IHRA looks to make history in Edmonton While 2009 has so far been plagued with financial woes and a variety of problems for sporting events across the globe, for the International Hot Rod Association, the start to the 2009 season has...
IHRA looks to make history in Edmonton
While 2009 has so far been plagued with financial woes and a variety of problems for sporting events across the globe, for the International Hot Rod Association, the start to the 2009 season has ironically been one of its most competitive beginnings in the nearly 40 year history of the sanctioning body.
For only the second time in IHRA history there have been no repeat winners through the first four races of the season as a dozen different drivers have claimed wins in three professional categories heading into the midway point of the '09 Nitro Jam season.
If that trend continues in Edmonton this weekend, it will mark the first time in IHRA history there have been repeat winners through the first half of the schedule.
"I think this speaks volumes about the teams that compete with us. Clearly these guys are hardcore racers as these guys are racing as hard for a championship with no points fund as they were with hundreds of thousands of dollars on the line," said IHRA Vice President of Racing Operations Skooter Peaco. "Bottom line is that they want to be a champion and that, at its core, is what our sport is supposed to be about.
"For me personally, the big rigs and big budgets are cool, but there is no better group of die-hard competitors out there than the IHRA teams."
Even more interesting, the IHRA is also coming off of its most competitive race of the season in Tulsa. At the IHRA Sooner Nationals earlier this month all three professional winners edged their opponents by mere inches at the line in one of the closest championship rounds in drag racing history.
Through four races this season Top Fuel drivers Bruce Litton, Del Cox, Scott Weis and Tim Boychuk, Pro Modified drivers Ray Commisso, Tim Tindle, Chris Russo and Kenny Lang and Elite Motorsports Pro Stock drivers Jason Collins, Cary Goforth, Frank Gugliotta and Pete Berner have all claimed Ironman trophies.
Included in the list of victors are five first-time winners and three former champions, one from each class.
It is quite a turnaround from the days when the same handful of drivers won nearly every national event. In fact, the only other time where there were no repeat winners through the first four races of the season was 1991 when the IHRA ran its current three categories plus Alcohol Funny Car.
That year 14 different drivers graced victory lane through four races, with two of those events not running Top Fuel as a part of its schedule. Winners that year included Kenny Bernstein, Gene Snow, Scotty Cannon, Mark Thomas, Rickie Smith, Doug Kirk, Al Billes, Fred Hahn, Bob Newberry, Harold Denton, Wally Stroupe, Larry Dobbs, Mike Preslar and Terry Adams.
While the first four races of the 1991 season featured a different set of winners at each race, two of the drivers repeated at the very next event. With the streak coming to an end after four races, history could once again be made this weekend if there are no repeat winners at the River Cree Resort and Casino Rocky Mountain Nationals in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada.
And that extremely competitive start has led to some very tight points races.
By far the most competitive class this season has been Elite Motorsports Pro Stock as nearly a dozen drivers have proven they can win on any given race day.
Gugliotta currently leads the Pro Stock standings with 325 points, three markers ahead of Berner. Goforth, who lost the lead after Tulsa, is just seven points back of the leader in third.
John Montecalvo, who has had two runner-up finishes this year, is fourth (262) and Collins is fifth (219). Rounding out the Pro Stock top 10 are Richard Freeman, J.R. Carr, Mark Martino, Cale Aronson and Dean Goforth.
Top Fuel has seen similar results with over half a dozen drivers proving they are capable of winning each weekend.
Litton is currently on top of the standings with 357 points thanks to three final round appearances, while rookie Cox is 11 points back of Litton in second. Bobby Lagana Jr. (265) is third, followed by Tim Boychuk (236) and Mitch King (221).
Rounding out the Top Fuel top 10 are Terry McMillen, Scott Weis, Terry Haddock, Paul Lee and Todd Simpson.
In Pro Modified, there haven't been nearly as many cars fighting for the top spot, but the fight at the top between Lang and veteran Ed Hoover has been one of the most competitive battles of the season.
Lang is currently first with 336 points, while Hoover has been on his heels all season long and is currently just 30 points back of the defending champ. Chris Russo is third (197), followed by Commisso (172) and Taylor Lastor (131).
Next up for the drivers of the Nitro Jam series is a pair of stops in Canada. First up is the River Cree Resort and Casino Rocky Mountain Nationals presented by Paradise RV July 3-5 at Castrol Raceway followed by the MOPAR Canadian Nationals July 17-19 at Grand Bend Motorplex.
The July swing will come to a close in Martin, Mich. at the IHRA Northern Nationals July 31 through August 2 at U.S. 131 Motorsports Park.