CRITCHLEY STEERS "IRONHORSE" TO CANADIAN WIN; ROCCA PONDERS USA RACING TEAM'S FUTURE DIRECTION LEESBURG, Va. (July 3, 2000) â€“ The smiles were certainly genuine on USA Racing team and car-owner Johnny Rocca's face following his and driver Troy...
CRITCHLEY STEERS "IRONHORSE" TO CANADIAN WIN;
ROCCA PONDERS USA RACING TEAM'S FUTURE DIRECTION
LEESBURG, Va. (July 3, 2000) – The smiles were certainly genuine on USA Racing team and car-owner Johnny Rocca's face following his and driver Troy Critchley's victory Sunday during the second event of the five-race Canadian Drag Racing Series (CDRS), held this past weekend at Earlton- Temiskaming Motorsport Dragway, near Cobalt, Ontario.
And, there was no mistaking the strain behind them.
On the surface, it was the team's first major win of the 2000 season, and propelled them to the top of the CDRS point charts.
However, it came on the heels of last week's devastating news that the Norwalk, OH-based International Hot Rod Association (IHRA) sanctioning body had instituted sweeping rules changes, aimed specifically at slowing down the supercharged Pro Modified racers, which could effectively legislate Rocca's crowd-pleasing '49 Mercury "Ironhorse" into a potential non-qualifier at their Summit Drag Racing Series national events.
Until recently, the alcohol-burning machine, tuned by former-driver-turned crew chief Rocca, had held the IHRA world record in elapsed time at 6.227-seconds.
The CDRS win at Earlton-Temiskaming, mirrored the current team's current predicament, as the car, which qualified third at a 6.889 using the newly-announced IHRA rules, destroyed a motor from the excess strain on the powertrain.
"We tried it (running the new IHRA rules combination) and it didn't work," said car-owner and 40-plus year veteran, Rocca.
"We were trying to twist the motor up to where we had to in engine rpm's, but we trashed a motor in the process."
As a result, the team changed to their final engine and reverted back to the previous IHRA rules equipment. The car responded, running 6.61 for a round one win, which was a decent run when considering the lack of adequate baseline information, while competing on the converted airport runway facility. A second round bye run came as a result of low qualifier, Gary Irving's inability to start his car in a previous first round bye run pairing.
In the finals, Australian-born Critchley, 28, drove around his sooner-leaving opponent, K.C. Jensen, running a weekend best at a 6.455 at 221 mph for the win.
But the victory was indeed bittersweet, as Rocca and the team now head to Maryland International Raceway (Budds Creek, MD) this weekend for some crucial – and pivotal testing, which could ultimately determine the "Ironhorse" car-owner and team's immediate drag racing future.
"After testing in Budds Creek, I'm going to make a decision as to whether I'm going on to Leicester, NY (for the CARQUEST Empire Nationals) and compete on the IHRA tour, or else I'm going to call it quits," explained Rocca in a voice filled with conviction and disgust.
"My problem is – and this is exactly the way I want to be quoted, is that if I go to New York and I run a number in qualifying, and I don't mean a cannon fodder number, either. I mean, one to be up in the front of the field where we have been, I believe that (IHRA owner/pres.) Bill Bader will change the rules again.
"I believe there is no end to it. And I have no security in that," he continued. "I cannot race for a man, or an organization, that is going to go out there and kick the chair out from underneath of me every time I go down the racetrack"
The referenced rule changes handed down last week by Bader's IHRA states that all supercharged Pro Modified cars must: utilize a rear end ratio of 4.57, limit transmissions to three-speeds (Rocca is the only current competitor utilizing a four-speed), and run a minimum weight of 2700 lbs. Rival competitors utilizing nitrous oxide-fed engine combinations will be allowed to weigh only 2400 lbs.
"Why do I have to change anything," Rocca went on to say. "He (Bader) set out the rules, I went out and spent $100,000 for engines to compete with this year, and then I have him turn around and jerk the power that these engine can make right out from underneath me.
"This is Pro Modified. He set the rules. We live with the rules. And, if he wants to change the rules, he can change anything he wants - between October and February. I don't care. "What I car about is him doing it in the middle of the season."
The next – and possibly final IHRA/Summit Drag Racing Series event for the crowd favorite "Ironhorse" will be held July 14-16 at New York International Raceway, near Leicester, NY.