THE 'I' IS FOR INTERNATIONAL One thing that a lot of people tend to forget is that the "I" in IHRA actually stands for International. And it is that worldwide appeal that is one of the driving forces behind the popularity of the legendary ...
THE 'I' IS FOR INTERNATIONAL
One thing that a lot of people tend to forget is that the "I" in IHRA actually stands for International.
And it is that worldwide appeal that is one of the driving forces behind the popularity of the legendary sanctioning body.
Along with being home to drivers from all corners of the globe, the IHRA also hosts races in both the United States and Canada and has aspirations to continue to expand its borders in the years to come.
In fact, this weekend's race in Martin is the first national event back in the U.S. since finishing up its Canadian Swing two weeks ago in Edmonton and Grand Bend. Along with the U.S. and Canada, the IHRA also has tracks outside of the continental United States in Alaska and Hawaii and even has a facility on the tiny island of Aruba.
And it is on that tiny, yet highly popular island in the Caribbean that Pro Stock driver Trevor Eman calls home.
Eman was born and raised in Aruba and even got his drag racing start on a small track close to home. Now, from bracket racing in Aruba to driving on a national drag racing tour, Eman has evolved to one of the fastest door cars on the planet -- IHRA Mountain Motor Pro Stock.
"We used to race Pro Stocks in Aruba and that is how it all started. We have been doing that forever with my uncle and dad," Eman said. "A few years ago it got to where there wasn't much competition so we said lets do something different and we shipped the cars over here and that is how it all started."
But Eman will be quick to admit that what started out as a bit of an experiment quickly turned into an obsession.
"We were only going to do this for two years, but then it became all about the challenge. First lets see if we can qualify then lets see if we can win a race and we kept stepping up our goals and now here we are today, still racing," Eman said.
And it isn't hard to spot Eman on race day.
Along with having a brightly colored purple, blue and orange Ford Escort with the words Aruba down the side, his pit area has just as much flare as his personality. With palm trees and the same eye-popping paint scheme on his trailer, Eman loves the reaction he gets from the fans all while supporting the place he calls home.
"That is the idea behind it all. People come by and they want to know more about Aruba and maybe discuss taking a vacation and that is our goal," Eman said. "We could come here and race for ourselves, but we wouldn't be putting it to good use. If we are going racing in the states lets take Aruba with us and help promote the island."
Today Eman can be found on the campus of a school in Orlando majoring in mechanical engineering, but don't think for a second he has lost any of that fire. Eman still tries to make it to as many events as possible all while continuing to up the ante each race weekend.
"It is never impossible. I have been involved in this stuff since I was little and, while it definitely does help having a foot in the door, it isn't everything. If you have that determination you can accomplish anything and that is what we are trying to do out here," Eman said.
THE FOUNTAIN OF YOUTH?
Who knew the Fountain of Youth could be found in the seat of a dragster?
Just like the Academy Award winning blockbuster "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button" starring Brad Pitt, Top Fuel driver Luigi Novelli has discovered a way to reverse the aging process.
And it is done at over 300 miles per hour.
"These Top Fuel cars are definitely a handful. It keeps you young because you have to be alert and you have to be able to work and keep this thing moving forward," Novelli said. "What can I say, it is a lot of work and we are a low budget team so you just have to keep working at it."
Who knew it was that easy?
Novelli, now 67, has been racing for nearly 50 years ever since he caught the racing bug in the late 50s watching one of the legends of the sport make a pass down the drag strip.
From then on he knew that is all he ever wanted to do.
"I saw Chris Karamesines in Chicago in the late 50s and saw what he was doing and from then on it was all downhill," Novelli said. "I started my own ride in Top fuel and we are still here.
"We have been doing this for almost 50 years now. It is a lot of work and a lot of money and we are still having fun with it. If you don't have a little fun, there is no sense in doing it."
So after 50 plus years behind the wheel of the one of the fastest machines on earth, you would think at some point the fountain would run dry and Novelli would try to find a less extreme hobby.
Not anytime soon.
"As long as I pass the physical and I am not broke I am going to keep doing this. I love it," Novelli said.
What does a racer do with his free time after weeks on the road?
Keep racing more, of course.
And that is exactly what Dixie, W.Va. native Burton Auxier is doing with his weekend off as he and his team made a last minute decision to make the haul to Martin, Mich. this weekend for the IHRA Northern Nationals presented by Dart Machinery.
"We have been working on the car a little bit and just decided it would be a good place to come and race," Auxier said. "We have been wanting to run IHRA and we weren't racing anywhere this weekend so we decided to come on out.
"We have been running every weekend and everybody was getting tired, but we got home for a couple of days and everybody got rested and said lets go racing."
Driving his popular orange and purple Al-Anabi backed '67 Camaro, Auxier has to be considered one of the favorites this weekend after a great season competing in multiple racing organizations.
In IHRA competition Auxier has one start this season, qualifying eighth back in April at Rockingham Dragway on his way to a second round exit at the Spring Nationals. Outside of the IHRA Auxier has three final round appearances this year including a win at Bristol.
While Auxier has always been a talented driver, a lot of his recent success has come from his partnership with Al-Anabi Racing almost one year ago.
"It has been a really good year for us. There are a lot of cars and a lot of information sharing at Al-Anabi and quite a bit of support from everyone. Shannon, Mike and that team and the Sheik -- they all love racing and provide a ton of moral and financial support," Auxier said. "It makes racing a lot more fun."
Now Auxier's focus shifts to Martin as he tries to qualify in one of the toughest Pro Mod fields of the year.
"It should be a really good weekend. The car is capable, it has been 5.98 and it will go faster. If we make the right calls and have a little bit of luck we will do just fine," Auxier said.
ONE WILD WEEKEND
The last stop on the IHRA Nitro Jam tour was anything but memorable for many of the drivers in Elite Motorsports Pro Stock.
For John Montecalvo, however, the race two weeks ago in Grand Bend was more like a dream come true.
With the top three in points all suffering nightmarish first round losses, Montecalvo was able to make up a ton of ground with a trip to the finals as he made the leap from fourth to second in points and now finds himself just six markers back leader Frank Gugliotta.
"That was absolutely incredible. What are the odds of all those guys going out in the first round? I don't think I have ever seen that," Montecalvo said. "We knew going into that race it was an important race for us, we had to make up a lot of ground, but I never dreamed those guys would all go out in the first round like that."
Now Montecalvo, who was on the cusp of being in the championship hunt with Gugliotta, Pete Berner and Cary Goforth going into Grand Bend, has thrown himself right into the middle of the bunch. In fact, from Gugliotta back to Goforth in fourth, the margin is less than a single round of competition.
"I think what is going to win this thing is not so much how many wins you have, but how many round wins you have. That is what it is all going to come down to," Montecalvo said.
Montecalvo has been able to propel himself into second thanks to a remarkable three final round appearances in five starts, but he has yet to get a victory this season.
"It has just been one of those years. I am really fortunate to be in so many finals, but I would definitely have liked to have won one," Montecalvo said. "I can't complain though, how can you complain with a runner-up? There are 20 other people who would like to be in that position and I am just happy to keep going rounds."
Now, with only four races remaining on the schedule, it is time to get down to business as each and every pass down the track could be the difference in first or fifth in points.
"From here on in it is crunch time. Sure we would like to get a couple more trophies, but the main thing right now is to go rounds and try to stay in points," Montecalvo said.