Record crowds watch as Cox, Lang and Bertsch pick up wins at New England Dragway After a soggy start and terrible conditions to begin the weekend, Sunday's finals at the Amalie Oil North American Nationals presented by New England Dodge...
Record crowds watch as Cox, Lang and Bertsch pick up wins at New England Dragway
After a soggy start and terrible conditions to begin the weekend, Sunday's finals at the Amalie Oil North American Nationals presented by New England Dodge Dealers turned into one of the most beautiful days of racing seen all year.
And the action on the track was just as impressive.
IHRA and New England Dragway had their biggest Sunday crowd in years and produced some of the best racing of the year as fans filled the facility to near capacity to watch Del Cox Jr. (Top Fuel), Kenny Lang (Pro Modified) and Bob Bertsch (Elite Motorsports Pro Stock) claim victories at the Amalie Oil North American Nationals Sunday at New England Dragway in Epping, N.H.
Along with IHRA's regular pro categories, a trio of exhibition classes were also on hand pushing the total car count to nearly 500 race vehicles over the course of the weekend.
Among them Frank Patille (Northeast Oulaw Pro Mod), Scott Marsh (Pro Stock Sled) and Dave Bereau (Pro Comp) all took home Ironman trophies during Sunday's championship finals.
In Sportsman action Saturday's weather cancellation wreaked havoc on the first few rounds of competition forcing the seven sportsman categories to compete well into the night on Sunday.
When the smoke finally settled -- and the curfew was extended -- Gary Bingham (Top Sportsman), Nick Willard (Top Dragster), Jacques Blais (Super Stock), Don Pires (Stock), Lisa Bingham (Quick Rod), Francis Ross (Super Rod) and Ray Knight (Hot Rod) all walked away champions and earned a berth into the year end Tournament of Champions at the World Finals in Rockingham.
With the Bingham sweep in Top Sportsman and Quick Rod, the pair became one of the few father-daughter combinations to ever win at the same national event.
With eight races in the books, the IHRA Nitro Jam series heads to Maryland International Raceway in two weeks for the IHRA President's Cup Nationals in Budds Creek.
In only his first year on the IHRA tour, Del Cox Jr. has quickly become a man of two faces.
With every pass Cox looks more and more like the man he replaced last season, but at the same time he continues to separate himself from the pack.
On Sunday, he showed the world both sides.
Cox equaled the mark set by 2008 Top Fuel World Champion Spencer Massey -- the man he replaced last year -- with his fourth victory of the year, but more importantly his third consecutive victory put him in a league of his own as he takes over the Top Fuel points lead with just two races remaining.
With the win Cox (Downey, Calif.) leaps over Bruce Litton (Indianapolis, Ind.) and now holds a 24 point edge with only six rounds of competition left in the year.
"This is what we came here to do. Some people said a few things about my cocky comments after my last win, but you have to come in here with the mentality to win or else you are going to get beat," Cox said. "It is nice to lead the points and hopefully we can keep it going and win this championship."
Cox defeated Tim Boychuk (Edmonton, Alberta) on Sunday with a solid 4.715 second elapsed time at 315.42 miles per hour -- his third consecutive pass of 310 miles per hour or more -- to Boychuk's 6.609 E.T. at 129.49 mph to pick up career win number four at the Amalie Oil North American Nationals at New England Dragway in Epping, N.H.
"This really is unbelievable. We knew going into the race against Tim it was going to be tough. They have been running really good lately, but I have the best crew and I have Paul Smith -- enough said," Cox said. "This group has been here plenty of times and they know how to do this."
Cox also picked up wins over Bobby Lagana Jr. and Smax Smith to reach his fourth final of the year and was clearly on his game with laps consistently in the mid-four second range.
But while Cox was clearly thrilled following his win, he wasn't as excited at the start of the day.
Two straight days of rain left the Top Fuel bunch without a single pass heading into Sunday. With the field set on points, and no qualifying passes all weekend, all eight teams were left scratching their heads on Sunday.
"It has been a nerve-racking weekend with the weather and not getting any qualifying passes," Cox said. "And then having Smax first round, I was nervous for it all day because anybody could have won in that first round. We just went conservative and it worked."
