Series spotlight - reigning champions 2009-05-04

Reigning champs make early statements Winning a race on the IHRA Nitro Jam circuit is never an easy thing to do, but to do so against the world's best -- that is just downright impossible. Well, almost impossible. Del Cox, Tim...

Reigning champs make early statements

Winning a race on the IHRA Nitro Jam circuit is never an easy thing to do, but to do so against the world's best -- that is just downright impossible.

Well, almost impossible.

Del Cox, Tim Tindle and Cary Goforth all defied the odds last weekend at the IHRA Spring Nationals at Rockingham Dragway, posting their first career victories in IHRA competition and doing so against three of the world's best drivers.

But while the trio of first-time winners were busy celebrating their unlikely wins, the three runner-up finishers were quietly sitting back and lauding a job well done.

For Bruce Litton, Kenny Lang and Pete Berner, they are right where they want to be.

Lang and Berner, both defending world champions in Pro Modified and Pro Stock respectively, rebounded nicely from first-round exits at the season opener in Baton Rouge with final round appearances at Rockingham while 2007 Top Fuel World Champion Bruce Litton turned in his second-straight final round.

With the runner-up finishes, Litton remains on top of the Top Fuel point standings ahead of a hard-charging Cox while Lang jumps from seventh to third in Pro Mod and Berner jumps from fifth to second in Pro Stock behind Rockingham winner Goforth.

"I am excited about our second consecutive final," Litton said. "It was a great weekend and everyone on this Lucas Oil team has done a phenomenal job. We are leading the points, which is a nice start to the year."

Litton currently sits first with 204 points, two markers ahead of Cox who has made up a lot of ground with two straight "pole" awards. The two Top Fuel pilots have also split the five bonus points that accompany the IHRA Last Man Standing Award for top elapsed time among winners during Friday and Saturday's qualifying sessions.

Behind Litton and Cox is New York native Bobby Lagana Jr. who has 132 points, 2008 Nitro Funny Car champ Terry Haddock with 127 points and Paul Lee with 123 points.

In Pro Mod competition Lang made a huge leap up the standings with his runner-up finish, jumping from seventh to third behind Baton Rouge winner Ray Commisso and an incredibly consistent Ed Hoover.

Commisso has 172 points, followed by Hoover with 146 and Lang with 133. Rockingham winner Tim Tindle is fourth with 114 points and Tommy Gray sits fifth with 105 points.

It was a nice rebound for the Canadian after being knocked out of the first round at the Mardi Gras Nationals by Louisiana native Harold Laird. Lang responded this past weekend with wins over Billy Gibson and Ed Hoover to reach the finals.

In Pro Stock action Goforth's win propelled him to the top of the Elite Motorsports Pro Stock summit while Berner jumped to second. Goforth's win gives him an impressive 6-1 win-loss record on the year with his only loss coming to John Montecalvo in Baton Rouge.

Thanks to that quick start Goforth has racked up 185 points, 32 points ahead of Berner.

"We had a good weekend all in all. We had a great outing with our new trailer, the car worked great and the crew worked hard to adjust for the conditions," Berner said. "We've got some race wins coming. We're fortunate to be in the position that we are in and we are going to keep our heads held high and keep improving our program and see what we can do at the next race."

And after the battle put fourth by Berner and Goforth at the Spring Nationals, where Goforth edged the defending champ by roughly two feet at the line, the race to the Pro Stock championship should be fun to watch.

"We're tickled to death for Cary," Berner said. "It was a heck of a race. I had told him at another race that his time was coming, I just didn't think it was going to be against us."

Rounding out the Pro Stock top five are Baton Rouge winner Jason Collins (146), Frank Gugliotta (134) and John Montecalvo (131).

All three classes will be back in action May 29-31 at the Amalie Oil Texas Nationals at the brand-new Dallas Raceway.

-credit: ihra

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Series Drag
Drivers Bruce Litton , Bobby Lagana Jr. , John Montecalvo , Ed Hoover , Tommy Gray , Billy Gibson , Terry Haddock , Kenny Lang , Frank Gugliotta