First time winners dominate at 'The Rock'; Cox, Tindle and Goforth win for first time ROCKINGHAM, N.C. -- By far the oldest and most prestigious event on the IHRA circuit, the Spring Nationals are known for great racing and exciting wins,...
First time winners dominate at 'The Rock'; Cox, Tindle and Goforth win for first time
ROCKINGHAM, N.C. -- By far the oldest and most prestigious event on the IHRA circuit, the Spring Nationals are known for great racing and exciting wins, usually among the elite of the sport.
On Sunday afternoon, however, it was all about the first-timers. Del Cox (Top Fuel), Tim Tindle (Pro Mod) and Cary Goforth (Pro Stock) all picked up their first career IHRA victories over the weekend at the 38th annual Spring Nationals at Rockingham Dragway. It was a great weekend all around as crowds packed the stands on an absolutely beautiful weekend of racing.
For the first couple months of Del Cox's Top Fuel career, he was referred to as "the guy driving Spencer Massey's old ride."
Not any more.
Cox broke out of Massey's shadow in a big way Sunday afternoon, blazing past Bruce Litton (Indianapolis, Ind.) in the Top Fuel finals Sunday afternoon to record his first career victory in only his second ever IHRA race in the Mitch King backed dragster.
"It is a dream come true. I can't believe it has happened," Cox said. "None of this would have been possible without my whole crew. Paul Smith, Mitch King, grandpa, all of my sponsors, everybody, it is unreal."
Cox beat Litton to the line with both cars smoking the tires at mid-track, finishing on a 5.049 elapsed time at 284.21 miles per hour, beating out Litton's 5.365 lap at 253.61 mph.
"Litton is an awesome guy, he is a legend in the IHRA and it is an honor to race with him and it feels awesome to beat him," Cox said. "That thing was smoking at mid-track. Bruce was out front, probably by half a car and we just started pulling up on him and my heart dropped about five times going down the track. That is when I started screaming and pulled the chutes."
The victory capped a great weekend for the Downey, Calif. native. Cox put down the fastest lap of the weekend to grab the No. 1 qualifying position, his second straight, and knocked off Terry McMillen and Terry Haddock to reach the finals.
"It is unreal. We had the car to win at Baton Rouge and I don't want to bite my tongue, but that is what we came here to do. We come to every race to win and we are going to go do it again in Dallas," Cox added. Two unbelievable races propelled Litton and Cox into the finals.
Litton was up first, matching up against No. 7 qualifier Mitch King who reached the semis with a stunning upset of Bobby Lagana Jr. in the first round. King was anxious to make it two in a row with a slight jump on the line, but Litton chased him down and beat him to the line on a 4.835 pass at 297.81 mph to King's 4.885 run at 282.30 mph.
Cox knocked off 2008 Nitro Funny Car champ Terry Haddock in another spectacular race as Cox nipped Haddock at the line with a 4.835 time at 304.53 mph to Haddock's 4.953 pass at 231.16 mph.
In quarter-final action Cox knocked off Terry McMillen, Haddock blazed past Paul Lee, King defeated Bobby Lagana Jr. and Litton defeated Tim Boychuk.
It was a rough opening round for the Twilight Zone racing team of Lagana and Lee who placed both of their dragsters in the top five in qualifying, but never saw the win light come on during eliminations.
Boychuk and McMillen, combining for three wins and seven final round appearances last season, also struggled over the weekend and have yet to capture a round win so far this year.
With two straight final round appearances, Litton remains on top of the Top Fuel point standings with 204 points. Cox has moved up to second (202) followed by Lagana (132), Haddock (127) and Lee (123).
Talk about making a good first impression.
Tim Tindle of Santa Rosa Beach, Fla. had never raced in IHRA competition before this weekend, but that mattered very little on Sunday as Tindle put down four unbelievably consistent laps to pick up his first victory in IHRA Pro Modified competition Sunday at Rockingham Dragway.
And making his win even more impressive was that Tindle had to knock off defending IHRA Pro Mod champ and No. 1 qualifier Kenny Lang (Grande Pointe, Manitoba) to do so.
"It is just awesome. I red lighted against Kenny the last time we raced in a round where we had the fastest car," Tindle said. "It was nice to get one back."
Tindle dominated from start to finish as Lang had some trouble early in his run. Tindle ran a 6.013 at 235.19 mph to pick up the win while Lang coasted across the line on an 8.015 E.T.
"That thing was on a rail. I told Quain (Stott) we should bracket race this thing," Tindle said.
Tindle had an unbelievably consistent afternoon to take home the win, putting down laps of 5.981, 6.009, 6.013 and 6.028 during Sunday's eliminations. Lang, on the other hand, saw his great weekend come to an close without even getting a chance to challenge for the victory.
Still, it was a nice turnaround for the Canadian after struggling at the season opening Summit Racing Equipment Mardi Gras Nationals. Lang knocked North Carolina's own Rickie Smith from the top of the Pro Mod "pole" Saturday night to claim the No. 1 qualifying position for the weekend.
