2004 IHRA Amalie Texas Nationals Presented by Ancira and San Antonio Express News

3rd Annual Amalie Oil Texas Nationals Results

Photos and text by Chris Graves

The 2004 Hooters IHRA Drag Racing Series kicked off in style at the 3rd Annual Amalie Oil Texas Nationals presented by Ancira and The San Antonio Express News. The weather cooperated with the racers, officials, and most importantly the fans, which made this event a very successful and entertaining start to the 2004 IHRA racing season.

In Top Fuel, Clay Millican's Werner Enterprises dragster picked up right where he left off last season with a 4.64 at 303 mph right off the trailer to set the pace for the Top Fuel field in San Antonio. The surprising Mark Kinsella of Houston, TX followed Millican. Kinsella proudly had Rob Flynn calling the shots for his team and laid down a career best 4.72 at 303 mph also in the first session. Mitch King in the UV Country / La King's Confectionery dragster and Todd Paton both ran strong 4.88 elapsed times to round out the quick four after the first session of qualifying. With twenty cars attempting to qualify for an eight-car field, the competitors knew the competition would be tense and the eight cars that would advance to eliminations would be the elite of the IHRA Top Fuel competitors. This event marked the first time the A/Fuel Injected Nitro cars would be competing in Top Fuel teams. In session two of qualifying, the Mike Smith tuned "Turbo" Tim Cullinan dragster stepped up with a 4.85 at 277 mph. Bruce Litton, who struggled in the first session in the Lucas Oil dragster, catapulted to the top half of the field with a 4.78 at 304 mph.

(Mitch King during qualifying at the Texas Nationals)

The final qualifying session began at 9 p.m. and the stands were packed full of nitro crazed IHRA Hooters drag racing fans ready to see some ground pounding 6,000 horsepower Top Fuel drag racing. There were a handful of top-notch cars not yet in the field including Chris Karamesines, Grant Flowers, Jack Ostrander, Louie Allison, and A/Fuel star Dave Hirata in his Race Girl dragster. Surprisingly the only car to step up and get into the field was the Brent Fanning tuned Grant Flowers driven www.bet2wingambling.com dragster. Flowers ran a 4.96 at 279 mph to take the number seven spot, behind Mitch King's 4.88. Rick Cooper, who finished his licensing passes a few days before the event, bumped Bobby Lagana Jr. out of the field with a 5.02 at 230 mph to take the final qualifying spot and set the field. Bruce Litton opted to skip this session, but in the final pair Clay Millican and Mark Kinsella laid down side by side four second elapsed times. Millican ran an outstanding 4.63 at 309 mph to Kinsella's 4.83 at 234 mph, which secured their number one and two qualifying positions.

The final qualifying order saw Millican on top with a 4.63, #2 Kinsella 4.66, #3 Litton 4.78, #4 Cullinan 4.81, #5 Paton 4.88, #6 King 4.88, #7 Flowers 4.96, #8 Cooper 5.02.

Sunday! Sunday! Sunday! The first pair of first round was a great match up. Todd Paton would be taking on "Turbo" Tim Cullinan. In a very close race, Paton took the win with a 5.00 at 253 mph to Cullinan's 5.07 at 248 mph. Bruce Litton defeated Mitch King with a 4.79 at 297 mph, King lost the blower belt at half-track and coasted to a 6.19 at 136 mph. In a big upset, Grant Flowers took out Mark Kinsella who rolled through the staging beams and turned on the big red bulb that no driver wants to see, especially in first round. Clay Millican set low elapsed time of the event easily defeating the tire smoking Rick Cooper with a 4.58 at 320 mph.

The semi-finals did not go so well for Bruce Litton. Litton defeated Grant Flowers with a 4.81 at 302 to Flowers' 5.48 at 193 mph, but the problems set in after the finish line. Litton's right rear tire blew and took out the rear wing strut with it. The car bounced off the right side guardrail then drifted into Flowers' lane and tagged that guardrail before sliding to a stop. Litton was conscious and had to be cut out of his brand new dragster before being taken to the Level I trauma center at Brooks Army Medical Center in San Antonio by helicopter. Litton, being the fierce competitor he is, made it back to the track within a few hours which was a great sight for many of his fans. In the other pair, Clay Millican and Todd Paton had a tire smoking battle down the San Antonio Raceway quarter mile. Millican came out on top with a 5.79 at 247 mph to Paton's 5.97 at 205 mph.

