Tulsa: Top Fuel pre-event notes

Loaded Top Fuel field headed to Tulsa Through the first half of the 2009 Nitro Jam season, one of the most competitive classes in all of the IHRA has been Top Fuel. And it doesn't look like that trend will change anytime soon. A full field...

Loaded Top Fuel field headed to Tulsa

Through the first half of the 2009 Nitro Jam season, one of the most competitive classes in all of the IHRA has been Top Fuel.

And it doesn't look like that trend will change anytime soon.

A full field of Top Fuel teams will head to Tulsa next weekend for the annual IHRA Sooner Nationals June 13-14 at Tulsa Raceway Park and after what was seen through the first three races of the season -- it appears anything goes.

Unlike previous seasons where the same handful drivers meet week in and week out in the finals, five different drivers have filled the six final round spots through three races so far this year leaving the 2009 championship battle wide open entering Tulsa.

Rookie Del Cox Jr., coming off of his worst weekend of the year, actually took over the points lead exiting Dallas when former top man Bruce Litton stumbled in the first round.

"Taking the points lead was really the one positive that came out of the weekend so we are happy with that," Cox said. "We just had one thing after another go wrong with the car. We had problems with the clutch, the motor department -- everything.

"But we are working on the car as we speak and hopefully we can have it turned around and have it running like is has been at Tulsa."

Cox has used the strength of two No. 1 qualifying positions and a win at Rockingham to propel him to the top of the charts with 273 points.

"We go into ever race attempting to win, but consistency is the name of the game," Cox said. "This is all new to me, but we are learning as we go. We don't know much about Tulsa, but we are looking forward to it. It is going to be interesting with the two day race format."

While Tulsa may be new to Cox, it isn't new to his crew. Cox's car visited victory lane at Tulsa last year with eventual champion Spencer Massey at the helm and Cox's crew would love nothing more than to pull a repeat.

"Every person on this crew was a part of the championship team last year, I am the only new piece," Cox said. "Those guys are happy and I am stoked to be where I am right now. Everybody is happy to be leading the points again."

Right on his heels is veteran Top Fuel ace Litton who is the only driver to reach the finals more than once this season. He has one win (Baton Rouge) and a runner-up to Cox at the Spring Nationals.

Despite multiple final round appearances, however, his two-point lead entering Dallas was quickly erased when Terry McMillen bumped him in the first round in a race that was decided by a mere 12 inches at the line.

Litton is currently second with 256 markers.

"We didn't qualify well and like I have said before, you have to first qualify, then qualify well and then finish the race. We didn't do that in Dallas," Litton said. "Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose and last weekend we were a few thousands short."

Both Litton and Cox will be looking to rebound at Tulsa after less than stellar performances last month that saw both of them qualify in the bottom half of the field and fall well short of the finals.

"We have to adjust to the track and tune accordingly. We have a great race car, but last weekend we just had a bad outing and that is racing," Litton said. "We are right there and don't need to change much to get back to where we want to be."

And the trip to Oklahoma will be especially sweet for Litton who made his first ever Top Fuel pass at the track over 10 years ago.

"I like that track, it was the one I drove at to get my license in 1998," Litton said. "It may not be the same track, but it is in the same place and I can't wait to go back there."

McMillen turned around a very slow start with his first finals appearance of the season at Dallas, propelling him to third 77 points back of Cox.

Bobby Lagana slipped to fourth (191), falling in the first round for the second straight race after making the finals at the season opener in Baton Rouge., while Mitch King moved up to fifth (169).

King, who owns Cox's car, has both dragsters firmly in the top five and is very excited about the possibilities that await him and his team as the season kicks into high gear.

"I enjoy going to Tulsa. It's not far from home and it is a track we have had a lot of success at," King said. "We won Tulsa last year with Spencer (Massey) and it was the first time that both of my cars ever ran each other so it is kind of a special place."

Still, even with the great start, King admits that there are plenty of bugs that need to be worked out before they are ready to contend for the championship.

"Even though we moved up in points I hope we do a hell of a lot better than we did in Dallas. We looked like a bunch of rookies out there with all the things we broke and problems we had," King said. "Luckily we didn't hurt things too badly. We are going up there looking to qualify at the top and win the race."

Rounding out the Top Fuel top 10 are Dallas No. 1 qualifier Tim Boychuk (166), Terry Haddock (127), Paul Lee (123), Dallas winner Scott Weis (115) and Todd Simpson (60).

Other drivers scheduled to be on hand at the Sooner Nationals include local products Scott Palmer and Fred Farndon, newcomer Michael Bowers and Smax Smith.

One of the best storylines entering the weekend will once again be Weis.

After sitting out for two years due to a broken back suffered at a 2007 race in Chicago, Weis made his racing return at the Texas Nationals last month, sweeping through the field in a borrowed car to claim his first ever IHRA Top Fuel Ironman.

"To get in that car for the first time in two years and win is pretty neat," Weis said. "I hadn't been in a race car in two years, but once I was in it was like riding a bike. As many laps as I had made in a fuel car it didn't take long to get back in the groove.

"I had been trying for a really long time to win in a fuel car and to do it in my first time back after sitting for two years is amazing."

With that momentum, Weis heads to Tulsa ready to make it two-in-a-row at the Oklahoma strip.

"We are headed to Tulsa now because it is an exciting deal and we like running with the IHRA," Weis said. "I can't wait to do this again."

Another driver anxious to hit the track is Missouri native Scott Palmer who grew up racing at Tulsa Raceway Park as a teenager and will now make his return to the IHRA and his home track driving in drag racing's top class.

The IHRA Sooner Nationals will get underway Saturday, June 13 and run through Sunday as over a dozen of the world's fastest machines join the loaded fields of Pro Modified, Pro Stock and Sportsman drivers looking for an Ironman at Tulsa.

-credit: ihra

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Series Drag
Drivers Bruce Litton , Scott Weis , Mitch King , Paul Lee , Scott Palmer , Terry Haddock , Terry McMillen , Todd Simpson