Milan: Saturday qualifying summary

Aussie Thunder at Suzuki Motor City Nationals MILAN, Mich. (July 8, 2006) -- Andrew Cowin sat in the staging lanes and watched Clay Millican bump him from the top qualifying spot. It took him exactly 4.592 seconds to take it back. Cowin ...

Aussie Thunder at Suzuki Motor City Nationals

MILAN, Mich. (July 8, 2006) -- Andrew Cowin sat in the staging lanes and watched Clay Millican bump him from the top qualifying spot. It took him exactly 4.592 seconds to take it back.

Cowin zipped straight down the groove and into the Knoll Gas-Torco Racing Fuels Pro Nitro Top Fuel pole position during Saturday evening qualifying at the Suzuki Motor City Nationals presented by GM Performance Division and Heritage Newspapers. Del Worsham (Knoll Gas - Torco Nitro Funny Car), Rick Distefano (Knoll Gas -- Torco Pro Modified), Robert Patrick (Knoll Gas -- Torco Pro Stock) and Rob Atchison (Alcohol Funny Car) also claimed top qualifier honors when all was said and done at Milan Dragway.

Cowin set the bar high Friday, posting a 4.659 pass to claim the provisional pole heading into Saturday's qualifying sessions. Millican blasted to a 4.641 Friday evening to bump the Wrightsville Beach, N.C.-resident and Australia native from the pole with one shot remaining at the track for the Scott Griffin Motorsports/Serta Mattresses Dragster.

Cowin was up to the task. He put together a 4.592 pass at 325.45 mph to jump back into the top spot and break the Milan Dragway speed record.

"It is just so tough out here," Cowin said. "We set the track record, lost it, then got it straight back. We were #1 and got bumped to #1, then we got it straight back. That's what competition is all about. Clay is so tough and it's a strong field out there. All the cars are really tough and it's a really close field."

Cowin and his Scott Griffin Motorsports team have yet to record a national event victory in IHRA competition. That is something Cowin will try to do something about Sunday.

"We're going to try to win three times in a row," Cowin said with a chuckle. "You can never hold your breath in drag racing, but the guys have given me a good, safe race car. We're going to wake up tomorrow morning and go racing. We'll go out and do our deal. Hopefully we'll win. Like I said, you can't hold your breath but we're pretty confident we can do well. Sooner or later it will be our day."

Del Worsham claimed the Knoll Gas-Torco Racing Fuels Pro Nitro Funny Car #1 qualifying position Friday night with a 4.910 pass at 316.82 mph. Despite two Saturday qualifying sessions, no one was able to top that mark. It held up to keep Worsham (Chino Hills, Calif.) on the pole heading into Sunday's elimination rounds.

"I'm really excited to come back to IHRA," Worsham said. "After 14 years to come back and qualify #1, with the car running great, that's really exciting. I didn't know what to expect when I came here. We went to Rockingham last year for an exhibition that worked out really well, it was a great facility and it turned out great, I was kind of hoping the whole entire thing would be similar to that. And it has been great. IHRA has done a great job."

Worsham, thanks to the inverted ladder, will face Doug Kalitta (Ypsilanti, Mich.) in the first round of eliminations Sunday. Kalitta qualified in the #5 position with a 4.964 pass at 273.88 mph. Worsham is happy with the strength of the field.

"I came here and saw Bob Gilbertson, Gary Densham and guys I race with every weekend," he said. "To see them out here is great. Doug Kalitta coming here and driving the Funny Car is great, now I get to race him tomorrow. Hopefully he won't be too much of a Cinderella story."

Gilbertson clocked a 4.923 to claim the #2 position while Dale Creasy, Jr., the winner of the last two IHRA national events, took the #3 spot with a 4.934. Gary Densham rounded out the top half of the ladder with a 4.945.

Rick Distefano (Calgary, Alb.) saved his best for last. Distefano, running in the last pair of the last Knoll Gas-Torco Pro Modified session, carded a blistering 6.088 pass to destroy Mike Janis' 24-hour old track record and claim the #1 qualifying position. Janis, a Lancaster, N.Y. resident, ended up in the #2 position while Danny Rowe piloted his Jimmy Rector-tuned '63 Corvette to the #3 spot.

Robert Patrick wanted to make abundantly clear who the 2006 Mustang to beat was in the Knoll Gas-Torco Pro Stock class. Doug Kirk came to Milan Dragway with a 2006 Mustang painted exactly like Patrick's, including the same color paint and hood stripes.

Patrick (Fredericksburg, Va.) was not very pleased by Kirk's color scheme choice and added a decal on his rear window that read "Often imitated, never duplicated."

In the end Patrick got the last laugh, finishing at the top of the qualifying sheet while Kirk (Lenoir, W.V.) could not crack the top 16 and will not compete during Sunday's elimination rounds.

Patrick carded a sizzling 6.399 pass at 217.60 mph to claim the pole position, setting the Milan Dragway elapsed time record in the process. Frank Gugliotta (Mt. Airy, Md.) finished in the #2 qualifying position with a 6.416 run. He also claimed the track speed record at 219.22 when he passed through the beams at the finish line.

Tony Gillig (Lake Bluff, Ill.) qualified third at 6.428, Pete Berner (Crete, Ill.) fourth at 6.411 and John Nobile (Dix Hills, N.Y.) rounded out the top five with a 6.442 pass.

Rob Atchison, the three-time defending Alcohol Funny Car World Champion, finally put a sufficient amount of power to the tires and to the track. The London, Ont.-resident has yet to record a victory in IHRA competition this season. Recently the Erickson '06 Monte Carlo driven by Atchison has suffered tire shake more than it has made clean passes. That all changed during Saturday evening qualifying in Milan.

Atchison went from out of the field to the #1 qualifying position by laying down a 5.811/242.98 pass at the Suzuki Motor City Nationals. It must have been something in the air at the time because Fred Tigges (Holbrook, Mass.), running in the same pair with Atchison, claimed the #2 spot with a 5.817 pass. Thomas Carter (Cuero, Tex.) slept on the pole after Friday qualifying, but he was unable to improve Saturday and fell to the #3 position.

The Suzuki Motor City Nationals presented by GM Performance Division and Heritage Newspapers will continue Sunday morning at Milan Dragway with professional elimination rounds beginning at 11 a.m. and finals at 4:15 p.m.


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Series Drag
Drivers Mike Janis , Clay Millican , Tony Gillig , John Nobile , Robert Patrick , Bob Gilbertson , Del Worsham , Doug Kalitta , Andrew Cowin , Gary Densham , Danny Rowe , Frank Gugliotta