World Records toppled as Cox, Lang and Gugliotta pick up Ironman trophies
Martin, Michigan's beautiful U.S. 131 Motorsports Park has always been known for great racing and record runs, but perhaps at no point in the track's long history have more records been broken in one weekend.
Two world records were reset over the course of the weekend and nearly half a dozen track records were toppled as well as Del Cox Jr. (Top Fuel), Kenny Lang (Pro Modified) and Frank Gugliotta (Elite Motorsports Pro Stock) all survived the wild weekend and picked up Ironman trophies on Championship Sunday at the IHRA Northern Nationals presented by Dart Machinery.
Along with the trio of professionals, over half a dozen sportsman champions were crowned as well as Ricky Adkins (Top Sportsman), Rick Schneider (Top Dragster), Larry Cummings (Super Stock), Jim Marshall (Stock), Luke Bogacki (Quick Rod), Jim Linter (Super Rod) and J.J. Brock (Hot Rod) also picked up IHRA Ironman hardware.
In the record books Tony Pontieri will go down as the new IHRA E.T. record holder at 5.936 seconds, while Brad Personett came just shy of setting a new world speed mark with a pass of 247.07 miles per hour.
He was unable to back up the run, allowing Ray Commisso's mark set earlier this year in Baton Rouge to stand.
In sportsman action Kevin Stone ran an unheard of 5.869 second lap at 235.60 miles per hour to reset both of those records in that category.
Sportsman racing took center stage on Saturday night as Bruce Thrift picked up a cool $22,500 in winning the Moser Axle-Mania Sportsman Showdown over Scott Macy.
In exhibition action Tony Bogolo defeated Tim Stevens in the Alcohol Funny Car championship.
All of the championships were run under blue skies and perfect conditions on Sunday as over 400 cars were on hand to participate in yet another successful IHRA national event.
With former world champion and winner of this very race one year ago Spencer Massey watching from the starting line, Del Cox Jr. was able to drive around Bobby Lagana Jr. in the Top Fuel final at the IHRA Northern Nationals presented by Dart Machinery Sunday afternoon in Martin, Mich.
It was dejà vu all over again for the rookie out of Downey, Calif. and the Mitch King Motorsports bunch as Cox and his team found themselves parked just inches from where Massey's rig was parked last year -- and everyone knows how that turned out.
Massey went on to win the '08 Northern Nationals and eventually the championship in his first year on the tour and now Cox, exactly one year later in the same car Massey drove to the victory, was able to repeat the performance of the man who helped him get his current ride.
"I had some big shoes to fill this weekend with Spencer being here, but he is my boy," Cox said. "He has taught me a lot and I am happy he was out here and showing us some love. That is awesome.
"He has given me a lot of driving tips over the years and he is just a great driver that is why he is racing for the Snake. It was just an awesome weekend."
With the win Cox was able to pick up his second consecutive Ironman and third total of the season, but more importantly was able to make up major ground in the Top Fuel title chase after leader Bruce Litton fell out in the first round.
Cox is now just 15 points back of the lead.
"That is what we were hoping for. It is almost mind-blowing," Cox said. "Things happen for a reason and having my dad looking over us, my grandma, this is just awesome. This is a dream come true and hopefully we can turn this into a championship."
Cox ran a solid 4.732 elapsed time at 308.14 miles per hour to get around Lagana (Scarsdale, N.Y.) who was in his second final round of the season. Lagana made a 4.780 second pass at 289.63 mph in the runner-up effort as Cox won the race at the line.
"I have to thank all these guys. Paul Smith, Mitch King, all of our sponsors. RJ Industries, Bexar Waste, everybody that has helped us out," Cox said.
Cox defeated Lagana and Tim Cullinan to reach the final.
Lagana turned around a disappointing stretch that included four first round exits in the last five races with his second runner-up finish of the season.
Cox reached the final via a freebie when team owner Mitch King failed to show. Cox ran a 4.812 second lap at 264.86 miles per hour to give lane choice to Lagana. Lagana reached the final by defeating Tim Boychuk with his best pass of the weekend at 4.749 seconds at 302.96 miles per hour.
Boychuk, who upset points leader Litton in the opening round, ran a 4.834 elapsed time at 279.44 mph.
Litton, who had been to five final rounds in six races entering Sunday, lost to Boychuk in a tremendous side-by-side race. Boycuk put down a solid 4.771 E.T. while Litton was just behind at 4.801 seconds.
The only other time Litton failed to reach a final round this season was another first round exit back in May.
In other quarterfinal action Lagana was able to get around Terry McMillen in a battle of two cars that just squeaked into the field. It was Lagana's first round win since Tulsa over a month ago and only his second successful weekend since Baton Rouge back in March.
In other action Cox was able to keep his championship hopes alive with a win over Tim Cullinan and King pulled an upset of No. 2 qualifier Pat Dakin.
For the sixth consecutive race Kenny Lang found himself in the finals of an IHRA Pro Modified race.
This time, however, he was able to finish the deal.
While any driver would be happy with multiple final round appearances, for the defending world champion four runner-ups to only one win was beginning to get a little old so he decided to do something about that on Sunday, picking up his second Ironman of the season while taking over the points lead at the IHRA Northern Nationals presented by Dart Machinery Sunday in Martin, Mich.
Going to the finals and getting a runner-up, there is nothing wrong with that, but six finals in a row with only one win I was starting to get a little bored with that," Lang said. "It felt good to finally clinch another win and get that under our belt and jump into the points lead."