But in the finals, it was all Tindle.
"Running yesterday we pretty much had the track figured out," Tindle said. "It was a great weekend. Everybody treats you well, it is a nice race track. The proof is in the pudding."
Tindle made his IHRA debut a memorable one, smoking John Russo in the semi-finals with a 6.013 pass at 235.19 mph as Russo never got going, crossing the line with a 6.466 E.T. at 158.58 mph. Lang reached the finals by knocking off IHRA Pro Mod legend Ed Hoover in a pedal fest at mid-track.
Both cars were near even at half-track when the smoke started to roll from both entries. Lang, however, was able to hang on, pushing forward with a 6.290 run at 231.64 mph to Hoover's 6.978 pass at 172.76 mph. In the quarters it was Lang on a bye run, Hoover over Burton Auxier, John Russo over Rickie Smith and Tindle over Ray Commisso.
Despite the early exit, Commisso remains on top of the Pro Mod points with 172 markers, while Hoover moves to second with 146 points. Lang (133), Tindle (114) and Gray (105) round out the top five.
After years of trying, Goforth finally got the monkey off his back and picked up his first career victory Sunday afternoon at the 38th annual Spring Nationals at Rockingham Dragway.
"Three years of hard work, that is what is going through my head right now. We are living proof that you can buy the best stuff in the world, but if you don't have the people to help you run it it doesn't do you any good," Goforth said. "You have to have the total package. Beating somebody like Pete in the finals, the class that group has, it is incredible. We are trying to get on their level and we aren't quite their yet, but we are getting there."
And Goforth couldn't have picked a better time to pick up his first win, doing so at the oldest and most prestigious event on the IHRA circuit.
"I want to say that the Rockingham experience, for me, has been great. I was telling some guys how good this place has been to me. I qualified for my first national event here, I made my first semi-final round here and it has been great to us," Goforth said. "I just can't say enough about the people on my team. I am so proud of my crew; everybody did a fabulous job for me. I could not do any of this if they are not turning the wrenches on the car."
Goforth, from Holdenville, Okla., came into the 2009 season with the goal of picking up his first career victory and contending for a championship. He can now check one of those things off of his to-do list.
Goforth knocked off defending world champion Pete Berner (Crete, Ill.) in the Elite Motorsports Pro Stock final Sunday afternoon at "The Rock" in possibly the best drag race of the entire weekend.
Goforth edged Berner at the line by a .0072 margin, running at 6.357 at 219.79 mph to Berner's 6.359 at 220.01 mph to claim the win.
"Racing Pete is a very intimidating thing. If you can imagine, it would be like going against Tiger Woods in a golf match, it is just crazy," Goforth said. "You are overwhelmed and you just hope you can do good enough just to stay with him. And to actually get by Pete, that is a big deal for us."
And even after taking the win light, it took some time for Goforth to realize what he had accomplished.
"I was thinking that the finish line can't come soon enough. It looked like they added 30 or 40 more feet of finish line," Goforth said with a laugh. "I didn't even know I had won. They didn't tell me until they got around the corner. The rescue team were the ones that were patting me on the back. I thought they were lying to me at first, I had to pinch myself to make sure I was still here."
The incredible finish was just one of many close battles in the Elite Motorsports Pro Stock division which produced many great races throughout the weekend.
In the semi-finals Berner ended a spectacular weekend for Robert Patrick with a 6.340 pass at 220.22 mph to Patrick's 6.433 run at 217.74 mph and Goforth ended Frank Gugliotta's day with a holeshot win on a 6.377 pass to Gugliotta's 6.345. Goforth nipped him at the start with a .026 light. Patrick qualified in the No. 16 position and never really had the car where he wanted until Sunday's eliminations. And once Patrick found the car, he couldn't be beat.
Patrick knocked off No. 1 qualifier John Montecalvo in the first round and then sent Elite Motorsports entry J.R. Carr packing in round two. Gugliotta came into Sunday's eliminations as the No. 2 man on the charts and was nearly unbeatable all weekend long until Goforth ended his day with the holeshot win.
In the quarters it was Patrick over J.R. Carr, Berner over Richard Freeman, Gugliotta over Dean Goforth and Goforth over Bob Bertsch. A big win wasn't the only thing Goforth gained at the Spring Nationals, he also took over the Elite Motorsports Pro Stock points lead with 165 points. Baton Rouge winner Jason Collins sits second with 146 points, followed by Gugliotta (134), Berner (133) and Montecalvo (131).
Sportsman winners at the 38th annual Spring Nationals were Ricky Adkins (Milan, Mich.) in Top Sportsman, Brett Nesbitt (Mcleansville, N.C.) in Top Dragster, Michael Beard (Seagrove, N.C.) in Stock, Greg Rowe (Bridgeton, N.C.) in Super Stock, Shane Maddox (Piedmont, S.C.) in Super Rod, Brett Nesbitt (Mcleansville, N.C.) in Quick Rod and Glenn Ferguson (Greensboro, N.C.) in Hot Rod.