Due to Litton's semi-final round accident, Millican had a solo in the final round to take the win with a stellar 4.59 at 311 mph. Millican looks to be the man to beat yet again in Top Fuel this season. "Turbo" Tim Cullinan, Todd Paton, and Bruce Litton all had strong showings at the first event of the season and surely will give Millican some competition for the remainder of the season.

(Clay Millican took the Top Fuel win in San Antonio)

In Funny Car, Rob Atchison took the number one qualifying position with a 5.81 at 239 mph followed closely by Mark Thomas' 5.85 at 240 mph. The rest of the field included #3 Ronnie Midyette 5.94, #4 Chris Foster 5.96, #5 Terry McMillen 6.01, #6 Ray Drew 6.03, and #7 John Sullivan 6.14. Terry McMillen debuted his new look "Instigator" paint job on his beautiful 99' Dodge Avenger bodied funny car, which was definitely one of the best looking cars at the event. In first round there were no surprises. Atchison advanced with a bye, Mark Thomas took out John Sullivan with a 5.85 at 240 mph to Sullivan's 6.10 at 227 mph. McMillen advanced by beating Foster with a 5.99 at 234 mph to Foster's red light starting 6.58 at 156. Midyette advanced in a solo when Drew failed to show up for round one.

In the semi-finals, Atchison took out McMillen with a 5.84 at 239 mph; McMillen lost the blower belt. In the other pair, Midyette could have taken out Mark Thomas who also lost the blower belt at half-track, but Midyette left the line too soon and left the red light on.

In a very close final round, Thomas defeated Atchison on a whole shot with a 5.89 at 239 mph to Thomas' quicker but loosing 5.87 at 238 mph. Atchison and Thomas dominated the funny car field by qualifying number one and two, then meeting in the finals. If their performance continues, these two will be at each other's necks battling all season for the 2004 Funny Car Championship.

(Mark Thomas's Ethanol Funny Car narrowly defeated Etchison in the final)

Twenty Pro Stockers made the tow to San Antonio Raceway for the Texas Nationals. Leading the way after session one of qualifying was Elijah Morton with a 6.55 at 211 mph, followed by John Montecalvo's 6.57 at 212 mph and Brian Gahm's 6.59 at 211 mph. In the second session of qualifying, Tony Gillig stepped up with a 6.57 at 211 mph. Charlie Peppers jumped into the top half of the field with a solid 6.58 at 211 mph. Rick Jones and Brian Gahm both clicked off 6.55 elapsed times to keep themselves on the top half of the field, while Montecalvo's Cavalier broke in the water box. After two sessions Jones was on top with a 6.55 and Robert Mansfield rounded out the quick sixteen with a 6.75 at 208.

Early in the third qualifying session, Carl Barker in the Summit Pro Stocker bumped his way into the field with a 6.64 at 210 mph. Pete Berner stepped up in a big way and jumped to the number six spot with a 6.58 at 209 mph. John Nobile ran a 6.63 at 213 setting a new track speed record in the process. In the final pair, Jones and Morton clicked off a 6.59 and 6.58 to wrap up the third session which Jones still led with his 6.55 and saw Jason Collins on the bump with a 6.64. The final session of qualifying was under the lights at San Antonio Raceway. Bert Jackson bumped out Collins with a 6.64 at 208 to take the number sixteen spot. John Bartunek dipped into the fifties with a 6.58 at 212 mph, but Nobile and Montecalvo stole the show with their phenomenal performance. Nobile reset both ends of the track record with a 6.54 at 213.1 mph just to see them taken away in the next pair by Montecalvo who ran 6.53 at 213.5 mph. Morton also ran well with a 6.54 at 212 mph. The Pro Stock field was separated by just over a tenth of a second heading into eliminations.

