Lancaster's Mike Janis has won another International Hot Rod Association's Hooters Drag Racing Series national championship title.
Janis, who won his first career IHRA Pro Modified title in 2001, clinched the IHRA Pro Modified World Championship with one race remaining, despite missing an event in Edmonton earlier this year.
"In the Sunoco World Finals two weeks ago at Norwalk (Ohio), I had to go two rounds to clinch the championship over Harold Martin," said Janis, who drives a 1963 Corvette. "I won the first round there and then had to race Martin in the second round.
"I have a blower-driven car, and Martin has a nitrous bottle-powered car. He did a dirty deed to me in that race at the starting line. I pre-staged my car first and he purposely waited several seconds to stage his car, trying to cause my car to get too hot. He finally staged and when the light went green my clutch started slipping because it was too hot, and I burned a piston during the run. I beat him anyway and clinched the championship. That's all that matters . . . especially since we lost in the third round that day."
With nothing to gain, Janis still traveled to the IHRA season finale this past weekend at Rockingham, N.C., where he lost in the second round. He won the spring race at Rockingham.
Janis was second in points coming into the summer portion of the IHRA season. When he decided not to attend the race in Edmonton due to the distance and added expense, he was docked 31 points by IHRA officials, falling to seventh.
"This is where my team proved themselves," Janis said. "We just pulled together after the penalty and got our heads together and did it. I feared that we might be out of it because we were so far behind, and we've always struggled somewhat with our blower car during the warm weather races.
"Also, IHRA slapped a rules change on the blower cars in June. In order to help the nitrous cars catch up, they reduced the percentage of blower overdrive that we could run. They cut it from 25 to 20 percent."
In a three-race stretch, Janis won two (Martin, Mich., and Toronto) and finished second in Milan, Mich., to leapfrog to the head of the points standings.
"It could have all come apart for good at Martin," Janis said. "Going into the final qualifying run there, we were not yet qualified and were in danger of not making the race. We were all sick to our stomachs. But we worked hard, went out there and made the show with a run that was the No. 1 time of the event, then we went on to win the race. It turned the season for the better.
"At Budd's Creek (Maryland) we suffered a pit fire. While we were fueling up the car, fuel spilled onto an extension cord and ignited a fire. The car began to burn and for about 15 to 20 seconds I thought our car might be going up in flames. Thankfully all the other crews reacted quickly to help us, and the fire was out in a few seconds. The car also suffered transmission problems at that same race but we again pulled together and ended up the runner-up in that event."
Janis will head to the wind tunnel over the winter and also work on research and development as he prepares for his title defense next season.
For now, he is savoring the championship moment.
"I guess the country knows that once again the IHRA championship trophy is coming up north for another season. We'll try to keep it here," he said.