Rockingham, North Carolina - Reporter's Notebook

Notes from Jim Luikens' Reporter's Notebook at the IHRA Udderly SMOOth World Finals

Udderly SMOOth Mascots
Rain has been a constant this year on the IHRA national tour with nearly every event experiencing a rain delay of some sort. Going into the final race of the season however, no race had been forced to be entirely rescheduled despite all of the wet stuff. That all changed at the World Finals when the rain was so overwhelming that track and sanctioning body officials called the event at 9:00 am on Friday morning. As a result the World Finals were rescheduled for three weeks later because previous commitments at the track prevented them from being held any sooner. The race has now been successfully and, ironically, for one of the few times in 2005 no rain fell whatsoever.

Udderly Smooth Hand Cream was the title rights sponsor for the rescheduled event. As part of their involvement they brought their 10 foot tall mascot as well as a human dressed up in a cow costume to meet the fans. Both were well received with the cow/human being a particular favorite of the youngsters. With cold weather fast approaching the adults seemed to be more appreciative of the free trial samples that were being passed out. It's always nice to see new sponsors join the IHRA family and I, for one, welcome them aboard.

Speaking of new sponsors, the Roy Hill/Mike Bell Mustang Pro Mod showed up bearing Rock Batteries sponsorship. Rock Batteries are marketed to the racing industry by Rockingham Dragway owner Steve Earwood. The military spec battery was originally developed for the space shuttle and features, among other things, exclusive plate mounting technology that is particularly resistant to vibration. Because of their tendency to experience tire shake the Pro Mod competitors have been the first to embrace this proprietary technology for drag racing. A full 25% of the Pro Mod field at Rockingham was Rock-equipped. Besides the Hill Mustang the Pro Mod Corvettes of Rick DiStefano, Quain Stott and Jim Oddy/Steve Bareman all carried the Rock battery. Interestingly, Jerry Haas also carried the Rock battery and decal here as he became the first of the Pro Stock contingent to become a Rock believer. Jerry states that he has 31 Pro Stockers on order for this winter and that all will be Rock equipped after recent back to back testing against the 16 Volt Turbo- Start battery showed no performance advantage for the heavier, and now out of production, Turbo Start.

Sixteen cars attempted to qualify for the eight car Top Fuel field with five competitors making their first start of the year. Terry McMillen, Michael Gunderson, Chris Dakin and Kevin Jones all made their T/F debuts here along with Grant Flowers. Unfortunately, none of the above qualified as the bump spot was a record 4.740 seconds.

All of the debuting drivers had interesting stories. For Terry McMillen, who came the closest to making the show at 4.774 seconds, it was the culmination of a multi-year quest to move up to Top Fuel. He plans to focus on his fueler for 2006 and put a fan, media and sponsor-friendly driver in his familiar Gator alcohol funny car. Michael Gunderson, who had a a very successful career as an NHRA Top Alcohol competitor, ran a career best here of 4.794 seconds in his IHRA debut after shake down runs of 4.85 and 4.87 seconds at Gainesville prior to this event.

Another NHRA Top Alcohol refugee, Chris Dakin, recorded a best elapsed time of 5.63 seconds from his injected nitro entry. This is the first significant injected nitro entry that we have seen this year and the best elapsed time for an injected nitro car since Keith Stark's 5.31 at Richmond last season. Chris had Steve Boggs, last seen tuning the 5.10 second Mitch Myers dragster, on hand as his tuner.

Grant Flowers was driving his own car for the first time this year because Paul Athey, who had driven the Flowers' car at the previous events, has left the team. Not much is known about Kevin Jones, who was the slowest of the sixteen T/F competitors. He was driving the dragster that is normally driven by Doc Sipple and only made one qualifying attempt

Pro Stock winner Frank Gugliotta has had to modify the saying on his hood scoop cover after the recent increase in performance by his Pro Stock Escort. At the start of the year it said: At 200 MPH You Have No Friends. It has now been crudely modified to say that you have none at 220 mph either.

Elijah Morton was racing his familiar Rising Storm 2004 Mustang here after recently crashing his Ford Escort at a Pro Stock 1/8 mile show where he was the number one qualifier. Even worse, he had recently taken delivery of a set of CFM brand carburetors (this season's hot ticket in Pro Stock) and says he could only watch helplessly as they ground against the track while he was sliding upside down. No one could blame Elijah if he skipped the rest of 2005 and advanced directly to 2006 as this year has definitely been a season from hell for him.

This year's World Champion in Top Stock, Paul Mercure, possibly lost one of his fabled Checkmate Camaros when he was careened into by Frank Teuton during Friday afternoon's Top Stock qualifying. Teuton was attempting to slip his car into neutral at the end of the run when the reverse-lockout broke and he hit reverse by mistake. His car then went out
Paul Mercure's Camaro Front End of control, crossed lanes and struck the innocent Mercure Camaro at high speed knocking into first one, and then the other wall. The crash ended Mercure's weekend early and could have cost him the season title but his closest pursuer, Joe Aluise, Jr. was not at this event. The Mercure team partially disassembled their car at the track in an attempt to assess its damage. They plan to conduct a more thorough investigation once they return home before deciding if the car is salvageable.

It wasn't exactly t-shirt weather here this weekend but I was still able to spot my t-shirt of the event none the less. My final award for the 2005 season goes to the gentleman that was wearing the PINK t-shirt. In large letters it proclaimed "Keep Laughing." The smaller print below added: "This is your girlfriend's t-shirt."
Mike Bell
Terry McMillen
Michael Gunderson
Chris Dakin
Frank Gugliotta's Hood Scoop Plug
Elijah Morton
Paul Mercure's Camaro Front End