rocca does not retire

LEESBURG, Va. (August 10, 2000) - After weeks of contemplating retirement from motorsports, professional drag racing car owner and crew chief, Johnny Rocca, has decided to throw coal into the belly of his "Ironhorse" '49 Mercury Pro ...

LEESBURG, Va. (August 10, 2000) - After weeks of contemplating retirement from motorsports, professional drag racing car owner and crew chief, Johnny Rocca, has decided to throw coal into the belly of his "Ironhorse" '49 Mercury Pro Modified, instead of doubt on his 40-plus year drag racing career. Rocca's shoveling of emotion was the result of a self-imposed hiatus for several days following the most recent International Hot Rod Association (IHRA) event, the CARQUEST Northern Nationals, in Stanton, Mich. There, he publicly-stated it would be his revered USA Racing Team's last-ever competition, should his Prolong Super Lubricants/Somerset Refinery, Inc.-backed "Ironhorse" fall short of performance goals, a direct result of recent rule restrictions which have markedly slowed his and fellow competitors' supercharged entries. These same rules have likewise jeopardized the position of his driver, Australian-born Troy Critchley, who currently sits fourth in the IHRA/Summit Drag Racing Series point standings. Although the crowd-pleasing machine indeed did not make the 16-car eliminator at Stanton, a literal "time-out" for some soul searching and reflection brought the colorful and talented drag racing figure to an undeniable conclusion. "I truly love this sport, its fans, fellow competitors and sponsors," Rocca stated from his team's racecar transporter in Englishtown, New Jersey during a scheduled match race. "You wouldn't believe the number of phone calls and encouragement that I have received over the past week, or so. It has truly been a humbling experience. "Lately, I have been very displeased with the rules, as they have penalized these cars by slowing them down nearly two-tenths (of a second) into the 6.50-second range, which literally took away my combination that IHRA said would be allowed in 2000," he explained. Adding to his frustration, the Norwalk, Oh-based sanctioning body recently took away Rocca and former-Pro Stock racer Carlton Phillips' long-standing Winter Nationals event at their IHRA-governed Darlington International Dragway, in South Carolina. "When you literally have to swallow an investment of more than one-hundred thousand dollars, which I spent before the start of the season to enable the "Ironhorse" to run as well as it did before the rules were implemented two races ago, you would understand how I developed a sour stomach for this business in record time." In short, the IHRA rule changes saddled the supercharged entries with a 50-pound weight penalty, limited the gear ratio to 4:56, and eliminated use of a four-speed transmission. Under the previous rules, Critchley steered Rocca's car to the IHRA world record in elapsed time at 6.227-seconds. What was the ultimate factor, then, in his decision to keep "Ironhorse" in competition for the near future? The answer, perhaps, came from heart. "Drag racing has been my life," he said with in an emotion-charged voice. "It's what I chose to do long ago, and I've loved every minute of it - until perhaps recently. "But when you step back and reflect, one begins to see the big picture. Heck, my kids were raised around this sport," he continued. "My wife, our friends and racing acquaintances, literally all are as a result of my campaigning a car - and being a part of drag racing. And I'm proud to be able to say that they have become a true an extension of my family. "Then, I thought about those little kids standing at the ropes in the pit area with a gleam in their eye, wearing your car's T-shirt, or asking for your autograph, and you realize that, without the fans, this whole exercise wouldn't have the feeling of fulfillment. "To be honest with you, I feel like if I had left, I would be letting those kids, the sponsors, my fellow competitors, track operators - and especially my team, down in the process. I may be down today, but by no means am I a quitter. "I guess it just took a few days away from the fire in order to realize that this may seem a sport to some, but it's a truly burning passion to me. "And I'd sure miss this thing if it was gone. At the same time, Rocca is quick to point out that his return will probably have less than positive results on his point standing stature in IHRA's Summit Drag Racing Series. "I'm not saying that we're gonna be able to qualify where I'd like to be, and where I was getting used to being, but we've got to give it a shot," said Rocca, whose car made its first-ever final round appearance at the series' third race in Grand Bend, Ontario, Canada. Incidentally, his car is also the current point leader in the five-race Canadian Drag Racing Series, with it's fourth event to be held next weekend, August 19-20, at Sanair International Dragstrip, near St. Pie, Quebec. "Perhaps there's some hope with the racecar, as IHRA is said to be looking at giving us some (rearend) gear back before the next race, which might allow us the opportunity to hang onto the point battle, and possibly get into the season-ending eight-car Mopar Shootout for all of the marbles." The next Summit Drag Racing Series event will be the IHRA's single largest race of the season, the Mopar Parts World Nationals presented by Ethanol Performance. The race is scheduled for August 22-26 at Norwalk Raceway Park, in Norwalk, Oh.

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Series Drag
Drivers Johnny Rocca , Troy Critchley