NORWALK, Ohio --
It is safe to say no one understands that saying more than Super Rod racer Michael Ruff.
Ruff had about as rough of a first day of racing as any one man could possibly have at the IHRA Summit Racing Equipment World Finals. After blowing a tire on his motor home on his way to Memphis Ruff, driving over 900 miles from his home in Orlando, Fla., began his big weekend with a first round loss in the Sportsman Spectacular followed by an even bigger loss in the re-entry round of that same race all on opening day.
With an 0-2 start to the weekend and the biggest race still yet to come, Ruff wasn't exactly high on his chances to be competitive during the Summit Racing Equipment Tournament of Champions presented by AMSOIL later in the weekend with the biggest prize - a world championship - still on the line.
"It certainly wasn't the start we had hoped for. After 900 miles and blowing a tire on our way here we go out first round, bought back in and then get whooped bad by (Steve) Furr," Ruff said. "That first day really took the wind out of my sails. It was really frustrating because I knew I had laid down good runs, I just got beat. I wasn't mad at the cars performance or my performance, I just got beat."
But that is where the storm began to subside.
"To come back the next day after a disastrous start and get a win light in the first round, that just helped build the adrenaline and get the next day off on the right foot," Ruff said. "From there things just took off."
And boy did it ever.
After defeating McCandless in round one Ruff found his groove and followed that up with wins over Jeff Estep and Shannon Brinkley before meeting Hamlin, Texas' Joe Collier in the final. In a battle of the Chevrolets Collier, behind the wheel of his 2000 Monte Carlo, got off the line first by a narrow margin - a .015 to a .019 - but Ruff battled back on the other end in a double breakout victory as Ruff crossed the line first in his '67 Camaro with a 9.890/147.39 in the 9.90 class while Collier took a bit more with a 9.884/151.10.
"This is just awesome. As tough as the competition is nowadays, to be able to come out and play with them and win, get the big check, is an awesome deal," Ruff said. "This is such a great opportunity the IHRA has given everyone for all the champions to come to one race and duke it out for the title. It is an amazing feeling to win this thing."
And amazingly, Ruff's weekend almost didn't happen.
Ruff entered the last race of the season in Division 2 outside of the top three in points and needed a monumental performance to sneak into the tournament field. And right when he needed it most Ruff posted a pair of semifinal finishes to propel him into second in the Summit Pro-Am standings, one point ahead of McCandless.
Ruff finished the year with two wins, both coming at Bradenton Motorsports Park in March.
After the .000 light in round one, Ruff continued to get it done on the tree with a .015 light helping propel him past Division 9 champion Jeff Estep and a lucky break in the quarters moving him on when Shannon Brinkley broke out by .013.
In the semifinals Ruff earned a bye run while Collier, racing out of Division 4, bested fellow D4 racer Clayton Nance with a .012 reaction time and a 9.908/151.99 run to advance. Nance broke out by ..036.
With the win Ruff collected his first career IHRA championship and second overall championship all in his first full season of IHRA racing. Now he will take the big trophy home with him to Orlando and hopefully try for a repeat in 2013.
"I have been racing around 20 years and this is the first year I have run IHRA and I can say I have really enjoyed it and let's just say I will be doing more IHRA racing in the future," Ruff said. "I want to thank my wife Sherrie, my brother-in-law Larry, FTI Converts, Mickey Thompson Tires and Takash Race Craft. If it wasn't for them it wouldn't be possible."
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