Martin: Series Saturday qualifying summary

Litton (Top Fuel), Lang (Pro Mod) and Gugliotta (Pro Stock) top charts during 'Night of Fire' Thrift wins Axle-Mania Shootout, takes home $22,500 Unpredictable weather led to some unpredictable racing during Saturday's IHRA Northern...

Litton (Top Fuel), Lang (Pro Mod) and Gugliotta (Pro Stock) top charts during 'Night of Fire'

Thrift wins Axle-Mania Shootout, takes home $22,500

Unpredictable weather led to some unpredictable racing during Saturday's IHRA Northern Nationals presented by Dart Machinery at U.S. 131 Motorsports Park as a mixed bag of results greeted the sold out "Night of Fire" crowd.

Some drivers had little trouble navigating the fresh track and others weren't so lucky as Bruce Litton (Top Fuel) and Frank Gugliotta (Elite Motorsports Pro Stock) had to rely on Friday's times to remain on top while Kenny Lang did exactly the opposite with a blistering lap to take the top spot in Pro Modified.

Bruce Thrift also made some noise Saturday night with a $22,500 payday during the Axle-Mania Sportsman Shootout.

While Litton was able to hold on to the top spot in Top Fuel via his 4.674 second pass at 319.51 miles per hour on Friday night, the order behind him saw a lot of jumbling on Saturday.

Pat Dakin (Dayton, Ohio) made up the most ground during Saturday's qualifying session, jumping into second with a 4.714 second lap at 295.34 miles per hour Saturday afternoon, but neither was able to catch Bobby Lagana Jr. during Saturday's "Night of Fire."

Lagana jumped from just outside the field to fourth with a 4.768 second pass at 294.31 miles per hour to claim Saturday's Last Man Standing award and the five bonus points associated with it.

Despite the great runs by Dakin and Lagana, neither was able to come close to the spectacular lap put down by Litton (Indianapolis, Ind.) Friday night.

"We were trying to go out and run a better number tonight. The track got really tight there at the end and the car just shook and once it shook you are done," Litton said.

Cox, who also struggled on Saturday, was just behind the duo of Litton and Dakin in third via his 4.767 second pass Friday night.

Lagana was just a thousandth of a second off of Cox's time in fourth while Terry McMillen stunned the field by going from dead last to fifth during Saturday's final qualifying round.

McMillen, who was unable to agree with the track in his first two passes, connected in a big way on Saturday in his final attempt to make the field with a 4.793 second lap at 303.91 miles per hour to leap from outside the field to the top five.

As expected, the bump spot for the eight car field was set at 4.840 seconds by Tim Boychuk as Mitch King and Tim Cullinan rounded out the Top fuel field.

"It is a very good field, there are some really good cars that didn't get in," Litton said. "It is anybodies game and we just have to go out and take it round by round and navigate the track and see what it is going to do tomorrow."

In Pro Modified Lang leapfrogged both Tony Pontieri and Ed Hoover to take the top spot in qualifying while also claiming Friday's Last Man Standing award during Saturday's "Night of Fire" in Martin.

While most of the teams struggled during the evening session, Lang showed why he is the defending world champion with a blistering 5.947 second pass at 239.61 miles per hour to jump to No. 1 entering Sunday's final eliminations.

"Some of the guys had a hard time, but I wasn't over worried about it. We went down there smooth, it still walked around and used up a little bit of race track, but it did what we hoped," Lang said.

And it couldn't have come at a better time as Lang has been fighting trying to find the car all weekend.

"We knew the car had it in it, we just had to find it. We have been off base with a few things and took a few runs and some data to get back on track and I think we are back on track now," Lang said. "I knew this weekend lap by lap we would start getting quicker and quicker and we did get a handle on it today."

Lang (Grande Pointe, Manitoba) jumped over Pontieri (Bolton, Ontario) who dropped to second with a 5.954 second pass at 241.07 mph set Friday night.

Points leader Ed Hoover also dropped a spot to third as he was unable to improve on his 5.981 second lap set Friday night. Hoover also had a small chunk taken out of his lead as Lang picked up five extra points on the leader.

While the top three on the charts all dipped into the five second zone, it was the fourth and fifth place qualifiers that took home the headlines.

Melanie Troxel, who has spent her first three races behind the wheel of a Pro Modified struggling to find an answer for the wild doorslammers, finally managed to get it right on Saturday with her best ever pass behind the wheel of her Voodoo machine to jump to fourth in qualifying.

Troxel ran a solid 6.029 E.T. at 238.55 miles per hour.

Just behind her was the other big story Saturday night in Brad Personett who put down the lap heard round the world at 6.060 seconds at a record-setting 247.07 miles per hour. His speed was good enough to erase the track mark by over six miles per hour while also threatening the IHRA world record.

If he can back that speed up within one percent on Sunday he will officially top Ray Commisso's mark of 246.08 miles per hour set earlier this year in Baton Rouge.

Gugliotta suffered very little drop off from Friday night's qualifying session on Saturday as four very consistent passes allowed the "Flying Meatball" to take the No. 1 qualifying position and claim Saturday's Quarter-Max Last Man Standing award in Elite Motorsports Pro Stock.

It was the second consecutive night Gugliotta has picked up the five extra points for being the fastest man of the night.

Gugliotta (Mt. Airy, Md.) claimed the top spot with a 6.331 second pass at 219.36 miles per hour while his fast lap of 6.333 seconds on Saturday gave him the Last Man Standing award.

"We have had good qualifying sessions the past few days, but I need them consistent laps tomorrow when they really county," Gugliotta said.

While no one even came close to Gugliotta's qualifying mark, Mark Martino (Stoney Creek, Ontario) made the biggest move on Saturday jumping all the way up to second with a 6.343 second pass at 219.15 miles per hour.

"We have had a good outing so far, but Sunday. We need Sunday," Gugliotta said.

Just behind him is Michigan native Bob Bertsch who has consistently put down fast laps all weekend long. His pass of 6.346 at 219.94 mph on Saturday night was good enough to place him in third.

Robert Patrick (6.348) and J.R. Carr (6.350) round out the top five with Elite Motorsports headman Richard Freeman coming just shy of placing all three Elite Motorsports cars in the top five.

Wrapping up the evening was the largest sportsman payday of the year as Bruce Thrift (Waycross, Ga.) took home $22,500 in winning the Moser Axle-Mania Sportsman Showdown Saturday night.

Thrift defeated Scott Macy (Randleman, N.C.) in the final after Macy went red, giving Thrift an easy road to the win.

Thrift navigated a field of the best 32 cars in sportsman drag racing to take home his share of the $51,000 sportsman purse.

After a thrilling Saturday evening, the action will get back underway on Sunday with sportsman eliminations starting at 9 a.m. and final eliminations set to begin at 4 p.m.

-credit: ihra

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Series Drag
Drivers Bruce Litton , Robert Patrick , Ed Hoover , Mitch King , Melanie Troxel , J.R. Carr , Pat Dakin , Brad Personett , Kenny Lang , Richard Freeman , Tim Cullinan , Frank Gugliotta , Terry McMillen