Lang ran a solid 6.012 elapsed time at 238.64 miles per hour to get around the big surprise of the weekend Ike Maier (Tottenham, Ontario) who ran a 6.108 E.T. at 231.71 mph in a final that consisted of the best of the best in Canadian drag racing.
"I don't take anyone lightly because anybody can pick you off at anytime. I knew that car was going ot go down every time and it did so we had to make sure we had our stuff together," Lang said. "Our run wasn't pretty by any means, but we got down the track.
"This was a great field; a bunch of fast cars and some really tough competitors so qualifying first was impressive. But getting the win was that much more important."
Lang (Grande Pointe, Manitoba) defeated Maier, Melanie Troxel, Joe Baker and Jason Kalso to pick up his fifth career win.
He was also able to regain the Pro Modified points lead over former top man Ed Hoover who fell out in the second round. Lang now holds a 56 point advantage over Hoover as the battle for the championship enters the home stretch with three races remaining on the schedule.
"Anybody that can make six final rounds in a row in any category is impressive. Luckily we were the ones that did it," Lang said. "We have been a little bit off base with the tune-up, we are starting to get it back now and for the rest of the year we are going to be back where we need to be."
Maier gave everything he had on Sunday in trying to pick up his first career Ironman, knocking off the former points leader and the new world record holder in E.T. Tony Pontieri, but came up short against the defending world champion.
In semifinal action Maier was able to drive around Pontieri while Lang defeated an ever improving Melanie Troxel who finally found her footing this weekend.
After struggling in her first two races, Troxel finally got the wild door car under control with consistent laps in the low sixes while making her first career semifinal round.
Sunday afternoon also saw the wildest afternoon of Pro Modified racing seen all season.
And it all started in the quarterfinals.
The quarters were filled with upsets and new records as Pontieri reset the record books with a new IHRA E.T. World Record at 5.936 seconds in a victory over Pete Farber. After getting the hiccups out of his system during his first run of the weekend, Pontieri went on a tear of five-second runs to roar through the field.
Maier continued the wild afternoon round of doorslammer racing with an upset of former points leader Hoover while Lang defeated Joe Baker to retake that lead. Troxel finished up the session with a victory over Tim Mathison to move on to her first career semifinal round.
Despite the wild quarters, there were few surprises in the opening round as nearly every top seed moved on. The only upset of the round came when Brad Personett's attempt at a new IHRA speed record fell short when Mathison knocked off the No. 5 qualifier.
ELITE MOTORSPORTS PRO STOCK
While there were plenty of exciting races and record runs throughout the weekend in Elite Motorsports Pro Stock, there was little doubt who the winner was going to be after Saturday night.
After all, there simply wasn't anyone who could keep up Frank Gugliotta.
Gugliotta, who never faltered even once in putting up consistent chart topping numbers lap after lap, defeated John Montecalvo in the final of the IHRA Northern Nationals presented by Dart Machinery Sunday in Martin, Mich.
"That is my crew and a good car. We made good calls all weekend long and I drove halfway decent and we just had some consistency and that is what it takes to win," Gugliotta said.
With the win Gugliotta (Mt. Airy, Md.) extends his points lead over Montecalvo (Center Moriches, N.Y.) to 46 points and pushes his career final round winning percentage to an astonishing 80 percent in picking up his 12th Ironman in 15 tries.
Gugliotta also got a huge chip off his shoulder as he avenged his first round loss from two weeks ago that allowed Montecalvo to jump back into the championship hunt.
"That is what I have been struggling with the past two weeks in thinking about Grand Bend and that first round loss," Gugliotta said. "We had the fastest car there and that just didn't sit right the past two weeks and we came here and we have done well, but I didn't take any of that for granted."
Gugliotta ran another solid 6.351 elapsed time at 220.22 miles per hour to claim his second win of the season in a holeshot over Montecalvo who ran a 6.349 second lap at a new track record pace of 220.98 miles per hour.
"I didn't count John out for a second. John struggled all day and all weekend long, but I knew he would put a run together and as you saw he outran me in the final."
Thanks to one of the most consistent weekends in Pro Stock history, Gugliotta was able to top the charts on Friday night and never looked back in mowing through the field.
Gugliotta defeated Montecalvo, J.R. Carr, Cary Goforth and Scott Hintz in picking up the win.
"There are a lot of tough guys in this class and they will be gunning for us over the next couple of races," Gugliotta added.
On the flip side Montecalvo found himself as the runner-up for the fourth time this season.
Montecalvo reached his fourth final round of the season via a victory over one of the fastest drivers of the weekend Mark Martino. Martino, who briefly reset the track speed record during the afternoon session, struggled in his run against Montecalvo who ran a 6.740 second lap to give up lane choice to Gugliotta.
Gugliotta took down teammate J.R. Carr who gave him all he could handle in the semis. Gugliotta ran another lap in the 6.30s at 6.335 at 218.34 miles per hour, but Carr was just behind with a 6.400 second lap at 219.36 mph.
In quarterfinal action Gugliotta continued his weekend of dominance with a win over Cary Goforth, Montecalvo edged Chris Holbrook, Carr beat Robert Patrick and Martino got around Richard Freeman.
Martino was able to move on via his second consecutive run in the 220 mile per hour range, resetting the track speed record in the process.
In the opening round Pete Berner saw his hopes of a third championship take a big hit when Montecalvo knocked him out of the first round. Berner nailed the tree, but shook the tires early in the run allowing Montecalvo to cruise around him.
Dean Goforth, the winner two weeks ago in Grand Bend, also suffered an early exit at the hands of Carr.