Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Corey Manuel gives family another IHRA title

17-year-old one of the youngest champions in IHRA history

NORWALK, Ohio (October 31, 2012) – It is hard to believe, but just two years ago Corey Manuel was navigating the dragstrip in the confines of a single-groove-wide dragster at blazing speeds in excess of 70 miles per hour.

Fast forward two seasons later and Manuel, at the ripe old age of 17, is an IHRA World Champion in Quick Rod. Yes, you heard that right; Manuel is an IHRA champion at just 17 years of age, just two years removed from Junior Dragster.

Corey Manuel became one of the youngest champions in IHRA history in Memphis

"Yeah, it is a bit surreal. It all just feels like a dream, like it didn't really happen. You are not supposed to win one of these things so early, but here we are," Manuel said. "This whole thing is just so crazy, I can't tell you what it means to be number one."

But Manuel is number one in the world and he owes a lot of that success to the man calling the shots – his big brother, 2010 Super Rod World Champion and 2011 IHRA Sportsman Driver of the Year Cameron Manuel.

Everyone knows the incredible success that Cameron has enjoyed over the last two years. A world championship in 2010, multiple divisional titles, a driver of the year award and absolute dominance in more than one class fill out the resume of the man from Winston Salem, N.C. And with Cameron looking on when not campaigning his own Top Dragster in the TOC, Corey did the unthinkable by navigating one of the toughest races in the country and coming out on top after just two years in a big car.

Now young Corey adds his name to the family legacy by collecting the Quick Rod championship at the IHRA Summit Racing Equipment World Finals in Memphis, taking down a man who had already won one world championship on the night to do it.

With a page in the history books on the line, Manuel lined up alongside Patrick Forster of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania who had just won the race in Hot Rod not less than 15 minutes earlier. But as Forster would later admit, the adrenaline of winning one race spilled over into the Quick Rod final as Forster went red by .012 and Manuel, who still hammered the tree with a .001 light, was able to take a victory lap to celebrate his first championship.

Manuel qualified for the Tournament of Champions via a win at the Richmond TOC qualifier

"It feels awesome knowing that I am carrying on the family name and to be in the winner's circle of this race just like my brother is amazing," Manuel said. "When I got to the final I treated it like just another race. I tried not to let my nerves get to me and I think even if we had raced I would have had a good shot at the win with a really good light."

Manuel didn't go the usual route to get into this year's Summit Racing Equipment Tournament of Champions presented by AMSOIL, winning the Richmond Dragway Summit Pro-Am race in May to automatically qualify him for the tournament.

With the win Manuel spent the rest of the year focused on gearing up for the tournament with hopes of having a big weekend in Memphis.

"We won at Richmond earlier this year and that got us a ticket to come here," Manuel said. "We were doing good in the D2 points, but we didn't go to Darlington so we didn't finish it out. Really we only had that one race win, but we have been running consistent all year and then we came here and got it done."

Once in Memphis Manuel began his quest for a championship with a round one win over Division 4 competitor Michael Pennington in a closer than hoped for first round decided by a few hundredths at the line. In round two Manuel battled Division 4 champion Dale Scates, overcoming an eight thousandths difference at the tree with an 8.910 run to Scates' 8.920 in the 8.90 index class. Manuel continued his big day by downing another divisional champion, D9 winner Carey Long, with an 8.903 pass as Long broke out by .013.

Manuel battled Patrick Forster to add another championship for the Manuel family

In the semifinals Manuel completed his run with an 8.911 pass to get around Scotty Campbell's 8.923 to advance to the final. In the other semifinal Patrick Forster received a bye into the final, adding wins over Rick Stroud, Steve Muller and Ed McCleaft to reach the championship tilt.

All in all Manuel had a solid weekend thanks to the help of his family, even though a few minor issues earlier in the day threatened to derail their plans.

"Things went pretty smoothly. We had a few problems with the car, it was leaking transmission fluid so we had to rig something up to where it wouldn't leak so bad," Manuel said. "Other than that my brother helped keep me calm through the day and he told me how to do it since he won this thing two years ago."

Now Manuel has stepped out of the shadows and defined himself as more than "Cameron's brother" by not only winning a title, but adding his name to the history books as one of the youngest champions in IHRA history.

"Thank you everybody that helped make this happen," Manuel said. "This is such a big deal and I was exciting to share that with my family. And to make history, that makes this win even that much more special."


An Interview With:


THE MODERATOR:  I think we'll get started here for the conference call for this afternoon.  After 22 races and crisscrossing the United States with over 30,000 miles put on the rigs by some of the teams, the NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series will return to historic Auto Club Raceway at Pomona with a season ending event November 8 through 11.  All four of the championships are still up for grabs going into the event, but the points battles are the tightest right now in Top Fuel and Funny Car. We will be joined today by Antron Brown, Tony Schumacher and Spencer Massey in Top Fuel and Ron Capps and Jack Beckman will join us in Funny Car.

We'll start the call today with our Top Fuel racers.  All of our racers come from the Don Schumacher Racing stable.  Points leader Antron Brown is still looking for his first career NHRA championship.  Brown suffered just his third first round loss of the season at the most recent event in Las Vegas.  Tony Schumacher is in second, 65 points behind after his runner-up finish in Las Vegas, moved him from third to second in the points, and Spencer Massey is 70 back, sitting in third after a second round loss at The Strip.

Q.  Antron, you had some momentum, but with your early exit from Las Vegas, talk about the rare first round loss for you guys?

ANTRON BROWN:  It was a little disheartening because we struggled all through qualifying, and we got our first lap down the track and everything was fine.  We weren't very aggressive.  We just wanted to go A to B, and afterwards we had some electrical problems, and we had it fixed at the Friday night session because it burnt our computer out of our car, and it continued on on Saturday. So we actually found out what the root cause of it was, and then we found out Saturday night, so we replaced everything on our car brand new, and we came out for first round and we had a brand new part malfunction where our control module box just didn't work, and we had no clutch. So we stepped on the gas and the clutch never moved, we never got no clutch, so we lost first round.  It was one of those fluke deals where all these things that were going wrong, we were still just trying to fight to stay there.  We wanted to race. When we went out first round, it kind of took a little wind out of our sails because that's the worst feeling in the world just to sit there and watch everybody else race and collect points.  We know how great our teammates are.  We know how great their cars are.  We know how good their teams are.  We know what kind of drivers they are.  Tony is a seven time world champ.  Spencer has been there running for the championship each and every year, he just missed it last year by like two thousandths of a second to be a world champ.  We know how good they are, and to sit on the sidelines and watch them race and you're out and you can't do anything about it, everybody else was there with the drama just looking at us and saying, are you hoping your teammates to go out    no I want my teammates to go out and race, and if they get beat, they get beat.  I'd rather be out there racing with them and control my own destiny rather than looking at other people because to go against our teammates is like for somebody to beat them is very rare because of how great their cars are.

