Rain, weepers shorten Saturday qualifying; Lang, Cox seal championships
Steady rain throughout the morning and poor track conditions during the late evening hours made for a spotty afternoon and left plenty still on the plate after two days of racing at the IHRA World Finals Saturday at Rockingham Dragway.
Trying to fit two races and nearly half a dozen special programs into two days of racing left IHRA crew members scrambling on Saturday, but weather delays and a few accidents left the weekend action roughly a day behind entering the final day of competition.
Still needing to be run on Sunday are the World Finals, the final rounds of the Sportsman Nationals, the Tournament of Champions, the Elite 8 Pro Stock Shootout, Summit SuperSeries, Summit All-Star Race and Mickey Thompson Ten Grand Slam.
One of the highlights of Saturday's rain-shortened race was Todd Paton who topped the qualifying charts in Top Fuel in the only professional category to make a pass during Saturday's "Night of Fire."
Paton ran a solid 4.811 elapsed time at 295.53 miles per hour to take the No. 1 spot entering Sunday.
"We went out there with what you would call a conservative tune-up because we were a little worried about the moisture in the air so we backed it down as much as we could. But we didn't run into any trouble as it turned out, it just kind of lumbered down there," Paton said. "It was soggy all the way through, but it did exactly what it needed to do. It went A to B just like it was supposed to. Jimbo gave us a real solid tune-up.
"Now we have to get creative for Sunday."
Del Cox Jr. (Downey, Calif.) qualified second and in doing so unofficially clinched the 2009 IHRA Top Fuel World Championship.
"I would love for them to tell me I am champion already, but this will do. It is a dream come true. Every since I was nine years old and wanted to drive a Top Fuel car and now to be a world champion is a cool deal," Cox said. "We came into this race just like any other. Even though we had the championship on our mind, we still proceeded like normal and now we have a chance to win six out of 10 and five in a row. That is what we are focused on now.
"With my grandpa and crew here and my dad and grandma looking over me it is a wonderful day."
Lang (Pro Modified) and Montecalvo (Elite Motorsports Pro Stock) topped the other two professional categories after making single passes on Friday. With the chart topping lap Lang was able to seal the championship in Pro Modified and Montecalvo was able to put even more ground between himself and second place Frank Gugliotta.
"It is nice obviously to lock up the championship. We obviously wanted to come here and make sure we were in good shape to do it and qualify the car and if we did that then we knew we had it. When we made that pass I knew it was finally ours," Lang said. "Yesterday afternoon was a little tough for a lot of guys getting down the track, but we got down no problem. I know we have a lot of room to play with it the rest of the weekend."
On Saturday, however, it was all about Top Fuel.
With rain putting a damper on the other two categories, Top Fuel was able to get in a single pass led by Paton (Lake Forest, Calif.) who took the No. 1 qualifying spot entering Sunday.
Cox qualified second with a 4.979 second pass at 274.66 miles per hour and Bruce Litton watched his championship hopes melt away with the third qualifying spot on a 5.098 second pass.
Mitch King (6.331) and Bobby Lagana Jr. (7.943) round out the top five.
In the single round of qualifying on Friday Pro Modified point leader Kenny Lang (Grande Pointe, Manitoba) showed once again why he is the class of the field with a chart topping 6.032 second lap at 236.51 miles per hour.
Thanks to that run Lang officially clinched his second consecutive Pro Modified World Championship.
"It is good to get two back-to-back and do something that is so rare," Lang said. "It is nice to get that off my head so I don't have to worry about that the rest of the weekend. Now we can just go out there and do our job and that is win the race."
Lang will be looking for his fourth straight win and ninth consecutive final round on Sunday.
Fredy Scriba (Abingdon, Md.), pilot of the Sorcerer '63 Corvette, qualified second with a 6.056 second pass. Pete Farber (6.157), Andrew Parise (6.387) and Dina Parise (6.466) round out the top five entering Sunday.
Second place man in points Ed Hoover saw his slim championship hopes come to an end after running into trouble during his run on Friday, limping across the line in the 17th spot. Because of his troubles Hoover, who went toe-to-toe with Lang all season, failed to qualify for the final IHRA Pro Mod race under the current format.
In Elite Motorsports Pro Stock John Montecalvo (Center Moriches, N.Y.) took the top spot with a chart topping 6.358 second lap at 218.30 miles per hour.
"I wish we could have got a couple more runs in, but we are happy with where we are. Now we just need to get ready for tomorrow," Montecalvo said. "This championship battle is going to come down to the final pass of the season and I am really looking forward to it."
Bob Bertsch (Willis, Mich.) was just behind Montecalvo with a 6.385 second pass.
Frank Gugliotta, who is chasing Montecalvo in the championship points, qualified third with a 6.405 second pass. Richard Freeman (6.406) and Pete Berner (6.408) round out the top five.
Racing will pick back up at 9 a.m. on Sunday with eliminations for the Sportsman Nationals followed immediately by eliminations for the professional categories and the Tournament of Champions.