Series notes - Tournament of Champions, part 2

Veterans dominate Stock classes This is the second in a three-part series looking at the current Tournament of Champions qualifiers from the seven IHRA sportsman categories. Throughout the week we will be detailing the drivers making up the Rod...

Veterans dominate Stock classes

This is the second in a three-part series looking at the current Tournament of Champions qualifiers from the seven IHRA sportsman categories. Throughout the week we will be detailing the drivers making up the Rod categories, Stock categories and Top Dragster and Top Sportsman categories.

To be the best you have to beat the best -- and that is exactly what the drivers in the IHRA's Stock classes are going to have to do come October.

With five world champions already qualified for the new Tournament of Champions, the field in Rockingham is going to be stout. A handful of new faces in the championship hunt will look to challenge many of the world's best in the Stock and Super Stock categories at the World Finals in Rockingham later this year.

"Stock and Super Stock may be the most talent laden categories in the Tournament of Champions. It is frightening to look at all the world championships and national event victories that the racers currently qualified have earned," said Skooter Peaco, Vice President of Racing Operations. "These two classes look like an all-star game."

Making the road to victory even harder for those drivers who have never battled for a world title is the fact that many of the former champs and veterans have won multiple times, shrinking the field to only the best in that category.

"It is going to be crazy. Along with the national event winners, toss in the guys battling it out at the Summit Pro-Am level and I really wouldn't want to have to lay odds on these two classes," Peaco said. "The only sure thing is that I'm going to be on the starting line watching the best head-to-head racing that IHRA has ever had at the World Finals in Rockingham."

Headlining the list of multi-time winners is two-time world champion Nick Folk.

Folk, the '08 Stock champion, has won three times on the national stage this season, once in Super Stock and twice in Stock. Along with a pair of Champion Systems Sportsman National wins at Immokalee Regional Raceway and Byron Dragway, his Super Stock victory at Pittsburgh Raceway Park earlier this month secured his spot in two separate fields at the World Finals.

He will be joined by 2004 Super Stock World Champion Slate Cummings as the only drivers qualified in both Stock categories. Cummings made the "Stock Sweep" at the season opening Mardi Gras Nationals in Baton Rouge.

Other world champions already in the field include Michael Beard (SS), Myron Piatek (ST) and Craig Marshall (ST).

Beard and Piatek already have wins at Rockingham as Beard won the national event and Piatek won the Summit All-Star Race back in April. The pair will try to make it a sweep come October. Marshall qualified for the tournament via a win at Pittsburgh earlier this month.

One notable absentee from the list of current qualifiers is the IHRA career leader in championships Anthony Bertozzi.

Bertozzi, a 16-time World Champion, has yet to win a national event this season, but is still in the hunt for a spot in the Tournament of Champions via the Summit Racing Equipment Pro-Am Tour.

Along with national event winners, the top three in each division will qualify for the tournament at the end of the year. Bertozzi is currently fifth in the Patriots Division in Stock as he desperately tries to squeak into the field with one divisional event remaining.

Among the already qualified former champs, Piatek and Folk are currently leading their divisions, a big plus as divisional winners gain a first-round bye in the tournament.

The only other multi-time winner so far this season is Jim Marshall who is quite possibly the hottest driver on the tour right now. Marshall has won back-to-back Stock races at Grand Bend and Martin.

The full list of drivers already in the Tournament of Champions from the two Stock categories include Super Stock drivers Folk, Beard, Slate Cummings, Kevin Helms, Allan Patterson, Casey Plaizier, Pete D'Agnolo, Larry Cummings, David Hunt, Bob Cupp, Tim Herbert, Alex Denysenko, Mike Crutchfield and Scott Richardson and Stock drivers Piatek, Folk, Slate Cummings, Greg Rowe, Bob Murray, Mike Cotten, Randy Hutchings, Adam Keir, Phil Jackson, Michael Bolton, Craig Marshall and Jim Marshall.

Current Summit Pro-Am division leaders looking to secure a spot in the invitation only field or knock out others include Super Stock leaders Bob Phillips, Missy Phillips, Michael Lyons, Hagen Gary, Alex Denysenko and Tracy Robbins and Stock leaders Jeanne Linke, Myron Piatek, Aaron Allison, Jody Simoneaux, Nick Folk and Michael Lee.

In all 13 events are already in the books including Nitro Jam events in Baton Rouge, Rockingham, Dallas, Tulsa, Edmonton, Grand Bend and Martin and Champion Systems Sportsman National events at Immokalee Regional Raceway, Richmond Dragway, Pine Valley Raceway, Byron Dragway, Carolina Dragway and Pittsburgh Raceway Park.

There are only a handful of events left to qualify including a pair of Nitro Jam events at New England Dragway and Maryland International Raceway and one final opportunity prior to the World Finals at the Rockingham Champion Systems Sportsman Nationals.

Drivers can also earn a spot in the field by finishing in the top three in their respective Summit Racing Equipment Pro-Am Divisions. Divisional winners will earn a first round bye in the tournament.

Along with competing for a world championship, drivers will also be battling it out for their share of the $125,000 purse up for grabs at the World Finals.

With only a few more chances remaining to qualify for the tournament, you can be sure that the competition will only continue to heat up with only two months remaining in the season.

-credit: ihra

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Series Drag
Drivers Mike Cotten , Allan Patterson , Kevin Helms , Scott Richards , Michael Lyons