Northern Nationals final summary

MARTIN, Michigan (August 14, 2004) - Clay Millican won his 36th IHRA Top Fuel race Saturday during the 23rd Annual Torco Race Fuels Northern Nationals at U.S. 131 Motorsports Park in Martin, Mich. Millican, of Drummonds, Tenn., returned to the ...

MARTIN, Michigan (August 14, 2004) - Clay Millican won his 36th IHRA Top Fuel race Saturday during the 23rd Annual Torco Race Fuels Northern Nationals at U.S. 131 Motorsports Park in Martin, Mich. Millican, of Drummonds, Tenn., returned to the winner's circle after losing in the first round of the last two events.

Mike Janis, Lancaster, N.Y., Pro Modified; Rob Atchison, London, Ontario, Funny Car; and Frank Gugliotta, Mt. Airy, Md., Sunoco Race Fuels Pro Stock were winners in their respective categories.

In Top Fuel, No. 1 qualifier Millican defeated rookie Rick Cooper in round one with a 4.735 ET at 298.80 mph. He then faced Louie Allison, event winner in Toronto two races ago, in the second round. Allison made a nice pass at 4.797, but it wasn't enough as Millican ran a 4.688.

On the other end of the ladder, it was an amazing weekend for Bobby Lagana, Jr. After the first round of Top Fuel qualifying, he was No. 1 with the quickest time of his career: 4.740 at 305.70 mph. He didn't hold the top spot but entered eliminations a respectable No. 3 in the quickest Top Fuel field in IHRA history. Lagana defeated 75-year-old Chris Karamesines in round one and advanced to round two against Doug Foley. Lagana made a great pass at 4.782, 286.19, and defeated Foley who red-lighted. Lagana would advance to the final, but not until his dragster, which caught fire in the shutdown area, was extinguished. He was unharmed.

In the final round, it was all Millican, as Lagana's dragster malfunctioned off the starting line. Millican ran a 4.720 at 311.27 mph, resetting the track speed record and winning the event. He reset the track ET record Friday with a 4.685.

"The car just went down the racetrack today," said Millican. "I didn't have to do anything but just not make any major mistakes. This was a big day for us; it was a big day for everybody. After not getting past the first round in two races, it's just great to get another win. This team is unbelievable."

Heading into this event No. 2 in Pro Modified points, Janis qualified fourth and his first round opponent would prove to be his most important of the day. He met points leader Harold Martin. Both cars shook off the line, but Janis recovered and came back to take the round and eventually the points lead. A tough round for Janis, he then met reigning world champion Mitch Stott. Janis made a nice pass at 6.236, 227.77, to advance to the semifinals. Facing fellow New Yorker Fred Hahn, Janis ran a 6.294 ET to win and advance to the finals.

On the other side of the ladder, Glen Kerunsky took out former world champion Shannon Jenkins in round one with a 6.286 ET. He then took out a red-lighting Paul Athey to face Rick DiStefano in the semifinal. Friends from Calgary, Alberta, Canada, it looked to be a very competitive round, but DiStefano left early and drew a red-light as Kerunsky cruised to the final round with a 6.294 ET. Janis and Kerunsky had identical ETs in the semifinals, so lane choice came down to speed, which went to Kerunsky. But it made no difference, as Janis, who was not in the field until the final qualifying session, outran Kerunsky with a 6.226, 228.46.

"It's pretty exciting," said Janis. "Yesterday and this morning we struggled and almost didn't get in the field. We took a stap at it and got down the track and qualified.

"That first round against (Harold) Martin was huge, the pressure was definitely on with so much on the line."

Defending Funny Car world champion Atchison, coming into this event second in points behind Mark Thomas, qualified No. 2 and had an uncontested round one. He faced fellow Canadian Scott Wildgust in round two. Atchison was quicker off the line and ran 5.822, 241.20, to take the win and advance to a huge semifinal round.

Off his first Funny Car win of the season two weeks ago, Jim Sickles was qualified No. 4 and defeated Rick Cortino in round one with a 5.905, 238.89, to face Jeff Burnett in the second round. Burnett, who has an event win this season as well, made a nice pass, but it wasn't enough as Sickles ran a 5.921 ET. He met Terry McMillen in the semifinals and it was all Sickles as McMillen was off the throttle before half track.

Atchison's semifinal opponent was points leader Thomas. This round could make the difference for Atchison because if Thomas won this event, he would be hard to stop for the world championship. Thomas had the slight starting line advantage, but Atchison drove around him with a 5.826, 237.55, to Thomas' 5.854, 237.75, crossing the finish line seven feet ahead. The reigning world champion advanced to the final with Sickles. Atchison had the starting line advantage and held it all the way to win the event for the second year in a row.

"We definitely leaned on it really hard during the round with Mark (Thomas)," said Atchison. "For a lot of different reasons, this was a huge win, especially as far as the world championship. This is the point of the season where you can either let it slip away, or make a charge at the points lead."

In the quickest Sunoco Pro Stock field in IHRA history, Gugliotta made it to the final round from the No. 8 qualifying position. His first round opponent was Richard Penland, who lost off the line with a red-light. He then faced top qualifier and points leader John Montecalvo in round two. Gugliotta won on a holeshot with a 0.010 reaction time and 6.551 ET.

On the other half of the ladder, Rick Jones qualified seventh and defeated first round opponent Dwayne Rice with a 6.603, 212.96. Jones met Elijah Morton in round two. Morton had the quicker car, but Jones used a 0.039 reaction time advantage to take the win.

In the semifinals, Gugliotta took on John Nobile. One of the quickest cars in Pro Stock this season, Nobile ran a 6.498 ET and event top speed 215.10 mph. However, using another holeshot win, Gugliotta took the round and advanced to the final. Jones met the winner of the last event Robert Patrick. With the starting line advantage, it was Jones all the way, running an impressive 6.495, 214.42, to set up the final with Gugliotta. It was Jones off the line first, but Gugliotta pulled more horsepower and ran around him with a 6.479, 215.58, to set the track speed record en route to his first career win.

"I'm just ecstatic to get this win," said Gugliotta. "I couldn't believe it when I got the win. I knew it was there and the car came around for us all day, but especially in the final round.

"I feel relieved to finally get my first win," added Gugliotta, who has raced Pro Stock for three years. "Now we can win our second, third and some more."

The next event on the 2004 Hooters IHRA Drag Racing Series is the 27th Annual Sunoco World Nationals presented by PPG Automotive Finishes at Norwalk Raceway Park, Cleveland, Ohio, August 25 - 28, 2004.

-ihra-

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Series Drag
Drivers Mike Janis , Clay Millican , Paul Athey , John Nobile , Robert Patrick , Chris Karamesines , Louie Allison , Dwayne Rice , John Montecalvo , Shannon Jenkins , Jim Sickles , Doug Foley , Harold Martin , Glen Kerunsky , Rick DiStefano , Terry McMillen