Norwalk, Ohio - Reporter's Notebook

Notes from Jim Luikens' Reporter's Notebook at the World Nationals

Mike Stawicki
Mike Stawicki Mike Stawicki's "new" 1967 Camaro finally made its IHRA debut at this event. Mike has tested the car as well as run some PMRA series events but this was the first national event outing for this car. New car blues kept Mike from making the field as he was one of the 13 non-qualifiers in Pro Modified but he expects to run at least the Budds Creek and Rockingham IHRA events yet this year. His car features the '67 Camaro body that was originally created by Australia's Murray Anderson. Jim Salemi's G-Force Race Cars built Mike's car using one of the Anderson bodies, which are now produced by Canada's Cynergy Composites. The car was sponsored here by Darren Mayer's www.dmpeinc.com, the world's first comprehensive online supercharger store. Mike and crew did not leave Norwalk empty-handed however, as they were presented the Best Engineered Pro Vehicle Award.

Bareman's Ill-fated Final Round Burnout The Jim Oddy/Steve Bareman collaboration produced its first fruit here when Bareman qualified for his first-ever IHRA event. On race day Steve went all the way to the final, where an untimely leak ended his day. Earlier in the weekend it looked like more of the same for the team when a push rod failed prior to the afternoon qualifying session and they were forced to miss the session. Down to their final qualifying attempt Saturday evening, Bareman drove the car right into the field with a great 6.267 elapsed time.

Jason Collins Former IHRA Pro Stock competitor Carl Baker had quite a week leading up to the World Nationals. On the previous Sunday he struck a deal with Jack Collins to join forces and provide his venerable Cougar as the home for one of Jack's Pro Stock engines. Jack had sold his Pro Stocker but had two engines left over while Carl had sold his engine but still had his rolling chassis. The newly combined team tested before coming to Norwalk but driver Jason Collins ended up 23rd out of the 27 Pro Stockers on hand. Despite the valiant effort Jason's 6.629 was half a tenth short of the 6.579 bump.

Rob Mansfield While all of this was going on, Carl officially left the Richard Penland Pro Stock team, for whom he has been a consultant most of this year. In between getting his Cougar race-ready he accepted a consultant's position on the (returning) Rob Mansfield team. Rob debuted his new Cobalt here, replacing the Grand Am that he had run last season as well as earlier this year. Both the Mansfield and Penland teams were among the non-qualifiers as well. The Mansfield Cobalt is from Don Ness, a legendary chassis builder, whose only other IHRA Pro Stock customer is John Nobile. The Mansfield car also features a Ron Hutter engine, a switch from the usual Jon Kaase and Sonny Leonard engines seen in IHRA Pro Stock. It will be interesting to see how the Mansfield car performs once it is sorted out.

Elijah Morton was also a DNQ in Pro Stock at this event but his engine program is starting to show some promise. Last year's fifth place finisher in the P/S points, Elijah chose to go his own way this year and establish his own engine program. The sledding has been tough so far this year and, in fact, Elijah was forced to miss both of Friday's qualifying sessions when Easy, his repaired and freshened engine from last year, did not arrive until after the second qualifying session. As a result he was only able to attempt to qualify on Saturday, when the air was much worse than Friday's air. Even so, Elijah still recorded a 6.609 best, just off the 6.579 bump, for one of his best showings this year. Elijah reports that he should receive the first engine from his own program, Allright, possibly as early as Epping but no later than Budds Creek. The expectation is that when he receives that engine, everything will indeed be all right.

Tom Rix Tom Rix, a Top Stock competitor who has always favored Buick race cars, debuted his brand new 1974 Buick Apollo here. The Apollo replaces his popular and successful Skylark Grand Sport, a larger and heavier Buick. Few people remember the Apollo's brief life span. It was one of the four derivatives spun off of GM's X-body in the early 70s. The others were the Chevrolet Nova, Oldsmobile Omega, Pontiac Ventura. Note that the first letters of Nova, Omega, Ventura and Apollo spell NOVA, from which all of the derivatives came.

Jason Harris (near lane) In Final Round Typically Norwalk sees the biggest car counts annually short of the events at Rockingham. However, The Top Dragster and Top Sportsman fields were particularly noteworthy here. In Top Sportsman 96 competitors tried to make the 48-car field, which meant that, 48 drivers were able to get an early start home. Despite losing one qualifying session to weather the bump was an outstanding 7.004 with all but four competitors recording a six-second qualifying time. There is little doubt that if that final session had been run it would have been an all six-second field. Well-known non-qualifiers included T/S stalwarts Steven DeRosa, Jeff Solyan, Scott Wasko, Joe Ballog, Michael Westmoreland, Bruno Massel, Will Hinkston, Glen Maine, Frank Teagueand Joe Clifford among others.

The situation was nearly as frantic in Top Dragster with 68 drivers going for the 48 starting spots. The 6.888-second bump was held down by Jeremy McCormick, already a national event winner this year and a top five points finisher last year, with Gary Williams, Brian Folk and Randy Folk among those on the outside looking in. It's not often that not just one but two Folks fail to qualify as they did here. However, five of the 20 not-qualified entrants got to run in eliminations as alternates. Three of them went to late rounds and one of them, first-alternate Jason Harris, went on to win the event!

Aaron Polburn Rides in Litton's Dragster Bruce Litton debuted his new two-seat dragster at this event. Scheduled for extensive promotional duty in 2006, this dragster is different from earlier two-seaters in that the rider gets the forward seat. J. Ed Horton built the new car and it was used here to give VIP rides to Clear Channel (IHRA's owner) executives, including IHRA President Aaron Polburn. Having had the chance to go for a ride previously in another car in the number two position I can't wait to experience a ride from the front row.

Finally, my t-shirt of the event award goes to the gentleman whose shirt read, "You Say Redneck Like it's a Bad Thing."
Bareman's Ill-Fated Final Round Burnout
Scott Cannon
John Nobile
Art Hodges
Elijah Morton
John Bartunek
Jerry Haas
Jacques Filteau