Drag race celebration gives way to sombre mood after crash

CAYUGA – Clay Millican moved back to the top of the IHRA Knoll Gas-Torco Racing Fuels Pro Nitro Top Fuel championship points standings with a victory over Doug Foley in the final round at the International Hot Rod Association Canadian Nationals at Toronto Motorsports Park. But the victory celebration was short-lived as Millican’s concern following the race was on the well-being of his friend and competitor.

In the final round, Foley, from Sewell, N.J., lost traction at half-track, slid into the left lane and collided with the wall. His car bounced back into the lane and drifted over into the right wall before coming to a stop. Foley was conscious after the crash, but was transported to West Haldimand General Hospital in Hagersville, for evaluation.

“I’ve made the final at all three Canadian races this year, but today, to be honest with you, I’d just assume I didn’t have this one,” said Millican, who hails from Drummonds, Tennessee. “I don’t want to win the championship this way; I don’t want to win a race this way.

“Besides everything today, this is definitely one of the most exciting chases IHRA’s ever had in Top Fuel. We have the same kind of chase we had my very first year racing Top Fuel when I lost the championship by seven points. Going into first round today I was behind by seven points, and I thought about that year, and how important every point is,” added Millican.

Dale Creasy Jr. took great strides towards claiming the 2006 Knoll Gas-Torco Racing Fuels Pro Nitro Funny Car championship with his victory over Paul Lee in the final. Creasy, who entered the event with a slight lead over Jack Wyatt in the points standings, will head to the next race this weekend in Budds Creek, Maryland with a 55-point advantage over Wyatt. It was the Lansing, Illinois resident’s third Nitro Funny Car national event victory of the season.

“This gives us some breathing room on the two and three guys (Wyatt and Bob Gilbertson),” said Creasy Jr. “With Gilbertson going out first round and qualifying No. 1, it gave us some extra points there. We’ve been fighting all year for this. We did exactly what we had to do this weekend. We qualified low and got the bye run, we ran good every round. The last round we had to step up a little bit, because Lee ran so well in the semifinals. We stepped up just enough.”

The finals of the Canadian Nationals were run on Monday after rain forced officials to carry over the finals from Sunday.

Mike Janis won his second national event on the 2006 IHRA eMax national event slate when he defeated John Russo in the Torco’s CompetitionPlus.com Pro Modified final round. Janis, the 2004 World Champion, carded a 6.320 at 228.61 mph to find his way into the Winner’s Circle again.

“We started the weekend running decent, qualified No. 6. We didn’t really make any killer-fast runs today, but it was a lucky day and we pulled it off,” said Janis. “We came into the race fourth in points, about three rounds out of first, and it was a big concern. We’ve moved up to second now, so that was a big deal every round, trying to get every point.”

Paul Noakes won his second Ironman of the season by defeating Larry Dobbs in the final round at the Canadian Nationals. Noakes had a round path to the final, having to drive through five-time World Champion Mark Thomas of Louisville, Ohio, in the first round and Terry McMillen in the semifinal.

“We had a pretty stellar race car coming in this weekend,” said Noakes. “It was just stay on our game plan, try to get out front and let other people make mistakes. Last year I didn’t even qualify for three of these races, so I’m really happy to be in the winner’s circle today.”

Rob Mansfield continued his sizzling late-season charge and chalked up his first career Ironman when he knocked off defending World Champion Steve Spiess in the Torco’s CompetitionPlus.com Pro Stock final in Cayuga. Mansfield, who was the runner-up in New Hampshire two weeks ago, posted a 6.379 at 219.61 mph to defeat Spiess, who lit the red-light.

“I knew we had good power, and I knew we had a really good chance to win it,” said Mansfield. “If we could just put together four good rounds on race day, we were really confident we could come in and win this race. This win should put us in the top five. I’d like to see us finish fourth or third this year, but it may be tough to do now. The top three guys are running really well. If I can remain in the top five for this year, I’d be happy with that.”

Television coverage of the Canadian Nationals airs on SPEED with the Top Fuel and Nitro Funny Car and JEG’S Top Stock scheduled for broadcast on Saturday, Oct. 7 at 6 p.m. The Pro Modified, Alcohol Funny Car and Pro Stock divisions air Saturday, Nov. 4 at 6 p.m.

The next event on the 2006 eMax Drag Racing Series is the Torco Racing Fuels President’s Cup Nationals, Sept. 29 – Oct. 1, at Maryland International Raceway in Budds Creek, Md.