Leicester, NY - As the IHRA Summit Drag Racing season nears the half-way point, Pelzer, South Carolina's second-year doorslammer star Alan Pittman finds himself embroiled in one of the best knock-down, drag-out battles for Pro Mod domination that...
Leicester, NY - As the IHRA Summit Drag Racing season nears the half-way point, Pelzer, South Carolina's second-year doorslammer star Alan Pittman finds himself embroiled in one of the best knock-down, drag-out battles for Pro Mod domination that the class has seen in years.
And most of that is due to the fact that, in addition to the traditional nitrous versus supercharger confrontations that made Pro Mod famous, Pittman and upstart Mike Janis, who also runs with a compressor car, have developed a very intense "inter-squad" rivalry over the relatively short course of just five races.
Coming into that fifth race, the 11th Annual CARQUEST Empire Nationals at New York International Raceway, Janis led the championship points chase by just 26 over Pittman. Between the two of them, they had effectively blocked the nitrous contingent from getting their pictures taken in the winner's circle, each having qualified in the top three all four times, going on to claim two victories each.
At Leicester, it was more of the same, with Janis and Pittman qualifying one-two. But as much fun as Pittman has been having this year dueling with the New Yorker, and in spite of the incentive that the head-to-head competition has provided, the 40 year-old car builder was determined to get his early-season points lead back. And the combination of the excellent racing surface at Leicester and the ideal weather conditions offered a great opportunity for him to do so.
In Friday's first qualifying session, Pittman's Darren Mayer-tuned '41 Willys, owned by Ken and Sylvia Westbrook, hit the ground running, chalking up a smooth 6.306/ 225.15, making him fifth quickest. Proving how skilled and determined the Westbrook Motorsports team is, after a scary top-end fire at the conclusion of Pittman's second attempt, he was able to come back on Saturday and run through first at 6.272/225.82, and then 6.254/225.75, grabbing the number two position on the grid, and keeping his top-three qualifying string intact.
On Sunday, Pittman's first round opponent was number 15 qualifier, Paul Athey, who was wheeling Johnny Rocca's '51 Mercury. The "Ironhorse" Merc' broke on the burnout, and Pittman rode a straight and strong 6.317/226.75 into the quarterfinals. The next time up, however, Pittman himself fell victim to some bad racing luck. Severe tire shake, most likely due to a clutch problem, caused him to shut things down to avoid damaging the car, and the Westbrook team's weekend was over.
However, based on his solid qualifying effort, Pittman proved once again that his quest for the 2001 championship is as serious as it gets, and everyone who parks a trailer in the Pro Mod pits during the second half of the season, blower or nitrous, better be prepared for a real Carolina-style scrap.