Volume X, Issue 8, Page 11

Brought to you by Ohio Crankshaft

Doctor Burk’s Time Machine - 2002

Aug 28, 08 | 6:38 pm

The 2002 Indy Pro Mod race brought some changes to the program. The money was starting to take over. Mike Ashley was a Pro Mod only racer in those days and his PR guy and sponsor guy was some unknown by the name of Kenny Nowling. Nowling and Ashley put together a professional program for Indy and that same year another name was added that will go down in Pro Mod history, Dave Wood. Wood was sponsoring legendary Pro Mod racer Bill Kuhlmann and, with the encouragement of Nowling, Wood’s company, AMS Staff Leasing, would become the series sponsor by the next year and change the NHRA Pro Mod scene forever.

2002 was the last year for the eight-car qualified field (much to the racers’ appreciation) and once again qualifying was a drag racing war for the Pro Modified contestants.
Twenty-six cars were entered that year: ten nitrous cars and 16 supercharged cars. The tide was turning (at least in numbers) against the nitrous cars, but when the final qualifying sheet was posted at Indy there were four nitrous oxide-injected cars and four supercharged cars in the elite eight.

Quain Stott, who had made the switch from nitrous to supercharger over the winter, led the qualifying with a 6.237/227.69. He was followed by Billy Harper and his nitrous Viper with a 6.294/224.58 timing. This was the first year that Chrysler Hemi engines were allowed to compete but ironically a pair of wedge-headed engines would lead the qualifying.

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It is also of note that in 2002 no one got close to Fred Hahn and Jim Oddy’s record 6.17 ET of the previous year, and that included Fred and Jim. They had a miserable Indy, failing to qualify and ending up in the 15th spot with a best effort of 6.369/218.94. That’s a sample of how difficult the Indy Pro Mod race can be. 

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There were a few new names on the qualifying list that year including Bill Kuhlmann, Zach Barklage, Troy Critchley, and a former IHRA T/D driver by the name of Scott Ray.

In Eliminations in the first round Critchley, Ashley, Mitch Stott and Jenkins advanced. In the second round Jenkins, the last of the nitrous cars, ran a 6.309/222.77 to send Mitch Stott home, and the Australian Critchley eased around Ashley with a 6.42 to Ashley’s 6.l49. Jenkins’ 4.309 was low ET for the round and made him the odds-on favorite going into the final round.

He didn’t disappoint his fans as Critchley, knowing he was at a performance disadvantage, red-lighted and Shannon Jenkins went into the record books as a U.S. Nationals winner. It was the second straight year that a nitrous car beat the blown car in the final round.

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FINAL ROUND QUALIFYING STATS


1 Quain Stott, Inman NC, ‘63 Corvette 6.237 227.69
2 Shannon Jenkins, Tuscaloosa AL, ‘68 Camaro 6.274 223.14 *
3 Mitch Stott, Mill Spring NC, ‘63 Corvette 6.291 225.18
4 Billy Harper, Paducah KY, ‘00 Viper 6.294 224.58 *
5 Troy Critchley, Houston TX, ‘53 Corvette 6.298 223.39
6 Rickie Smith, King NC, ‘01 Dodge Viper 6.299 223.25 *
7 Paul Athey, Norwich CT, ‘63 Corvette 6.321 223.39 *
8 Mike Ashley, Melville NY, ‘41 Willys 6.321 223.28