Q.  Tony, talk about your weekend racing to that runner-up finish.

TONY SCHUMACHER:  Other than the disappointment of it being a runner-up finish instead of a win, it was fantastic.  It's textbook end of the year for the Army car.  I've said it so many times, you can run as good as you want, but some of the cars that are ahead of you have to falter, and that weekend was one of those weekends with the team, they did.  And he's way out there.  It's one of those disconcerting things.  I don't want him to falter, because there are other teams out there, like Langdon's car was out, I could have passed him. However I do want to win a championship, and unlike some of the other teams out there, we don't all race for the same company.  Matco is Matco, Army is Army, and yeah, I have Army on the car and Antron has got Army on the car, but we're both trying to do it for ourselves, and we understand what it takes, but we want most importantly to have that one, two, three finish.  I want to be No. 1, Antron wants to be No. 1, and so does Spencer.  We are doing what we can do, but it was textbook for us to have the door opened up early on and to be able to go out there early and try to win.  It was unfortunate for us to get beat in the finals.  That was a tough one.  We could have closed the gap by 45 points, gained some points in qualifying, and just a round and a half or two rounds and we dropped the ball.  Have to work a little harder in Pomona.

Q.  And Spencer?
SPENCER MASSEY:  Basically I feel the same way, just as Tony said.  We had an opportunity to kind of gain a little ground on the massive points lead that Antron had after Reading, and we kind of dropped the ball second round.  Obviously anything can happen come Pomona.  Tony has done that in the past like he was just talking about in 2006 and then again with Hot Rod Fuller.  But you never know what can happen.  This is why it's NHRA drag racing. Whenever you talk about our Don Schumacher Racing cars have been one, two and three in points all season long and very few first round losses for all of our dragsters, it's hard to even imagine Antron going out first round like he did this past weekend and just the same as what happened to our FRAM/Prestone car in Reading where we lost first round and I had to sit back and watch Antron go to the finals and gain a huge points lead on us. You know, you can write it out on paper but it would never happen just like you'd always imagine it happening.  That's why it's so crazy out here racing, how we're racing right now.  It's very, very close, not only in the points but each and every race, every round, every incremental of the drag strip, every part of the race is very, very close, and any split second, anything can happen, anything can malfunction.  A team can step up that's never even won a round, they can come in at Pomona, qualify and take one of us three out early.  Anything can happen. I mean, that's why you can never say never, but there again, I mean, you've got to have all your ducks in a row whenever you're sitting in a situation like Tony and ourselves.  You've got to have everything fall your way, and we started to see that opening up in Vegas, but then again, we didn't capitalize on it, we lost second round, the car just didn't run quite as well as we expected it to win, and Bob Vandergriff went on to have a great day and won his second event that he's ever won before, so it was awesome to watch him run back down that drag strip, but I really wish it could have been that FRAM dragster in that winner's circle, just like Tony wishes it could have been his U.S. Army car.  It's one of those things. But that makes us that much more hungrier going towards Pomona toward the finals.  We want to win.

Q.  If I could ask of all three of these guys, can you compare your emotions and thoughts for the first eight rounds of the season to the last eight rounds of the season that you're looking at right now?
SPENCER MASSEY:  My first eight rounds of the season obviously started off at Pomona whenever we went on to win the Winternationals, and then to go to Phoenix and be able to just have fun, it's a little bit different obviously.  The last eight rounds is pressure.  It's the Countdown.  It's the end of what we've been dreaming about doing all season long, and that's getting to the points of going for this Countdown, going for the championship. Right now the last eight rounds in the Countdown is tougher than you could ever imagine.  Everybody is wanting to win that big prize, wanting to win that trophy to get that world championship, and even though we are all teammates, we all have the great same sponsors, we hang out before and after each run because we all have the same great hospitality and we're all great friends, we still want to beat each other.  We still want to get    all our guys, our team, our team works together all season long to live and breathe to do this, to try and go for this championship.  And what makes it even better is that we get to race against our teammates. That means Don Schumacher has put such a great organization together that he's going to have a champion in both nitro classes.  I don't believe that's ever happened with Don Schumacher before.  That's unbelievable.But going back to the first part of the season, the first eight rounds, boy, you're just wanting to get back out there and start racing again.  You want to get back in the groove because you've been sitting around the entire off season just wanting to get out there, wanting to get strapped in that race car and feel that power and make some more runs and try and win some more races. But let me tell you, it's highs and lows; I wouldn't have it any other way but sitting right where I'm sitting right now and having this pressure because that means we have a chance for that championship.
TONY SCHUMACHER:  I think for us and for myself and for Taylor, absolutely love the end of the year.  The last eight runs, two races, have always been our best.  They've always been the ones where you had to win, we performed the best for whatever reason.  In the beginning I always said if you want to see me drop the ball, take the pressure away, because I let my guard down.  But when it's time to be really, really good, we're good at that. I think it's kind of funny we're 55 points off.  I've been 45 points.  I showed up at Pomona 45 points.  We went to the semis and we still won.  65 points, it's like we needed something new, man, a little more challenge.  I don't even remember what Hot Rod was.  Ant, do you remember that?  He was 65 or 70 points ahead, and he smoked the tires first round.  I remember distinctly A.J., I was unzipping my fire suit, and I remember A.J. watching on the HUD screen on his computer, and you heard one car smoking the tires, it was against Vandergriff, and A.J. turned around and gave me that really crazy look and he went, "he smoked the tires, those guys." And I was just like, oh, cool, all we have to do is win three more rounds and we're the champs.  That's all you've got to do.  I don't think that many people in the world have ever had to fathom that pressure.  All you have to do is win three more rounds and you're the champ after what we had done the year before.  The end of the year is what it's all about.  It's what we race all year for.  It's what we expect to be good at and we're required to be good at, because unfortunately Kalitta and Hot Rod both sit there and hope I lost.  I don't think anyone wants to live that way.  I always wanted the ball in my hands for the last shot, and I always wanted to sit in a seat and have to win to be the champ, not hope someone else loses. And I think Antron is in a really good spot right now.  He's ahead of us, but he's not that kind of guy.  He does not want to have to watch someone lose, he wants to close the deal, just like we do.  At the award banquet we all want to be on that stage.  Langdon is back there a ways, and he's got a mathematical chance, but he's going to have to get past all three of us, and that's not going to happen. It used to be where there were one or two good cars, everyone else was fighting for third and fourth.  It's different.  There's a lot of great cars.  He's not going to go that far and we're not going to get beat.  He's got his issues ahead of him.  But this is a pressure cooker.  This is what it's all about.
ANTRON BROWN:  Just like they say, at the beginning of the year, the first eight rounds everybody is kind of just jelling.  Everybody is trying to get in their groove.  That's what our team did.  We were just working hard at it and we were just trying to come up with a consistent    not just consistent but fast package to go along and compete with the cars that we have because if you lock at the competition we have in our class this year, everybody is in the 70s.  Everybody.  Before there were like four cars that could run 70, our three cars and maybe the Al Anabi car.  And now you have over 10 teams that can run 70s.  You go back to Reading, in the later rounds, like you go to the last eight rounds to give you an example, in the first eight races, Tony, Spencer and myself, we ran like five 70s at one event.  I remember one event distinctly, I think it was Pomona we all ran at 80 with a three, and the exact same deal when we were one, two and three in qualifying.  Other cars were close but they weren't near us. Even when you went to Reading, I remember distinctly I ran a 75 with an eight which is the quickest pass ever I made in the history of my career, our team, and we qualified seventh.  That tells you the difference of how everything just stepped up this year, especially once we got into the Countdown. And when we go into this last race, this one had set ourselves up with a chance to win.  We are going in better than we did last year.  Last year we went 18 points behind.  This year we're going in with a points lead and our main deal is we want to race here.  I want to do what we did in Vegas and do it all over again in Pomona.  I want to race. So we'll go out there and try to qualify well, and I just want to be competitive throughout the whole race event and just continue to just go into race day taking it one round at a time like we did all year long, and that's what we're shooting for.  We stayed out there and tested Monday, and we made four great runs in testing, and we just want to carry that on to Pomona so we can continue with Tony and Spencer, Langdon and the rest of the whole field because we don't have to worry about each other anymore.  That's what we did at the beginning of the year, we just worried about each other because you look at the stats, the only people that we lost to in those was our own teammates. Now you see in these later rounds everybody else is definitely picking up the slack, and they've been taking us out.  They've been taking each and every one of us out, being very competitive, and they're right there.  That's just how tough our class has gotten.

