Rockingham - Reporter's Notebook

Notes from Jim Luikens' Reporter's Notebook at the 9th Annual Bethesda World Finals

Andrew Cowin
Andrew Cowin scorched the timers here Friday night with an impressive 4.550 second elapsed time which would be good enough for a new IHRA World Record if he could back it up before the end of the event. During Saturday's Night of Fire Andrew ran even quicker at 4.534 seconds. Thus the new Top Fuel elapsed time record became 4.534 seconds with his 4.550 run serving as the required back up.

Sixteen cars attempted to qualify for the eight car Top Fuel field here. The bump spot elapsed time record was lowered again this weekend, this time to 4.766 seconds from the 4.835 that it was at the start of the weekend. This is the third time that a new record low elapsed bump time has been set in the last two months.

Louie Allison
In addition to Andrew Cowin, other career best elapsed times were recorded by Top Fuel pilots Doug Foley (4.650), Bobby Lagana, Jr. (4.654) and Louie Allison (4.679). C.J. Nelson was the best of the non-qualifiers, as his career best 4.776 second run missed the 4.766 bump spot by a mere hundredth of a second. A 4.776 second run would have qualified him at any other IHRA event this year.

Doc Sipple experienced chest pains during his Top Fuel qualifying run on Friday evening. When he got to the turn off area he was in obvious distress and needed help getting out of the car. He was then sent to a local hospital for further assistance. Tim Cullinan also experienced trouble Friday night, but his was of the mechanical kind. He got up on the wall during his qualifying attempt. Although he came through the incident unscathed his car reportedly is a write-off. Sipple did not fare as well, diagnosed with both a heart attack and pneumonia. Fellow Top Fuel racer Bobby Lagana Jr. added "Get Well Doc" on the side of his car for the remainder of the race, expressing the sentiments of fans and racers alike.

C. J. Nelson
Keith Stark and his injected Top Fueler were a no-show here as all sixteen Top Fuel contestants were supercharged. Keith has finally received the long-awaited second-design pistons for his car. After installing the pistons he tested his dragster recently at Joliet, Illinois.

Three attempts at the Joliet track saw him go up in hard smoke three times. It appears that Keith's horsepower level has significantly improved but now he needs a larger rear wing. Keith did not have enough time (or finances) to obtain such a wing before this event

Funny Car Eliminator saw 23 F/Cs attempt to qualify for the 16 car field. One of the best performances was turned in by young Joshua Hernandez, a member of the Tommy Lipar Racing Team. Joshua, who debuted this car at the US 131 event at Martin, Michigan this past August, then went on to win his first round of professional competition when he defeated Melinda Green-King in the first round. Jeff Burnett ended Joshua's day in the second round but more bright days are ahead for this young man.

Bobby Lagana, Jr.
Not as lucky was Tim Stevens of Dorr, Michigan. Just like Hernandez he debuted a new funny car at the Martin event. Making his second start here, he had the throttle hang up on his burn out Friday night and he was forced to run it out the top end rather than return to the starting line. However, that was just a prelude to Saturday's first qualifying session. After suffering engine damage at the 1000-foot mark of his run, he launched his burst panel and various body panels sky high as his main body caught fire. Continuing through the shut down area, he then struck the wall in the opposite lane. At this point the burning body separated from the chassis as the chassis

Tim Stevens slid down the track on its side. After it finally came to rest he was cut from the car and airlifted to a local hospital. Tim appears to have little permanent damage, suffering a mild concussion and second degree burns to his hands, but the same can not be said for his car, which is a total write-off. Stevens was released from the hospital Sunday morning.

Joshua Hernandez
The Pro Modifieds were just as impressive as the Top Fuelers. No less than 46 cars made at least one attempt at qualifying for the 16 car field. When qualifying was done Canadian Al Billes held down the Pro Mod pole with a new world-record elapsed time of 6.102 seconds. Another Canadian, Rick DiStefano from Calgary, was right behind Billes at 6.114 seconds.

Speaking of DiStefano, he has sold the 1953 Corvette that he drove last year to Winnipeg's Kenny Lang. Using the drive line from their Pro Modified Firebird, Kenny and his crew were here attempting to qualify the Corvette for its first event under
Tim Stevens
their ownership. Unfortunately, four connecting rods chose to depart the block during first round qualifying and the Lang team was done for the weekend. Their plans for next year include running six or seven IHRA events (up from three this year) and a closer collaboration with the DiStefano team.

Von Smith made his return to competition here as the driver of the Tommy Lipar Mustang. After doctors discovered 100% blockage on his right side Von, one of the fittest athletes in motorsports, received a quintuple (five way) bypass in early August. Eight days ago he was cleared to drive again and he wasted no time in returning to the track.

Pro Stock Eliminator reaped the most benefits of the mine shaft conditions that existed here this weekend. Jerry Haas and Mike Bell claimed the final two spots in the Rick Jones 6.40 (Second) Club when they were the first two
Al Billes
drivers to record a sub-6.50 second run among those that had not previously done so. Before qualifying was over 13 other drivers had joined Jerry and Mike in the 6.40 range. In fact, only Frank Snellings' sixteenth qualifying 6.502 second run prevented an all 6.4 second field.

After an inadvertent pit incident on Saturday morning I found myself with frame damage and two holes in the radiator of my street car. Knowing that I was 800 miles from home only added to the gravity of the situation. Fortunately, several of the nearby racers came to my rescue and spent more than three hours repairing the damage so that I could drive home without trouble. Special thanks go to Peter Kollinger and Dan Lang of t
Von Smith
he Kenny Lang Pro Mod Team, Dave Thomas of Rick DiStefano Racing and Phil Roodvoets of Roodvoets/Dynamic Racing. Special thanks also to the Scott Wildgust Team (and Bar's Leaks) who provided some very needed radiator repair products.