San Antonio: Sunday eliminations summary

DENSHAM TAKES TEXAS NATIONALS TITLE CALIFORNIA-BASED RACER CAPTURES TORCO RACING FUELS PRO NITRO FUNNY CAR IRONMAN AT SAN ANTONIO RACEWAY SAN ANTONIO, Texas (March 26, 2006) -- Gary Densham has visited the winner's circle before, but never in...

DENSHAM TAKES TEXAS NATIONALS TITLE

CALIFORNIA-BASED RACER CAPTURES TORCO RACING FUELS PRO NITRO FUNNY CAR IRONMAN AT SAN ANTONIO RACEWAY

SAN ANTONIO, Texas (March 26, 2006) -- Gary Densham has visited the winner's circle before, but never in IHRA competition. That all changed at San Antonio Raceway when he was able to drive past Paul Lee to claim the first eMax Drag Racing Series Torco Racing Fuels Pro Nitro Funny Car championship at the season-opening Amalie Oil Texas Nationals presented by Ancira Cars, Trucks and RVs and the San Antonio Express News.

The Bellflower, Calif., resident has eight career Top Fuel Funny Car wins in NHRA competition, but decided to test the IHRA waters when the sanctioning body decided to offer Nitro Funny Car competition on the 2006 schedule.

After driving his Racebricks '05 Monte Carlo to the #3 qualifying position, Densham defeated Terry Haddock in the first round and Cruz Pedregon in the semifinals to advance to the championship round against Lee. Densham clocked a clean 4.850/300.20 to win the event while Lee crossed the center line during his run and was disqualified.

"We really had a lot of fun out here this weekend," 59-year old Densham said. "I wanted to run a higher speed, but had a lot of great elapsed-times and in the final round we had a great 4.8-run to win the event.

"I've won many events and championships throughout my career, and I can honestly say being able to win the inaugural (Nitro) Funny Car event for IHRA ranks right up there," he added. "This is such a dynamite facility and great experience, I don't think it would be too hard to convince my team to come back to IHRA."

Sewell, N.J., resident Doug Foley, who finished second in the Torco Racing Fuels Pro Nitro Top Fuel championship points chase last season, got off to exactly the start he wanted in 2006. After qualifying in the #1 position, Foley advanced through the field to a showdown with five-time defending IHRA Top Fuel World Champion Clay Millican (Drummonds, Tenn.).

Millican was the #4 qualifier, but was able to advance to his 54th career eMax Drag Racing Series final by defeating Andrew Cowin (Wilmington, N.C.) and Bruce Litton (Indianapolis, Ind.) in the first two elimination rounds.

Millican was gunning for his fourth consecutive Ironman at San Antonio Raceway, but it was not meant to be as his rear end got loose early in the run and he was forced to lift. Foley, meanwhile, ran a clean 4.585/321.27 to add Ironman #6 to the Foley/Lewis Racing trophy case.

Foley defeated Louie Allison (Denver, Col.) and teammate Rick Cooper (Boise, Id.) to reach the final.

"You can't expect to come to these races and beat Clay (Millican), but after qualifying we were confident we could keep posting great times," said Foley. "We've been out testing since the second week of January, so we were prepared to run quick all weekend. When you run the defending world champ, you have to run fast and we did just that."

Mark Thomas (Louisville, Oh.) dealt out a little payback to Rob Atchison, his arch-rival for Alcohol Funny Car supremacy, and collected career Ironman #24 by defeating the three-time defending world champion in the final at San Antonio. Atchison, a London, Ont.,resident, wrestled the world title away from Thomas in 2003 and has held on to it ever since. But Thomas, who finished third in the points standings last season, knocked Atchison off in the final to take the early lead in what is expected to be a season-long war for the championship.

Thomas powered his Ethanol Performs '06 Monte Carlo to the #2 qualifying spot, behind Atchison, and defeated Trevor Lebsack (Slave Lake, Alb.) and Terry McMillen (Elkhart, Ind.) to advance through the field. Meanwhile, Atchison drove through the other side of the ladder with wins over Chris Foster (Davenport, Iowa) and Thomas Carter (Cuero, Texas.).

In the run for the championship, Atchison had problems and ended up crossing the center line. Thomas ran a 5.897/242.80 to grab the win.

"This new car is awesome. Every pass in it has been in the 5.80s," Thomas said. "We came here with a whole new engine combo, and despite wanting to test, we didn't have the chance. So I had a lot of butterflies this weekend but everything worked out in the Ethanol Funny Car today."

Tommy D'Aprile's bid for his first career win fell short as Glen Kerunsky (Priddis, Ab) held the Port Charlotte, Fla. resident off to claim the Torco Pro Modified championship at San Antonio Raceway. Both racers posted .060 reaction times, but D'Aprile's '63 Corvette went into tire shake early, causing him to abort the run. Kerunsky, in his supercharged '53 Bel Air, zipped right down the groove in 6.101 at 230.59 mph to earn the win.

"A lot of guys come out here and try to over power the car to get a great number," said Kerunsky. "But we had a game plan to keep the car consistent throughout the day, and it worked. It's great to be in the winner's circle again."

Frank Gugliotta almost did not make the journey to the eMax Drag Racing Series opener in San Antonio. Steve Thodos, who bankrolled Gugliotta's race operation for the last few years, decided to go another direction this season, leaving the Mt. Airy, Md. resident unclear as to his '06 racing future. Gugliotta received a last minute offer to race and it resulted in a Torco Pro Stock Ironman by defeating upstart Rob Mansfield (Winter Park, Fla.) in the final.

"(Team owner) Charlie Taylor called and asked if I wanted to drive his Pro Stocker just a few weeks ago, and here I am in the winner's circle," said Gugliotta, who clinched his fifth career Torco Pro Stock win. "Now we head back to Rockingham, where I was No. 1 qualifier in 2005. Maybe I can get a few more wins this year."

Gugliotta earned the victory when Mansfield red-lighted in his Wilson Manifolds '05 Cobalt. Meanwhile, Gugliotta claimed his fifth career national event win by posting a 6.490/216.55.

The next event on the 2006 eMax Drag Racing Series is the Spring Nationals presented by Castrol, April 21 -- 23, at Rockingham (N.C.) Dragway.

-ihra-

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Series Drag
Drivers Mark Thomas , Clay Millican , Bruce Litton , Andrew Cowin , Gary Densham , Louie Allison , Paul Lee , Doug Foley , Terry Haddock , Glen Kerunsky , Frank Gugliotta , Terry McMillen