Q.  This is for Tony Schumacher:  You've won championships in a great number of different ways.  Although it looks like this year, this has been the most competitive that you've ever been.  Can you talk about how this year's championship run compares to any others that you've had?
TONY SCHUMACHER:  Well, sure.  I think, and I've said it all along, it is the best class of cars that has ever been put together.  There are more great cars than we've ever seen, the great drivers, the teams.  And like I said, silly season didn't happen again for the second year in a row.  We didn't see at Indy where everyone fires people and new people come on.  We seem to have all found a pretty good home between the drivers and the crew chiefs and the battles are incredible.  There's nine or ten cars that are extremely good. The guy that stands on the podium at the end is going to be well deserving of the Full Throttle championship.  That's it.  Because it has been as difficult as anything I've ever seen.  I've had to drive better, Antron, Spencer, all of us have had to drive better.  (Khalid) alBalooshi, a new car, great car, world champ car, beaten down because he's new, because his lights were a little off, just a little off, he got beat, what, 10 first rounds, 11 in a row, because that's how good everybody is, and he had an amazing car.  That's how good it has become.  All the drivers with the experience have had to rise way beyond what we've had to rise before. alBalooshi is a great guy.  I'm not saying anything wrong.  I'm saying experience is paying off right now.  It is incredible.  I told the guys last weekend, it has been a number of years since we've seen something so good, such high class of racing.  We're not seeing games played on the starting line, we're seeing good, solid, wicked, difficult races.

Q.  Is there any championship in your past that this compares to at all?
TONY SCHUMACHER:  A couple of them.  I mean, I came back from 336 points the year before the Countdown.  That was simply amazing.  It wasn't nine cars, but Kalitta was so hard to beat.  And then when I showed up at Pomona in '07 I was in fourth place and I think I was 65 or 70 points out of the lead.  To win that, not only did the points leader have to go out first round, Hot Rod, but I had to get around, I think, Bernstein and Dixon, and Antron had been up in the points pretty good for most of that year, too, where he was at last year. But it was incredible.  I have lived some great moments, and I can only say that.  At the end of my career I will be able to look back and think, there have been very few years that haven't been extremely gratifying.  This will be at the top of the list if we can pull this off.  Or if Antron does it or if Spencer does it, I will guarantee you, because theirs isn't going to be a first.  It's going to be incredibly gratifying for the amount of work and dedication they had to put into this year.

Q.  Tony, you come down to the last race here, and all the nitro competitors for the title are from Don Schumacher Racing.  I mean, that's remarkable.  Just like what you just said, how close the competition is, what does it say about your dad's organization to be able to do this?  I know you don't want to reveal any big secrets, but what do you guys do that has enabled you to get to the end here and the five cars still in it for the nitro championships are all Don Schumacher Racing cars?  That's quite an achievement.
TONY SCHUMACHER:  I think he's put together good teams, good combinations, and we saw this shift with Beckman and Capps, with the crew chiefs, everyone was up in arms, you can't do that.  But look at them now, they're four points spread apart going into the last race. We're fairly good at moving people into the positions they need to be at to keep us on top.  But all that being said, if you could go back to our shop, you'd see guys in our fab shop late at night and you'd see guys in our machine shop late at night.  They're not getting paid extra to be there late at night.  We found those people, the people that it takes to make a championship team, to make perfect cars, to make fewer mistakes.  And because the organization is so good, they don't want to leave.  They don't want to go to other teams, and we've made it possible to have just that    the group around you, and I've always said it, the people you surround yourself with are going to be whether you win or lose, and we've got the right people right now, and hopefully we keep them a long time.

Q.  Spencer, can you elaborate on that?  What is it like to be a part of that organization?  Antron, we'll start with you.

