Rockingham: Saturday qualifying notes

Huge Crowd Sees Lee Jump to Top of Nitro Funny Car Qualifying Sheet at Rockingham Dragway Bruce Litton (Top Fuel), Laurie Cannister (Alcohol Funny Car), Mike Janis (Pro Modified) and Pete Berner (Pro Stock) also claim ...

Huge Crowd Sees Lee Jump to Top of Nitro Funny Car Qualifying Sheet at Rockingham Dragway

Bruce Litton (Top Fuel), Laurie Cannister (Alcohol Funny Car), Mike Janis (Pro Modified) and Pete Berner (Pro Stock) also claim #1 qualifying spots at IHRA Spring Nationals

(Rockingham, N.C.; April 19, 2008) -- Paul Lee, whose weekend participation at Rockingham Dragway was almost an afterthought, drove Paul Smith's Chevrolet Monte Carlo Funny Car to a track record Saturday and, as a result, will start Sunday's 37th annual IHRA Spring Nationals from the No. 1 starting position.

Lee covered the quarter mile in 4.797 seconds at 315.34 miles per hour, shattering the Funny Car record of 4.877 seconds set last October by Charlotte's Bob Gilbertson. As a result, the Wynnewood, Pa., driver will start from the No. 1 position for the first time in his pro career.

"This means a lot to me because five days ago we weren't coming to this race," Lee said. "(Car owner) Paul Smith and I basically put this thing together in a few days and he wanted to come here. We found out on Monday for sure we were coming.

"The number one means a lot because Paul has a great team. We want to race and it's all about deals and stuff like that. We are just trying to promote some potential sponsors out here. This means a heck of a lot. I want to carry over this momentum in Sunday."

Lee's elation was matched by Gilbertson's depression. After winning last fall's IHRA World Finals on the same Rockingham track, Gilbertson failed to make the eight-car starting lineup in the Nitro Funny Car class and will be a spectator on Sunday.

The other No. 1 qualifiers Saturday were reigning series champion Bruce Litton of Indianapolis, Ind., in Top Fuel dragster; former champion Mike Janis of Lancaster, N.Y., in Pro Modified; Pete Berner of Crete, Ill., in Pro Stock; and Laurie Cannister of Johnstown, Ohio, in Alcohol Funny Car.

"We were worried about only getting one session," Litton said, a reference to threatening weather that could have washed out Saturday's second session. "We hated to think we might only get one shot and could get bumped out if we didn't run well. We were blessed to get both runs in today."

This is Litton's 10th start from the No. 1 position, but his first at Rockingham, where he hopes to get his title bid back on track after losing in the first round of the season-opener.

Berner, the 2006 series champion, was clocked in 6.324 seconds at 220.37 mph to nudge veteran Frank Gugliotta for the No. 1 spot in Pro Stock.

"All in all, we've had a great weekend so far," Berner said. "The guys have made some really good calls and what can I say about Dave Braswell's carburetors and Pat Norcia's Ram clutches? This new RJ Race Cars Pontiac GXP has been a winner right out of the box

"We definitely want our championship back, and we're going to work real hard to get it. There are some tough customers out here, and I'll have my hands full trying to deal with them, but we're going to give it everything we have."

Cannister, winner of the season-opener two weeks ago at San Antonio, Texas, was the No. 1 qualifier at Rockingham for the second consecutive time. She was clocked in 5.722 seconds at 245.14 mph, slightly off her own track record of 5.668 seconds

"Dale (husband and crew chief Dale Cannister) has a really good handle on the car and all the crew's doing their job," Cannister said. "There's still more in it and we're going to try to find (the limit) tomorrow."

Janis carded a strong 5.986 at 240.08 mph Friday night, a mark that held on against all challengers and earn him the #1 qualifying spot in Pro Modified.

-credit: ihra

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Series Drag
Drivers Laurie Cannister , Mike Janis , Bruce Litton , Bob Gilbertson , Paul Lee , Frank Gugliotta , Paul Smith