EPPING NH - SUMMIT FastNews - Perhaps inspired by Mother Nature's drought-ending deluge Friday, four drivers ended droughts of their own by winning their categories at the 1999 Parts Pro IHRA North American Nationals at New England Dragway, including Paul Romine in the Carquest Top Fuel Dragster, Bill Furr in the Nitro Harley category, Al Billes in Pro Modified and John Montecalvo in Pro Stock. Only Von Smith, in Funny Car, and Larry Snyder, in Super Eliminator, had wins prior to this past weekend. Romine's win came with a large measure of luck. After qualifying in the number one spot with a World record elapsed time of 4.712 seconds, Romine found traction elusive and smoked the tires on two successive runs, advancing because he was unopposed on the first run and his opponent had more severe traction problems in the second. In the final round, Romine came back to his qualifying form, winning with a 4.800-second, 294.88 mph run against a tire-smoking Bobby Lagana. Romine's win is the first for the new Spitzer Top Fuel chassis. Puffing on a big cigar, Romine was confident, saying "We don't have the monkey completely off our back, but he's hanging on by the coattails. We may not have shown it today, but we know what it will take to get the maximum performance from the car. We are starting to see some momentum. We are going to Rockingham (the next race venue) with our guns blazing. It's a good track for us and we want to win for the team and race sponsor Carquest." Lagana is making a comeback after a near-fatal crash in 1998 and was not dismayed by his final-round loss. "This is unelievable. We're using this race as a stepping stone. We were in the semifinals in New York and the finals here. It was great running the World champ. We have some good things happening sponsorship-wise and we're on to Rockingham (N.C., the next race venue)."
Unlike Romine, Furr advanced to the winner's podium by making three consistently quick and fast runs in eliminations, defeating number-one qualifier Jay Turner in the final round with a World elapsed time record 6.538-second, 203.77 mph effort over Turner's 6.616 at 206.64. "When the bike shifts right, you can stay with anybody," said Furr. "It did today. I believe that the Nitro Harley champion can be win by any of four or five guys and won't be decided until Shreveport (the final race). We're going to have to hire some extra security." Billes put his '53 Studebaker in the Pro Modified winner's circle from the fifteenth rung of the ladder, taking on thirteenth-qualified Steve Vick in the final round. Billes also used consistent performance to get the win, all four of his runs during eliminations within four-hundredths of a second of each other, with a 6.465-second, 219.79 mph run in the final round against a tire-spinning Steve Vick. Taking the win calmly, Billes explained, "The car runs well on tracks like New England. We're still working on the setups for the others. We've been having an up and down season and we finally appear to be getting it together." Montecalvo's win was not only his first of the year, it was his first ever in Pro Stock and the first of the year for a Chevrolet. Like Billes, Montecalvo was surprisingly nonchalant about his victory, saying only, "It's been a long time coming, but it was worth the wait." Smith qualified sixth, but was consistently quickest through the first three rounds of eliminations. He reset the World elapsed time and speed records with a 5.873 second, 240.42 mph run in the first round of eliminations, but he used a superior reaction time to win in the final round, clocked at 5.985 seconds, 237.34 mph against local favorite Fred Tigges. Tigges posted the quickest elapsed time of the event, 5.869 seconds, in the final round, but was slow to react to the green light at the start of the race. To make the loss more bitter, Tigges failed to make a run within one percent of the low elapsed time to establish it as a record. Smith was proud of his fifth win of the season, saying, "It's always been Howard Moon's power (referring to his crew chief). This time I won on a holeshot. I wanted to race for the win." Snyder and Laurie Cannister met in an extremely close Super Eliminator final, Snyder prevailing by just 0.006 seconds, clocked at 6.131 seconds, 220.66 mph over Cannister's 6.137 at 218.48. These two have been battling back and forth most of the season, Snyder with five event wins to Cannister's two. Said Snyder, "Laurie's hard to beat. I'm glad to be the King. She can be the Queen." Responded Cannister, "It had to be close. We had identical reaction times and elapsed times. It must have looked like we were tied together on a string, but of course we couldn't see each other. It was a great race and I can't pick anybody I'd rather compete against." The next event on the IHRA schedule is the Carquest Nationals at Rockingham Dragway, September 24-26. Results provided by the FastNews Network, courtesy of Summit Racing Equipment ** http://www.summitracing.com/ **