Series kicks off 2004 in San Antonio

IHRA Drag Racing Series Kicks Off March 26-28 in San Antonio NORWALK, Ohio (March 3, 2004) -- The 2004 Hooters IHRA Drag Racing Series kicks off at the Amalie Oil Texas Nationals presented by Ancira Cars, Trucks and RVs and the San Antonio ...

IHRA Drag Racing Series Kicks Off March 26-28 in San Antonio

NORWALK, Ohio (March 3, 2004) -- The 2004 Hooters IHRA Drag Racing Series kicks off at the Amalie Oil Texas Nationals presented by Ancira Cars, Trucks and RVs and the San Antonio Express-News, March 26 -- 28 at San Antonio Raceway. Returning to the facility for the second consecutive year, IHRA drivers Clay Millican, Top Fuel, and Mitch Stott, Pro Modified, will look to repeat their performances from 2003. Both competitors left San Antonio with a win, early season victories eventually leading each to world championships.

While Millican has dominated the Top Fuel field for the last two seasons, 2004 is an entirely different year for the Werner Enterprises-sponsored driver from Drummonds, Tenn. Many will be taking charge at the three-time IHRA World Champion.

Bruce Litton has finished runner-up to Millican for the past two seasons. Driving the Lucas Oil dragster, Litton, of Indianapolis, has accumulated eight event wins in his career, yet only two in the past two years.

A new face to the Top Fuel field is former Top Alcohol driver Doug Foley. Fielding a dragster acquired from Litton, Foley earned his license mid-January in Bradenton, Fla. Some may say Foley has a lot to learn, but he is no stranger to the educational process, operating a drag racing school in Atco, N.J.

A new facet to the Top Fuel category will be the presence of the Nitro-Injected dragsters running in the class. While the jury is out on how competitive these vehicles can be, the speculation alone has created talk throughout the industry. Possible entries include Dave Hirata of Lowell, Ind., Mike Bowers of Dallas, Texas, and Pat Dakin of Dayton, Ohio.

In Pro Modified competition, all eyes will be on reigning champ Stott. After a hot start in 2003, Stott struggled, failing to qualify at two events, but held on to the points lead. He outlasted his brother Quain Stott and former champion Mike Janis. The Mill Spring, N.C.-native Mitch will again race his Radiac Abrasives Corvette, with an updated paint-scheme for the season.

A new face in the Pro Modified ranks will be a familiar one: Scotty Cannon. His last race with IHRA was his 1998 championship season. Six years later, after pursuing a career in Nitro Funny Car with NHRA, the winningest Pro Modified driver, from Lyman, S.C., returns to IHRA with his Oakley-sponsored team to build on his six World Championships and 28 career event wins.

In addition to Cannon, former Funny Car World Champion Von Smith will race a full season in Pro Modified. Smith competed twice in 2003, and his pick for the driver to beat this year is 2002 champion Shannon Jenkins. This is a very stacked field.

After an off-season filled with celebrity dinners and appearances, defending World Champion Rob Atchison will return to Funny Car competition in 2004. The 28-year old from London, Ontario, who hadn't won an event heading into 2003, went on to win six races en route to his first championship. His success has since turned him into a national hero in his homeland of Canada, and the pressure is on to repeat. Atchison is looking for his first event win in San Antonio. The team missed the event last season as the hauler was snowed in.

Challenging Atchison will be five-time World Champion Mark Thomas. Crew chief Jimmy Rector adds to Thomas' threat with two World Championships of his own.

Terry McMillen, of Elkhart, Ind., debuted a new paint-scheme for his Amalie Oil Funny Car at the San Antonio race in 2003. Featuring an alligator face on the hood, the car became a fan favorite and adopted the name "The Instagator." McMillen returns to San Antonio Raceway after finishing in the top ten the last three seasons. (picture attached)

While all of IHRA's professional classes raised the competition bar in 2003, none did so more than Sunoco Race Fuels Pro Stock. Brian Gahm of Lucasville, Ohio, will return as the two-time defending World Champion. With only one event win last season, he waited until the final race of the season to clinch his championship. Gahm also became the first Sunoco Pro Stock driver to break into the 6.40s in IHRA history when he did so at Grand Bend Motorplex.

Others to watch for are Carl Baker, Frank Gugliotta and Rick Jones. Baker, of North Ridgeville, Ohio, racing the Summit Racing Equipment Cougar, seemed destined to win the championship last season but could not hold onto his points lead, winding up 50 points back from Gahm.

By season's end, only 300 points separated the top ten (Gahm -- Elijah Morton). With last season's tough field of drivers and competitors like Tony Gillig and Robert Patrick returning to IHRA, the field is wide open and Gahm has his hands full as he tries to "three-peat."

-ihra-

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Series Drag
Drivers Mike Janis , Mark Thomas , Clay Millican , Bruce Litton , Tony Gillig , Robert Patrick , Shannon Jenkins , Von Smith , Doug Foley , Pat Dakin , Frank Gugliotta , Terry McMillen