IHRA crowns sportsman world champions
Nitro Jam Media
Oct 17, 2011
In today’s world of spender takes all, it is a breath of fresh air to see championships decided on the track in head-to-head competition.
And that is exactly what transpired at the IHRA Summit Racing Equipment World Finals presented by RacingJunk.com at Virginia Motorsports Park as nine drivers from all different backgrounds were awarded world championships at the International Hot Rod Association’s season finale Sunday in Dinwiddie.
Glenn Wright (Top Sportsman), J.B. Donati (Top Dragster), Gianni Cantusci (Super Stock), Phil Combs (Stock), Barry Ryan (Quick Rod), Steve Furr (Super Rod) and Chip Johnson (Hot Rod) all walked away winners of the Summit Tournament of Champions and J.P. Schuster (Box) and Matt Hawk (No Box) added wins in the Summit SuperSeries to earn the title of world champion – the first for all but two drivers.
“This is my first Ironman. I have been runner-up several times, been to all these Ironman Classic races, but I always choke,” Combs said. “Not today. Nobody gave me a shot to win this thing in Stock and I felt that they overlooked me. That really helped me rise to the occasion.”
After a grueling season, over 200 racers made their way to Virginia from 21 states and five Canadian provinces to participate in the Summit World Finals culminating with two championship tournaments Sunday afternoon. All of the drivers had to earn their way into the tournament and, once there, had to compete on the track to decide the champions in each of the nine classes.
One of the most unsuspecting winners from Sunday’s big race was Howell, Michigan’s Barry Ryan. A longtime racer in the Midwest, Ryan was so unassuming that final round opponent Nick Folk had to do an online search just to find some information about the man he was about to meet.
And even that didn’t help. Ryan hammered the tree with a .007 light and ran a near-perfect 8.901, 161.69 in the 8.90 index class to take the Quick Rod crown, his first career championship.
“As a racer, the name Folk scares you. So I was surprised when Nick’s dad Ron come up to us after the race and made the comment that Nick had never heard of us and he had to look us up on the internet. He then said that when he saw what we were cutting for lights he said ‘I think we have a problem. I don’t know who this guy is, but he is mowing people down,’” Ryan said. “That is quite the complement coming from that bunch.”
Ryan began the weekend with a win over Jim Morrison, followed by victories over Ed Toolis and Allen Lowery before receiving a bye into the final. Ryan earned his way into the TOC via a victory at the Mopar Nitro Jam at Grand Bend Motorplex in July.
Perhaps the biggest winner from this weekend’s event was Harrisburg, North Carolina’s Steve Furr. Furr won the Summit Sportsman Spectacular $5,000 race on Saturday before sweeping the Super Rod category again on Sunday behind the wheel of his 1968 Camaro to take the championship over Donald Webb, adding another $10,000 to his weekend total.
“I wasn’t expecting to win today because I won yesterday. I thought maybe I had used my luck up then,” Furr said. “This is a good deal. I am super excited to win, I can’t lie about that. And to have it come down to us, Cameron (Manuel) and Donald is fitting. It was the three of us all season long and to have all three of us do well is a perfect way to end this deal.”
Furr won his fourth career IHRA championship by hitting a .017 light and running a perfect 9.90, 159.38 in the 9.90 class to defeat Webb who was perfect on the tree, but ran too quick on the numbers. Despite not winning, Webb was the only driver to make two final rounds, finishing runner-up in Hot Rod as well.
Furr also defeated defending champion Cameron Manuel, Charlie Stewart, Rick Bayus and Chris Yates on his way to Sunday’s championship. Furr made the TOC via a second-place finish in Division 9.
The only driver to repeat as champion was Chip Johnson who earned the coveted No. 1 in the Summit SuperSeries last year. This year he will move that number over to his ’68 Camaro in Hot Rod after defeating Donald Webb in the final.
“Winning never gets old. What gets old is not turning the win light on,” Johnson said. “We have had a really bad year this year. We made a couple finals, but we were not up to what we are used to doing and this really means a lot and helps make up for what we have been through.”
Johnson, from Fayetteville, N.C., won on a double-breakout with a .002 reaction time and a 10.891, 130.13 in the 10.90 class. Johnson also had wins over Brian Crumpler, Matthew Robinson, Steve Dweck and Bill Clarke in the winning effort. Surprisingly, Johnson earned an invite to the TOC by winning at, where else, Virginia Motorsports Park last season.
While Johnson is a seasoned veteran, Stock racer Phil Combs celebrated his first major IHRA victory by winning the championship behind the wheel of his ’66 Nova. Combs snuck into the tournament with a third place finish in Division 3 and then defeated Wallace Dent Jr., Nick Folk, Terry Taylor and Michael Beard – all hitters in the Stock class – before meeting Brent Darroch in the championship round.
Darroch had a much better light, but Combs caught up with a 12.728, 97.11 on a 12.70 dial to pick up the win.
In IHRA’s two quickest classes, Henrico, Virginia’s J.B. Donati defeated Austin Cowan to pick up the win in Top Dragster, while Odessa, Texas’ Glenn Wright won in Top Sportsman over Al Burkett.
Wright piloted his beautiful 2009 GXP to wins over John Benoit, Dale Freeman, Mark Payne and Rob Harvischak before meeting Burkett in the final. Surprisingly, Wright broke his car in the semifinals and planned to simply stage the car and hope for a miracle and got just that when Burkett went red by four thousandths of a second.
Wright made the tournament via a third-place finish in Division 4.
In Top Dragster Donati navigated a tough field with wins over Scott Richardson, Stacy Hall and David Barr before meeting Cowan in the final. Donati had a .003 light in the final and ran a dead-on 7.306, 180.14 on a 7.30 dial, edging Cowan by inches at the line. Donati earned his way into the Tournament of Champions after winning the Richmond qualifier back in July.
Finally, Gianni Cantusci took home the only foreign championship as the Stittsville, Ontario native claimed the championship in Super Stock behind the wheel of his 2000 Firebird. Cantusci just made it into the TOC via a third-place finish in Division 1, but it mattered little on race day as Cantusci defeated Gil Carty Jr., Jared Erichsen, Anthony Bertozzi and eventually Gilbert Johnson Jr. on his way to the title.
Cantusci hit a .016 light and ran a 10.273, 125.88 on a 10.26 dial to win by approximately two feet at the line over Johnson.
All World Champions receive $10,000 and a special championship Ironman trophy as the IHRA closes the book on the 2011 drag racing season.