Milan - Reporter's Notebook
Notes from Jim Luikens' Reporter's Notebook at the 2nd Annual Motor City Nationals
On Tuesday of last week, just three days before the event, IHRA officials called him and invited him to come to Milan with his car. They told him that he would have to pay the event's entry fee but would not be eligible to compete in eliminations if he ran well enough to qualify for the field. On the positive side it would give him a chance to demonstrate the combination under the watchful eye of the IHRA tech officials.
Unfortunately Keith's regular crew had already made other weekend plans because they had not been expecting to race. When the IHRA call came, Keith had to scramble and draft whoever he could to help him at Milan. As a result his, crew here was made up of his 68 year old neighbor, Maury Ziebart, his PR lady's husband, Dave Geiger, and two friends from Cleveland, Rudy Thomas and Don Washington.
Keith's weekend got off to an inauspicious start when the car would not start for Friday's only qualifying session. It turned out that the contacts in his starter's power pack, which are heavy duty and were originally designed for arc welder use, had failed. Keith says that he has never before experienced this kind of failure despite using these types of parts for years.
Saturday went better for the Stark team as the car started easily and made complete runs in both rounds. With a very soft clutch tune-up and minimal nitrous application, the car recorded a 5.51 second run in the afternoon session. A slightly more aggressive tune-up for the night session saw the car's elapsed time improve to 5.42 seconds. These two runs are the only full 1,320-foot runs that he has ever made on nitrous. Because he is basically in uncharted territory, there is no one to tap for input on using this combination. Mike Sullivan of Applied Physics and Jeff Prock (brother of Jimmy Prock) of Applied Nitrous have both been very helpful to Keith in establishing a baseline tune-up to build on.
An experiment that didn't go quite as well was the Friday night run between Mike Bowman and Mike
Bruce Litton debuted a new Brad Hadman dragster here that is a replacement for the car that he crashed at this year's IHRA season opener in San Antonio. Litton qualified the new car fourth in its debut and won his first round match over Rick Cooper below he lost in the semi-finals to Doc Sipple. One round earlier, Sipple handed Clay Millican a rare first round defeat.
For the second race in a row, Mike McLaughlin was assisting the Rick Cooper team as co-crew chief. They qualified fifth here with a 4.890 second run that was recorded during Saturday's Night of Fire. The team is very happy with the progress that they made here and looks forward to continuing to work with McLaughlin. The driver directly behind Cooper in the points, Grant Flowers, did not attend the event, which means that Rick's position in the points was strengthened.
Bobby Lagana, Jr. also helped himself in the points here as he qualified sixth. The two drivers ahead of him in the Top Fuel points going into the event, Chris Karamesines and Todd Paton, both failed to qualify, which also helped his cause. Lagana discovered a wiped camshaft lobe before Saturday's Night of Fire and was forced to install a new cam without enough time to "degree" it in. Post-qualifying inspection revealed that the cam had been installed in a retarded position. Despite that, he was able to improve his best e.t. from 5.08 to 4.94 seconds. On Friday night he recorded a near-career-best top speed of 304.46 miles-per-hour on a run that included a significant pedal job.
This year's two strongest funny cars, Rob Atchison and Mark Thomas, qualified first and second, respectively. They both advanced to the championship final where Rob won his first event of the year. Mark salvaged a small amount of consolation by recording a new Funny Car track speed record of 241.32 miles-per-hour in the final.
The Funny Car winner at the last event, Jeff Burnett of Brownsburg, Indiana reportedly is still in Can
Mike Janis fell to seventh in points from second place when he did not attend the last national event at Edmonton. His free fall was amplified by the fact that the only person ahead of him in points prior to Edmonton, Harold Martin, went on to win that event. Here, he defeated Harold in the semi-finals to gain back a small part of the points he lost two weeks ago before losing to Al Billes in the final.
As tipped at the Grand Bend event, Jeff Dobbins was driving the brand new John Montecalvo Cavalier that was built by Rick Jones. Originally slated to debut at Edmonton, it instead made its debut here and qualified 14th. Jeff defeated the higher-qualified Mike Bell in the first round before losing to Frank
The championship final rounds were run with lightning flashing just beyond the finish line. In a humorous recreation of the runaway orange balloon seen at the Busch race at Joliet last weekend, the giant Pepsi logo balloon here escaped its tether near the finish line and led track personal on a high speed chase up the track. It was immediately dubbed, "The Attack of the Giant Killer Pepsi Logo." The Keystone Cops-like chase ended with a shredded balloon amid torrential rain less than ten minutes after Bob Motz closed the event in his jet Kenworth.