ANTRON BROWN:  Well, the coolest part is that at DSR, what you have, just like Tony was saying, is that you have the best of everything.  You look at Tony's team, Mike Green and Neal, and then you look at Spencer's team with Todd and Phil and then my team with Mark and Brian.  This off season was so crucial because I live right down the street from the shop, and when I'm in the shop I see all those crew chiefs in a room this off season, and they all worked together and they all talked about what they worked together on is what they wanted to develop for this next upcoming year. Look, our new race chassis that we run right now is built in house.  They all worked on that and everybody puts in their input in it.  Mark coming down there from Louisiana, he threw his deal in it, then Todd had his ideas and Neal had his ideas and then Mike had his ideas, and everybody was just collaborating with it together. And then Norm, our head fab guy, they collaborated on it, and we had these new parts come out.  Tony goes out to the racetrack and performed flawlessly.  He just starts ticking people off, and then we brought ours out and started going on a rampage with Spencer and made it to numerous final rounds against each other, like all three of our cars. And that's just a testament on how great this organization is about innovation.  Look at the enclosed cockpit, all the stuff that we have.  We do our own blocks, our own cylinder heads, our own rods.  And what happened is it's not that we were getting bad parts from everybody else, but if you want to go out and win championships and you want to run against Al Anabi, Alan Johnson who makes his own stuff, you have to innovate beyond that edge to make your stuff better.  Your quality is better, so our part failures are less.  We're going A to B without blowing up engines because things went wrong. We capitalize on that stuff and make fewer mistakes, go down track more, and that's what Don has orchestrated there at DSR.  That was his decision.  And Tony mentioned also, just collaborating together and making it happen for all of our race teams, including our Funny Cars. That's why I think you see all seven of our race teams this year have done so well.  They've all worked together and developed all this new innovation and taken things to the next level.

Q.  I want to mention, you just touched on a moment ago one of the best things this year besides the closest competition ever is the enclosed cockpit, and I'm glad you guys finally pulled that off.  Well overdue.  I also was wondering because you all have been in this position more or less several times before and you see Tony on a regular basis, I just wondered, Antron and Spencer, if it bothers you that Tony Schumacher himself gets more excited and giddy at the end of the year when the competition is like that.  Does he throw you for a loop?
SPENCER MASSEY:  It gets me wound up towards the end of the year, and Tony has been doing this his whole life.  He's won numerous championships, and it gets him wound up, but I love seeing him get wound up.  Watching Tony get wound up and listening to him talk, that's what gets me going, as well.  We're a team and we push each other, we make each other better on lights.  We make each other want to win even better because we're racing against each other.  If we can beat the best of the best, I'll know that I've really accomplished something. Not only am I getting to race beside Tony and Antron, I'm getting to race beside them and getting to try and kick their butts.  They're my teammates, but still, I want to win.  And it's awesome.  Tony, you're a great dude and you have a lot of fun, and that's what I love about you.  You love to want to win, and you have that in you, and I like to have that in me, too.  It's awesome, man. It doesn't scare me or anything, it just makes me want to win even more.
ANTRON BROWN:  Yeah, and the thing about it is me and Tony go back a ways with this deal, even when I wasn't racing Top Fuel.  One thing about it is up at the Don Schumacher camp, they were literally like for five years racing Pro Stock Motorcycle, and I watched Tony win numerous championships, come from behind, dominate, won 15 races one season.  And my deal was always I was a student.  I always sat back and looked, what makes people so great.  This guy is making history all the time.  What is it that he's got over everybody else. And then when you see him talk, like we always do meet and greets.  He goes through his epic stories and talks about his battles out there and what him and his team have achieved, and the one thing that you can see is that he lives for those moments.  Like when the pressure is on, how do you rise to the occassion.  If you ask him how he looks at the high pressure stakes situation, he says, 'I just do what I do. I go in and give it all I've got.  Nothing more, nothing less.'
TONY SCHUMACHER:  The truth is big moments are learned from big opportunities.  I say it, and I love that movie "Miracle," and I've lived by it because if you can't get good at the end when you have to be, there's other jobs.  If I was a team owner, I would hand pick people that are good at the end because we're going to all get beat at different times, but you hand pick drivers, and that's what we've done, we've picked guys that are great at the end.  Yeah, they haven't won their championships yet, but they're going to.  Spencer had a 45 or 50 late last night with all the pressure on him the last race.  He's got it.  The car didn't get down the track fast enough and they got beat by a little bit, but he didn't drop the ball.  So I'm sure not counting on anyone dropping the ball. I think if I did anything wrong in my career it's taught two other people that I've got to race against too well.  I wish I could go back and take back all those fun statements. The truth is beating easy guys isn't fun.  Beating really good guys, that's what life is about, man.
THE MODERATOR:  Thank you, gentlemen, and we will see all three of you in Pomona.  Good luck.

THE MODERATOR:  I believe we are now joined by Ron Capps and Jack Beckman.  As Tony alluded to, Jack Beckman leads this series by only four points on the basis of his three wins and one runner-up finish.  Ron Capps is second with five wins and three runner-up finishes during the course of the year.  Both of you obviously made it to the final rounds in Las Vegas.  You each had to do what you had to do in that event with Ron coming out obviously just a little bit ahead. Start with Ron, talk about your weekend in Las Vegas and kind of rebounding from the Reading event like you talked about.
RON CAPPS:  Well, obviously it was a great weekend.  I think I said it last weekend in the pressroom, I felt so bad for (crew chief) Rahn Tobler in Maple Grove that we just didn't have our normal NAPA car that we've had all season.  After running what we did, a 3.96 in Englishtown, he was so poised to go there with the conditions that were going to be there that we were pretty sure we'd have a shot along with several other cars at setting the national record. Didn't happen.  Obviously we struggled, and afterwards Tommy Johnson drove the car and they fixed the problem. It's just one of those times where we tried to make up points in qualifying in Vegas and we struggled in qualifying.  We just didn't qualify as good as we wanted to, but neither did Jack.  He has been on a roll of No. 1 qualifiers, so we were lucky that they didn't run as good as they have in qualifying and gained some more points, and it's basically come down to Thursday, Friday and Saturday trying to gain more than Jack and four more, at least, more than Jack, and it came in small qualifying points so that we can go into Sunday either tied or ahead. You have to do that because if we happen to go out the same round, that's going to mean the world championship.  That's going to be crucial.  Qualifying is going to be as big as the race here probably.

