LEICESTER, N.Y-Bruce Litton must have felt the emotional roller coaster ride this season would come to an end when he came "smoking" out of the box at the IHRA's 11th annual CARQUEST Empire Nationals. Litton started the three-day weekend on...
LEICESTER, N.Y-Bruce Litton must have felt the emotional roller coaster ride this season would come to an end when he came "smoking" out of the box at the IHRA's 11th annual CARQUEST Empire Nationals.
Litton started the three-day weekend on Friday by erasing Don Lampus' two-year-old track elapsed time standard of 4.705 seconds with his Top Fuel qualifying pass of 4.703. The 311.34 mph also generated by the Wix Filters-Lucas Oil-Spectra 1 sponsored dragster didn't miss Lampus' track speed record by much as well. Litton demonstrated he could be both quick and fast.
This wasn't the first time Litton had outqualified the field. During early June race in Canada, the enclosed trailer dealer from Indianapolis demolished the world Top Fuel record with his 4.656 ET.
The roller coaster hit bottom before the season began. An emotionally and physically devastating mid-January fire left his racing operation a pile of rubble, but the 44-year-old quickly got the season off in high gear by reaching the finals at the season opener in Rockingham, N.C., the semifinals in Dinwiddie, Va., and was runner-up in Canada.
The one thing missing from Litton's 2001 racing resume was a victory, but confidence in the new Littonmobile had been building. And he was defending champion of this event.
Litton was on course for that win when he opened Top Fuel eliminations against Roger Dean. Dean, who won the holeshot, .516 seconds to .558, made Litton work. Litton was up to the task and completed a safe, soft run down the New York International Dragway in 4.888/294.43 to dispose of Dean and his 5.230/279.27.
A bigger challenge awaited Litton in the semifinal against Clay Millican, who was 23 points ahead in the season title chase. Litton threw an added confusion factor into the game by deep staging.
It seemed to work when Litton got the drop on Millican at the starting line, .466 seconds to .492. Suddenly, Litton's hopes went up in smoke about 100 feet down the quarter-mile track. Millican was able to make a smoke-free run to win, 4.966/292.46 to 6.989/125.23.
Litton tried to improve on Friday's 4.703 record, but his 4.71 from the Saturday evening session was a tad slower. In the meantime, Paul Romine came in a little quicker, nudging Litton into second in the final qualifying order. Still being the No. 2 qualifier left Litton in good stead.
Litton will take the data he learned from this race and study it for the next two weeks to prepare for the IHRA's 20th annual Northern Nationals from July 27-29 in Stanton, Mich.