In the semifinals Cox moved on to his third consecutive final round via a win over Bobby Lagana Jr. Cox ran a 4.795 at 313.07 mph, barely edging Lagana's 4.820 pass.
In the other matchup Boychuk stunned Bruce Litton and allowed Cox to move into the points lead with a near record-setting pass of 4.689 seconds at 322.34 miles per hour. Litton ran into some trouble near the 1,000 foot mark and limped across the line at a still quick 4.952 seconds.
In opening round action Litton and Cox moved on easily with wins over Dom Lagana and Smax Smith respectively, while Bobby Lagana recorded a win over Terry McMillen and Boychuk defeated Mitch King.
Despite not being on the track for the first time until Sunday afternoon, three of the eight cars surpassed the 300 mile-per-hour marker on their very first runs and all four looked poised for a run at Sunday's championship.
At the end of the day, however, it was Cox that stood alone.
Surprise, surprise -- Ed Hoover and Kenny Lang met in the final of an IHRA Pro Modified national event.
In what has become quite the rivalry, the top two drivers in IHRA Pro Mod points -- and perhaps two of the best quarter-mile drag racers in the world -- went head-to-head for the sixth time this season and the fourth time in an IHRA national event final round.
And this time it was Lang's turn to lead.
Lang, in his seventh consecutive final, snapped a two-race losing streak to Hoover in picking up his second consecutive victory Sunday at the Amalie Oil North American Nationals at New England Dragway in Epping, N.H.
"It has been good this year. Obviously it has been seven in a row for us and of course having Ed is tough, but getting by him is great," Lang said. "It puts us in a comfortable position with two races to go."
And that comfortable position is at the top of the championship standings -- some 74 points ahead of Hoover.
"Coming in here I just wanted to keep pace with him and leaving here with another 20 points is great," Lang said. "It could have gone either way."
Lang (Grande Pointe, Manitoba) ran a solid 6.017 elapsed time at a new track record pace of 241.63 miles per hour in the final to drive around Hoover (Gilbert, S.C.) who hit the cone at mid-track and nearly took out Lang.
Hoover had a nice launch, but immediately veered left and almost took out Lang before giving up on the run.
Lang kept in it for a new track speed record.
"I saw him coming over. They obviously had a better light than me and all of a sudden I saw him walking over into my lane and I thought he was going to tag the car," Lang said. "Luckily we made it through and he was alright."
Along with the season-defining win over Hoover, Lang also recorded wins over Andy Jensen and John Russo to reach his seventh final in eight tries.
In the semifinal round Jensen set a new mark in IHRA Pro Modified competition with the first ever turbocharged round win as he got around John Russo in the opening round.
In other first round action Hoover recorded an easy win over Pete Farber, Lang defeated Tony Pontieri and No. 1 qualifier Montrond defeated Chris Russo.
Now it is down to two races for the pair of drivers who always seem to find themselves matched up on race day.
"We always seem to be up against him at some point," Lang said. "He is a tough competitor and we try to be the same.
"There are two races left and still a lot of racing to go. We will be ready."
ELITE MOTORSPORTS PRO STOCK
In the final that no one saw coming Bob Bertsch and Mike Bruno -- with a combined one career final round between them -- faced off in the final of the Elite Motorsports Pro Stock class Sunday at New England Dragway in Epping, N.H.
And this time, Bertsch got the win he has been waiting for.
Bertsch came into this weekend's race with one career victory, but that win was slightly tarnished as he was the only car in the field that afternoon after unforeseen circumstances placed him as the lone Pro Stock in the field.
On Sunday, however, Bertsch finally made that win legit.
Bertsch (Willis, Mich.) knocked off Bruno (East Hazel Crest, Ill.) in Sunday's final running a 6.333 elapsed time at 220.19 miles per hour to Bruno's 6.467 E.T. at 219.47 mph to claim the win he has been waiting for at the Amalie Oil North American Nationals at New England Dragway in Epping, N.H.
