Tulsa: Saturday notebook

HOMETOWN PROUD There is nothing more satisfying in the world of sports than to be able to perform in front of your home crowd. Several drivers competing in this weekend's IHRA Sooner Nationals presented by SafeAuto are getting to live that ...


There is nothing more satisfying in the world of sports than to be able to perform in front of your home crowd.

Several drivers competing in this weekend's IHRA Sooner Nationals presented by SafeAuto are getting to live that dream.

Elite Motorsports owner and driver Richard Freeman and Pro Modified wheelman Dave Pierce are among a number of Oklahoma based race teams competing in this weekend's event at Tulsa Raceway Park and all are excited about the chance to do well in front of friends, family and fans.

"We are only two and a half hours away so this is pretty phenomenal," Freeman said. "I was talking to a buddy of mine about how this is a whole different atmosphere. You come in here and it is kind of like a family feeling. It is just a neat deal."

Freeman drives one of three Elite Motorsports Pontiac's backed by Freeman's company. The three car operation, which also includes IHRA legend Frank Gugliotta and J.R. Carr, has all three cars safely in the top 10 with Gugliotta holding down second, Freeman in sixth and Carr in eighth in Elite Motorsports Pro Stock competition.

"Pro Stock over here is a serious deal and even though a lot of people didn't think this three car deal would work it is actually working out very well for us," Freeman said. "We have first class people and a first class group working on these cars and we are excited about everything that is going on."

And Freeman isn't quite done in obtaining his goal of making Elite Motorsports one of the biggest contributors to IHRA drag racing.

"We should be making a major announcement in the coming weeks on a deal that will make a lot of people happy across the board," Freeman said. "We can't wait to continue to grow our relationship with the IHRA and drag racing."

But Freeman isn't the only Oklahoma man representing his state this weekend.

Pierce, who made his IHRA debut two weeks ago in Crandall at the Texas Nationals, brings his purple Corvette back out for another go in IHRA Pro Modified competition.

"I was born in New Jersey, but we moved here in 1979 and raised two kids here in this great state," Pierce said. "This is our home track, we have run here for like 20 years and it is always exciting to come here and do well in front of the hometown crowds."

Pierce didn't have the best debut two weeks ago, falling in the first round to Harold Martin after qualifying third, but Pierce is confident that he has the bugs worked out and is ready to be a contender this weekend.

"We didn't do very well in Dallas, we were off our game. We had some issues with the car, but we fixed that," Pierce said. "We have had a few clean testing runs so we hope to do a lot better here."


In the world of professional drag racing, three day marathons are considered the norm.

But this weekend, the IHRA is taking a bit of a different approach.

This weekend's Sooner Nationals will feature a rare two-day show with three professional qualifying rounds packed into Saturday's action before eliminations begin on Sunday.

While the two-day format gives drivers a chance to make a few more runs during the heat of the afternoon, simulating Sunday's final rounds, it also gives crews a little less turnaround between appearances.

While there are definitely pros and cons to be found on both sides of the fence, one thing is for sure -- it sure creates for a lot of excitement for fans and drivers alike on both days of competition.

"Really the biggest challenge for the Top Fuel guys is mechanical failure. There is no overnight fixing if something goes wrong," said Top Fuel driver Bobby Lagana Jr. "The good thing is there are three runs so if you screw up on the first run, you have that second run if you need it.

"You have to be on your game and sometimes you have to be a little more conservative than normal."

But sometimes the challenge can be more of a personal one rather than a mechanical one.

"It is definitely a challenge. You have to turn around three times on Saturday and by the time you are done it is almost 9 p.m. You then have two or three hours of crunching data and getting ready for Sunday leaving me getting to bed well after midnight," said Elite Motorsports Pro Stock driver Cale Aronson. "Once you get up in the morning you have had like six hours of sleep and while that is good for a lot of people, it isn't for me because it isn't good sleep. You are laying there for hours thinking about how you did and what you are going to do on Sunday.

"It is a little more stressful, but on the other hand it has its benefits as far as overall performance. It is definitely going to be interesting."


It is safe to say that the last two races have not been what Elite Motorsports Pro Stock driver John Montecalvo had hoped for.

After making the finals at the season opening Mardi Gras Nationals, Montecalvo has since lost in the first round at two straight IHRA events including a disheartening first round loss as the No. 1 qualifier six weeks ago in Rockingham. He also lost in the first round two weeks ago at Dallas.

"Both losses were very unfortunate. One was mechanical problems, the other was driver problems. We really need to have a breakout race this weekend to get back on track" Montecalvo said. "We need to make our move now. We are going to have to get rid of some of these mechanical gremlins, but the team is doing a good job and I am confident we can get this turned around."

With a runner-up finish combined with two early exits, Montecalvo is currently fifth in the Pro Stock point standings 125 points back of leader Cary Goforth. And right now, he has high hopes that he can put his recent woes behind him and turn in a good performance this weekend in Tulsa.

"We know we have good power. We were No. 1 in Rockingham and Cary (Goforth) was No. 1 in Dallas so we know Sonny is making good power. We just need to minimize our problems and take it from there," Montecalvo said.

With 24 final round appearances in his long and successful IHRA career, Montecalvo knows that if he can put the mechanical and driver issues behind him it won't be long until he is back in final No. 25.

"It is do or die time for us right now. We are going to have to put some of these issues behind us, but I think from here on in we can get this situation fixed," Montecalvo said. "I think from here on in it is take no prisoners."

-credit: ihra

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Series Drag
Drivers Bobby Lagana Jr. , John Montecalvo , J.R. Carr , Harold Martin , Richard Freeman , Frank Gugliotta