Q.  Jack, can you talk about your weekend in Las Vegas, please?
JACK BECKMAN:  Yeah, interesting stuff.  Ron, nothing personal, but if you make a U turn, head east for about 2500 miles; we'll call you in a week and half and let you know how the things turned out. Yeah, kind of like Ron and the NAPA team, at Reading our good car didn't show up at Vegas, and we were kind of behind the 8 ball all weekend.  And when you get into the Countdown, you really can't afford to have an off weekend. And our two teams have been pressing each other back and forth.  I think ultimately that makes for two better teams, but it was a little bit frustrating for us to not have a car that responded to the changes that we gave it. I guess the silver lining to that is in our estimation I think we would rate ourselves about a C  for performance at Vegas, and we still got a runner-up out of the deal, so we still actually preserved the points lead. The way I read the rules is our team would win the tiebreaker.  I think the first tiebreaker is points earned in the Countdown, and since Ron was 40 points ahead of us going into the Countdown, if we tie, that means that we won more points during that period.  But I don't think either one of us wants a tie, and Ron hit it right on the head, it's going to make qualifying that much more of a premium. The other interesting thing is Pomona is the only race on the season, the Winternationals and the Finals, where you get one run on Thursday and then you sit around and twiddle your thumbs, and then you get all revved up and you get one round on Friday and sit around and twiddle your thumbs.  And then Saturday we go back to our normal tempo of getting two qualifying runs. I don't think many people are going to be using their seats at Pomona.  I think a lot of people are going to be standing up watching every run that these cars make.  It could very well come down to a head to head meeting between Ron and I.  As long as we're within 19 points of each other, that head to head meeting is going to decide the race, and we're going to be within 19 points of each other going into eliminations. You'd love to be able to race for this.  It would almost be like two boxers at the top of their game meeting.  Nobody wants to see one suffering, not doing as well as they're used to doing, and that would be the ultimate thing, I think, for the fans, and I think Ron and I would both like to see that, to race for the championship. The problem is there's going to be 14 other cars that qualify, assuming our cars run well enough to qualify, and we're going to have to try to beat everybody in our way to get to that NAPA car.

Q.  This is for Ron and Jack if I could.  We hear so often you guys have really kind of touched on this a little bit, but we hear so often how important points are, but what's your take on the points now when the championship gets down to just a few points?  Do you dream about points?  Do you think about points?  Just what's the difference now?
RON CAPPS:  God, I don't know.  I went into last week, and I think I'm going to find out Thursday.  I went last weekend with a lot of time from Maple Grove before Vegas.  It seemed like an eternity.  We couldn't wait to get there and just see it; we got our hot rod back to make up some points.  I'll tell you, to be honest with you, I was real leery about making any points up at all on Jack's team because they qualified so well. And so we were just looking at trying to make any amount of points we could in qualifying, and we just didn't, and we had to throw it out the window and Saturday afternoon was done and say, okay, we've got to make up some ground on Sunday, there's just no doubt about it. I lost the championship the one year to (Gary) Scelzi by eight points, and I think we all went out the same round that day, he was just eight points ahead, just some of the small points if my memory is right, and it was a little anti-climactic because everybody went out and Scelzi won, but it turned out to be by such a small margin, I think that was the first time everybody kind of stood back and went, whoa, round wins are great but now all of a sudden you've got these small points. I applaud NHRA for throwing these little small three points, two points and one point for the top three in each session.  It's really kind of spiced everything up as far as qualifying. I'll tell you, I don't know about Todd, I would imagine he's the same way, and I know Jack is, but Rahn Tobler is, he is like Pac Man.  When we go to the starting line, he wants to gather up those points.  It's like a game for him to out-do these other crew chiefs. You know, we're going to look at we can't make this up on just Thursday.  We can whittle away at it on Thursday, we can whittle away on it on Friday, and hopefully get close enough that Saturday we can position ourselves ahead of Jack. But again, you're talking about a car that has qualified top of the pack for a lot of these races, for the last God, I don't know, Jack, 10  

JACK BECKMAN:  Yeah, 10, 11 races.
RON CAPPS:  Top three in qualifying, so it's going to be tough.
JACK BECKMAN:  Yeah, and my take on this is I'm a huge fan of NHRA, and I appreciate their flexibility.  They've kind of evolved not only the points system but the oil down penalties, but I'm a little bit of a critic of this.  I agree with Ron that having qualifying bonus points has made it more exciting.  I think they're way too high in relation to a round win. I think if you're going to have three, two and one points per session for qualifying, you need to take the round win points back up to 50 points a round.  At one point they were 200 points a round, and the qualifying points were only a tiebreaker. Even though our team has benefitted more from these points than every other car in the Countdown, I need to be objective about this.  I still don't think it's a good proportion there. Another thing to keep in mind is an oil down penalty can be devastating to somebody.  If you oil down on race day, that's 10 points.  The oil down policy has changed many times throughout the years.  It used to be that teams had credits, and if you used a credit you didn't lose the points.  Now that's not the case. So let's say that our team went out there and Ron and I both went out the same round, but our team oiled the racetrack.  We'd be ahead by four points, oops, we just lost 10 points for oiling down and that was the championship.  So I would like to see NHRA address that specifically in the Countdown.  You don't want something like that to decide the championship. And while I know they're trying to discourage oil downs, all the cars that are in contention for the championship are the ones that have done a fantastic job of not oiling the racetrack.  You can't have a points rule on page 7 in the rule book decide the championship.  The cars should be able to do that on the racetrack.

Q.  On the last call, Jack mentioned that he began drag racing I guess in Abilene when he was in the Air Force with an El Camino.  I wonder, Jack, if you can just give us a bit more background on that.  What got you hooked on drag racing, and I'd like to ask the same question of Ron.  What was your first drag race and what got you hooked?
JACK BECKMAN:  Well, I was seven years old, and my mom's brother, my uncle John, took my brother and I to Orange County International Raceway, so '73 or '74, and just the first time I saw those cars, felt those cars, smelled those cars, listened to them and watched them, everything about them was absolutely thrilling.  And from that day I knew that I wanted to drag race. And my dad was a hot rodder.  He liked working on cars.  He wasn't a drag racer but he was always mechanical, so I got that from him, and I bought the El Camino from my dad.  I took my driving test on my 16th birthday on it, and then I started tinkering with it, intake manifold, headers, cam shaft, stuff like that.  I went in the Air Force when I was 17, and I was stationed in Clovis, New Mexico.  I drove it 100 miles to Lubbock, Texas, and that's where I made my first run down the drag strip.  I still have my time slip somewhere; it was 15:06 at 90 miles an hour. And from that day on, I got out in '88 and I started bracket racing pretty regularly.  It was all about getting a good time slip.  I just tinkered on the car and tried to go out there on the track to see if what I did had the right effect.  Then I saw that you could race for a trophy, and from that day on consistent and getting a trophy. Then I saw these guys that were getting money for races, and then I started racing for money, and it's kind of come full circle.  I'm right back to the only thing that matters is that time slip and trophy anymore.
RON CAPPS:  I was in my mom's belly at my first race.  She used to drive.  She actually drove a front motor car when she met my dad, and my dad raced.  He was kind of the track champion at the Santa Maria, California track that was open. As far back as I can remember we went to the March Meet, whether my dad was racing or just in the stands in a camper, and then I was also at Lions Drag Strip, so I've got a picture somewhere of the sky writer airplane above me writing the last drag race when I was six years old. I grew up going to the drag strip.  And then I wanted to be obviously a racer some day but I didn't have rich parents or a sponsor or anything, and I learned how to work on them and grew up working on them with my dad, and I was a crew member on an alcohol dragster for several years and hung around Alan and Blaine Johnson, and they took me under their wing and taught me a lot of things working on their alcohol car. So that's kind of how it was.  I was a crew member before I drove with aspirations to drive, and I finally got that shot to drive, and that's kind of where it happened.

