Grand Bend: Series final sumamry

McMillen Thunders to Top Fuel Ironman at Grand Bend Motorplex Paul Noakes' Alcohol Funny Car win completes dream weekend for McMillen's Hoosier Thunder Motorsports Grand Bend, Ont. (July 20, 2008) -- Terry McMillen was not satisfied with one...

McMillen Thunders to Top Fuel Ironman at Grand Bend Motorplex
Paul Noakes' Alcohol Funny Car win completes dream weekend for McMillen's Hoosier Thunder Motorsports

Grand Bend, Ont. (July 20, 2008) -- Terry McMillen was not satisfied with one Ironman. After watching Paul Noakes, driving his Amalie Oil InstiGator, claim the Alcohol Funny Car championship at the Mopar Canadian Nationals, McMillen figured he might as well put the icing on the proverbial cake. He knocked off rookie Spencer Massey in the Torco Pro Nitro Top Fuel final round to put a second Hoosier Thunder Motorsports car in the winner's circle at Grand Bend Motorplex.

"What a weekend...this is something you can just dream about," McMillen said. "Getting both cars to the finals was a goal, to be fortunate enough to have both cars win is really amazing."

McMillen (Elkhart, IN) defeated Spencer Massey in the Top Fuel final while Noakes knocked off Larry Dobbs in the AFC class. Noakes drives the car McMillen left behind when he stepped into a Top Fueler, a car McMillen never took to the winner's circle.

"My hat is off to Les Mellows, Paul's crew chief, and his entire crew for what they were able to accomplish this weekend," McMillen said. "I also have to give the credit to my team here and the entire gang at the shop back home. (Crew Chief) Doug Kuch gave us the power and all my guys busted their butts and they never gave up their faith in this team. And here we are. They deserve all the credit, I'm just the nut behind the wheel."

McMillen, who broke Clay Millican's 2-year-old track speed record in his first elimination round against Kevin Jones, ran a 4.867 at 278.52 mph in the final to top Massey's tire-spinning 5.393/201.43 pass. His first-round 322.42 pass set the new Grand Bend Motorplex speed standard.

Noakes (London, Ont.) had a rough road to the finals, but it was not as rough as it could have been. He had to knock off #1 qualifier Tom Carter in the first round before facing three-time world champion Rob Atchison in the semifinals. He was up to the task, eliminating Carter when Carter rolled through the beams and lit the red-light before outrunning Atchison with a 5.900/238.22 to his opponent's 5.903/241.50. Laurie Cannister, a four-time winner on the IHRA circuit this season, was on the other side of the ladder and fell to Dobbs in the semifinals.

"We had a plan when we got here," Noakes said. "Les has really high expectations of me and he's amazing at tuning these cars...he's the best in the business."

Noakes left the car he owns to step into McMillen's '99 Avenger this season.

"This is a new car for me so there's a lot on me," he said. "I'm starting to figure the car out but it's not as easy as people think to move from one Funny Car to another. I could not do this without my guys, they keep making this car easier and easier for me to drive."

Amalie Oil is the primary sponsor on both cars, something McMillen did not want overlooked.

"Amalie Oil has made such a great commitment to this team, but they've also made a huge commitment to IHRA in general," he said. "They sponsor two races as well as this team. Andy Bornstein and everyone at Amalie have been so supportive. They are the ones who let Paul and I come out here and chase our dreams. I can never thank them enough."

Terry Haddock (Woodville, Wash.) won his second career national event Ironman when he stopped Steven Macklyn in the Torco Pro Nitro Funny Car final. Haddock's other win also came in Canada, as he won the Rocky Mountain Nationals championship in Edmonton last season.

Haddock drove through Matt Hagan, a two-time winner on the tour this season, in the first round before defeating Motor City Nationals champion Paul Lee in the semifinals. Before the final he did not know if Macklyn was going to be able to make the call due to severe damage to his clutch in the semifinals against Jack Wyatt. He did get there in time but could not top Haddock's 5.183/254.38 pass.

"You never underestimate anybody and you run your own race...that's what we were doing," Haddock said. "There have been plenty of times when it was us back there thrashing in the pits. We waited for them and the fact that they were able to make it says a lot. They had help from other teams back there and that shows how much teams work together out here. There were people back there helping Macklyn, but we also had people from other teams helping us. IHRA is such a great organization to race with. On the other side you would have never seen that."

Haddock qualified #2 on the ladder and, with the victory, took over the 2008 NFC points lead from two-time defending champion Dale Creasy Jr., who suffered a season-ending injury in Edmonton two weeks ago.

"The points are really tightening up at the top, but we really miss Dale out here," Haddock said. "If he was here he would have been over there working on our car to help get us to the finals with everyone else."

It has been a long time between wins for Canadian Nationals champion Ed Hoover. He last claimed an Ironman last season in Edmonton, but was able to snap his dry spell in Grand Bend where he edged Tommy D'Aprile to win the Torco Pro Modified title.

"This was a great weekend and a real tribute to Al Billes, my crew and everyone who works on this car," Hoover said. "They work so hard night after night, day after day, giving up their free time to come with me. I mostly have a volunteer crew and it's great to win for them."

Hoover (Gilbert, S.C.) qualified in the top half of the field, ending up #5 on the sheet, and defeated Mark Nielson, Jason Hamstra and Mike Janis to reach the final round. He was very consistent in eliminations, carding 6.107, 6.118 and 6.092 ETs during eliminations. He was able to step it up even more in the run for the championship, clocking a 6.062/234.53 pass to top D'Aprile's 6.873/220.22.

"We went to the finals at Budds Creek and didn't give it enough to get the win," he said. "This time we leaned on it a little bit because we didn't want to fall short. You have to have a consistent car and have to get down the track. We were able to do that this weekend."

Hoover wanted to thank his car owner Paul Trussell.

"Paul is a motorhead, a car enthusiast, and I knew if I ever got him to a drag race and got him on the starting line he would be hooked," Hoover said. "I wouldn't do this for anyone else. Paul has always been a gentleman and a man of his word. That's how he and I operate and there couldn't be a closer friend to me than him."

Frank Gugliotta (Mt. Airy, MD) ended up in the winner's circle for the second time this season when he stopped Pete Berner in the Torco Pro Stock final. It wasn't easy as the final round was the closest Pro Stock race of the weekend, with Gugliotta lighting the win light by a mere four thousandths of a second.

"I saw him the whole time," Gugliotta said of Berner in the final. "He was in front of me, then I got around him and held on. Pete and I have had some battles over the years, really good races, and the track was awesome the whole week long."

After a sluggish start Friday, Gugliotta and his '07 Mustang turned things around.

"We struggled in the beginning and the car was not running very well, but it really started picking it up as the weekend went on," Gugliotta said. "I have a great group of guys who really work hard and I can't say enough about (car owner) Bob Yoak. I wouldn't be here if it wasn't for him. I'm lucky he gave me the opportunity to do this and I can't thank the man enough."

The IHRA Knoll Gas Nitro Jam will continue Aug. 1-3 at US 131 Motorsports Park for the IHRA Northern Nationals, the seventh event on the 10-event 2008 schedule.

-credit: ihra

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Series Drag
Drivers Mike Janis , Clay Millican , Dale Creasy Jr. , Paul Lee , Jack Wyatt , Al Billes , Terry Haddock , Matt Hagan , Spencer Massey , Frank Gugliotta , Terry McMillen