Three-Pete for Berner at Sooner Nationals
Boychuk rockets to first win of year, Lang downs Hoover in Pro Mod
Not even torrential rains and muggy conditions could not deter the drivers and crews racing at this weekend's IHRA Sooner Nationals from putting on an absolutely spectacular day of racing.
After a lengthy delay to start the morning, the action got back underway during the mid-afternoon hours and it was nothing but blue skies and great racing from then on as Tim Boychuk (Top Fuel), Kenny Lang (Pro Modified) and Pete Berner (Elite Motorsports Pro Stock) battled through the tricky conditions to record victories at the third annual IHRA Sooner Nationals presented by Wolverine Boots and Academy Sports and Outdoors Sunday evening at Tulsa Raceway Park.
And it was three of the closest championship finals in drag racing history.
All three wins were decided by inches at the line and provided a thrill for fans that preserved through the morning weather.
It was also a weekend dominated by veterans as the three winners combined for 31 career final round appearances.
In sportsman competition Allen Firestone (Top Sportsman), Jacky King (Top Dragster), Allan Patterson (Super Stock), Mike Cotton (Stock), Jimmy Stookey (Quick Rod), Shawn Carter (Super Rod) and Jay Bunce (Hot Rod) all claimed wins at the IHRA Sooner Nationals
Last year it took until the final two races of the season for Canadian Top Fueler Tim Boychuk to find his footing.
This year, Boychuk decided not to wait so long. Boychuk drove past Litton in the finals of the IHRA Sooner Nationals for his first win of the season and the third of his career Sunday at Tulsa Raceway Park after the fourth of 10 races on the 2009 Nitro Jam schedule.
And what a race it was.
Boychuk (Edmonton, Alberta) won in a holeshot over Litton (Indianapolis, Ind.) with a 4.929 elapsed time at 294.31 miles per hour to Litton's 4.919, 284.51 mph pass.
"It was a great race. With our new body I have had a hard time seeing the front end of the car and when we went to stage the car I accidentally staged the bulb right away, which I did not want to happen," Boychuk said. "It threw me off a bit, but we waited for Bruce and we went in and made a run at it and it just went great.
"I knew the only way we could beat Bruce was with a holeshot because I felt he had a little bit of a superior car to ours so I knew I had to be on my game. Thank goodness it worked out for us."
It was a nice step in the right direction for Boychuk who hadn't even claimed a round win until two weeks ago in Dallas.
Struggling out of the gate, Boychuk started to turn the corner in Texas with the No. 1 qualifying spot and followed that up with a run through the Top Fuel later on Sunday to claim his third win in the last six races.
"Over the winter we missed a few things on the car that should have been done that weren't done and it took us a few races to find those problems and fix them," Boychuk said. "I think we have got rid of all those gremlins now and we are finally back."
With the win Boychuk leaped from sixth to fourth in points, while Litton used his runner-up finish to leapfrog Del Cox Jr. back to the top of the Top Fuel charts.
"We have never been up in the standings so to be up there is really cool. It is going to be fun trying to chase down Del and Bruce," Boychuk said.
Sunday's Top Fuel semifinals saw the most exciting pairings of the season as Litton battled Cox and Lagana took on Boychuk.
Boychuk, who has had nothing but trouble through the early portion of 2009, reached his first final of the year with a win over Bobby Lagana Jr. in the semis. Litton reached his third final of the year with a win over Cox.
Litton came into Sunday's eliminations as the No. 1 qualifier and was one of the cars to beat all weekend long, rolling past points leader Cox and Todd Simpson to reach his third final in four tries.
Boychuk was right on Litton's heels throughout the weekend, however, qualifying second and easily dispatching Lagana to reach his third career final round. Boychuk received an impromptu bye in the first round when Mike Bowers couldn't get his car fired.
The biggest matchup of the quarterfinal round saw Dallas winner Scott Weis take on Lagana. Weis actually got a jump on the New York native, but Lagana was able to drive around him for the win by eight hundredths of a second at the line.