Q.  So I imagine either of you winning this world championship is just the end of a long, long journey, right?
RON CAPPS:  Yeah.  Well, my dad, it's interesting because he lives through me.  And my mom does, as well.  It's funny to be in this position.  It's weird for me still to walk out of the trailer and see little kids out there at the ropes because I feel like it's yesterday being at the March Meet and watching Garlits work on his car and we were huddled around one and a half feet, I remember handing him a ratchet that he dropped on the ground.  I was maybe eight or nine years old.  And there was no ropes back then, and he had his fire suit on tied around his waist, and I leaned over and I handed him the wrench, and I thought that was the coolest thing ever. It's strange to be in the position that I'm in to be paid to it what I love to do, get paid to do what I used to be such a huge fan of as a kid.
JACK BECKMAN:  Yeah, I totally agree.  When I got out of the Air Force in '88 I went on the road with a nitro Funny Car team, Tim Grose, and I thought that was going to be a ticket to eventually get behind the wheel, and I was the bottom end guy on that car.  Unfortunately even back in '88 things were the same, it took money to run these cars, and after a couple months the sponsorship wasn't coming in and I had a good job offer from Westinghouse elevator and I wound up going and doing that as a career for 10 years and racing my own car. But like Ron, my dad wasn't famous and he didn't have a lot of money, so there's a lot of different paths to getting to where we are.  But when I go sign at the ropes, it's still a little bit surreal to me because to me I am looking at a seven year old, and that's me 39 years ago. It's just hard for me to put myself in the frame of the drivers when I was a kid because I thought they were 30 feet tall and could do no wrong, the James Warrens and the Don Prudhommes, so I think Ron would agree, too, we both have a lot of these pinch me moments.  We get a paycheck to do what we absolutely love to do.

Q.  To both of you, I think that's absolutely marvelous how you talk so intently using the word team and how it's so important what the whole team does.  Narrow it down just a little bit if you can.  Both of you have been able to sit and look and see what the future holds, and what does this time period between Las Vegas and the final race of the season mean to you at this point in time?
RON CAPPS:  I don't know, I'm in a weird frame of mind right now.  I was going into Vegas, I knew what we had to do, and to come out with a win like we did was great.  But I found myself with a really strange calming effect on Sunday.  I think it had a lot to do with Rahn Tobler and my team and just we found our car again and we were back to what we did earlier in the season, all those final rounds and just the confidence that was built, that it helped me as a driver.  I really found myself in a good place on Sunday driving the car. It was kind of strange because I'm always talking about how a lot of drivers kind of hide the nervousness that we get, and I've been pretty vocal and not afraid to say, look, I was throwing up this morning before first round or whatever it took, and I've always done my job in the cars even though I either had anxiety or was nervous as I was. But I'll tell you, I felt so good, I woke up Monday morning and I just couldn't wait. I can't wait for Pomona.  I kept telling myself yesterday the same thing, I can't wait, I feel so confident that we're going to be able to at least show up and give the fans a run for this against Jack's car and make it fun.  Whatever is going to happen is going to happen. Tobler has, Jack can tell you, he's brought a lot of confidence to me, and I find myself just... I've been through this before, and somebody told me this yesterday, look, how many times have you had a shot at a championship.  This one feels different for some reason, and that's a good thing.

JACK BECKMAN:  Yeah, and for me we were right here last year.  We ran Matt Hagan in I think it was the second round in Pomona, and that could have been the championship had we been able to beat him, and they outran us, and they got a well deserved championship, but fortunately we're right back in a position to win again it this year. I totally agree with Ron.  I taught at the Frank Hawley School for 11 years, still teach there on occasion, and students used to ask me how come you don't get nervous.  And I said, what would make you think I don't get nervous.  I'm human and I absolutely get those butterflies and that feeling.  It's what you do with it and it's how you manage it. And you'd like to think that when you get in that moment that you'll perform okay.  But unless you've been tested, you don't know for certain. And I would say the same thing.  Sunday in Vegas every round was absolutely crucial, but I felt pretty confident.  And the interesting thing is we didn't have the car that we'd had the last nine races.  So I'm not quite sure, but the confidence did not come from knowing we had the best car that day.  I think it came from knowing we had a good car, we had a good chance of winning, and that no matter what, based on all the changes earlier this year and us dipping down to sixth in the points, we're right back in the hunt on this, and that's all anybody can ask for.  It's a very satisfying type of emotion to know that at the end of the year people always ask in the off-season what's your goal for next year, and my answer is always the same:  I'd like to win at least three races and roll into Pomona with a shot at the championship, and bingo, here we are again.  So it's hard to be upset and worked up about that. I've also got a five year old and a one year old, so it's not like I can get home and start meditating and thinking about things.  I'm going to go mow the lawn when I'm done talking to you guys.  I was working on the motor home all day yesterday.  There's normal, everyday things to get done here, so I'm not dwelling on the Funny Car championship 24/7, which is a nice thing.

Q.  I know both of you guys are rockers.  I was wondering what song you're listening to right now to get yourself psyched up, and Jack, I was wondering if your crew still has a rule that you can't sing.
JACK BECKMAN:  It's not so much a rule, it's just a fact of life I can't sing.  You know the deal, it's classic rocker, it's long haired metal music.  We just got back from a 6,000 mile round trip, and with the kids, there's not a lot of opportunity for me to listen to music.  If Leila is riding up front with my wife and she wants to take a nap, I'm not going to be the guy that wakes up the one year old with the music.  But my son Jason is five, and I'm kind of trying to indoctrinate him into the classic rock thing, so I brought along all my .38 Special and Journey and Boston CDs, and I was so upset when he told me he didn't like one of the songs by Boston, I was going to disown him or do a DNA test on him.  But then when he said, when "Long Time" came on there, he goes, Dad, I really like this song.  And then I started thinking about the words to that song, without getting way into it, I thought, that kind of sums up a lot of this journey and where we're going here.
RON CAPPS:  I've been a little more on the harder side.  Stone Sour is what we were listening to in Vegas that got me pumped up.  Hopefully I get some of my rocker friends out in Pomona to get us in the right frame of mind.  Usually that's the case.  They all come out for Pomona, so it's always a good time. But yeah, I need to have something to get my blood boiling before I get in the car for sure.
THE MODERATOR:  Thank you very much, and this will conclude our conference call for the day.  Thank you to all of the racers for joining us, and thank you, the media, for joining us, as well.

