Epping, New Hampshire - Reporter's Notebook

Notes from Jim Luikens' Reporter's Notebook at the North American Nationals

Bruce Litton
Cooler, fall-like conditions prevailed at this event, a welcome relief from the hot summer weather that we have experienced all year on the IHRA tour. If you've been following Larry Sullivan's round-by-round qualifying and race results coverage here you already know what a great event this was. The Pro Stock, Pro Mod and Funny Car records were set and reset so many times it would be impossible to recapture them all here. Suffice it to say that just when we thought we had seen it all, another record was reset.

At Indianapolis last weekend Bruce Litton debuted a new Blue Chevrolet Suburban tow vehicle to replace the trusty Red Suburban he has used for quite a while. Unlike his previous Suburban, which was strictly stock, the new one is more of a street rod in nature. It features a late model crate engine and an updated transmission. When the Blue Suburban broke on the return road after his third qualifying attempt Bruce simply drove it across the street to his shop and replaced it with "Old Red". Bruce was still using the Red Suburban here and says the Blue one will return after it has been sorted out a little more.

One of the racers that had a great weekend for a while was John Russo from nearby Middleton, Massachusetts. John, who continues to have a breakout year, was actually the provisional Pro Mod qualifying leader after Friday's first round of qualifying with a career best run of 6.157 seconds at 230.53 miles-per-hour. John says he knew it was a good run but actually didn't know how good until he was told to "step away from the car" by IHRA tech officials in the shut down area while they took a closer look.

On Saturday both Carl Spiering and Scott Cannon were able to move around John, which knocked him back to third in the final qualifying order. On race day John spun his tires in the first round and lost to Steve Vick, ending his weekend early. Since John and his team were racing only 20 minutes from home they hosted a steak and lobster cookout on Saturday night for some hometown friends.

All-around nice guy Terry McMillen had a tough weekend here. It got off to rough start when he low-centered his transporter while attempting to enter the parking lot at Sanel Auto Parts in nearby Manchester for a pre-race display. When he attempted to pull forward his tires just spun and when he attempted to back up, the trailer wedged into the pavement and his truck's drive shaft and rear locating springs snapped. Two tow bills and nearly $5,000 later his truck was good as new.

Two races ago, The "Fast Boys from Illinois" (FBI) team debuted at Martin, Michigan. The team consists of the six IHRA Pro Stock competitors that live in the state of Illinois. At this race they were answered by a new team, which has taken the name CIA. Charter CIA team members include Dan Seamon, Brian Gahm, John Nobile and Doug Kirk. Supposedly the letters stand for "Champions in Action" but judging by the knowing winks and sly grins evident in the pits the letters might have another meaning as well.

Long-time NHRA Comp standout Art Hodges debuted his new Dodge Pro Stocker here, just one week after racing in Comp at Indy. His car is the ex-Rick Jones Stratus that Rick drove to fine 6th place finish in the final 2004 IHRA points standings. Art purchased the car and two Hemi engines from Rick over the winter and has been preparing for his Pro Stock debut since then. He lives in Simi Valley, California, far from the IHRA national event footprint. Despite the seemingly inconvenient location he is looking forward to participating and was gratified by the warm welcome he received here. After experiencing new car blues during his first two qualifying runs Art recorded a credible 6.541 in the final qualifying session. The run was only good enough for 18th spot in the final standings but Art was satisfied with his first weekend out and looks forward to competing at the final two IHRA national events of 2005.

One of 2004s rising stars, Elijah Morton, finally had a promising weekend here. His 2005 season, which has been mostly forgettable, took a turn for the better here when he debuted his new Ford Escort ZX2. Elijah qualified 12th with a 6.500 and recorded an even better 6.44 in a first round loss. Although he lost, the 6.44 was his first 40 something in quite some time and bodes well for the remaining events this year.

Another new car that debuted here was the Cobalt of John Bartunek from Pearl River, New York. John was not here on Friday, finally making it to the track on Saturday morning. Wasting no time, promptly put his new car into the Pro stock field 14th at 6.503 seconds. Currently John is using a Chevy wedge from Bob Ingles for power while he awaits his new Hemi-Chevy, also from Ingles. John's engine will be the first Hemi-Chevy that Ingles has produced. Despite losing early in eliminations John did come away with the Best Appearing Pro Car award for his candy tangerine beauty.

Although the waning months of the 2005 racing season are upon us Jerry Haas reports that he is as busy as ever. The next cars delivered will be a GTO for Greg Anderson and a Cobalt for Ron Krisher. After that it will all GTOs all the time as he completes new Pontiacs for Mike Edwards, Ben Watson and Greg Stanfield.

Top Sportsman competitor Jacques Filteau from Quebec City, Canada was racing his Camaro here. He is sponsored by the (Canadian) Auto Pro auto parts chain, whose Blue and Yellow colors look suspiciously like NAPA. Particularly interesting is the sponsor on his quarter panels, Pieces d'Auto Alain Cote. That translates to Alan Cote Auto Parts in English but the French translation certainly has its own charm.
John Russo
Scott Cannon
John Nobile
Art Hodges
Elijah Morton
John Bartunek
Jerry Haas
Jacques Filteau