Martin: Series Friday qualifying summary

Litton head of class in loaded Top Fuel field Pontieri (Pro Mod) and Gugliotta (Pro Stock) reset track records, top divisions Want to know what perfect conditions combined with a perfect race track can add up to for drivers? New records and ...

Litton head of class in loaded Top Fuel field
Pontieri (Pro Mod) and Gugliotta (Pro Stock) reset track records, top divisions

Want to know what perfect conditions combined with a perfect race track can add up to for drivers?

New records and incredible racing.

Track records fell by the wayside Friday night and the new season marks for speed and E.T. were set by several drivers as Bruce Litton (Top Fuel), Tony Pontieri (Pro Modified) and Frank Gugliotta (Elite Motorsports Pro Stock) all topped their respective classes during the opening night of the IHRA Northern Nationals presented by Dart Machinery Friday at U.S. 131 Motorsports Park in Martin, Mich.

Top Fuel produced the show of the season Friday as five different drivers broke the 300 mile per hour barrier and Litton set the new season mark for speed and elapsed time with an incredible 4.674 second pass at 319.52 miles per hour to top the charts and claim Friday's Last Man Standing award.

And that was just the first night.

"We were just trying to get down the track and they stepped it up a bit," Litton said. "The car ran awesome. We had a bit of trouble stopping at the other end, I missed one of my chutes, but we didn't get it in the sand. Other than that it was a great pass."

Litton (Indianapolis, Ind.) and Del Cox. Jr (Downey, Calif.) were welded together during their evening qualifying session, with Cox qualifying just behind Litton with a 4.767 second pass at 312.13 miles per hour.

Both drivers kept the header flames lit the length of the track and the two drivers produced side-by-side passes of 310 miles per hour or more for the first time this season.

"I didn't even know what he had run until I checked the ticket," Litton said. "He made a good lap and they are a good team. We were fortunate to make a good run tonight."

Pat Dakin, in his first IHRA event of the year, qualified third with a pass of 4.826 seconds at 252.24 miles per hour. Mitch King (4.833, 307.37) and Tim Boychuk (4.840, 302.96) rounded out the top five.

With the Top Fuel field wasting no time dipping into the four second zone, it almost guarantees one of quickest and fastest Top Fuel fields of the season as over a dozen drivers attempted to make the eight car field Friday night.

"There are some really good cars here this weekend. I am sure it is going to be a really fast field," Litton said.

Pontieri picked right up where he left off in Grand Bend with the quickest and fastest pass of the night, also good enough to give him both ends of the track record.

Pontieri, who was the No. 1 qualifier two weeks ago at the Mopar Canadian Nationals, ran a blistering 5.961 elapsed time at 241.07 miles per hour to take the provisional No. 1 spot in Pro Modified and give him Friday's Last Man Standing award.

"Tonight I knew it was going to be fast because it didn't move. When you are sitting and waiting on the shift light you know it is on a pass," Pontieri said. "It went right down the race track like it was driving itself"

"You know what these cars are capable of. If it goes into second gear smooth and the car has some power it is going to go fast."

Pontieri, who lives just across the border in Bolton, Ontario, made his trip worthwhile in only his second ever event behind the wheel of his brand new '69 Camaro with new track records at both of the previous two Nitro Jam national events.

Ed Hoover (Gilbert, S.C.) became the second person in U.S. 131 Motorsports Park Pro Mod history to dip into the five second range with a 5.981 second pass at 241.02 miles per hour just moments after Pontieri set the new mark in both categories.

Kenny Lang was just behind both of them with a 6.051 second mark at 239.70 mph, good enough for third. Chris Russo (6.146) and Joe Baker (6.187) round out the top five entering Saturday.

Gugliotta continued his tremendous season Friday night with another five bonus points to help put some distance between himself and No. 2 man in points John Montecalvo.

Gugliotta (Mt. Airy, Md.) erased the track E.T. record on both of his runs Friday as his 6.331 elapsed time at 217.53 miles per hour during the evening session was good enough to put him on the provisional pole and give him Friday's Quarter-Max Last Man Standing award in Elite Motorsports Pro Stock.

"Two very good passes. There wasn't anything left in either one of them," Gugliotta said. "Our first one was really good and the conditions got a little bit better and the track got about 15 degrees cooler and tightened up a little bit and we were able to get after it a bit more.

"We just made two very nice runs. Hopefully we can keep it up tomorrow."

Behind Gugliotta is the Quarter-Max Pontiac GXP of Pete Berner (Crete, Ill.) who held the top spot for a few brief moments until Gugliotta knocked him from the top. Berner, the defending Pro Stock champion and winner of this race, ran a 6.353 E.T. at 219.12 miles per hour to put him second entering Saturday.

Elite Motorsports headman Richard Freeman was third (6.355, 219.04), followed by Michigan's own Bob Bertsch who had the fastest pass of the night at 220.08 miles per hour, just off of the track record. His 6.362 E.T. places him fourth.

Robert Patrick (6.368) rounds out the top five.

After two rounds of the Moser Engineering Axle-Mania Sportsman Shootout the remaining eight still in the running for $51,000 up for grabs Saturday night are Greg Smith, Glenn Ferguson, Britt Cummings, Scott Macy, Bruce Thrift, Slate Cummings, Gil Carty Jr. and Greg Slack.

All will be playing for the fame and fortune associated with winning the largest sportsman purse of the year during Saturday's "Night of Fire" at U.S. 131 Motorsports Park.

-credit: ihra

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Series Drag
Drivers Robert Patrick , John Montecalvo , Ed Hoover , Mitch King , Greg Smith , Pat Dakin , Joe Baker , Kenny Lang , Richard Freeman , Frank Gugliotta