Meet the 2014 IHRA Sportsman Champions, Part 1 – Super Rod, Hot Rod, Top Eliminator, Modified, and Jr. Dragster
Meet the 2014 IHRA Sportsman Champions, Part 1
Super Rod, Hot Rod, Top Eliminator, Modified, and Jr. Dragster
MICHAEL RUFF – SUPER ROD
Only three drivers in the history of the IHRA have ever won the prestigious Summit Racing Equipment Tournament of Champions more than once.
Michael Beard did it in 2009 and 2012 in two different classes. Mike Koontz won it in 2009 and again this season in Top Sportsman. And then there is Michael Ruff. Calm, cool, collected - and simply one of the best darn racers in the game today - Ruff has won the IHRA's championship tournament two of the past three years in Super Rod, setting up a bit of a dynasty for himself in the comfy confines of his home state of Florida.
"What an awesome deal. This is just as good as winning the first one, maybe even a little bit better knowing that we have done it twice now," Ruff said. "Just to make it here to run the best of the best is great, but to win it all again, what a great finish to a great year."
Ruff's year included three wins and a mind-blowing 491 points accumulated in Division 2 en route to another divisional title. In fact, his 120-point margin of victory over second place was the largest margin of victory by any divisional champion this season.
"It is just crazy how this year has gone. Coming off of scoring 491 points and three wins is huge," Ruff said. "It was one of those storybook years you wish you had every year. Pretty much every track we went to on the divisional side we found success. Just a dream season all the way around."
Once in Memphis, Ruff continued that domination by mowing through the field with deadly accuracy on the tree and championship-worthy runs, runs made all the more impressive when considering that Ruff is used to competition on the eighth-mile.
And, after a full day on the track and five rounds of work, Ruff found himself in his second career TOC final against Paul "Racer" Brown of Cass City, Michigan. With the championship on the line, Ruff again held the advantage on the tree with a .008 light to Brown's .012 and used that narrow edge to earn the win, running a 9.911-second elapsed time in the 9.90 index class at 149.75 mph to Brown's 9.917 at 159.63 mph.
"We started off a little slowly this weekend, but we finally got her dialed in and thankfully the weather held out," Ruff said. "We got here early on Thursday and got a good tune-up because we hadn't run much quarter-mile this year. After that we had good reaction times, the track was great and the car spoke for itself. You have to have a good hot rod under you during a race like this."
In addition to the tremendous final round, Ruff put together four stout passes during the afternoon leading up to the final in his bright blue '67 Camaro roadster. He recorded reaction times of .007, .017, .002 and .011 leading up to the finals, eliminating James Cater, Jacob Elrod and Shannon Brinkley along the way.
Ruff's toughest test of the afternoon came in the second round in a double-breakout victory over Jacob Elrod. Elrod had a perfect .000 reaction time paired with a 9.882 at 154.39 mph, but Ruff ran a tad closer to the numbers with a 9.890 at 141.47 mph to take the win. Ruff also had a key breakout victory over Division 4 champion Shannon Brinkley in the semifinals to advance to the championship bout. Ruff had a .011 light and a 9.906 at 146.46 mph to get around Brinkley who broke-out at 9.889.
"While I have been here before, it was definitely not any less stressful. Every round you know you are racing the best and you just want to go up there and not do anything stupid. You just want to run your own race and hope you put down a run good enough to beat the guy in the other lane," Ruff said.
National runner-up Brown finished the season third in Division 3 with two runner-up finishes on the year. In Memphis, he defeated David Morris, Ernie Knight and Gerald Pierce to reach the finals.
With his second championship in three years, Ruff looks forward to carrying the No. 1 on his car as he prepares for another title run in 2015 following one of the most successful seasons seen in some time.
"It has been a roller-coaster year, but it all worked out in the end," Ruff said. "I want to thank my wife Shari, Tim Takash, Vince Coasta, Tom Kundrik at Mickey Thompson Tires, Greg Samuel and crew at FTI Transmissions and Converters, Dave Hartman at Hartbeat Racing Engines, my brother-in-law Larry Hambey Jr. and everyone that helped us out during the year. Hopefully we can have another great season in 2015."