EPPING, NH (Sept. 9, 2000) - Australian-born driver, Troy Critchley, steered Johnny Rocca's "Ironhorse" Pro Modified '49 Mercury to the initial pole position during first round qualifying for the Parts Pro Performance Centers North American ...
EPPING, NH (Sept. 9, 2000) - Australian-born driver, Troy Critchley, steered Johnny Rocca's "Ironhorse" Pro Modified '49 Mercury to the initial pole position during first round qualifying for the Parts Pro Performance Centers North American Nationals, at New England Dragway, in Epping, NH.
In fact, the 28 year-old hired driver for Rocca's Leesburg, Va.-based USA Racing Team, was among the first pair of Pro Modified vehicles to make official runs during the national event, the eighth on the International Hot Rod Association's (IHRA) 12-race, Summit Drag Racing tour.
Consequently, it took Critchley and Rocca just 6.283-seconds to grab the position, and re-ignite the supercharged-versus-nitrous controversy, which has dogged the Pro Modified category, in heightened fashion, throughout the 2000 season.
The second and third qualified entries in the 16-car field, like Rocca's, are supercharged, with former point leader, Fred Hahn, and Al Billes, clocking 6.344 and 6.363 times, respectively. Fourth through 15th positions are held by nitrous oxide entries, with Carl Spiering's Canada-based racecar the only remaining supercharged machine in the field, currently in 16th .
Credit Rocca's unyielding determination and mechanical prowess, plus the IHRA rule makers, for his car's present position atop Epping's Pro Mod field.
Rocca, a 40-plus year veteran driver and recently-turned crew chief, acknowledged that his crowd-pleasing "Ironhorse" is receiving its "second wind" through an experimental supercharger, created and developed by Elkhart, Ind.-based Kobelco Superchargers, and himself, over the past eight months.
"We call it (supercharger) `Superman'," said Rocca.
It may indeed be potent, but perhaps not yet bullet-proof.
"We hurt an engine on the run. That's the trouble with this supercharger," he continued. "It attacks different pistons for some unknown reason. We've spent a lot of time and money researching and developing this thing.
"I knew it was going to do it (burn pistons)," he said. "But, I set it on kill, on purpose, because I wanted to come out during the first run and put our best shot down, so we'd have the rest of the weekend to tinker around."
Immediately following the run, members of the Norwalk, Oh-based IHRA officiating staff were present in Rocca's pit area. After inspection of the unit, including an appearance by sanctioning body president, Bill Bader, the supercharger passed scrutiny. Hence, the run - and the hardware, will stand.
However, it's not the first time that the rule makers had seen the new unit.
"We had taken it to IHRA three months ago, and had them tech it - to take it apart and make sure it was legal," said Rocca. "They did then, and also came here (to my trailer after the run) and pronounced it legal again. They're fine with it."
The latest mechanical chess moves by Rocca, and the IHRA, are sure to incite to the rival nitrous-fed contingent, who remain vehemently opposed to the most recent rule changes within the Pro Modified division, which threaten the nitrous racer's current domination. Presently, nitrous racer, Quain Stott, leads supercharged and record-holder, Fred Hahn, in points, 518 to 472.
Beginning at this weekend's Epping event, the IHRA has allowed the supercharged vehicles a 75-pound weight reduction. It comes after an event ruling just two weeks ago, in Norwalk, which gave the same racers an incremental rearend gear ratio allowance.
The aforementioned pair of revisions are answers to a trio of restrictions placed by IHRA on the supercharged cars just three races into the season, in mid-June, which proved too harsh in providing the division a level playing field.
At that time, Hahn had established a new IHRA elapsed time record at 6.17, and was running away with the point chase. Also, Critchley, a former record-holder (6.227-seconds), had placed as high as fourth. He has since slipped back to the seventh position, and proved unable to qualify at the last two national events.
Two qualifying sessions remain on Saturday, prior to Sunday's final eliminations, scheduled to begin at 12 Noon.
Each of the 12 IHRA/Summit Drag Racing national events in 2000, including the Parts Pro Performance Centers North American Nationals, can be seen in one-hour television shows, airing each Sunday at 10:30 p.m. (Eastern Standard Time) on TNN (The Nashville Network).