Edmonton - Reporter's Notebook
Notes from Jim Luikens' Reporter's Notebook at the 4th Annual IHRA Rocky Mountain Nationals
Friday's weather troubles resulted in the only scheduled Top Fuel qualifying session of the day being moved from the evening Pro Session to the afternoon Pro Session when race officials were concerned that weather might interrupt the evening session. The move caught many teams unprepared and several were forced to miss the session when their driver was not on the grounds. Saturday's complete rain-out left the Fuelers with only one session in the books for the event. According to the IHRA rule book, each pro driver is guaranteed at least two qualifying sessions. To make up for the missed sessions a last-ditch Top Fuel qualifying session was scheduled for Sunday morning.
Of the 13 Top Fuelers that attempted to qualify here, 12 were of the supercharged variety. Ed Verenka was the lone injected Top Fuel entry but, as been the case for the injected fuelers at every event so far this year, his 6.92 second elapsed time fell far short of making the field. Clay Millican's assistant crew chief, Lance Larsen, offered his opinion here that, given the current strength of the IHRA fields, it is obvious that the injected cars need to be given something to be competitive and that he is not opposed to giving them enough relief so that they at least have a sporting chance at qualifying.
Dave Fedorowich never made it past the Christmas tree on his only qualifying attempt so he is not found in the final qualifying results since he never made a full pass. Dave was driving the Alberta Clipper Top Fueler here for owner Kevin Boyer. Kevin hopes to eventually license in his car but for now he plans to keep his day job, which is racing a Top Fuel Harley on the Canadian Motorcycle Drag Racing Association circuit.
Bobby Lagana, Jr. was a surprise non-qualifier in Top Fuel. For this race he had a new-to-him billet engine block and Racepak computer. Wanting to make sure that everything was working OK, Bobby only made a half track run on Friday. When Saturday's rains washed out both sessions it left him with just one last shot on Sunday morning to make the field. Unfortunately his car malfunctioned on the burnout and he went to the starting line with one wet and one dry rear tire. A 7.361 second run made him a first round spectator. Bobby was helped at this event by Canadian Fuel Funny Car racers Rick Duchene and Rick Statt. Duchene, who lives nearby, opened his home and race shop to the Lagana team for nearly an entire week as they prepared for this event.
Rick Cooper was the other surprise non-qualifier in Top Fuel. The Stevens Family Fueler was fifth in points entering the weekend and they arrived here with a new co-crew chief, Mike McLaughlin. Mike, who has formerly worked with Don Lampus and Danny Dunn among others, will be a permanent hire if his synergy with the team is good. The team missed Friday's session when a magneto malfunction prevented their car from starting. They too suffered from Saturday's lost sessions and were left with, effectively, one last shot to qualify on Sunday morning. Running in the left lane, the car got loose at the 330 foot mark and ended up tossing its blower belt when the engine lost its load and the RPM rose too quickly.
Von Smith and Pat Moore were the most notable of the non-qualifiers in Pro Modified. Both suffered from problems during Friday's two qualifying sessions. When rain washed out both Saturday sessions in their entirety their field was set and they were both on the outside looking in.
For the second year in a row Calgary's Rick DiStefano made it to the Pro Modified final round. After being the runner-up to Quain Stott last year in his only final ever, he was the runner-up again this year when his blower belt failed after he had grabbed an .08 second lead at the tree.
Mark Thomas had won all four of the 2004 IHRA National Events contested to date. After he won his first round pairing, a passerby suggested that he needed only three more wins to keep his 2004 record intact. "Great" replied Mark, who had already had quite enough of a very wet racing weekend. "We'll run 'em back to back and repack the chutes in the staging lanes." Mark's racing day ended in the semi-final round when he was defeated by Terry McMillen, who went on to a runner-up finish.
Rob Atchison came into the event in second place in the Funny Car points, but failed to make up any ground when he, too, went out in the semi-final round.
Ronnie Midyette was a strong third in Pro Funny Car points entering the weekend but he was surprising no-show at the Rocky Mountain Nationals. He fell all the way to fifth, 282 points behind Thomas.
Elijah Morton won Pro Stock at Grand Bend, the last event prior to Edmonton. His race day didn't last near as long here when he was timed out while trying to stage in the second round. The team serviced their transmission prior to the start of this event and a new sprag, that had only been installed as part of preventative maintenance, failed.
The extremely wet conditions of the weekend turned the pits into a quagmire, to put it mildly. By Sunday morning IHRA Tech Director Mike Baker and his staff were power washing the mud off of every race car before it was allowed to enter the staging lanes.
A large field of 48 Jr. Dragsters participated here. Nearly 50% (22 of 48) of the drivers were female. IHRA permits Jr. Funny Cars to race in Jr. Dragster and three of the 48 entries were Jr. Funny Cars.
The exhibition vehicles were a different group than we normally see at IHRA events. The "Smokin' Gun" multi-turbo Diesel Semi Tractor of Calgary's Gord Cooper was impressive with its quad rear wheel burnouts. Also on hand was the "Full Tilt Boogie" 1937 Chevrolet Truck Wheel Stander of Kerry Watron and the "Under Pressure" Jet Ambulance. The ambulance was of the mobile emergency room style and it was constructed from a 4700 Series International Truck. Its power plant was previously installed in a F-4 "Phantom" jet. The "Urban Legend" Dodge Monster Truck was also giving rides in the muddy field to the left of the track.