Martin: Sunday eliminations summary

T.J. Zizzo Breaks Through for First Career Top Fuel Victory at Torco Racing Fuels Northern Nationals Wyatt, Carter, Gillig and Hernandez also win at US 131 Motorsports Park GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (August 6, 2006) - The 25th Annual Torco ...

T.J. Zizzo Breaks Through for First Career Top Fuel Victory at Torco Racing Fuels Northern Nationals

Wyatt, Carter, Gillig and Hernandez also win at US 131 Motorsports Park

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (August 6, 2006) - The 25th Annual Torco Racing Fuels Northern Nationals was a weekend of firsts for Illinois-based racer T.J. Zizzo. He claimed his first career pole position when final qualifying was said and done and, back where he made his first IHRA appearance last season, registered the low ET of the meet and captured his first career national event victory at US 131 Motorsports Park.

Zizzo was the best Knoll Gas-Torco Racing Fuels Pro Nitro Top Fuel car all weekend. After his Friday qualifying hit stood up he knocked off J.R. Todd, a recent two-time NHRA national event winner, in the first round of eliminations. He then handled Bruce Litton in the semifinals and Doug Foley in the finals to take home his first Ironman.

"This is an all-volunteer team, and I mean all volunteer," Zizzo said. "Not even Dave Settles, the Crew Chief, gets paid a dime on this deal. US 131 is one of my favorite race tracks and I've won here before in an alcohol dragster, so this win really means a lot to us."

Zizzo won the Ironman when he defeated Foley in the final, but it was his first-round match-up with J.R. Todd that Zizzo was most keyed-up for.

"To race J.R. Todd in the first round, I mean, he has won two of the last three NHRA national events," Zizzo said. "We had to show J.R. Todd what IHRA racing is all about. He has some experience over here, I understand that. But that team doesn't. IHRA right now is where it's at. I never wanted to beat anybody so badly in my life. This IHRA circuit, and all the drivers here, teach me how to drive. Look at reaction times across the board, IHRA guys usually have better reaction times than NHRA guys. We're all trying real hard over here."

Jack Wyatt is another racer who is trying real hard. After losing his sponsor following an event win earlier this season, Wyatt is working as hard as he can to be able to continue racing. After almost not being able to afford to come to the Torco Northern Nationals, Wyatt scraped together enough funding at the last minute, literally, and headed to Martin. He ended up in the Winner's Circle after defeating Bob Gilbertson in the Knoll Gas-Torco Racing Fuels Pro Nitro Funny Car final.

"This really pays off for all the hard work," Wyatt said. "We've worked hard and things haven't gone our way recently, and we lost our sponsor. We almost never got here. I didn't know we would have enough money until Wednesday night, then we drove up here and got here Thursday morning, just in time to park.

Josh Hernandez won his second Knoll Gas-Torco Pro Modified Ironman in as many appearances on the IHRA circuit when he defeated defending world champion Mike Castellana in the final. Hernandez, who knocked off local favorite Steve Bareman in the semifinals, clocked a 6.131 at 235.56 mph to take home the title.

He also set the IHRA speed record in the process, clocking a 237.09 during Saturday qualifying.

"This was a storybook ending to a storybook weekend," Hernandez said. "Setting the IHRA speed record says a lot about the preparation of the track. The weather was great, the crowd was great and this whole weekend was just perfect for us."

It was a perfect weekend for Tony Gillig as well. Gillig knocked off John Nobile, the 2004 IHRA Torco Pro Stock World Champion in the final round, to put some distance between himself and his closest competitors in the 2006 points chase.

"I couldn't have written a better story," Gillig said. "My wife and daughter are my biggest fans and they don't come to the races very often, and my mom hasn't been to a race since I started driving this car for my car owner. They were all here. If I had to pick a bigger race to win, this was it. Between that and the points chase, and everything else under the sun that goes with this whole deal, it was perfect. I couldn't have written it better if I had sat down and plotted it out on a piece of paper."

Gillig overcame a huge disadvantage at the starting line, .014 for Nobile to .050 for Gillig, to win with a 6.468/213.94. Nobile registered a 6.531/215.37 pass.

Tom Carter became the first three-time winner in Alcohol Funny Car when he defeated Terry McMillen in the final Sunday. After defeating #1 seed Rob Atchison in the first round, Carter now trailed Mark Thomas by 46 points in the championship chase.

"We just came together today, and the biggest thing was beating Rob Atchison in the first round," Carter said. "I knew I had to do that, then after I did it I had to face Terry Munroe. So this win wasn't easy, but it really helps us."

Television coverage of the Torco Racing Fuels Northern Nationals airs on SPEED Channel:

Top Fuel and Nitro Funny Car - Saturday, August 26 at 4:30 pm

Pro Modified, Alcohol Funny Car and Pro Stock - Saturday, September 23 at 5 p.m.

The next event on the 2006 eMax Drag Racing Series is the SKULL SHINE World Nationals presented by ACDelco, August 24 - 27, at Norwalk Raceway Park in Cleveland, Ohio.


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Series Drag
Drivers Mark Thomas , Bruce Litton , Tony Gillig , John Nobile , Jack Wyatt , Doug Foley , J.R. Todd , Terry McMillen