Millican Steals the Show at Rockingham Dragway; Bell, Spiess, and Munroe Also Pace Qualifying ROCKINGHAM, N.C. - The star of the Friday Night of Fire qualifying at the Udderly Smooth World Finals at Rockingham Dragway may have been the replica...
Millican Steals the Show at Rockingham Dragway; Bell, Spiess, and Munroe Also Pace Qualifying
ROCKINGHAM, N.C. - The star of the Friday Night of Fire qualifying at the Udderly Smooth World Finals at Rockingham Dragway may have been the replica Blue Max nostalgia Funny Car driven by Del Worsham, but the time turned in by a familiar face may have stolen the show. Chilly temperatures and ideal conditions allowed five-time consecutive Top Fuel World Champion Clay Millican set a provisional IHRA world ET record at a track that he has dominated in the past four years. Millican and Team Werner were not the only ones with quick times as the number one provisional qualifiers in three of the four professional classes ran times lower than the current world records.
Clay Millican, from Drummonds, Tenn., has virtually owned Rockingham Dragway for the better part of four years. Millican has won eight consecutive races at the Rock, and his Friday night run definitely paved the way for number nine. Millican ran a provisional world record ET of 4.522, besting the time of Andrew Cowin, who made a pass of 4.534 at this race last year.
"Last night, I hung out with my crew chief, and we were talking about the various things that we had worked on. We have a place where all the crew guys write what they think the car is going to go. I wrote 4.53, so I won the pool."
With the weather forecast calling for much of the same for the rest of the weekend, Millican has a simple prediction of his own, "It's swing for the fences time."
Millican and his team have clinched the 2005 World Championship, and the past few races have given them the chance to try some new things, and some of them have paid off.
"Mike (Kloeber, crew chief) knows what he's doing, and it's all coming together."
In Torco Pro Modified, veteran driver Mike Bell, from Winston-Salem, N.C. turned in a blistering pass of 6.046/233.44. The ET is four thousandths faster than Steve Bareman's record of 6.050. Bell neeeds a run of 6.106 seconds (within one percent) or better to back up his run as an IHRA world ET record. Bell, driving in the Roy Hill Blue Max themed entry, is racing in his first IHRA event of 2005.
"It's great to be back here," Bell said. "We have a great local connection here, so it's always neat to do well here at Rockingham Dragway."
Both Hill, from Sophia, N.C., and Bell are well established names in North Carolina drag racing, so it is more or less a homecoming.
"We've raced around here for years," Bell said, "so coming to a place like the Rock, a place with that much history, means a lot."
Steve Spiess, from Manhattan, Ill., continued his season long dominance in Torco Pro Stock, as he led all first round qualifying with a pass of 6.364/217.11 mph. Spiess, who owns the IHRA world ET record at 6.380 seconds, needs a pass at 6.427 seconds (the minimum IHRA standard within one percent) to back up his Friday night run. The cool fall temperatures, coupled with relatively ideal track conditions produced an unprecedented total of four qualifying runs in the 6.30s. John Nobile (6.390), Jerry Haas (6.389), Rick Jones (6.380) all joined Spiess in hitting that milestone.
Spiess, who had already clinched the 2005 World Championship two races ago, was prepared for the weather conditions. "We knew it would go fast if we had everything right," Spiess said. "We were just hoping to have enough clutch in it."
Driving the car dubbed "The Spiess Shuttle," Spiess has set and reset the world record several times throughout the 2005 season. He has qualified in the number one position five times and won four races, so his only challenge now is to remain ahead of the rest of the field as the season winds down.
"We're looking back," he said. "We started to do real well at the end of last season, and I hated for the season to be over. They're all gunning after us, and that's making everybody work harder."
In Funny Car, Terry Munroe, from Beaver, Penn., paced the field with a 5.807/239.27 mph, just narrowly missing running in the 5.70s. Munroe, running a limited schedule, bumped off some of the more heralded names in the class like Rob Atchison and Jim Sickles.
There will be two pro qualifying sessions on Saturday, at 2:00 p.m. and again at 6:00 p.m., kicking off the second Richmond County Tourism Night of Fire. Special features include the second day of Nitro Funny Car match racing featuring Del Worsham versus Mike Ashley and Worsham running the Blue Max replica Funny Car.