Epping: Series Friday qualifying summary

Pete Berner Claims Pro Stock Points Lead with Track Record Friday Sets New England Dragway speed record in evening qualifying session; Bruce Litton (Top Fuel), Matt Hagan (Nitro Funny Car), Mike Castellana (Pro Modified) and Neal Parker (Alcohol...

Pete Berner Claims Pro Stock Points Lead with Track Record Friday
Sets New England Dragway speed record in evening qualifying session; Bruce Litton (Top Fuel), Matt Hagan (Nitro Funny Car), Mike Castellana (Pro Modified) and Neal Parker (Alcohol Funny Car) also take provisional poles at IHRA Amalie Oil North American Nationals

Epping, N.H. (Sept. 5, 2008) -- Friday evening provisional qualifying usually does not mean much where the points races are concerned. But Friday at New England Dragway in Epping, N.H., Pete Berner (Crete, Ill.) used one of IHRA's unique bonus programs to move to the front of the Pro Stock pack.

Berner's 6.348 at a track-record 221.67 mph was the quickest qualifying time of the Friday evening session by a driver who also defeated the car in the other lane. This made him the winner of the Quarter-Max Pro Stock challenge, giving him five bonus points. Since he trailed Jeff Dobbins by three points heading into the event, those five points put him in the driver's seat in the championship points chase.

Berner was also the provisional #1 qualifier heading into Saturday qualifying.

"That number surprised us," Berner said of the 6.348. "We figured the car had a lot in it, but we were expecting to run in the high 6.30's. The car just hooked up to the track and charged. IHRA does a great job prepping the track and the starting line was incredible. Those five bonus points were really important because the points chase is so tight, but there's a lot of racing left."

Berner will join seven of his fellow Pro Stock competitors in a run for their share of a $100,000 purse Saturday when the Torco Pro Stock Showdown is run off as part of Saturday qualifying at the Amalie Oil North American Nationals.

"We got a couple of good runs under our belts today," Berner said. "Now it's time to start focusing on the Showdown tomorrow. It's going to be exciting."

Bruce Litton (Indianapolis, Ind.) came to the Amalie Oil North American Nationals second in the Top Fuel points standings, 73 points behind front-running Spencer Massey. Litton made an early statement at New England Dragway in what turned out to be a bonus Top Fuel session. IHRA did not originally have a Top Fuel qualifying session scheduled for Friday evening, but added one to the schedule at the last minute.

Litton clocked a 4.674 at 311.92 mph to jump to the top of the provisional qualifying sheet and claim the five Last Man Standing bonus points.

"The car hooked up real nice and it was a strong, clean run," Litton said. "We are thrilled we got the extra run tonight and those five points could come in handy. I love to race and always want to make extra laps, so when IHRA told us to get ready to race tonight they didn't have to tell me twice. Our job now is to get ready to make another nice lap or two tomorrow."

Terry McMillen was second on the provisional sheet with a 4.714/314.61 pass while Bobby Lagana Jr. (4.739/317.19) and Massey (4.804/297.09) rounded out the top half of the provisional field.

Matt Hagan (Christiansburg, Virg.) continued his hot streak in the Nitro Funny Car class, clocking a career-best 4.974 at 309.20 mph to end up on top of the provisional qualifying sheet. Last weekend Hagan qualified for the field at an NHRA race for the first time in his career after previously capturing an IHRA Ironman at the Sooner Nationals in Tulsa.

Hagan is trying to chase down Terry Haddock on top of the IHRA Nitro Funny Car points standings, but that was the furthest thing from his mind Friday in New England.

"I'm trying to get better and I learn something every time I get in the race car," Hagan said. "The points race isn't something I'm worried about right now; I just want to make the best possible lap I can every time I stage the car. My dad (David Hagan) made a lot of sacrifices to put me in this car. He could be on the beach somewhere, kicking back, but he wanted to go racing so I want to pay him back by doing the best I possibly can."

Haddock was second on the sheet heading into Saturday qualifying with a 5.042/300.00 pass.

Prior to the Amalie Oil North American Nationals everyone was predicting the first nitrous-assisted Pro Modified run in the five-second range would take place at New England Dragway this weekend. Mike Castellana (Westbury, N.Y.) and his Awesome/Al-Anabi Motorsports 1968 Firebird was the reason for this optimism.

Castellana has been churning out eye-popping numbers on a consistent basis recently, including the quickest nitrous pass in history, a 6.000. He fell just short of the magic number in Epping during Friday qualifying, but his 6.010 at 238.89 was good enough to put him #1 on the qualifying list and earn him five Last Man Standing bonus points.

"We weren't thinking about anything other than qualifying well and getting those five bonus points," Castellana said. "We did that so now we can see about going a little quicker. We're not worried about setting records or anything like that right now; we're worried about qualifying well and going rounds during eliminations."

Jim Halsey (Street, Md.) was second on the provisional qualifying sheet with a 6.057/233.36 pass. Halsey and Castellana are looking to put nitrous cars 1-2 on the final qualifying sheet for the third national event in a row.

Neal Parker (Millville, N.J.) put his 2005 Monte Carlo on top of the provisional Alcohol Funny Car qualifying sheet and earned five Last Man Standing bonus points with his 5.819 pass at 240.08 mph. Local favorite Fred Tigges (Holbrook, Mass.), in his first IHRA action of the season, will enter Saturday qualifying second on the strength of his 5.843/241.24. Laurie Cannister, looking to clinch the 2007 IHRA AFC world championship this weekend, was third with a 5.844 at 239.95 mph.

The Amalie Oil North American Nationals presented by New England Dodge Dealers will continue Saturday, Sept. 6, with two scheduled professional qualifying sessions. The first will be at 2pm and the second, as part of IHRA's Night of Fire, at 7pm. The $100,000 Torco Pro Stock Showdown will also be run off during Saturday qualifying at New England Dragway with the final being held during the Night of Fire. Final eliminations will take place Sunday.

-credit: ihra

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Series Drag
Drivers Laurie Cannister , Bruce Litton , Bobby Lagana Jr. , Terry Haddock , Jim Halsey , Matt Hagan , Spencer Massey , Terry McMillen