Martin: Final eliminations summary

Andy Kelley Captures First Career Nitro Funny Car Ironman Spencer Massey (Top Fuel), Jim Halsey (Pro Modified), Laurie Cannister (Alcohol Funny Car) and Jeff Dobbins (Pro Stock) also claim class championships at IHRA Torco Northern ...

Andy Kelley Captures First Career Nitro Funny Car Ironman

Spencer Massey (Top Fuel), Jim Halsey (Pro Modified), Laurie Cannister (Alcohol Funny Car) and Jeff Dobbins (Pro Stock) also claim class championships at IHRA Torco Northern Nationals

MARTIN, MI (August 3, 2008) -- Andy Kelley was thinking about parking his car a little early this season. Heading into the Torco Northern Nationals at US 131 Motorsports Park, Kelley knew his race team was up against the wall financially. He also knew how quickly things could change.

Kelley, a Piedmont, S.C. resident, defeated Paul Lee in the Torco Pro Nitro Funny Car final round to claim his first career national event victory and get the financial boost he needed to be able to compete at the Sooner Nationals later this month.

"We were broke and thinking about quitting," Kelley said. "Now we did something silly and won some money so we pretty much can't quit. We have to keep on going. I'm glad I was able to win this and glad to be a part of IHRA. When the president of the sanctioning body comes over and shakes your hand to congratulate you...that makes you feel pretty special."

Kelley qualified #5 and knocked off #1 qualifier Cory Lee in the first round. He then defeated John Lawson, who was driving the car Dale Creasy Jr. drove to the world championship last year, in the semifinals to move into the final-round match-up with Lee.

Lee (Wynnewood, Pa.) hazed his tires in the final round while Kelley made a clean pass right down the groove. He posted a 5.544 at 263.20 to grab the Ironman.

Spencer Massey (Fort Worth, Tex.) won the first two national events of the 2008 IHRA Nitro Jam season. He built an early lead in the Torco Pro Nitro Top Fuel points chase, only to see defending world champion Bruce Litton wrestle it away after the President's Cup Nationals in Budds Creek, Md. After knocking off Terry McMillen in the final at US 131 Motorsports Park Massey took the points lead back. He will pull out of the facility with a 41-point advantage.

"This is a dream come true, it's just unbelievable," Massey said. "With three races left we're 41 points in the lead, so I guess we kind of control our own destiny. It's because of this whole Mitch King racing team, they are the best."

Massey took over the points lead in the semifinals when he was able to slip past Litton. He then knocked off McMillen, who shook his tires at mid-track. Massey clocked a 4.741 at 312.57 to take the win light.

"I always say I just have to take things one race at a time, one round at a time," he said. "We can't get ahead of ourselves. We just have to keep our focus and not worry about the points, they will take care of themselves."

The blower vs. nitrous debate has raged in the Torco Pro Modified ever since the class was instituted for the 1990 season. In recent years the supercharged drivers have had the advantage but, if the Northern Nationals are any indication, the tide may be turning. Mike Castellana and Jim Halsey qualified 1-2 before each marching through their side of the ladder to set up an all-nitrous final round.

Though Castellana had the quicker car all day Halsey was able to get his '68 Camaro into the winner's circle at US 131 Motorsports Park. Castellana had the advantage at the tree, .026 to .057, but he did not have enough power left to hold Halsey off on the track. Halsey clocked a 6.088 at 235.64 mph to better Castellana's 6.124/229.12.

"Some of the blower guys were asking me if they were going to put a weight penalty on us," Halsey said with a chuckle. "But if it's our time it's our time. They've had a run at it for awhile now so we'll enjoy it while we can."

Halsey defeated current points leader Kenny Lang in the first round, Steve Salvadore in the quarterfinals and Jason Hamstra in the semifinals to advance to the final round.

"Mike Castellana and that entire team work very hard and they're good at what they do," he said. "I think they had a motor that was a little less than perfect because they hurt it a little bit in the semifinals. And he cut a good light on me. He was way out in front of me...I saw a lot of that maroon car for a long time."

Most Alcohol Funny Car drivers have seen a lot of Laurie Cannister's Kalbones '99 Camaro for a long time this season. Cannister has been dominant in the class this year, and her victory over Paul Noakes in the final round at US 131 Motorsports Park marked her fifth national event victory in seven tries this season.

Cannister coasted to the finish line after Noakes lit the red-light by -.162 of a second.

"It's incredible because we've been trying to figure the car out because there's something wrong with it," Cannister said. "It's been a bug-fogger all weekend and we're thrilled we were able to get this win."

While Cannister has been dominating the rounds of eliminations this season, recently her qualifying efforts have been less than stellar. She wants to turn that around. She qualified in the bottom half of the field in Martin, ending up #5 on the ladder, before turning up the heat in eliminations.

"That's happened at the last couple of races, we've struggled in qualifying," she said. "We had some kind of gremlin and ended up changing engines for today. For some reason this engine liked the track a little better. I don't know how to explain it."

Jeff Dobbins (Wilmington, N.C.) has seemingly righted the ship after a second-round red-light in Grand Bend two weeks ago cost him his points lead. Frank Gugliotta won the Ironman in Grand Bend and entered US 131 Motorsports Park as the points leader. While a red-light cost Dobbins the points lead in Canada, one gave it back to him in Michigan. Pete Berner, who had the quickest car all weekend, jumped the gun in the final round to hand the win to Dobbins.

Berner out-performed Dobbins in the final, clocking a 6.383 to Dobbins' 6.387, but his -.021 red-light start rendered his performance advantage useless.

"I saw it when I went by the tree, I knew he red-lighted, but we wanted to make another good run," Dobbins said. "That made it eight good runs this weekend so we were pretty happy with how the weekend turned out."

Dobbins historically has not done well at US 131 Motorsports Park, so he was pleased he was able to get that monkey off his back.

"We had never done really well here," he said. "We had done well at the other Michigan track (Milan Dragway) but this was our first final round here. In fact this was our first semifinal here, so we're happy with how things turned out this weekend."

-credit: ihra

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Series Drag
Drivers Laurie Cannister , Mitch King , Paul Lee , Cory Lee , Jim Halsey , Kenny Lang , Spencer Massey , Frank Gugliotta , Terry McMillen