IHRA hosts packed house for Saturday 'Night of Fire'; Commisso sets IHRA World Speed Record, takes Pro Mod pole; Cox tops Top Fuel list, Collins No. 1 in PS; Welcome back to Louisiana.

After a nearly 20 year absence from the area, professional drag racing finally made its return to Louisiana and did so with tremendous results as fans packed the stands for one of the biggest shows in IHRA history during Saturday's "Night of Fire" at the Summit Racing Equipment Mardi Gras Nationals at State Capitol Raceway.

Under a blue sky and with perfect temperatures, Saturday's excitement got started early when Pro Mod ace Ray Commisso (Toronto, Ont) set a new IHRA World Speed Record with a run of 246.08 mph during the third round of pro qualifying during the afternoon session -- and the action just continued to heat up from there.

"We have actually been faster than that and we are hoping we can just keep getting faster," Commisso said. "This is a new car we have here and I think we still have some more in store for the speed record."

LSU head football coach Les Miles brought the capacity crowd to its feet during the evening ceremonies and the rest of the schedule did not disappoint.

Top Fuel made the most noise -- literally and figuratively -- during Saturday's festivities as rookie Del Cox Jr. (Downey, Ca) set the pole for Sunday's final eliminations with a run of 4.712 at 314.83 mph. driving the car that won the Top Fuel championship last season with Spencer Massey at the helm.

"I can't complain, No. 1 qualifier at our first race out. It started with Paul Smith tuning it and everything took off from there," Cox said. "This is the championship car from last year and I am just happy to be able to drive it."

Cox was followed by Bruce Litton (Indianapolis, In) who took the runner-up qualifying position with a pass of 4.723 at 306.88 mph, good enough to claim Saturday's Top Fuel "Last Man Standing" award going to the fastest car during the "Night of Fire" qualifying session. Terry Haddock (Woodinville, Wa) qualified third for Sunday's eliminations (4.768, 302.41 mph).

Commisso was the biggest story of the night, setting a new world record while also claiming the Pro Mod pole and "Last Man Standing" with a pass of 5.970 at 246.08 mph.

"Last night's qualifier was a nice clean run for us in our second full run in this car," Commisso said. "This afternoon we had some heat in the track and we were just able to do a bit more."

Tommy Gray (Baltimore, Md) took second in Pro Modified during the evening session with a pass of 6.011 at 240.94 mph and Ed Hoover (Gilbert, S.C) will start third (6.015, 238.93 mph).

Pro Stock was headlined by Jason Collins (Rainbow City, Al) who took the pole with a pass of 6.294 at 222.03 mph during Friday's opening rounds of qualifying. Pete Berner (Crete, Il) will start second for Sunday's eliminations with a pass of 6.306 at 220.33 mph while also claiming the Pro Stock "Last Man Standing." Frank Gugliotta (Mt. Airy, Md) qualified third (6.317, 221.31 mph).

Sunday's action will get underway at 9 a.m. with final eliminations set to begin at 4 p.m.

-credit: ihra