard Time).
Stay tuned for further developments, news and information on the team's website at www.usaracing.com.