Rockingham II: Saturday qualifying summary

Terry Haddock Nears IHRA Nitro Funny Car Championship Qualifies ...

Terry Haddock Nears IHRA Nitro Funny Car Championship

Qualifies #1 at IHRA World Finals in pursuit of first career title; Spencer Massey also sits on edge of clinching championship in the Top Fuel division. Tony Bogolo (Alcohol Funny Car), Tommy D'Aprile (Pro Modified) and Frank Gugliotta (Pro Stock) also grab top-qualifier honors at Rockingham Dragway

Rockingham, NC (Oct. 18, 2008) -- The 2008 IHRA Nitro Funny Car world championship is basically Terry Haddock's to lose. He will head into Sunday's final eliminations at the IHRA World Finals in Rockingham with a 67-point lead over rookie Matt Hagan (Christiansburg, Virg.) in the battle for the world title. Haddock, who will face Hagan in the first round of eliminations, does not necessarily even have to defeat Hagan in their match-up Sunday...all he has to do is keep the track dry and hope Hagan does not win the event and set a world record in the process.

Of course, if Haddock defeats Hagan in the first round he will end the suspense as his Lend America team will close everyone else out. Haddock (Woodville, Wash.) put his 2005 Dodge Stratus on the top of the qualifying sheet on the strength of a 4.963 pass at 297.16 mph. Todd Simpson (Podner, Tex.) was second on the sheet with a 5.138 at 273.55 while Jeff Diehl (Salinas, Calif.) rounded out the top three with a 5.155/251.06.

Final eliminations will begin Sunday at 11am.

"We're not getting too excited because we still have work to do," Haddock said. "We haven't won anything yet. Matt Hagan is a great driver and you can never count him out, so we're going to turn the car over tonight and get ready for a battle tomorrow. I do have to thank Mike Ashley at Lend America for giving me the support I needed to make this charge late in the season."

Spencer Massey (Fort Worth, Tex.) is in a similar situation. The Top Fuel rookie will head into Sunday's elimination rounds with a 69-point lead over defending world champion Bruce Litton in the race for the title. Ironically Massey will have to square off with Haddock in the first round. Haddock, competing in his first career Top Fuel event, qualified #6 and will face Massey, the #2 qualifier.

"That's kind of cool,' Haddock said. "I get to play a hand in both nitro points races. In both classes I'm going to do everything I can to win. I'm here to race."

Massey, who posted a career-best 4.644 at 309.91 mph, is looking forward to getting things going Sunday.

"This is great and I'm having a blast, but this team isn't taking anything for granted," he said. "This is unbelievable but I'm not going to count anything or think about the championship until its official. There are so many variables to worry about."

All Massey has to do is win in the first round, or have Litton not win the event and set a record in the process, and the championship will be his. He was pleased he was able to post a career-best run during Saturday qualifying to put himself in the driver's seat.

"My Crew Chief, Paul Smith, told me we were going for it tonight," Massey said. "We'd never been that quick before. We threw the kitchen sink at it, threw everything we had at it, and it should have smoked the tires in my opinion, but we were able to rip straight down the groove. It was awesome."

Tommy D'Aprile (Port Charlotte, Fla.) claimed the #1 qualifying spot in Pro Modified, carding a 5.971 at 236.67 mph, but the big story was the first nitrous-powered sub-six second Pro Mod pass in IHRA history by Jim Halsey (Street, Md.). Halsey put his '68 Camaro second on the qualifying sheet with a 5.972 a 237.00 mph.

Kenny Lang and Mike Castellana will battle it out for the world championship Sunday. Lang led Castellana by 21 points heading into the World Finals and added a couple points to that advantage by qualifying three positions better. But it all will be decided during Sunday's elimination rounds. Lang will square off with Fred Scriba in the first round while Castellana will take on Annette Summer.

Tony Bogolo (Hamilton, Ohio) claimed his first #1 qualifying position of the season with a 5.704 pass at 243.41 mph in the Alcohol Funny Car class. Bogolo will face Neal Parker in the first round. Laurie Cannister, who already clinched the Alcohol Funny Car world championship, will face Dale Brand in the first round of eliminations. Of note, seven-time world champion Mark Thomas and three-time champ Rob Atchison failed to qualify for the final eliminations field at the World Finals.

Frank Gugliotta came to Rockingham Dragway with an outside shot at nailing down the 2008 Pro Stock world championship. After setting the pace during a record-setting Saturday evening session, Gugliotta proved he belonged in the championship conversation. He shattered Brian Gahm's world record by clocking a 6.270 at 221.38 mph, topping Gahm's 6.281 pass set in Budds Creek during the 2007 season. Ironically, though Gugliotta set a new standard in the class he was eliminated from championship contention when Berner qualified for the field.

"This was the first time in a long time I came to this race without a legitimate shot at the championship," Gugliotta said. "I really had no pressure on me at this race so we're throwing everything at the track and having a lot of fun."

Jeff Dobbins might want to buy Gugliotta a steak dinner for what he was able to do. Right before Gugliotta ran, Pete Berner set a provisional world record with a 6.278 pass at 219.86 mph. Dobbins, who trailed Berner by 25 points in the championship points chase heading into the World Finals, could ill afford to see Berner claim the 20 bonus points that comes with setting a world record.

"Oh, he owes me big-time," Gugliotta said with a laugh. "But I'm not on one side or the other. Pete's a great driver and a good friend, Jeff's a great driver and a good friend. I'm not worried about any of that, I'm just running my race."

-credit: ihra

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Series Drag
Drivers Laurie Cannister , Mark Thomas , Bruce Litton , Mike Ashley , Dale Brand , Terry Haddock , Jim Halsey , Jeff Diehl , Matt Hagan , Kenny Lang , Spencer Massey , Frank Gugliotta , Paul Smith