"The one in Edmonton was for John and there is no question about that. This one I was able to earn," Bertsch said. "This one I will cherish always. This is my first one and maybe now I can start collecting a few more."
Along with the win over Bruno, Bertsch also recorded victories over defending world champion Pete Berner and Carl Baker to claim his second career victory.
"It was a good day. We just worked at it all weekend and the last run was the fastest run all weekend," Bertsch said. "The weather played a factor and it was kind of hit and miss with that, but I can't say enough about Rislone and how they have stood behind me even after the year we have had.
"Maybe this one and the next couple races we can start adding to our collection."
While Bertsch was dominant on the track, he certainly had his share of problems in the pits, one of which almost cost him a round.
"We had a couple of problems in the pits. Twice when we put the clutch in it locked up and we were a little late to get in the lanes and they were screaming at us to get up there on time," Bertsch said. "Thankfully they were understanding and we got up there and made our runs."
The Rislone Ford Mustang ran consistent numbers throughout the afternoon and had no trouble knocking off Bruno in the final.
In semifinal action Bruno stunned John Montecalvo who was hoping to make up some ground in the Pro Stock points race. Despite a very close battle, Bruno was able to get the best of the New Yorker with a holeshot win on his way to his first semifinal of the year.
Thanks to Bruno's upset victory, Frank Gugliotta retained his points lead despite a first round exit. With two races to go Gugliotta holds a narrow 14 point edge over Montecalvo.
In other second round action Berner nipped J.R. Carr at the line, Martino got around John Konigshofer and Bertsch received a bye run.
In what might go down as the biggest win of the year, John Montecalvo took advantage of a stunning first round matchup with point leader Frank Gugliotta after rain positioned the top two in points together right off the bat.
With soggy conditions giving the Elite Motorsports Pro Stock bunch only one round of qualifying over the weekend, Gugliotta found himself in the unfamiliar position of starting on the bottom half of the ladder while Montecalvo found himself fourth.
That single pass placed Gugliotta against the No. 2 man in points and Montecalvo made the most of the situation.
With both cars struggling off the line, Montecalvo was able to get back in the groove first on his way to a huge first round victory over his nemesis, but a stunning second round loss allowed Gugliotta to retain his lead.
SPORTSMAN AND EXHIBITION
In other professional action Frank Patille defeated Jim Barker to win the highly popular Northeast Outlaw Pro Modified class.
Patille had a very consistent afternoon and saved the best for last with a 6.171 elapsed time at 228.19 miles per hour in the quarter-mile to claim the win. Barker ran a 6.301 E.T. at 231.83 mph in the runner-up finish.
Patille defeated Matt Deitsch, Derrick Townes and Jeff Rodgers to pick up the win.
In the Pro Sled class Scott Marsh recorded a victory over Jay Pearl after a thrilling weekend of competition.
Marsh ran an 8.466 elapsed time at 151.94 miles per hour to pick up a holeshot over Pearl (8.421). Marsh defeated Rick Ramano, Kevin Zucco and Ryan Mason to pick up the win from the 10th qualifying spot.
In Pro Comp Dave Bereau recorded a victory over Roland Deering Jr. with a 6.352 second pass at 213.54 miles per hour to Deering's 6.357 second pass at 224.96 mph.
Rounding out the action was IHRA's always exciting sportsman classes.
In Top Sportsman Gary Bingham (Kings Mountain, N.C.) defeated Ryan Ondrejko (Roslindale, Mass.), in Top Dragster Nick Willard (Leominster, Mass.) defeated Val DiGenova (Derry, N.H.), in Super Stock Jacques Blais (Tolland, Conn.) defeated Jack Chin (Warwick, R.I.), Stock Don Pires (Dighton, Mass.) defeated Bill Sheppard (Whately, Mass.) in Quick Rod Lisa Bingham (Kings Mountain, N.C.) received a freebie after Brad Coryell (Weare, N.H.) broke, in Super Rod Francis Ross (Milford, N.H.) defeated Tracy Ogden (Elkridge, Md.) and in Hot Rod Ray Knight (Fall River, Mass) defeated Rob Hyatt (Salem, N.H.).