Epping: Sunday eliminations summary

GILBERTSON WINS IHRA NITRO FUNNY CAR IN NEW HAMPSHIRE Lagana, Atchison, Patrick and Ware also take home Ironmen at the Amalie Oil North American Nationals EPPING, N.H. (September 10, 2006) -- The IHRA Knoll Gas-Torco Racing Fuels Pro Nitro...

GILBERTSON WINS IHRA NITRO FUNNY CAR IN NEW HAMPSHIRE

Lagana, Atchison, Patrick and Ware also take home Ironmen at the Amalie Oil North American Nationals

EPPING, N.H. (September 10, 2006) -- The IHRA Knoll Gas-Torco Racing Fuels Pro Nitro Funny Car championship points battle might not be a two-man race after all. Bob Gilbertson, who entered the Amalie Oil North American Nationals presented by New England Dodge Dealers a distant third, picked up some ground on front-running Dale Creasy Jr., and second place Jack Wyatt by defeating Paul Lee in the final in Epping, N.H.

Gilbertson blew up his '05 Stratus in the finals, but Lee handed him the victory by leaving the starting line early and activating the red-light for the automatic disqualification. The win was the Charlotte, N.C.-resident's first IHRA national event victory of 2006, his other coming in 1992 in Cayuga, Ontario.

"This feels really good," said Gilbertson, who hasn't competed at New England Dragway since 1992. He didn't even get to finish that race due to emergency dental surgery that his son needed. That was the last race IHRA had in Nitro Funny Car prior to this year.

"People expect a lot out of us because we go over there (NHRA) and do pretty well, but it's come down to luck a lot this year. That's what makes drag racing unique," added Gilbertson.

The Knoll Gas-Torco Racing Fuels Pro Nitro Top Fuel class, for the first time in five years this late in the season, is led by someone other than Clay Millican. When Doug Foley, the No. 1 qualifier, took a first-round bye run while Millican fell to Bruce Litton, the drag racing school instructor from Sewell, N.J., took a six-point lead in the class.

Bobby Lagana Jr. (Scarsdale, N.Y.) won his second career Top Fuel Ironman by defeating Chris Karamesines in the final at Epping. Lagana advanced to the finals by defeating Todd Paton in the first round and Bruce Litton in the semifinals. Litton hit the wall hard during that semifinal run and was transported to a local hospital for observation. Litton will have surgery Monday to replace a plate in his shoulder from a previous injury.

It was a big turn-around for Lagana and the Twilight Zone Top Fuel team. Two weeks ago, at the World Nationals in Norwalk, Lagana suffered a DNQ. He qualified seventh at this race and could not break the five-second barrier. But Sunday everything came together, enabling him to become the first two-time national event winner in the Top Fuel class this season.

"We've been thinking about Bruce, hoping he's alright. He's a good friend of mine," said Lagana. "Everybody we race is our friend, and when somebody goes down, it's so tough. It's crazy that we compete with each other because we all love each other so much.

"Three finals, two wins in one year...two DNQs also. It's been a crazy year. I have so many family members here this has been a great weekend."

Robert Patrick had the crowd buzzing after the Torco's CompetitionPlus.com Pro Stock final. He squared off against No. 1 qualifier Rob Mansfield, who had earlier set the IHRA world ET record at the event, and laid down a number that had never been seen before in IHRA competition. Behind the wheel of his '07 Shelby Mustang, Patrick flirted with the 6.20s by posting a 6.315 run at 221.27 mph. Both the speed and elapsed time of Patrick's run were new world records.

"All we were worried about today was winning this race," said Patrick. "We knew the final could be close, so I was hoping for a good light, but didn't want to red-light. Our engine builder was here all weekend and we kept tuning and making the motor better every run."

Patrick was not the only record-setter to win an Ironman in Epping. Eddie Ware set a Torco's CompetitionPlus.com Pro Modified ET record in the second round of eliminations by clocking a 6.035. He did not need to be that quick in the final against Harold Martin, who lit the red-light by -.02.

"This win is a major stepping stone," said Ware. "We got our first major sponsor this year, and kind of had a bad start to the year but he stuck through it with us, so we're thrilled to finally get this IHRA win. Hopefully we can keep this up for the rest of the season."

Rob Atchison finally has the monkey off his back. The three-time defending Alcohol Funny Car World Champion won his first Ironman of the season by defeating Terry Munroe in the final round. Atchison posted a 5.912/244.52 pass to top Munroe's 5.996/236.13.

"I wasn't really worried about the points chase today, just getting our first win was the focus," said Atchison, of London, Ontario. "We got the win, but are still battling to figure this car out. It's just been such a tough season, we feel fortunate to be in the position we are."

The next event on the 2006 eMax Drag Racing Series is the IHRA Canadian Nationals, September 22-24, at Toronto Motorsports Park, Cayuga, Ontario.

-credit: ihra

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Series Drag
Drivers Clay Millican , Bruce Litton , Robert Patrick , Bob Gilbertson , Chris Karamesines , Dale Creasy Jr. , Bobby Lagana Jr. , Todd Paton , Paul Lee , Jack Wyatt , Doug Foley , Harold Martin