Grand Bend: Series Saturday qualifying summary

Cool evening produces record runs during 'Night of Fire' Cox blasts to No. 1 in Top Fuel; Pontieri (Pro Mod) and Gugliotta (Pro Stock) top charts A pair of Canadians owned the Pro Modified class as Tony Pontieri leaped to the top of the...

Cool evening produces record runs during 'Night of Fire'

Cox blasts to No. 1 in Top Fuel; Pontieri (Pro Mod) and Gugliotta (Pro Stock) top charts

A pair of Canadians owned the Pro Modified class as Tony Pontieri leaped to the top of the charts in the popular doorslammer category and Del Cox (Top Fuel), Frank Gugliotta (Pro Stock) and Bruce Boland (PMRA) all claimed spots at the top of the charts during the popular "Night of Fire" at the MOPAR Canadian Nationals Saturday at the Grand Bend Motorplex in Grand Bend, Ontario.

Rain showers wreaked havoc on the evening portion of the schedule, but after a few delays the 'Night of Fire' produced some of the best racing of the weekend before a final storm ended the evening just a few runs shy of the finish.

But not even the rain could slow down Del Cox.

Cox (Downey, Calif.), in the first professional pass following the delay, blasted to the top of the Top Fuel charts with a blistering 4.725 elapsed time at 317.94 miles per hour to knock points leader Bruce Litton (Indianapolis, Ind.) from the top spot.

"It was a little nerve racking going out there after the rain because these are the baddest hot rods in the world. It was dark, it was cold and that was the most driving I have had to do, but we got it down the track," Cox said.

Did he ever.

Cox's run was the fastest speed of the entire year as he made a bold statement in his attempt to get back in the Top Fuel title chase and make up some ground on Litton.

"She was moving, there was no doubt about that. I think we are back," Cox said. "We got another five points and if the car runs like it did tonight I don't think we will have a problem. The weather has been pretty similar so we will go with the same tune-up and go again tomorrow."

Just behind Cox was Litton whose 4.810 second lap on Friday was enough to keep him in second. Boychuk also dropped a spot to third via a 4.865 second pass Friday night.

Outside of Cox, the other big story on Saturday was Dom Lagana in his first professional run in Top Fuel.

After making a so-so pass on Friday, Lagana opened it up on Saturday with a solid 4.978 elapsed time at 290.82 miles per hour in his first weekend of competition in Top Fuel. Lagana was the fourth car to venture into the four-second range.

Mitch King (5.057) was fifth heading into Sunday.

Pontieri (Bolton, Ontario) blasted to the top of the Pro Mod charts with a record setting performance, setting both ends of the Grand Bend track record with a 5.974 second pass at 241.93 miles per hour to top the charts during the cool afternoon session.

"This is a car that has like three laps on it. Actually, the laps that you saw here at this track were some of our first," Pontieri said. We were out prior last weekend on our local track and we only got 60 foot times so we came here blind. We tried all the stuff we had over the winter and we got this car three weeks ago, got it painted, did some work to it and you saw the results."

Not only was it a track record, but Pontieri's pass was also the quickest and fastest pass in the history of Pro Modified racing in the country of Canada.

"I woke up this morning feeling good after we cleaned the car last night I did some adjustments and I told my crew chief to get ready because if I get it into second gear we are going in the fives," Pontieri said. "When I hit second gear the car got a little loose, but not bad enough it was out of control. I put it back in the groove and she just charged to the end of the quarter mile.

"I knew it was fast because I could feel it and then I saw everybody jumping at the end of the track. It went from the team working hard over the past month to this tonight. It was quite a run for everybody involved with this team."

Kenny Lang (Grande Pointe, Manitoba) tucked himself in behind Pontieri and leaped from the bottom of the charts to second with another blistering lap of 5.993 seconds at 237.82 miles per hour. Lang also claimed Saturday's Last Man Standing award for producing the fastest winning time during the "Night of Fire" qualifying session.

Ed Hoover ran a 5.999 E.T. at 237.34 miles per hour to fall in behind Lang in third as three cars dipped into the five-second zone on Saturday. Gary Irving (6.071) and Melanie Troxel (6.130) rounded out the top five heading into Sunday.

Troxel's afternoon pass was her best lap in a Pro Modified vehicle since switching over to the door car this season.

Gugliotta (Mt. Airy, Md.) ruined Pete Berner's (Crete, Ill.) attempt at his first pole of the season, running a solid 6.330 elapsed time at 219.83 miles per hour to qualify No. 1 and claim Saturday's Quarter-Max Last Man Standing Award in Elite Motorsports Pro Stock.

"It was an awesome run. My guys did a great job, everybody from the bottom to the top. Richard Freeman, I can't thank him enough. J.R. Carr, Agripak, Elite Motorsports -- everybody," Gugliotta said. "Really this is a whole team effort. We look out for each other and try to make everybody run the best we can and it was me tonight."

Berner ran a great 6.349 E.T. at 219.04 miles per hour during the afternoon session and looked poised to claim his first No. 1 qualifying spot of the season, but the points leader was able to knock him off the top spot and beat him head-to-head during the final qualifying session of the weekend.

"This is the hardest class out here, it really is. It is so close, one little mistake, one turn of a screw one way or the other can be the difference," Gugliotta said. "We had fun running Pete tonight. He is one of my good buddies and a two-time champion and we would like to be where he is."

Saturday's marked Gugliotta's first pole of the season.

Just behind Gugliotta and Berner was Elite Motorsports head man Richard Freeman who ran a solid 6.358 at 218.72 miles per hour. Friday's Last Man Standing John Montecalvo (6.359) dropped to fourth.

Mark Martino rounded out the Pro Stock top five with a solid 6.372 second lap, but it was his speed that turned a few heads. Martino was just off of the track record with the fastest lap of the weekend at 220.15 miles per hour during the brisk evening hours.

Saturday night's highly touted "King of Canada" match race between Alcohol Funny Car stars Paul Noakes and Rob Atchison turned into a one round show due to the rain -- and what a round it was.

In the only pass of the weekend for the pair of cars Atchison was able to make the most of his brief moment in the spotlight with a solid 5.792 second pass at 246.57 miles per hour, edging Paul Noakes who ran a 5.848 E.T. at 240.98 miles per hour.

Jason McKnight, a late addition to the event, actually put down the quickest and fastest lap of the afternoon with a 5.779 elapsed time at 251.86 miles per hour. Larry Dobbs ran a 5.993 E.T. at 237.96 mph.

The Pro Modified Racing Association points leader Bruce Boland (Stoney Creek, Ontario) put down the fast lap of the weekend Saturday night with a blazing 4.030 elapsed time at 193.39 miles per hour on the quarter mile.

Jack Grainy (Tonawanda, N.Y.), Friday's fastest man, dropped one spot to second one a 4.031 second pass at 179.97 miles per hour.

Jeff Roth (4.161), Mark Nielsen (4.174) and Jason Kalso (4.175) rounded out the top five in the PMRA Challenge at Saturday's MOPAR Canadian Nationals.

Sunday's action will get underway at 9 a.m. with sportsman eliminations followed by professional eliminations beginning at 11 a.m.

-credit: ihra

Be part of something big

Write a comment
Show comments
About this article
Series Drag
Drivers Bruce Litton , John Montecalvo , Ed Hoover , Mitch King , Melanie Troxel , J.R. Carr , Kenny Lang , Richard Freeman , Mark Martin , Frank Gugliotta , Dom Lagana