Atlanta: Michael Gullqvist final report

Gullqvist becomes first European racer to win on NHRA tour COMMERCE, Ga. (May 16) -- Pro Mod racer Michael Gullqvist was at his auto repair shop in Stockholm, Sweden, Wednesday morning when he got a call from R2B2 Racing team owner Roger Burgess...

Gullqvist becomes first European racer to win on NHRA tour

COMMERCE, Ga. (May 16) -- Pro Mod racer Michael Gullqvist was at his auto repair shop in Stockholm, Sweden, Wednesday morning when he got a call from R2B2 Racing team owner Roger Burgess asking him if he could fill in for Ray Commisso, who lost his father Ernesto late Tuesday evening in Toronto.

Five days later "Gully" is the toast of drag racing after becoming the first European in the 59-year history of the sport to win an NHRA national event.

"I'm at a loss for words," Gullqvist said from the winner's circle at Atlanta Dragway. "This was my third final in a row dating back to the European FIA championship last fall. I lost that one because I made a little mistake and then I had another final here in Gainesville (Fla.) in March driving another one of Roger's cars and lost that one as well with a red light so I was really anxious to get this win, especially under the circumstances of Raymond's father passing away."

Gullqvist was surprised to learn he was the first European racer to win an NHRA event but was pleased to bring attention to the FIA tour.

"I'm heavily involved with European drag racing and we have a good thing going over there," he said. "I'm not sure people here know how big it is but we have 50, 60, 70,000 people at our races. Pro Mod usually draws 50 or more cars at each event. If this (win) can bring our kind of drag racing to more American fans then I am very happy.

"I know lots of people in Sweden and all of Europe were pulling for us this weekend. I see the notes on Facebook and I got many messages on my mobile phone. It's been very exciting and I'm sure I will have a great reception when I return home.

"This is a win for Europe, for Sweden, for Canada (Commisso's native country), and for America. I'm very happy to bring this to Roger and his team."

This was the first victory of the year for Burgess' multi-car race team, which fields the Pro Mod hot rods of Melanie Troxel, Burgess, and Commisso. The team also supports Troxel's In-N-Out Burger Funny Car.

"It's quite a group Roger has put together and it makes it very easy for the driver to be surrounded by so much talent," Gullqvist said. "Frank Hawley (team consultant) talked to me after Round 1 (Saturday evening) and we found a way to adjust some things in Raymond's car to make me more comfortable. After that it was just a matter of driving to my best ability."

Gullqvist looked very relaxed Sunday, beating Scott Ray, Von Smith, and top qualifier Mike Janis in the final to take the win. His final-round performance was convincing as he left with a huge .057-second advantage (.061 to .118) and rode away for the victory with a 6.006 at 244.03 mph to Janis' 6.081 at 237.00 mph.

"Maybe the race with Von Smith was the one I feared the most because he has been running so well," Gullqvist said. "I saw his car for a bit but when our Al Billes horsepower kicked in that was all I needed. That's when I started smiling.

"Now, of course, I will be smiling for a long time."

-source: r2b2 racing

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Series NHRA
Drivers Mike Janis , Scott Ray , Melanie Troxel , Al Billes , Von Smith , Roger Burgess