Epping Friday qualifying summary

Hometown Boy Makes Good-John Russo Takes Provisional Pole During Friday Night Qualifying at the Amalie Oil North American Nationals Coming into the 10th Annual Amalie Oil North American Nationals at New England Dragway, the weather forecast ...

Hometown Boy Makes Good-John Russo Takes Provisional Pole During Friday Night Qualifying at the Amalie Oil North American Nationals

Coming into the 10th Annual Amalie Oil North American Nationals at New England Dragway, the weather forecast indicated that fast times would be the order for the weekend. And while all the big names predictably turned in predictable good numbers, it was a local racer running a limited schedule that made the most noise.

John Russo, from Middleton, Mass., surprised the hometown crowd while taking the provisional pole in Torco Pro Modified. Russo ran a 6.157 at 230.53 mph, putting him ahead of Mike Janis (Lancaster, N.Y.), who ran a 6.164 at 233.76 mph. Janis easily reset his own track speed record, but it was Russo, who had never qualified number one in his career that made the New England crowd stand on its feet.

"Coming into the race, we were so optimistic, we were just trying to run a good number," Russo said.

With his hometown so close to New England Dragway, Russo admitted that making that kind of run was a definite confidence booster.

"I couldn't even believe that I ran a .15. And to be ahead of all these guys, at my home track. Mike Janis, Shannon Jenkins, Ed Hoover.These are just a great bunch of guys to be racing with."

In Top Fuel, Clay Millican (Drummonds, Tenn.) turned in a pass at 4.663 at 269 mph to take the lead in first night qualifying. Millican was paired with Doug Foley (Sewell, N.J.), and both backed out of their runs early. Foley turned in a pass at 4.864 at 226 mph to put him in fourth heading into Saturday. Louie Allison (Denver, Colo.) sits in second and Foley's Torco teammate Rick Cooper (Boise, Idaho) is in third.

In Funny Car, Jim Sickles, from Caledonia, N.Y., led the Friday night field with a pass of 5.732 at 247.29 mph. Multi-time World Champion Mark Thomas, paired with current points leader and back to back defending World Champion Rob Atchison, ran a surprising 5.768 at 241.50 mph to put him in second place heading into Saturday, while Atchison ran the quarter mile in 5.826 at 245.49, putting him in fourth.

Sickles had recently changed his supercharger, but is now gaining confidence in the change. "We're getting consistent with it, the last three races, we're figuring it out," Sickles said.

Sickles echoed other drivers' sentiments about the weather conditions. With the bump at 5.98 on just the first night, he sees that number dropping.

"It'll tighten up before the end of the weekend. The air is supposed to be even better tomorrow."

In Torco Pro Stock, Steve Spiess showed no sign of slowing down. Spiess (Manhattan, Ill.) led a group that included Pete Berner (Crete, Ill.), Brian Gahm (Lucasville, Ohio), and John Nobile (Dix Hills, N.Y.) that ran in the low 6.40s.

            "I thought we could go faster, I really did," Spiess said.  "But we missed on the
clutch a little bit.  We wanted to be a little bit conservative."

Spiess had no doubts that a car would reach the 6.30s by the end of the weekend.

"I think we can do it tomorrow afternoon, I think the air is that good," he said.

Friday night also saw the unveiling of the Sonny Leonard 220 Mile Per Hour Club, awarding $2,500 to the first Torco Pro Stock driver to break the 220 mph barrier.

"I love Sonny's money," Spiess said regarding about the possibility of being the first driver in the club and perhaps even doing it this weekend.

Pro qualifying continues at 3:00 p.m. Saturday, and continues with the New England Dodge Dealers Night of Fire at 7:00 p.m.

-ihra-

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Series Drag
Drivers Mike Janis , Mark Thomas , Clay Millican , John Nobile , Louie Allison , Ed Hoover , Shannon Jenkins , Jim Sickles , Doug Foley , Steve Spiess