GILLIAM, La. (October 13, 2000) - Considering his trials and tribulations thus far on the International Hot Rod Association (IHRA) national event tour, veteran car-owner, Johnny Rocca, hopes that good luck will come on Friday the 13th.
After all, the USA Racing Team car owner's Prolong Super Lubricants/Somerset Refinery, Inc.-sponsored '49 Mercury Pro Modified, driven by Australian, Troy Critchley, has a lot riding on today's - and this weekend's outcome, which currently finds his "Ironhorse" third on the Summit Drag Racing Series point trail.
"I'd rather be lucky than good," said Rocca. "But, we're running great right now. So, there's a chance we'll have both good luck - and good fortune in our favor, through the rest of what's been a difficult season."
Saturday's elimination rounds will carry the Mopar Parts World Finals event's title, with the season nearing completion, as the 10th of 11 races under sanction by the Norwalk, Oh-based IHRA. The event, which was supposed to be the 2000 finale, is now the next-to-last contest, with a weather-delayed Rockingham, NC, national to close the series, with world championships in all divisions crowned the weekend of November 3-5.
But up for grabs tonight at Red River Raceway, located near Shreveport, La., in Gilliam, is the single largest seasonal payout - and bragging rights, for the supercharged-versus-nitrous oxide, "full-bodied" drag race machines, during the highly anticipated Mopar Performance Parts Pro Modified Shootout. Critchley, 28, is it's defending champion and sits third in points, behind seasonal leaders, Quain Stott and Fred Hahn. Contested among the top-eight point earners throughout the season, the winner will take home $20,000 from the $50,000 purse.
Make that third place - and closing fast. The USA Racing Team, winners of their first-ever IHRA national event recently in Epping, NH, has endured a roller coaster of emotion thus far.
The first two events of the 2000 season saw them non-qualifiers. Next, they roared back, with the former-IHRA elapsed time record-holders running near the top, only to hit a roadblock when rules were implemented at slowing down the supercharged machines. Despite the severe handicap, Critchley made his first-ever final in New York.
Amid disgust, rumors and hints of car-owner Rocca's retirement came next, while Critchley went into a driver's slump, with help received from NHRA Top Fuel world champ, Gary Scelzi. Next, IHRA realized that the harshness of their recent rules had penalized the blown cars too severely, and reduced the limitations. With only a handful of races left, Critchley's driving, plus Rocca's veteran tuning capabilities and use of a unique transmission, plus a prototype supercharged named "Superman", resulted in a move from seventh to third in points, including a pole position, plus the team's initial victory in Epping. A win and tie for the Canadian Drag Racing Series (CDRS) came recently, as well.
Momentum is definitely on their side. Plus, the remaining two events should see the supercharged machines fare well, as near sea-level conditions result in optimum performance. In fact, during Thursday's initial qualifying session for Pro Modified, Hahn's supercharged car placed first at 6.25-seconds, with Critchley second at 6.33.