------------ Not Qualified ------------

9 Thomas Patterson, Houston TX, ‘63 Vette 6.322 225.15
10 Tim McAmis, Hawk Point MO, ‘63 Vette 6.325 221.45
11 Bill Kuhlmann, Wentzville MO, ‘68 Vette 6.326 219.01
12 Bobby Baucom, Charlotte NC, ‘00 Dodge 6.328 210.14
13 Steve Cossis, Astoria NY, ‘53 Vette 6.339 221.63 *
14 Chip King, Roxboro NC, ‘01 Dodge Avenger 6.340 225.30
15 Fred Hahn, Elma NY, ‘01 Vette 6.343 223.69
16 Wayne Torkelson, Concord CA, ‘55 T-Bird 6.361 219.44
17 Ronnie Hood, Lenoir NC, ‘63 Vette 6.363 222.91 *
18 Mike Castellana, Westbury NY, ‘41 Willys 6.380 219.12 *
19 Cody McManama, Dallas TX, ‘57 Chevy 6.450 214.11 *
20 Marty McGinnis, Gravois Mills MO, ‘37 Chevy 6.461 214.59
21 Scott Ray, Greenville OH, ‘63 Vette 6.511 216.13
22 Mel Eaves, Hudson FL, ‘57 Chevy Bel Air 6.511 210.28
23 Jeff Ensslin, Lakeland FL, ‘54 Studeba 6.544 210.83 *
24 Jim Halsey, Street MD, ‘63 Vette 6.575 220.55 *
25 Bill Hill, St. Louis MO, ‘57 Chevy Belair 6.767 216.65
26 Zach Barklage, Eldon MO, ‘02 Pontiac GTO 6.857 208.01

* nitrous-assisted

The Field is Open

Aug 28, 08 | 12:44 pm

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By Scott “Woody” Woodruff
File photos by Todd Dziadosz

Unlike years past, this season of Pro Mod racing with the JEGS ProMod Challenge has been very close from the start. Rather than having one or two drivers race out to big leads in the points, we’ve seen a lot of parity among a large group of frontrunners, which has really kept things interesting. Even now, there are seven different racers who could leave Indy with the points lead.

We got a pretty good indication that the year was going to be unpredictable at our season-opener in Gainesville, Fla. We had a last-minute cancellation and we were scrambling to find someone to fill the open slot. It was so late in the game that we were limited to someone that could make it to Gainesville Raceway within a day.

After asking around, we found Joe Baker in Milton, Fla., and Rob Geiger called him to see if he could make it up for the race. Joe said he could probably scrape it together so he called up all his buddies and they managed to make it just in time. No one expected much from them, including Joe and his patchwork crew, but lo and behold the guy turns around and wins the race when Ray Commisso tags the wall in the final.

“Joe Who?” was suddenly Joe the points leader. Remarkably, Baker won the next race in Houston when Roger Burgess was called away from competition at the last moment. This time Baker drove Roger’s well-funded hot rod to the winner’s circle by displaying a lot of natural ability. Unlike Florida, he didn’t need any breaks. He won straight up.

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Joe Baker in the Willys takes on Tony Pontieri’s ’57 Chevy.

In Atlanta, Eddie Ware was another surprise winner, just as Steve Engel was in Bristol a month or so later. On either side of Engel’s victories were wins recorded by our reigning series champion Josh Hernandez, restoring a little order to the proceedings.

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Hernandez (shown) has a great team and a bad-ass racecar and he knows how to handle the pressure of a championship chase. He’s got more wins than anyone in JEGS ProMod Challenge history for a reason and he’s many people’s pick to win Indy and the entire series this year. That’s a pretty good bet, actually.

I’m personally waiting to see Commisso win a race. He’s come so close so many times and he’s always one of the quickest and fastest racers at each event so we know he has the hot rod. Of course, you can’t overlook Baker, Ware, and Engel since they’ve already collected trophies this year.

Our current points leader, Tony Pontieri, is another guy that could easily win the 54th annual Mac Tools U.S. Nationals. Tony’s a funny guy and the team is more than a little superstitious so I won’t say anything else in fear of jinxing them.

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Kirk Kuhns in the Willys and Mike Castellana is in the Firebird.

Aside from Josh, we have three other former series champions in the race—Jay Payne, Shannon Jenkins, and “Tricky Rickie” Smith. Hanging around Jeggy, I’ve learned to never underestimate the capabilities of a champion.

Everyone will be watching Mike Castellana as well. Mike’s been knocking on the door of the first five-second NOS pass and it would be bitchin’ if it happened at Indy.

We have a bunch of dark horses also, with guys like Von Smith, Roger Burgess, Mike Knowles, Kirk Kuhns, Harold Laird, Taylor Lastor, Brad Personett, Troy Coughlin, Danny Rowe, Rick Stivers, Tim Tindle, and Ray Vettel. Make sure you keep an eye on those guys also.

Indy’s finally here everyone! Let’s go racing.