Rockingham World Finals Saturday qualifying summary

Cowin Leads Record Binge in Rockingham Qualifying ROCKINGHAM, N.C. -- Australian Top Fuel driver Andrew Cowin sped to a world record Saturday night at Rockingham Dragway in the conclusion of qualifying for Sunday's ninth annual Bethesda ...

Cowin Leads Record Binge in Rockingham Qualifying

ROCKINGHAM, N.C. -- Australian Top Fuel driver Andrew Cowin sped to a world record Saturday night at Rockingham Dragway in the conclusion of qualifying for Sunday's ninth annual Bethesda Softworks World Finals.

Cowin, whose father, Graeme, was an Australian Funny Car Champion in the 1980s, followed up a track-record equaling 4.550 second quarter mile on Friday with a record-setting 4.534 Saturday that sends him into the elimination phase of the season's final event as the No. 1 qualifier for the first time in his brief career.

Cowin's performance totally overshadowed that of four-time reigning IHRA Top Fuel Champion Clay Millican of Drummonds, Tenn., who came in expecting to win at The Rock for a record-setting seventh consecutive time. Instead, he qualified only fifth and lost the choice of lanes for his first round race with Bruce Litton.

Other than Cowin's spectacular two runs, the single most impressive Top Fuel run of the weekend was the career best 4.654 second effort by independent Bobby Lagana, good enough for the No. 3 starting spot.

"This one was for Doc," Lagana said of his effort, a reference to Top Fuel driver Dr. John Sipple, who remained hospitalized in Rockingham Saturday after suffering a mild heart attack. "He's always helping everybody at the racetrack. He's a great guy. A 4.65 for this team is awesome. It's unbelievable. (This is) the most underfunded team in drag racing and to run '65, come on. Come on. Just bring it."

Cowin wasn't the only record-setter on Saturday. Pro Stock points leader John Nobile lowered the record in his class to 6.435 seconds and Canadian Al Billes dropped the Pro Modified record to 6.102 seconds on a record-breaking evening.

Nobile's performance at the wheel of a Ford Escort ZX2 moved him a step closer his first series championship.

He led John Montecalvo of Center Moriches, N.Y., by a scant 10 points prior to the start of qualifying, but with the record and his No. 1 qualifying performance, he will carry a 24-point advantage into Sunday's eliminations.

"I've been doing this a long time," Nobile said, "and, God willing, we'll win this championship and maybe go on and win the race. I want to win this thing really bad, but John does, too. We're friends. He drove me here from the airport and, no matter what happens, we'll go back to the airport, together."

If Nobile does, indeed, hold on to win the title, it would extend to 10 the number of consecutive seasons a Ford product has won the IHRA's factory hot rod division championship.

Funny Car driver Tim Stevens of Dorr, Mich., was transported to FirstHealth Richmond Memorial Hospital in Rockingham Saturday after his car suffered an engine failure and fire before impacting the guard wall. Stevens suffered a mild concussion and second degree burns to his hands. He will be held overnight for observation.

-ihra-

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Series Drag
Drivers Bruce Litton , John Nobile , Andrew Cowin , John Montecalvo , Al Billes