GUGLIOTTA'S TRACK RECORD HIGHLIGHTS SPRING NATIONALS QUALIFYING Sunday Finals Will Crown Four Pro Champions at Rockingham Dragway ROCKINGHAM, N.C. - Frank Gugliotta upstaged reigning series champion John Nobile and defending event champion...
GUGLIOTTA'S TRACK RECORD HIGHLIGHTS SPRING NATIONALS QUALIFYING
Sunday Finals Will Crown Four Pro Champions at Rockingham Dragway
ROCKINGHAM, N.C. - Frank Gugliotta upstaged reigning series champion John Nobile and defending event champion John Montecalvo Saturday by driving his 2004 Ford Escort to a Rockingham Dragway track record in qualifying for Sunday's 35th annual IHRA Spring Nationals.
In recording a career best time of 6.412 seconds at 214.59 miles per hour, the Mt. Airy, Md., driver established himself as the Pro Stock favorite on Sunday. In addition to Pro Stock, Sunday's single elimination finals will crown Spring Nationals champions in Top Fuel, Pro Modified, Pro Stock and seven Pro-Am categories.
Other top qualifiers Saturday were Doug Foley of Sewell, N.J., at 4.657 seconds, 307.75 mph; Quain Stott of Columbus, S.C., at 6.161 seconds, 229.18 mph in Pro Modified; and Rob Atchison of London, Ontario, Calif., at 5.751 seconds, 240.94 mph in Funny Car.
Gugliotta's time broke the Pro Stock track record of 6.435 set by Nobile during qualifying for the 2004 IHRA World Finals, an event in which he clinched his first series title. Thanks to Gugliotta, Tony Gillig of Lake Bluff, Ill., Peter Berner of Crete, Ill., and Robert Patrick of Fredericksburg, Va., Fords occupied the top four positions in the Pro Stock qualifying order.
The highest qualified non-Ford was the Chevrolet Cobalt of Dodge expatriate Rick Jones of Galesburg, Ill., which wound up fifth at 6.468, 214.25 mph.
"Actually we were shooting for 6.42-6.43," Gugliotta said. "It actually came up a little quicker than that. The track was good. It held. Tomorrow they're talking about it's going to be colder so what we're starting to worry about is track temperature."
Gugliotta said that the track temperature was in the low 70s when he made his record run on Friday. If it's another 10 degrees cooler Sunday, that could be a problem, he said. Gugliotta, one of a half dozen Pro Stock drivers with the potential to be the first to officially break the 6.40 barrier, said he thought he had a real shot at that milestone on his record-breaking qualifying run.
"I was thinking 6.30s right there, to be honest with you," he said. "When I put it in high gear, I thought, 'maybe.' But if the track is good (Sunday), '30s are (still) possible. There's a lot of cars that could do it, but I'm not going to be thinking '30s, at least not in the first round," Gugliotta said. "We're going to try to (win) rounds tomorrow."
While reigning series champions Clay Millican of Drummonds, Tenn., Atchison and Nobile put themselves in position to challenge on Sunday, problems continued for 2004 IHRA/Hooters Pro Modified Champion Mike Janis of Lancaster, N.Y., who failed to qualify for the second time in as many 2005 races.
The defending Spring Nationals champion, Janis never was able to make a representative qualifying run in the 2005 Dodge Stratus he debuted earlier this month in the IHRA Texas Nationals at San Antonio. Instead, he watched from the sidelines as Stott set the qualifying pace on Saturday.
Millican, who on Sunday will try to extend his Rockingham Dragway winning streak to eight consecutive races, appeared to be well on his way to yet another No. 1 qualifying performance in Top Fuel only to be upstaged by Foley, who, for his efforts, will oppose 74-year-old legend Chris Karamesines of Chicago in round one.
"We weren't out there trying to set the world on its end," Atchison said of his No. 1 effort in Funny Car. "We went out there just trying to get down the racetrack. That was really our race day setup because we're anticipating that kind of weather (on Sunday)."