Records Fall at the Rock; Millican Eyes Number Nine with the First Sub 4.50 Run in IHRA History ROCKINGHAM, N.C. -- Another day of near perfect conditions yielded a fast day of qualifying at the Udderly Smooth World Finals at Rockingham Dragway.
Records Fall at the Rock; Millican Eyes Number Nine with the First Sub 4.50 Run in IHRA History
ROCKINGHAM, N.C. -- Another day of near perfect conditions yielded a fast day of qualifying at the Udderly Smooth World Finals at Rockingham Dragway. Clay Millican paced Top Fuel at the Rock yet again with the first sub 4.50 run in IHRA Top Fuel history, while Steve Spiess capped off another strong weekend by turning in three consecutive runs in the 6.30s to lead Torco Pro Stock. In Torco Pro Mod, Mike Bell could not back up his 6.046 pass, but still led the field heading into Sunday eliminations. In Funny Car, defending two-time back to back World Champion Rob Atchison was number one qualifier, making his first Saturday run hold up.
Millican, from Drummonds, Tenn., demolished the IHRA world record with a pass of 4.484, which was backed up by his pass of 4.522 earlier in the Saturday qualifying session. It was the quickest run ever for the Werner team, besting the 4.505 he ran at Houston during an NHRA event in 2003. Millican's lap paced the quickest IHRA Top Fuel field ever, with the bump set at a blistering 4.740.
The five time consecutive World Champion was quick to praise the track preparation and conditions of Rockingham Dragway by the IHRA officials.
"Jim Weinert and the rest of the IHRA crew do such a fantastic job with the track prep," Millican said. "They've done a great job all year, but to do what they did with these weather conditions, that really helped us run that 4.48."
Millican also passed on much of the credit to crew chief Mike Kloeber and the rest of the Werner crew.
"That was a really nice run when, it runs like that it's really easy on me. I just trust Mike's set up and sit back and ride. This crew has worked really hard all year long and their work really paid off."
Millican, who rode up the return rode while standing on the team's tow vehicle, received a huge standing ovation from the packed grandstands.
"That run right there was for everybody at Rockingham Dragway, we've won a lot of races here. Tomorrow is what counts, but this 4.40 run is huge, we did it for the fans."
Rockingham Dragway may be the closest thing to a home track that Millican races at.
"I love coming out here. Y'all give (my crew) a big hand, I just ride in it. We've run here an awful lot of times. The only thing better than winning eight in a row is winning number nine."
Millican is paired with fan favorite Bobby Lagana in the first round. Doug Foley, who had struggled earlier in qualifying, ended up a strong number two with a run of 4.600/316.01 mph. Danny Dunn, from Wilkesboro, N.C., qualified number three, Louie Allison number four, and Bruce Litton number five.
In Torco Pro Modified, Bell's run of 6.046 from Friday night held off an up and down qualifying session. It seemed that some of the field found the combination to run in the chilly weather conditions, while others did not.
The Asheboro, N.C. native is racing in his first IHRA national event of the season, and is looking forward to Sunday at the Rock.
"We're just having fun, it's the last race of the year," Bell said. "The run felt real good, and I guess I just got greedy trying to back that record up," he said about his second day of qualifying which saw him shut down early because of tire shake both times.
The long time drag racer said that the weather conditions really had no effect on him or the team.
"The weather will still be good tomorrow, so we might get another chance to back the record up, but we're really just thinking about the first round."
Steve Bareman, driving the Jim Oddy Summit car, qualified a strong number two at 6.063/230.21 mph. Carl Spiering qualified number three at 6.077/233.84 mph, the resurgent Mike Janis qualified number four at 6.091/235.43 mph, and 2005 World Champion Mike Castellana qualified number five at 6.106/229.82 mph.
Spiess, from Manhattan, Ill., reset the IHRA Torco Pro Stock world ET record for the third time this season by backing up his 6.364 he ran on Friday night. Spiess ran a 6.368 and 6.369 during the final day of qualifying. The field was the quickest ever in IHRA Torco Pro Stock history, with the bump set at a 6.449.
"We knew the number was in the car for this weekend," Spiess said. "It was just a point of trusting this back up motor and seeing how quick it would go."
With his dream 2005 season coming to a close, Spiess reflected on it, but still acknowledged he would still like to put an exclamation point on it.
"We've had a great year, but we've got another day to go. But," he said with a smile, "we can still put another 6.30 on the board."
Spiess will be paired with Mike Bruno in the first round on Sunday. Rick Jones qualified second with a 6.378, John Nobile third with a 6.388, Jerry Haas fourth with a 6.389, and Robert Patrick fifth with a 6.389.
Atchison, from London, Ont., came into this weekend five points ahead of second place Jim Sickles in the chase for the Funny Car championship. Atchison's Friday night qualifying run had him in the provisional number two spot, but he served notice during the Saturday afternoon session with a run of 5.709. His number paced the quickest Funny Car field ever, with the bump at 5.844, narrowly beating out the bump from New England earlier this season.
"It was an awesome number, it was a great team decision to put the car on the track with what it had to run the .70," Atchison said.
With Atchison's quest for a third consecutive championship coming down to one final day of eliminations, he is still focused on just going rounds.
"We've been in this situation before, and I guess it was kind of stressful at home, waiting out those three weeks (for the rescheduled date), we're not so worried with what's going on, but we're focused on just getting down the racetrack."
Even with Atchison's talk of focusing on just going rounds, the championship does seem to be on his mind.
"We know the championship is at stake, but we're really relaxed compared to what I was last year. It could just be the conditions, but the car is running really well and I feel really good about it."
With the chance to make history, Atchison and his team realize that it all comes down to one final day.
"Obviously, we had three weeks to think about it. We're starting in a good spot, we're happy the car, and we'll let the chips fall."
Rounding out the top five in qualifying were Mark Thomas at 5.781/242.76 mph, Fred Tigges number three at 5.782/245.27 mph, Neal Parker number four at 5.793/237.92, and Terry Munroe number five at 5.807/239.27 mph.