Norwalk: USA Racing preview

Rocca Casts Eagle Eye At Norwalk's Coveted Prize NORWALK, Oh (August 23, 2001) - Seven come eleven. Those are perhaps the key numbers running through the mind of drag racing veteran, Johnny Rocca, as he prepares to roll his crowd favorite...

Rocca Casts Eagle Eye At Norwalk's Coveted Prize

NORWALK, Oh (August 23, 2001) - Seven come eleven. Those are perhaps the key numbers running through the mind of drag racing veteran, Johnny Rocca, as he prepares to roll his crowd favorite Mohegan Sun casino-sponsored, `51 Mercury "Ironhorse" Pro Modified, down Norwalk Raceway Park's revered playing surface, during this weekend's 24th annual Mopar Parts World Nationals, scheduled for August 23-26, 2001.

The epic event, the largest annual gathering of the International Hot Rod Association (IHRA) quarter-mile faithful at the sanctioning body's home base in scenic, Norwalk, Oh, is the seventh of 11 national events on the IHRA's Summit Drag Racing Series' nationally-televised tour.

It has likewise become a pivotal race for respected owner and crew chief, Rocca, who needs a strong finish here in order to keep his IHRA world championship - and top-eight Mopar Parts Pro Mod Shootout berth hopes alive in the hotly-contested, full-bodied Pro Modified division.

If history is to play a roll, Rocca and his Leesburg, VA-based USA Racing Team, are greatly overdue to cash in on recent poor luck and mechanical gremlins at Nowalk, which resulted in non-qualifying efforts the past two years.

"For some reason, Norwalk has chosen to be unkind to my team's past efforts," said Rocca, a veteran of some 40-plus seasons behind the wheel of some of drag racing's wildest machinery, and who is not at all content with his current 10th place showing in the IHRA point chase.

"At the same time, we've never been more prepared - and eager for our return to Norwalk," he further explained, "as I have a new driver, plus a renewed drive and determination in seeing our racing efforts reach a more desired conclusion."

A proud Native American member of the Southern Band Tuscarora Tribe of North Carolina, Rocca's comments mirror recent results carded by his current driver, Paul Athey, of Norwich, Conn. A second generation racer and son of a former Chief of the Mohegan Indian Tribe, 24 year-old "Many Ponys" Athey scored his first-ever Pro Modified victory two weeks ago, during the Molson Export Extreme Canadian Racing Championships, at Cayuga Raceway, in Cayuga, Ontario, Canada.

Before taking the reigns of Rocca's '51 Mercury "Ironhorse" Pro Modified Mercury at the beginning of this season, Athey formerly campaigned on the IHRA circuit in its Alcohol Funny Car division.

"As everybody knows, there's nothing like a pair of winning dice when you're on a roll, and our Mohegan Sun casino and Somerset Refinery-sponsored team is definitely on the winning track now.

"With Norwalk's World Nationals being perhaps the biggest prize on the IHRA Summit Drag Racing Series circuit, plus our team in need of a boost in the points, there's no doubt we'll be laying all of your chips on the table this weekend.

"I guess you could call it big game hunting - at 220 miles-per-hour."

A total of four qualifying attempts will take place in the Pro Modified division, with a pair each on Friday and Saturday. The final attempt to secure a position in the 16-car Mopar Parts World Nationals field will take place during the highly anticipated Advance Auto Parts Night of Fire on Saturday evening. Final eliminations are slated to begin at 12 Noon on Sunday.

The event will be shown on a tape-delayed basis on the acclaimed TNN (The National Network) cable entity, which boasts more than 80-million subscribers throughout the contiguous United States.

The remaining IHRA 2001 schedule includes events at Epping, NH (September 7-9), Rockingham, NC (September 21-23), Budds Creek, MD (September 28-30), and Shreveport, LA (October 12-14).

Owned by the Mohegan Tribal Nation, Mohegan Sun is one of the most unique and dynamic casinos in the United States, and is situated in scenic southeastern Connecticut, along the Thames River, in Uncasville. A financial pillar of strength, results from fiscal year 2000 showed net revenues in excess of $713-million.

- www.usaracing.com

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Series Drag
Drivers Johnny Rocca , Paul Athey