San Antonio, Tx. ,(March 26, 2006) The eMax IHRA Drag Racing Series kicked off its 2006 season with the 5th annual Amalie Oil Texas Nationals at San Antonio Raceway over the weekend. More than 350 teams from across the United States and Canada, ...
San Antonio, Tx. ,(March 26, 2006) The eMax IHRA Drag Racing Series kicked off its 2006 season with the 5th annual Amalie Oil Texas Nationals at San Antonio Raceway over the weekend. More than 350 teams from across the United States and Canada, rolled through the gates for the event. Friday's crowd was thrilled by record runs in several of the Pro Classes, including the return of the Nitro Funny Cars. Saturday's crowd was the largest crowd in the history of the top notch facility, just outside of San Antonio, in Marion. Fans on Sunday saw another first for San Antonio Raceway and the IHRA series, "king" Clay Millican getting beat in the Top Fuel finals.
Gugliotta Grabs Win.
Frank Gugliotta, affectionately know as "The Flying Meatball" grabbed the Texas Nationals Pro Stock crown, his fifth career win. Gugliotta, who qualified in the number ten slot with a 6.411 @ 218.51MPH, worked his way through the bottom half of the ladder to meet Rob Mansfield in the finals.
Round one saw Gugliotta put a tree job on Jerry Haas. In the second round Gugliotta got by Pete Berner, who shook the tires at the 60' mark. Gugliotta again caught a break in round three when Tony Gillig headed for the center line and shut off early. The biggest break came in the finals when Mansfield went red, handing the win to Gugliotta in the Jerry Haas Race Car powered by a Jon Kaase motor.
"I had a lot of luck. I had luck on my side," said Gugliotta. "But I'd rather be lucky than good. We were scrambling trying to out something together. Charlie (Taylor) just called me a week and half ago and asked me if I wanted to drive his car. I'm just glad to be here and get the first win in the first race. I've only been here four days and I honestly don't know who his sponsors. Hopefully I'll stay around a while."
Thomas Dedicates Win to Dana
Five time IHRA Alcohol Funny Car World Champion, Mark Thomas, was quick to dedicate his Texas National win to IRL driver Paul Dana, who was tragically killed in a practice crash earlier in the day. "I just did a three day training session with him in Indy," replied Thomas. "He was a big part of the Ethanol committee that got the IRL involved in using it. He was a great guy."
Thomas, who timed in second with a pass of 5.840 @ 244.16MPH took out Trevor Lebsack in round one. In round two, Thomas drove around Terry McMillen to advance to the finals against another multi-time IHRA Funny Car Champion, Rob Atchison. Atchison shook the tires and crossed the center line while Thomas was on a smooth pass in the Ethanol Performs, Ohio Corn Marketing Program, Summit Racing, Gordy's Race Cars, Roush S&W Monte Carlo Body. The win added to Thomas' record as the winningest Funny Car driver in IHRA history.
"It's a new car. This is just an awesome hot rod," replied Thomas. "Every pass was in the 5.80's. No complaints. We came here with a whole new engine combination, blower combo and fuel system. Nothing was the same. We never had time to test. We've been doing this long enough, so we've got a good idea what this takes. This is as good or better than we ever thought could happen."
Kerunsky Cranks Out Pro Mod Win
Glen Kerunsky used consistency to crank out the win in the Pro Modified finals. Kerunsky came from the third qualifying spot with a 6.084 @ 233.96MPH in his tricked out '57 Chevy replica. The run was a career best for the Canadian. With runs within 5/100th of a second he got by Jim Halsey, John Russo and Dan Rowe to meet with Tommy D'Aprile in the finale. D'Aprile had tire shake at the hit of the throttle, while Kerunsky in the Breckenridge Excavating, Atchison Chevy Wedge motor, was driving through his shake later in the run.
"Consistency, basically consistency," stated Kerunsky. "There were too many guys trying to overpower the track. The track was good, the starting line was awesome and it fooled us a couple times. You have to race the track and of course cut some good lights."
"We jacked our motor up a bit for the finals, but didn't want to burn it up either. Tony(D'Aprile) had some good numbers all weekend. I was a little concerned. I just told my guys not to over think this. The car's happy, the motor's happy, just give it what it wants, cut a good light and see what happens"
Densham Dashes to Funny Car Finale
Veteran Funny Car campaigner and former high school shop teacher, Gary Densham scored the first win for his new team. After a long history going back as far as AHRA Champion, Austrailian Funny Car Champion and more recently with the John Force team, Densham is now running his own team.
The Nitro Funny Cars, which made their return in IHRA for the first time in fourteen years saw Densham qualify third behind the Pedregon brothers, Cruz and Frank. Densham bested Terry Haddock(an alternate) in round one after Haddock lit the tires off the line. Round two had Densham up against top qualifier, C. Pedregon who also smoked the hides on green. The finals pitted Densham against an underdog, Paul Lee. Densham bested Lee, with his third straight 4.80 run to grab the inaugural Texas National Nitro Funny Car title.
"It's definitely more gratifying to pick up a win with this team," said Densham. "We started this team with $10.50 and two crew guys that couldn't even spell funny car. Even before we joined the Force, we didn't do horribly, but were never able to win one. We ran .80's every run and were pleased with it. We'd have liked a little more speed, but I had a couple runs that the wind pushed me toward the guard rail. It's easier to lift than ram the wall. So I shut off a little early"
"Here my crew is my friends. We hang out together, play bad golf together, gives us a reason to drink more beer. It's what we do together that makes this fun. The people in the pits, the people in the grandstands make this all worthwhile. That's the reason Gary Densham comes back to race whenever he can. It's what I do. It's what I like to do."
Foley Flies to Top Fuel Finish
Doug Foley did what no team has been able to do in past three IHRA Texas Nationals, beat King Clay Millican. Not only did Foley set fast time with a blast of 4.610 @ 315.56MPH, but he beat Millican heads in the finals. Foley easily got by Louie Allison and Rick Cooper in the first two rounds when both problems. This set up the mano-y-mano battle with Millican for the title. As green hit the tree, Millican got off first but was quickly forced to peddle it. Foley sailed by to take the win light, with a track record 321.27MPH run through the traps.
"To start the season off like this is incredible," stated Foley. "You've got to run a .60 to beat Clay(Millican). You can't back it down. It seemed like all day you didn't want to be in the right lane. We ran fairly well in the left, but I knew the right lane was pretty good. We got the number one spot in the right, so I knew we could go down it."
"I always say when I run Clay, I've got nothing to lose. Nobody expects me to beat him, he's a five-time World Champ. Now we've got a lot, we've proven to be better. This is a work in progress. Our rivalry(with Clay) is a friendly one. I can honestly say that there's no person here in IHRA that we aren't friends with. We only dislike each other for about five seconds."
"We lost. We didn't do well all weekend, but that's just part of it" quipped an upbeat Millican. "You can't go out and win every race. We hate to go out of here without a win at the end of the day. Winning and losing is secondary to the fans coming out and having a good time. The winning and losing eats me up, eats up the crew, the other drivers. I hate to lose, but I'll keep smiling about it, because it's better than driving a fork lift."