FastScripts by ASAP Sports

Goforth Joins Elite Company With Second Straight ADRL Extreme Pro Stock World Championship

O'FALLON, MO - Cary Goforth knows all about finishing strong, doing it for the second straight year in the American Drag Racing League's (ADRL) Extreme Pro Stock class.

But Goforth took it a step further in 2012, joining some incredibly elite company in the process.

Not satisfied with one championship, Goforth pushed harder than ever to close out his 2012 campaign, winning the season-ending World Finals VIII presented by CarSafe at the Texas Motorplex. It gave him three wins for the year, a class-best nine for his career and his second straight XPS championship, joining the likes of Jason Scruggs, Mike Castellana and Billy Vose as the only two-time world champions in the history of the ADRL.

"It's pretty amazing, especially with the level of talent, and I couldn't even begin to describe how happy I am. To do this for a second straight year, it's just a special thing and something I will never forget," Goforth said. "This class is loaded with big-time talent. It's amazing just to win one event, but to win three, I don't know what to say. It was just another great season."

Goforth may be running out of superlatives to describe his run that actually stretches back to 2010 when he won three races.

He's repeated that effort each of the past two seasons, delivering one of the most impressive stretches in ADRL history. Driving a Jerry Haas Race Cars 2011 GXP powered by Sonny's Racing Engines, Goforth faced off against the most impressive XPS field in ADRL history in 2012.

With qualifying bumps dipping into the 4.00s on two separate occasions, Goforth was the only driver to win more than one event. Like he did in 2011 when he warded off former world champions Pete Berner and John Montecalvo, Goforth finished strong in 2012, slipping past Richie Stevens Jr. and Brian Gahm with two wins over the final four events.

Goforth was also able to get wins at the two new tracks where the ADRL debuted in 2012, Bristol Dragway and zMAX Dragway in Charlotte.

As part of a hard-working team headed by Goforth's father, Dean, and crew chief Brian "Lump" Self, Goforth gave an immense amount of credit to those who helped make the 2012 season so magical.

"We've really been consistent. Our crew is a great one. 'Lump' thrives in those hot summer conditions, and making it down the track in those dog days, that's where championships are won and lost," said Goforth, the 2011 ADRL Driver of the Year.

"We work hard and do what we have to do to put ourselves in position to win. 'Lump' is just amazing at what he does when it comes to hot race tracks. It was a great team effort from a great group of individuals and I'm extremely happy for them."

Their work ethic was fully on display in August when Goforth won Dragstock IX at zMAX Dragway during what was a scorching weekend.

With track conditions difficult to figure out, Goforth had the perfect combination, running a 4.10 to beat Stevens in the finals.

"That was a tough race. I'm proud of all my wins, but I'm really proud of that one because we were able to get that figured out," Goforth said.

Finishing the season with a flourish will also be a lasting memory for Goforth.

He put a definitive stamp on his season and the 2012 world championship by winning the World Finals VIII, going 4.09 to beat John DeFlorian, one of four first-time winners in the class in 2012.

"We raced like we had the championship won last year at the World Finals, but we didn't want to do that this year," Goforth said. "We tested for 5-6 days before the race, and we really wanted to go in and give it our best effort. To have it go like it did, it makes all of the work worth it.

"This is a great class and the competition is just something else. These drivers pushed me to the limit all year, and I'm just thankful for an awesome team and a great crew. That made all the difference."

Today's Drag Racing News

2012 SEMA SHOW: Ford Racing Debuts Twin Turbo Mustang Cobra Jet
"When a new generation of Cobra Jets arrived four decades later, they immediately began winning with a modern, fuel-injected 5.4-liter V8 topped with a belt-driven supercharger," recalls Jesse Kershaw, Ford drag racing competition manager. "Over the ...
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Strong Start, Finish Leads Abruzzi to Summit Racing Top Sportsman World ...
Known for fast starts and strong finishes throughout his standout drag racing career, Marco Abruzzi once again relied on that method in 2012 in the American Drag Racing League's (ADRL) Summit Racing Equipment Top Sportsman class. The end result was ...
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PPG Partners With John Force Racing Team
BodyShop Business
The team, led by one of the most successful racers in the history of drag racing, is a dominant presence in the NHRA with a long list of wins and championships to its credit. For its funny cars and high-powered dragsters, John Force Racing chose to use ...
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NMCA West at Bakersfield
Drag Racing Online Magazine
A great script played out at Auto Club Famoso Raceway the weekend of Oct. 26-28 as racers completed the inaugural season of the NMCA West Flowmaster Drag Racing Series featuring NHRA Unleashed presented by Aerospace Components.
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Drag Racing Online Magazine
Motorcraft's new look will unite NHRA and NASCAR programs
For the first time in 20 years, Motorcraft will unite its NHRA Drag Racing and NASCAR Sprint Cup programs with a uniform paint scheme in 2013. Both the Ford Shelby Mustang Funny Car driven and owned by Bob Tasca III and the No. 21 Ford Fusion owned ...
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2012 NHRA: Goodyear-Shod Sportsman Cars Win Three Times At Las Vegas
Bob Vandergriff (Top Fuel), Ron Capps (Funny Car) and Allen Johnson (Pro Stock) were the Goodyear-shod winners in the Full Throttle Drag Racing Series for professional teams. "I won the Wally," Apted said of his trophy. "It's the first one in 35 years ...
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Street Car Super Nationals VIII Shaping up to be Best Ever
In addition, NHRA Pro Mod stars such as Troy Coughlin, Jay Payne, and Steve Matasek have also confirmed they will participate in the eighth-annual drag racing extravaganza at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. "This is going to be huge!" said PSCA ...
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Troy Coughlin wraps up Pro Mod championship
Troy Coughlin, older brother of NHRA Pro Stock champ Jeg Coughlin Jr., wrapped up his first NHRA Pro Mod Drag Racing Series presented by ProCare Rx championship on Sunday at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Coughlin won the event, his ...
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Twin Turbo 5.0L Ti-VCT Cobra Jet Concept Car Debuts at SEMA
With more NHRA records and wins than any other late-model vehicle, the Cobra Jet is the standard in production drag racing and the Twin Turbo concept provides a glimpse of what the future may hold through Ford Racing. Others may build race cars, at ...
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Tuesday, October 30, 2012

CTS & CD Baby Introduce New "Quarter Mile" Recording To Support B.R.A.K.E.S. Student Driving Education Program

Download fees to help promote unique safe student driving program nationwide

(Phoenix, AZ) –October 30, 2012 –The award-winning rock band CTS (Consider The Source) has joined forces with CD Baby, the world’s largest digital distributor of independent music, to benefit the non-profit 501 (c) organization B.R.A.K.E.S. (Be Responsible, Keep Everyone Safe) Their goal is to generate additional funding to take the B.R.A.K.E.S. life-saving student driving education programs nationwide. CTS recently issued a new single recording of their popular drag racing song, “Quarter Mile,” on CD Baby and other music download services, with proceeds dedicated to the B.R.A.K.E.S. Safe Driving Programs for teenage drivers.