On Sunday, Montecalvo and Nobile took over the Pro Stock class. Both drivers put together mid 6.50 elapsed times to easily march through the field and meet in the final. Nobile had been running quicker all day, but Montecalvo had been a killer on the starting line. As predicted, Nobile outran Montecalvo with a 6.54 at 213 mph, but got bit by the quick reaction time of Montecalvo who on a whole shot beat Nobile with a 6.56 at 213 mph.

(John Montecalvo's Citgo Chevy Cavalier dominated on the starting line and eventually took the win over Nobile in the final)

An amazing field of Pro Modifieds showed up to do battle at the Texas Nationals. Thirty-three Pro Mods made qualifying attempts throughout the weekend. Mike Janis easily led the pack after first session with a 6.27 at 227 mph, followed by Al Billes and Glen Kerunsky. The second session saw the intense performances everyone expected out of the Pro Mods when many cars dipped into the 6.20's. Scotty Cannon made the biggest jump into the number two spot with a 6.22 at 228 mph. Von Smith took the third position with a 6.24 at 228 mph and Texan Frankie Taylor held onto the number four spot with a 6.25 at 224 mph. Steve Engel rounded out the quick sixteen with a 6.35 at 223 mph. Quain Stott, Harold Martin, Pat Musi, Charles Carpenter, Ed Hoover, and Billy Harper all were outside looking in after two sessions of qualifying.

In the third session, Ed Hoover and Billy Harper continued to have problems and had one shot left to get into the field. In a huge move, Harold Martin jumped to the number one spot from number twenty-eight with a 6.21 at 226 mph. Martin was one of the only cars to improve on their elapsed time and the last session had a handful of very fast cars that would try to bump their way into the field.

(Frankie "The MadMan" Taylor during qualifying)

Pat Musi sat on the bump at the beginning of the last qualifying session with a 6.32. Ed Hoover, Troy Critchley, Billy Harper, Paul Athey, Charles Carpenter, and Quain Stott all failed to improve and would be on the trailer early. Rick Distefano moved up from thirteenth to number two with a great 6.22 at 218 mph. Nineteen year old Zach Barklage stole the show and the number one spot with an unbelievable 6.20 at 229 and reset both ends of the track record. With Barklage on top, the field was separated by exactly one tenth of a second and found Glen Kerunsky on the bump with a 6.30.

Sunday saw some major upsets, especially in round one when number sixteen took out number one. Kerunsky defeated Barklage with a 6.32 at 223 mph while Barklage had his hands full and was forced to lift. Mike Castanella took out Texan favorite Frankie Taylor with a hole shot victory, 6.29 to Taylor's 6.28. In second round, Shannon Jenkins lost to Harold Martin's 6.30 when Jenkins left the line too early. Kerunsky took out another top dog Mitch Stott by straight outrunning Stott's 6.32 with a 6.28 at 224 mph. Steve Vick took out Scotty Cannon with an off pace 6.47 at 221 mph to Cannon's struggling 6.86 at 179 mph. In the semi-final, Rick Distefano was a no show after damaging his motor in the previous round so Harold Martin took a solo to the finals. Kerunsky easily took out Vick with a 6.26 at 225 mph to Vick's 7.15 at 146 mph. In the final, number sixteen qualifier Kerunsky ran away from Martin with a 6.27 at 218 mph to Martin's 7.11 at 146 mph. Kerunsky, who is a heavy hitter on the West Coast Pro Mod scene, took his first IHRA win of his career.

(Glen Kerunsky in his 57' Chevy Pro Mod surprised everyone and took the win from the number sixteen qualifying position)

The competition was intense, the performance was stellar, the fans were wild, and the 2004 IHRA season got off to a great start at the Texas Nationals. Clay Millican, Mark Thomas, John Montecalvo, and Glen Kerunsky all took event wins, but their competitors gave them quite a battle. The next stop on the IHRA tour is the 34th Annual IHRA Spring Nationals in Rockingham, North Carolina April 23-25th.


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