In other first round action Boychuk got a free pass when Bowers couldn't get his car fired, Litton got an easy win over Todd Simpson who went red and Cox beat team owner Mitch King.
It is now off to Edmonton, Boychuk's hometown, for the next race on the Nitro Jam schedule.
"This is just a great way to go into Edmonton. Knowing that we will have a lot of backing up there and with this win it is going to make it a whole lot sweeter," Boychuk said.
The third time truly proved the charm for Pro Modified ace Kenny Lang Sunday evening as Lang drove to his third straight final round, finally making it pay off with a win over Ed Hoover during final eliminations at the Sooner Nationals at Tulsa Raceway Park.
Lang ran a 6.119 elapsed time at 233.56 miles per hour to get around Hoover (Gilbert, S.C.) who ran a 6.132 E.T. at 237.05 mph as Lang claimed his fourth career win and extended his points led to 29 points over Hoover.
"We struggled early this weekend, but making it to the finals was the first step and getting around Ed was big for us," Lang said.
And the closeness of the contest made the win even that much more exciting for Lang.
"I knew the lights were going to be close and I had to be ready for that and then the car nosed over on me at about 1,000 feet," Lang said. "I didn't see Ed at that point, but as soon as it started to nose over Ed pulled up beside me and foot by foot he started to gain on me. Going through the lights I honestly could not tell if I had him."
And what a victory it was for the Grande Pointe, Manitoba resident.
After losing in the first round of the season opener in Baton Rouge, Lang made the finals of the next two races at Rockingham and Dallas, but fell in both appearances to first time winners Tim Tindle and Chris Russo.
Sunday, Lang put his troubles behind him and returned to victory lane.
"It just seems like the last couple races we have had some stuff break which is very uncharacteristic of the car," Lang said. "We haven't been getting our stuff together until later in the weekend. We seem to struggle early, but lap by lap I get a hand on it.
"That is the way it worked in Dallas and that is the way it worked here. It isn't planned, but that is the way it has been working out. And today, it definitely came around for us."
Lang reached his third straight final by doing exactly what he does best - save it all for the end.
Lang qualified in the bottom half of the field last week in Dallas, but turned it on during eliminations and did it again on Sunday, knocking off No. 1 qualifier Taylor Lastor to reach the final round.
Lang absolutely destroyed Lastor at the tree with a .14 second reaction time and took the win light with a 6.06 E.T. to Lastor's 6.10.
Hoover easily reached his first final of the year when Senft went red. Hoover ran a 6.11 at 229.74 miles per hour.
Despite the short field, the action on the track was still worth the price of admission.
Lang nipped Kirk Wilmes by inches at the line in the semifinal round to advance and Ed Hoover did the same to Oklahoma native Dave Pierce as the two drivers posted identical 6.18s. Hoover's advantage came on the line.
In other first round action Senft pulled a huge upset in his King Kong '69 Camaro when he cruised past Dallas winner Chris Russo. Russo had nothing but trouble off the line, shaking the tires as Senft had it won at 60 feet. Top qualifier Taylor Lastor had a free pass into the second round.
Lang and Hoover continued their dominance of the Pro Mod class this season, while Russo moved up to third, Ray Commisso slipped to fourth and Lastor rocketed to fifth.
"I wanted to thank R2B2 Motors and Al Billes for his great engine program. Without them this isn't possible," Lang said.
ELITE MOTORSPORTS PRO STOCK
Make it three-in-a-row for Pete Berner.
Berner came into this year's IHRA Sooner Nationals having won the last two races at Tulsa Raceway Park and continued his dominance at the Oklahoma track with a win over John Montecalvo in the Elite Motorsports Pro Stock final Sunday evening at Tulsa Raceway Park.
"This is a great facility. We have just been fortunate the last three years and we have certainly had the tune-up for these kinds of conditions," Berner said. "We tested here a couple weeks ago and felt very happy with that and when Jim (Weinert) gets over here and preps this track it is as good as any track in the country. And with the way the fans come out and support us here, it has just been unbelievable."