As part of this fundraising effort, the NHRA (National Hot Rod Association) will lend promotional support through its numerous marketing platforms, including social media and, to promote the song’s availability.

B.R.A.K.E.S. has provided safe driving instruction courses for over 8,000 students from 19 different states and 2 countries. The organization’s goal is to increase funding to introduce the B.R.A.K.E.S. program to public & private schools throughout North America with the goal of reducing teen driving accidents.

“The song ‘Quarter Mile,’ was inspired by a drag racing friend of mine who said she lived her life a quarter mile at a time. I was so impressed by all the obstacles she’d overcome to pursue her racing passion, I had to write a song comparing her life’s journey to achieving any dream we have,” stated Jeff Senour, founder of CTS.

“We are excited about this unique fundraising effort with CD Baby to benefit B.R.A.K.E.S., our goal is to generate additional funding so the program can be offered nationwide,” said Senour.

CTS introduced the "Freedom Rock Experience” concert series to feature the talents of select high school orchestras to provide a new fundraising and performing opportunity for music students. The new “Quarter Mile” recording is a result of the new concert series and features the full orchestra symphonic sounds of Beau Shekeryk.

The new “Quarter Mile” music download is available on, CD Baby, ITunes, and Amazon.


Ruff overcomes tough first day to take Super Rod title
Ruff loses on Friday, wins on Saturday to take first IHRA championship

NORWALK, Ohio (October 30, 2012) – It is an old proverb, but its words couldn't ring any more true – "for every storm a rainbow, for every tear a smile."

It is safe to say no one understands that saying more than Super Rod racer Michael Ruff.

Ruff had about as rough of a first day of racing as any one man could possibly have at the IHRA Summit Racing Equipment World Finals. After blowing a tire on his motor home on his way to Memphis Ruff, driving over 900 miles from his home in Orlando, Fla., began his big weekend with a first round loss in the Sportsman Spectacular followed by an even bigger loss in the re-entry round of that same race all on opening day.

Michael Ruff overcame a rough start to collect his first IHRA championship in Super Rod

With an 0-2 start to the weekend and the biggest race still yet to come, Ruff wasn't exactly high on his chances to be competitive during the Summit Racing Equipment Tournament of Champions presented by AMSOIL later in the weekend with the biggest prize – a world championship – still on the line.

"It certainly wasn't the start we had hoped for. After 900 miles and blowing a tire on our way here we go out first round, bought back in and then get whooped bad by (Steve) Furr," Ruff said. "That first day really took the wind out of my sails. It was really frustrating because I knew I had laid down good runs, I just got beat. I wasn't mad at the cars performance or my performance, I just got beat."

But that is where the storm began to subside.

On day two Ruff finally saw some light when he picked up his first round win of the weekend – using a perfect triple zero light to get around fellow Division 2 racer Jason McCandless – setting up an improbable run to the finish that concluded with Ruff holding the biggest prize in the game, an IHRA championship Ironman.

"To come back the next day after a disastrous start and get a win light in the first round, that just helped build the adrenaline and get the next day off on the right foot," Ruff said. "From there things just took off."

Ruff qualified for the Summit Tournament of Champions via a second place in Division 2

And boy did it ever.

After defeating McCandless in round one Ruff found his groove and followed that up with wins over Jeff Estep and Shannon Brinkley before meeting Hamlin, Texas' Joe Collier in the final. In a battle of the Chevrolets Collier, behind the wheel of his 2000 Monte Carlo, got off the line first by a narrow margin – a .015 to a .019 – but Ruff battled back on the other end in a double breakout victory as Ruff crossed the line first in his '67 Camaro with a 9.890/147.39 in the 9.90 class while Collier took a bit more with a 9.884/151.10.

"This is just awesome. As tough as the competition is nowadays, to be able to come out and play with them and win, get the big check, is an awesome deal," Ruff said. "This is such a great opportunity the IHRA has given everyone for all the champions to come to one race and duke it out for the title. It is an amazing feeling to win this thing."

And amazingly, Ruff's weekend almost didn't happen.

Ruff entered the last race of the season in Division 2 outside of the top three in points and needed a monumental performance to sneak into the tournament field. And right when he needed it most Ruff posted a pair of semifinal finishes to propel him into second in the Summit Pro-Am standings, one point ahead of McCandless.

Ruff finished the year with two wins, both coming at Bradenton Motorsports Park in March.

Joe Collier and Mike Ruff went head-to-head in the Super Rod final in Memphis

"I didn't do a whole bunch of races this year. We missed the first race of the year in Immokalee and then went to Bradenton and won both races there," Ruff said. "From there we went to Jackson and didn't do so well and by Darlington I was out of the top three. But we were able to get down to four twice and that moved us all the way up to second in points and now here we are hoisting this trophy."

After the .000 light in round one, Ruff continued to get it done on the tree with a .015 light helping propel him past Division 9 champion Jeff Estep and a lucky break in the quarters moving him on when Shannon Brinkley broke out by .013.

In the semifinals Ruff earned a bye run while Collier, racing out of Division 4, bested fellow D4 racer Clayton Nance with a .012 reaction time and a 9.908/151.99 run to advance. Nance broke out by .036.

With the win Ruff collected his first career IHRA championship and second overall championship all in his first full season of IHRA racing. Now he will take the big trophy home with him to Orlando and hopefully try for a repeat in 2013.

"I have been racing around 20 years and this is the first year I have run IHRA and I can say I have really enjoyed it and let's just say I will be doing more IHRA racing in the future," Ruff said. "I want to thank my wife Sherrie, my brother-in-law Larry, FTI Converts, Mickey Thompson Tires and Takash Race Craft. If it wasn't for them it wouldn't be possible."