Rockingham: Round two preview

Record-breaking weekend expected when Nitro Jam Tour invades 'The Rock' The longest-running event on the IHRA schedule is the Spring Nationals, hosted by North Carolina's Rockingham Dragway and presented this year by Advance Auto Parts and ...

Record-breaking weekend expected when Nitro Jam Tour invades 'The Rock'

The longest-running event on the IHRA schedule is the Spring Nationals, hosted by North Carolina's Rockingham Dragway and presented this year by Advance Auto Parts and Castrol.

"The Rock" has long been the place where records tumble and performance barriers are smashed. If weather conditions are right, there's every reason to believe that it will be more of the same when the Nitro Jam circus rolls into town the weekend of April 24-26, 2009.

Hot on the heels of the successful season opener at Baton Rouge, championship points battles will heat up in earnest as race No. 2 of the 10-race Nitro Jam schedule gets under way on the full 1320-foot racing surface at Rockingham.

Current professional points leaders are: Bruce Litton (Top Fuel), Raymond Commisso (Pro Modified) and Jason Collins (Pro Stock). IHRA records set at Rockingham include Clay Millican's 4.484-second Top Fuel elapsed time from 2005 and Frank Gugliotta's awesome 6.251 Pro Stock E.T. set during last season's fall race.

In addition to the professional and sportsman competition, a major component of the Spring Nationals is the Summit All-stars competition, where the top eight point earners from all seven sportsman categories in 2008 will fight it out for fame and fortune.

The first full day of qualifying kicks off Friday with the first sportsman session at 9 a.m., followed by the first pro session at 3 p.m. The second sportsman qualifier will be run following the Castrol Night of Fire professional qualifying session, which is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. The first round of Summit All-stars will also be run at this time.

The highlight of the Castrol Night of Fire festivities will be the match race between the Grave Digger Monster Truck and Les Shockley's Super Shockwave Jet-powered '57 Chevrolet truck. This will be a true classic, a confrontation that must not be missed.

Saturday's schedule starts at 9 a.m. with another sportsman qualifying session, followed by two rounds of sportsman eliminations scheduled to begin at 11 a.m. Professional qualifying continues at 3 p.m., with a second session taking place in conjunction with a second Night of Fire spectacular at 6:30 p.m. Once again Grave Digger and Super Shock Wave will take center stage, running head-to-head in an awesome extreme sports showdown. The final rounds of the Summit All-stars competition will also take place during this time.

Competitors in Hot Rod, Stock, Super Rod, Super Stock and Quick Rod will notice that a Saturday morning qualifying session has been added to the schedule in an effort to continue the IHRA tradition of addressing the current economic issues facing competitors.

"Rockingham has a lot of competitors within a close distance and we hope that the addition of the Saturday morning run will aid those struggling to get time off work to still compete" said IHRA Vice President of Racing Operations Skooter Peaco.

And there's even more for the sportsman competitors. Beginning with the Spring Nationals, IHRA will establish national records in both the Top Sportsman and Top Dragster classes. This will be the first recognition of official E.T. and speed records since IHRA created the categories.

"These classes have evolved into the two quickest, fastest and most elite of the sportsman classes," said Peaco. "Last season the competitors wanted 32-car fields and we made that change, which really elevated the level of competition. These classes showed more solid car counts last year than any other classes we have. Since these classes are the stepping stones to the pro categories, we felt adding the record-setting feature to officially recognize outstanding performances was the next logical step."

Records will only be set on the quarter-mile and only at Nitro Jam national events for the 2009 season. Records must be backed-up within 1 percent and any ties will be broken by speed.

"I am very proud that our sportsman racers have become part of the show," Peaco said. "There are a couple of reasons for this. First, our sportsmen are the best in the world, and second, we have very knowledgeable fans who appreciate racing at all levels. And with the Tournament of Champions this season, where each national event gives racers the chance to punch their own ticket to the world championship run-off, I fully expect our sportsman racers to raise the bar even more."

Last but not least, there are some additional special programs on tap for the sportsman racers.

The Dash for Cash will be contested during the second qualifying session Friday and third qualifying session Saturday morning. All Dash for Cash competitors will be called to specific staging lanes and the $20 entry fee will be collected at the rear of staging, with 50 percent of the total collected going to the winning driver.

Each class will be run separately and participants will be called to the lanes for qualifying first and separately from those who do not want to participate.

A wheelie contest will take place Saturday night after Top Fuel qualifying. This contest, a first for IHRA, will allow sportsman racers to be featured during the Night of Fire show. This show will be limited to 10 sportsman cars (any class) that want to show off in prime time. Longest wheelie, as judged by IHRA officials, will win a new set of racing slicks from either Mickey Thompson or Goodyear. Winner must pick up their tires at the manufacturer trailer prior to leaving. Cars may be registered in the tower.

The spring race at historic Rockingham Dragway is always a spectacular affair, and all indications are that it will continue to be just that in 2009.

-credit: ihra

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About this article
Series Drag
Drivers Clay Millican , Bruce Litton , Frank Gugliotta