LEICESTER, NY (July 14, 2000) - For the moment, Australian-born driver, Troy Critchley, has placed the Johnny Rocca-owned '49 Mercury "Ironhorse" into the 10th qualifying position in Pro Modified at the CARQUEST Empire Nationals, at...
LEICESTER, NY (July 14, 2000) - For the moment, Australian-born driver, Troy Critchley, has placed the Johnny Rocca-owned '49 Mercury "Ironhorse" into the 10th qualifying position in Pro Modified at the CARQUEST Empire Nationals, at New York International Raceway Park, in Leicester, NY. Good enough for now, but the final two qualifying runs today could carry more than just the immediate determination of Sunday's elimination ladder at the sixth of 12 national events sanctioned by the Norwalk, OH-based International Hot Rod Association (IHRA).
To the point, the future of one of drag racing's most popular teams is poised at the brink of self-imposed retirement, the result of Rocca's high-profile resentment toward recently-announced rules changes by the IHRA aimed at slowing down the current performance advantage by the supercharged machines over their nitrous-fed counterparts.
Longtime car-owner and driver-turned crew chief, Rocca, a veteran of 40-plus seasons in drag racing, is making it clear that their run at 6.497 seconds, although the quickest pass by a blown entry thus far at the event, is not where the team hopes to be to remain competitive.
"We need to be in the top half of the (16-car) field," said Rocca shortly after the run. "We were the quickest of the blown cars today, although the motor started going away at the finish line, resulting in a 201 mile-per-hour speed. "There's probably just a couple of hundredths (of a second) remaining in our tune-up," he continued.
With improving track conditions today, that could help their chances, although Rocca feels the opposite.
"I'll tell you one thing, I'm not in this professional class to be cannon fodder for the rest of the troops," he continued. "I've looked at past records from this event, which currently has an extremely slick track surface, and the nitrous cars should improve handily by the end of the final session. "We'll just have to wait and see, but I'm not feeling like we can get a whole lot more out of the combination."
Also going against the team is today's forecast - rain. Rocca is at least confident that the rules changes which forced his hand toward leaving the sport will not be altered anymore in 2000, the result of a meeting he had with IHRA owner and president, Bill Bader, last Monday at their headquarters in Ohio.
"He promised me that he definitely would not change the rules again this year," he said. "I told him I don't care what he wants to change - as long as it's when the season is over in October."
In the meantime, the Prolong Super Lubricants/Somerset Refinery, Inc.-sponsored "Ironhorse" and its many fans hope the former world record-holding team postpones its ride into the proverbial sunset, as Rocca has stated that the New York race might indeed be their final IHRA national event.
They're also hoping that Rocca, a member of the Tuscarora Tribe of Native American Indians, can gear up and summon the spirits one more time. And perform a rain dance - in reverse.