Budds Creek, Maryland - Reporter's Notebook

Notes from Jim Luikens' Reporter's Notebook at the IHRA President's Cup Nationals

Bobby Lagana
Bobby Lagana, Jr. was a surprise entry here this weekend. He was originally scheduled to pilot the Bill Miller Top Fueler at the NHRA race in Dallas but when that race was rescheduled due to an approaching hurricane it opened the door for Bobby. Unfortunately, the Lagana Team had not planned to compete here and was caught with its parts supply down. Several racers, including Darren Bauder and Roger Way, stepped up and loaned them the necessary parts to compete. Bobby did not squander the opportunity, qualifying sixth and defeating Bruce Litton on a hole shot in the first round and then Doug Foley in the second round to advance to his second career final.

Last year's number four finisher in Pro Mod, Rick DiStefano, has largely been missing in action this year while he stayed home to tend to the family concrete business. Reportedly, Rickie D plans to return to the IHRA tour full time next year with a vengeance. While the race was going on here in Budds Creek this weekend Rickie was testing with his new crew chief at a different track. The new duo plans to make their debut at Rockingham in two weeks as they continue to refine their 2006 combination. While the new crew chief is unnamed as of yet the fact that the team was testing at Cayuga, Ontario should give knowledgeable insiders a big clue as to his identity.

The drag racing community, and the Top Fuel contingent in particular, were mourning the loss earlier this week of Tim Mahrenholz from Vincennes, Indiana. Tim was a cylinder head specialist for the Stevens' Family Top Fueler last year. He had moved over to the David Baca's NHRA Top Fuel team starting with the US Nationals. Tim was with the Baca team at Indy and Reading before losing his life in a single-car accident while returning from Reading. The autopsy report has yet to be returned but an eyewitness to the accident, a California highway patrolman on vacation, reported that Tim's car gently drifted off the roadway in a manner consistent with a driver who has fallen asleep. The normal comment at this time is to say that he will be missed, but in Tim's case the words carry more meaning than usual.

High profile tuner Jimmy Rector has left the Ed Hoover team over a season-long difference in tuning philosophy. For now Eddie Ware, a former second-tier recipient of Rector's tuning expertise, has stepped up and filled the co-primary tuning slot that Hoover previously shared with Mark Thomas. Jimmy reports that he has a number of interesting options on his plate for next season and that he hopes to have his 2006 plans finalized by the next race, which is two weeks from now in Rockingham. Jimmy refused to be pinned down any more specifically about his options but did admit that they exist for him in both sanctioning bodies.

Steve Bareman stole the show here when he recorded a 6.095 elapsed time during Saturday's early qualifying session. The most common question in the press room was what was the elapsed time that Steve would need to back up his 6.09 for a new national record, with 6.155 being the correct answer. It all became moot when Steve improved to an even better 6.050 during Saturday's Night of Fire final qualifying session with the 6.095 more than good enough for the back-up. On race day Steve went to the second round where he negated a great 6.108 elapsed time with a red light.

The Pro Modified competitors that use early model body styles maintain that they are at a disadvantage compared to their late model brethren because of the shorter front overhang of older vehicles. After lobbying IHRA tech director Mike Baker for some relief Charles Carpenter was invited to construct a proposed solution for presentation to Baker at the World Nationals. Charles built a removable "cowcatcher" that equalized his overhang with that of later model cars and it was subsequently approved for competition beginning with the previous race at Epping, New Hampshire.

Terry McMillen has had a very forgettable second half of the 2005 racing season. After his DNQ here the team performed a three hour post-mortem of their clutch and discovered a cracked pressure plate, which is otherwise known as the "hat" in racing terms. The hat, which is made of titanium, is not a part that is typically known to fail. Terry reports that they will have a new hat by the next race and that they are very happy to finally have an answer to their summer-long problems. Terry also plans to make his long-awaited Top Fuel debut at Rockingham and, will in fact, be driving both of his cars in competition there.

Craig "Dap" Morrison of Statesville, North Carolina was racing his 1957 Chevrolet here in Top Sportsman. Built by Gibbs Race Cars of Mooresville, Dap's '57 is powered by 632 CID Chevrolet Big Block from Scott Duggins' PAR Racing Engines and has recorded a best of 7.18 seconds at 192 miles-per-hour. Unlike other '57s in competition, Dap's car carries the airbrushed side trim of the 150 Series Chevrolet as opposed to the fancier Bel Air side trim that is seen on other race cars. As is fitting for a car that was built in Mooresville the car's black and white paint scheme replicates the colors of the "Black Widow" '57 factory race cars that Chevrolet built specifically for NASCAR competition. The team did not leave Budds Creek empty-handed as they were awarded the Drag Review Editor's Choice Award for their unique entry.

Dane Robinson, the 16 year old student who was so impressive in his Pro Mod debut, reports that he will be back behind the wheel of Quain Stott's number two Corvette at Rockingham. Dane fell short of making the field in Norwalk, despite making three good runs, and is hoping for better results in his second professional start.
Rick DiStefano at
Toronto Motorsports Park
Ed Hoover
Steve Bareman
"Cow Catchers" on the
cars of Bareman & Ware
Terry McMillen
Craig Morrison
Dane Robinson at
Virginia Motorsports Park