Rockingham: Round two preview

KNOLL-GAS NITRO JAM DRAG RACING HEADS TO ROCKINGHAM DRAGWAY NORWALK, Ohio (April 17, 2007) -- The next stop on the Knoll-Gas Nitro Jam Drag Racing Series is the Spring Nationals presented by Advance Auto Parts and Castrol, April 20 -- 22 at...

KNOLL-GAS NITRO JAM DRAG RACING HEADS TO ROCKINGHAM DRAGWAY

NORWALK, Ohio (April 17, 2007) -- The next stop on the Knoll-Gas Nitro Jam Drag Racing Series is the Spring Nationals presented by Advance Auto Parts and Castrol, April 20 -- 22 at Rockingham Dragway.

The event dates back to 1971 and includes winners such as Don Garlits (1972 and 1975), Ronnie Sox (1971), Clay Millican (2002 -- 2006), Scotty Cannon (1991, 1993 and 1996), Mark Thomas (1991, 2003 -- 2005) and Bruce Litton (1999 and 2000). Litton, the current Top Fuel points leader on the Nitro Jam series, always looks forward to racing at Rockingham.

"We're going to a track I've always really liked. It's the first place I ever won a Top Fuel race at in 1999, so it's always been a special track to me," said Litton, who resides in Indianapolis. "(Track owner) Steve Earwood has a great facility and we're excited to see what we can do there.

"We're tickled we have the points lead, but that really doesn't matter until the end of the year," added Litton. "You still have to take each race one at a time, go out and hope for the best. Right now we're preparing for the Friday night qualifier."

Litton has nearly the entire same team members today as he did winning that first event back in 1999. Richard Hartman, Nicky Boninfante and Mike Wolfarth were making the major tuning calls, and, with Boninfante returning in the off-season the "full" team is back together.

"I even have same guy that did the clutch for me back in '99," added Litton. "The team likes this event. Rockingham will make or break you, since there are two races there...in the spring and the final in the fall. We tested in Rockingham back in November, a week before Thanksgiving. The conditions during the race should be similar, which means we should have a lot of data."

Litton, who suffered a major crash last season in Epping, N.H., finished the 2006 season in fifth place, the first time he'd been out of the top three in the final championship point standings during his IHRA racing career. With a season-opening win under his belt, 2007 could be a banner year.

Standing in his way, and also competing during the Spring Nationals are competitors such as Doug Foley, a six-time career winner, Bobby Lagana Jr., T.J. Zizzo, former Pro Modified standout Scotty Cannon and Terry McMillen.

All professional categories, including Knoll Gas Torco Racing Fuels Pro Nitro Top Fuel, will qualify Friday (April 20) at 6:30 p.m. and Saturday (April 21) at 12 noon and 6:30 p.m. Eliminations are scheduled for Sunday (April 22) at 10:30 a.m., 12 noon, 2 p.m. and final round at 4 p.m.

The defending Knoll Gas Torco Racing Fuels Pro Nitro Funny Car world champion Dale Creasy Jr. goes into Rockingham as the current points leader, making a huge statement to defend his crown by winning in San Antonio two weeks ago. Creasy Jr., of Beecher, Ill., has made it to one final round at Rockingham but is yet to win.

He'll be keeping an eye on Jack Wyatt, who won both events at Rockingham in 2006 and nearly stole the championship out from under Creasy Jr.

"We had a good showing at Rockingham last year during the World Finals," said Creasy Jr. "I think this season every race is going to be a little tougher because the competition is that much better.

"To me, all the races are the same no matter if we've won there before or lost, or whatever has happened in the past," he added. "We take it round-by-round and try to not ever get ahead of ourselves. In San Antonio we made the field on the last qualifying run, so we went from almost not being in the race to winning it.

In addition to Creasy Jr. and Wyatt, other competitors include Charlotte's Bob Gilbertson, Terry Haddock, Jon Capps, South Carolina's Andy Kelley and Paul Lee, to name a few.

The Torco's CompetitionPlus.com Pro Modified field will be stout in Rockingham. Historically drawing some of the biggest fields for this class, fans can expect close to 30 cars trying to qualify for 16 spots.

Gilbert, S.C.'s Ed Hoover is the current Pro Modified points leader, but he has never won an IHRA national event at Rockingham. Danny Rowe and tuner Jimmy Rector are second behind Hoover, followed by Burton Auxier and Columbus, N.C.-resident Quain Stott.

Robert Patrick enters the Spring Nationals leading the Torco's CompetitionPlus.com Pro Stock class. His win at the Texas Nationals has catapulted the Fredericksburg, Va.-resident to the top of the class. Patrick's last Spring Nationals win came in 1994. He's trailed by such big-time Mountain Motor Pro Stock names like John Montecalvo, Rob Mansfield, Rickie Smith (King, N.C.) and Frank Gugliotta. Wilmington, N.C.-resident Jeff Dobbins is seventh.

Alcohol Funny Car could have a different look this year. A class that was rumored off the professional circuit this season has survived and is led by first-time winner Terry Munroe, who picked up his first in San Antonio. The class has been dominated recently by Mark Thomas and Rob Atchison, who are both in the top ten. However, both drivers have a lot to make up to top Munroe.

For more information on the Spring Nationals and to purchase tickets, please log onto www.ihra.com or www.rockinghamdragway.com.

-credit: ihra

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Series Drag
Drivers Mark Thomas , Clay Millican , Bruce Litton , Robert Patrick , Bob Gilbertson , Quain Stott , Dale Creasy Jr. , Scotty Cannon , Ed Hoover , Don Garlits , Paul Lee , Jack Wyatt , Rickie Smith , Doug Foley , Richard Hartman , Terry Haddock , Jon Capps , Frank Gugliotta