Grand Bend: Round six preview

Grand Bend Next Stop on 2008 IHRA Knoll Gas Nitro Jam Schedule IHRA will make last Canadian stop of 2008 season at Grand Bend Motorplex July 18-20 Norwalk,Ohio (July 14, 2008) -- After setting ticket sales records in Edmonton, IHRA will close...

Grand Bend Next Stop on 2008 IHRA Knoll Gas Nitro Jam Schedule
IHRA will make last Canadian stop of 2008 season at Grand Bend Motorplex July 18-20

Norwalk,Ohio (July 14, 2008) -- After setting ticket sales records in Edmonton, IHRA will close out the Canadian portion of its schedule in Grand Bend when the professional points chases will heat up at the Mopar Canadian Nationals.

The Nitro Funny Car class is not wide open as the top gun in the class, two-time defending World Champion Dale Creasy Jr., is sidelined due to injuries sustained in a semifinals crash in Edmonton. Creasy is expected to miss the rest of the season, leaving a large void at the top of the points standings. Creasy remains in the lead with 392 points, but the top driver behind him is two-time winner this season, Matt Hagan.

Though his season is over, Creasy had a message for his fans.

"You haven't seen the last of me. We're going to see how long it takes to recover and do what we can to make a safer race car, but this isn't the end of the line for me," Creasy said from his hospital bed in Edmonton. "It's a tough deal but if you fall off the horse you have to do everything you can to get back on it. I just want us to figure out how to make these cars safer because no one should have to go through this...this is the worst thing that's ever happened to me."

Hagan, a Nitro Funny Car rookie and teammate of Creasy, claimed his first career event championship at the IHRA Spring Nationals in Rockingham. He also captured the Ironman in Edmonton and has 348 points heading into Grand Bend Motorplex. Terry Haddock, with 293 points, sits third while San Antonio winner Steven Macklyn (283 points) and Milan winner Paul Lee (271 points) are also in the championship mix.

"Right now I'm not as concerned with points; just want to take it race by race, lap by lap," Hagan said. "If we can just win the small races, win the first and second rounds, that leads to the bigger races and the points will take care of themselves. But the last thing on my mind now is running for the championship...I'm just worried about qualifying well in Grand Bend, then winning the first round. I haven't been doing this long enough and am in no position, in the middle of the season, to think about breezing through the rest of the year and walking away with the championship. That's not realistic thinking. I just have to do my job, hope my crew does its job, depend on (Crew Chief) Jay (Lewis) to do his job and see how things play out."

Hagan also wants to make sure his teammate is a big part of the rest of the season in whatever capacity he can.

"I would love to see Dale get back involved in this race team and be able to make decisions on this race car to help us win the championship," he said. "In Edmonton we wanted to go out and win the race for him. Hopefully we can go rounds because I think every round we win will help him feel a little better. I want to encourage him every way I can to get him back racing, to get his legs rehabilitated and get him back on that horse."

Defending champion Bruce Litton (Indianapolis, Ind.) leads the Torco Pro Nitro Top Fuel points chase, but his lead is tenuous. Top Fuel rookie Spencer Massey (Fort Worth, Tex.) has won twice on tour this season and sits just 33 points behind the defending champion. Bobby Lagana Jr. is in striking distance as well, 67 points behind Litton. Mike Strasburg is two points behind Lagana, causing quite a logjam at the top of the standings.

"I've been saying it all year long, this class is tough," Litton said. "Any of the cars that qualify can end up winning the whole deal on Sunday. That makes things great for the fans but really tough for us racers. I love the competition, though, and get excited every time I put on the fire suit. Look at the guys right behind me...Spencer is in his 20's and Bobby is in his late 20's. Mike Strasburg is not as old as me, but he knows what it's like for us old guys to try to hold off these young guns. But I'm having a ball."

Canadian Kenny Lang (Grande Pointe, Mb.) has won twice on the 2008 Nitro Jam schedule and leads the points chase heading into Grand Bend Motorplex. But his once wide lead is closing rapidly. He missed a golden opportunity to put some distance between himself, Mike Castellana and defending World Champion Scott Cannon Jr. in Edmonton, but all three lost in the quarterfinals leaving room for Tommy D'Aprile to move back into contention. D'Aprile lost to event champion Carl Spiering in the semifinals, but kept within striking distance of the leaders in the class.

Lang enters Grand Bend with 377 points followed by Castellana (303), Cannon (295) and D'Aprile (265).

"With half the season left there are so many good cars in this class...any one of them can win," D'Aprile said. "In Edmonton we were the car to beat, everyone knew it, but we missed the clutch set-up in the semifinal and that was that. But I don't think about the points, I just love driving this race car. We've worked so hard and I'm tickled with how this team has come together."

D'Aprile is looking forward to returning to Grand Bend Motorplex.

"The fans in Grand Bend are great," he said. "We set the track record in 2006 and I'm looking to do it again. The Canadian fans are really cool and I look forward to going up there. I'm really excited and want to put on a great show for those fans."

Laurie Cannister (Johnstown, Ohio) added to her already huge points lead in the Alcohol Funny Car class, winning her fourth national event of the season. Unless someone else steps up soon Cannister is threatening to run away with the 2008 world championship.

A number of the top drivers in the Torco Pro Stock class are also expected to make the trip to Grand Bend as well, including Edmonton Pro Stock winner Bob Bertsch.

-credit: ihra

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Series Drag
Drivers Laurie Cannister , Bruce Litton , Dale Creasy Jr. , Bobby Lagana Jr. , Paul Lee , Mike Strasburg , Terry Haddock , Matt Hagan , Kenny Lang , Spencer Massey