Berner (Crete, Ill.) and Montecalvo (Center Moriches, N.Y.) met in the final round of the 2008 Sooner Nationals and were 1-2 all weekend long at this year's event, but it was Berner's experience at the track that helped him get the nod over top qualifier Montecalvo and record his eighth career win.
"It was an unbelievable race. I didn't even know at the stripe who had run it was so close," Berner said. "I saw a lot of his fender so knew it could have gone either way. He is such a great driver and I have been racing him for a long time. That is the reason I love racing, going up against people like him."
Berner ran a 6.386 elapsed time at 218.34 miles per hour to propel him past Montecalvo who ran a 6.395 E.T. at 218.02 mph in Sunday's finals.
It was an absolutely tremendous drag race as the two veterans were never separated by more than a few hundredths of a second at any point during the run and Berner edged his opponent by less than five inches at the line.
"We pushed it some runs and then slowed it up and for the finals we found a happy medium. I knew I had to be on my toes because Monte wasn't going to cut me any slack," Berner said. "We went out there, staged the car and let the clutch out. Whoever wins wins. There was no fooling around, we just went out there and raced and that is why it is such a pleasure racing John and his crew."
Despite falling in the final, Sunday provided a much needed turnaround for Montecalvo who ended a streak of two straight first round losses with a trip to the finals this weekend.
In the end, however, Berner's dominance of Tulsa was the story of the weekend.
Berner, who had been suffering from a string of redlights, actually found himself as the beneficiary of a false start as he reached the finals via a redlight by Dallas winner Frank Gugliotta in the semis.
On the other hand, Montecalvo had a much tougher road to the final.
Montecalvo needed every inch of the 1,320 feet to get around Scott Hinz in the semis as Hintz smoked the New York native at the line and held the lead until the 1,000 foot mark when Montecalvo came storming back and ended the dream weekend for Hintz.
In quarterfinal action Hintz continued his career weekend.
After knocking off Cary Goforth in the first round, Hintz fired off another upset in round two with a holeshot victory over J.R. Carr setting up the big matchup with Montecalvo.
But Hintz wasn't the only person making noise in round one as Montecalvo put down a pair of track records with a 6.38 elapsed time at 220.15 miles per hour to overcome Richard Freeman who had a nice advantage off the line.
Berner and Gugliotta set up their semifinal round as Berner received a bye and Gugliotta won his sixth straight round over Cale Aronson.
With the win, Gugliotta took over the Pro Stock points lead. Gugliotta claimed that lead thanks to a big upset in the first round.
While most of the first round went according to plan, a huge upset of points leader Goforth allowed Gugliotta to take over the top spot.
Competing in front of his home crowd, Goforth tried to go for it all on the line but left well before the light, essentially giving a free pass to Hintz who picked up his first round win of the year.
It was an incredibly disappointing loss for Goforth who had posted two straight final round appearances. Sunday also marked the first time this season Goforth has lost prior to the semifinal round.
Berner also leaped over Goforth into second, while Montecalvo tucked himself in behind the former points leader in fourth.
"We have a great car and a great motor program. We are pretty blessed to have some great people helping us along," Berner said. "You surround yourself with great people and this is what happens.
In Sportsman action Allen Firestone (Velma, Okla.) defeated Rick Wilson in Top Sportsman, Jacky King (Norman, Okla.) defeated John Brimer in Top Dragster, Jimmy Stookey (Claremore, Okla.) defeated Heidi Robsinson in Quick Rod, Shawn Carter (Park Hill, Okla.) defeated Scott Wagner in Super Rod, Jay Bunce (Oklahoma City, Okla.) defeated Dwight Allen in Hot Rod, Allan Patterson (Augusta, Kan.) defeated Justin Jenkins in Super Stock and Mike Cotton (Broken Arrow, Okla.) defeated Tony Wood in Stock.