Norwalk: Round eight preview

IHRA eMax Drag Racing Series heads to Norwalk Raceway Park NORWALK, Ohio (August 10, 2006) -- Towards the end of every summer, racers make a pilgrimage of sorts. Their destination is the track that is widely regarded as the best drag racing...

IHRA eMax Drag Racing Series heads to Norwalk Raceway Park

NORWALK, Ohio (August 10, 2006) -- Towards the end of every summer, racers make a pilgrimage of sorts. Their destination is the track that is widely regarded as the best drag racing venue in the country...Norwalk Raceway Park, Norwalk, Ohio. This year, the IHRA brings its eMax Drag Racing Series to the track for the SKULL SHINE World Nationals presented by ACDelco, August 24 -- 27.

Racers from across the United States and Canada come to NRP to take home their little piece of what is commonly referred to as "the Norwalk Experience." Those who come to Norwalk for the first time usually leave with fond memories of racing at the facility they had heard so much about, but had to see to appreciate. Those who return to NRP year after year do so because, after living through "the Norwalk Experience," they wouldn't miss it for the world.

The IHRA will roll into Norwalk Raceway Park with season championship points races still very much up in the air. There will be plenty of nitro-powered cars on display as 23 teams have already registered in the Knoll Gas-Torco Racing Fuels Pro Nitro Funny Car and Top Fuel classes. Also, the Nitro Cycles will run Friday and Saturday, a throw-back to IHRA's former Nitro Harley-Davidson class. This, coupled with the high car counts expected in the Knoll Gas-Torco Pro Modified and Pro Stock classes as well as a strong Alcohol Funny Car field, will make this season's SKULL SHINE World Nationals presented by ACDelco bigger and better than ever.

Knoll Gas-Torco Racing Fuels Top Fuel: This class is in the middle of its most competitive and tightest points race in recent memory. Heading into Norwalk, Clay Millican, the five-time defending IHRA World Champion, leads the class by only 37 points. Millican has only one national event victory to his credit, leaving the door open for any number of drivers to step through.

Doug Foley, who's only win of the season came at the season-opening Amalie Oil Texas Nationals in San Antonio, has been looking for the right combination to get him back in the winner's circle. He's capable of getting on a hot streak and has won at Norwalk Raceway Park in the past, in 2004 when he defeated Millican in the final.

Rick Cooper is still very much in the mix as well. The second car on the Doug Foley/Tim Lewis race team has been very consistent this season and sits third behind his teammate. Cooper advanced to a final round this year, losing to Millican at the Rocky Mountain Nationals in Edmonton. The Boise, Idaho, driver is still looking for his first career Top Fuel victory. He has proven himself capable of stringing together some runs in the 4.60s and is a threat at every race.

Bobby Lagana, Jr. is proving you don't need the fancy rig and big corporate sponsorship to be competitive. His family-run Twilight Zone team accomplished one goal this season when Lagana, a 10-year veteran on the Knoll Gas-Torco Racing Fuels Pro Nitro Top Fuel circuit, won his first career national event in Grand Bend. He followed that up with a trip to the finals in Milan, where he fell to Andrew Cowin in the final. Lagana is currently fourth in points.

These are not the only Knoll Gas-Torco Racing Fuels Pro Nitro Top Fuel drivers to keep your eye on in Norwalk at the Skull Shine World Nationals. J.R. Todd, who broke through with his first career Top Fuel win on the NHRA side this season, is expected to compete. Todd's win was historic, making him the first African-American driver to win in Top Fuel. Chris Karamesines, "The Golden Greek," is 74 years old and will be racing in Norwalk as well. Other drivers who will be competing are Louie Allison, Roger Dean, Mitch King, Bob Leverich, Jr., Bruce Litton and Jack Ostrander.

Torco Racing Fuels Pro Nitro Funny Car: Dale Creasy, Jr. put himself in the driver's seat when it comes to the points chase with back-to-back wins in Grand Bend and Edmonton. But the Chicago resident has plenty of company near the top of the standings. Creasy has 466 points heading into Norwalk, only 16 points clear of his nearest competitor. Actually, four different drivers are within 77 points of Creasy.

Jack Wyatt has had a tumultuous year. He won the second race of the '06 season, the Spring Nationals in Rockingham, but lost a bit of funding when his sponsor pulled-out. He is racing the rest of the season out of his own pocket. Despite this, Wyatt won IHRA's event in Grand Rapids, Mich., at the beginning of August, and comes to Norwalk in prime position to make a run at the No. 1 spot in the championship chase.

Just 43 points behind Wyatt sits Bob Gilbertson. An NHRA regular, Gilbertson finished runner-up to Wyatt in Grand Rapids and has yet to win an IHRA event. Vinny Arcadi sits in fourth place, followed by Gary Densham in fifth. If Densham ran the entire IHRA schedule he probably would be running away with the Knoll Gas-Torco Racing Fuels Pro Nitro Funny Car championship. Sponsorship commitments, however, have forced him to run a limited IHRA slate. He has made his presence known, however, when he has shown up on the eMax Drag Racing Series by winning two of the three races he has entered.

Frank Pedregon, who competed at the first event of the year in San Antonio, will return to IHRA drag racing in Norwalk. He'll be racing his Von Dutch-sponsored Nitro Funny Car.

Knoll Gas-Torco Pro Modified: Glen Kerunsky took control of the Pro Modified points chase early in the season by advancing to the final round of the first three national events. His lead, which was large, is now tenuous. He has 416 points, but Danny Rowe and Quain Stott are breathing down Kerunsky's neck with 356 and 354 points respectively. Tommy D'Aprile (293) and Mike Janis (292) round out the top five.

Knoll Gas-Torco Pro Stock: Tony Gillig and Frank Gugliotta are battling it out with Pete Berner and Robert Patrick closing quickly. Gillig, the winner in Rockingham, and most recently in Grand Rapids, holds a 533-469 lead over Gugliotta, a two-time winner this season. Berner and Patrick are right on their heels with former world champion John Nobile not far behind.

Alcohol Funny Car: Ohio-native Mark Thomas (Louisville, Ohio) has two event wins this season while three-time defending World Champion Rob Atchison has yet to win an event. But the pair is battling it out atop the Alcohol Funny Car standings, along with Tom Carter, who, after winning in Grand Rapids, his third of the season, sits in second place, one point ahead of Atchison, 459-458. Thomas has won in San Antonio and Grand Bend, and has been consistent to maintain his lead with 505 points. Terry McMillen sits in fourth with 378 points, still looking for career win No. 1.

Defending champions: Three of the four racers who won in Norwalk last season went on to capture championships. Clay Millican (Top Fuel), Mike Castellana (Pro Modified) and Steve Spiess (Pro Stock) each took Ironmen home from Norwalk Raceway Park and ended up at the top of the heap at the end of the season. Only Jim Sickles (Alcohol Funny Car) did not win a championship after winning in Norwalk in 2005.

-credit: www.ihra.com

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Series Drag
Drivers Mike Janis , Mark Thomas , Clay Millican , Bruce Litton , Frank Pedregon , Tony Gillig , John Nobile , Robert Patrick , Bob Gilbertson , Quain Stott , Chris Karamesines , Andrew Cowin , Louie Allison , Mitch King , Jack Wyatt , Jim Sickles , Doug Foley , Tim Lewis , Danny Rowe , Glen Kerunsky , J.R. Todd , Steve Spiess , Frank Gugliotta , Terry McMillen