Hartman pilots 'Bullet Bob' to emotional victory in front of huge
Evans sets new record in Pro Fuel; Cox back in victory lane
BUDDS CREEK, Md. (August 28, 2010) - Just seven months ago following a bad fire at the season opening Palm Beach Nitro Jam in Florida Bob and Cathie Floch, owners of the well-known "Bullet Bob" Prostalgia Nitro Funny car, were on the verge of walking away from the sport after nearly four decades in the business.
With a destroyed car and seemingly no hope of repair by the season's second race in Baton Rouge, the Floch family found themselves carefully weighing their options as to what to do next. Then came a miracle. Dozens of racers from across the country came to their aid, lending parts, cash and support to help get the "Bullet Bob" machine back on the track.
Now, exactly seven months after that fiery accident and the ensuing outpouring of support, "Bullet Bob" is back in victory lane.
On a thrilling night of racing that saw a world record come crashing down and new winners across the board, driver Richard Hartman stepped in and drove the "Bullet Bob" Trans Am to its first win of the season, joining Bill Evans who reset both ends of the world record in Pro Fuel and Del Cox who returned to victory lane in Top Fuel at the Maryland Nitro Jam Saturday in Budds Creek.
"Richard helped give us a win tonight we will never forget," Floch said. "To think just a few months ago we didn't even know if we could get back out here and now being in victory lane is just incredible. Add in the fact that tomorrow is Cathie's birthday and this is a weekend we will cherish forever."
Hartman got the win with a huge upset of five-time Prostalgia winner Peter Gallen. The win came after an extensive cleanup for oil that saw Gallen switch lanes moments before the run. Despite the change, Hartman got off the line first and never looked back in winning his first race of the season.
Hartman ran a 5.915 elapsed time at 239.39 miles-per-hour in the final, besting Gallen's 6.035, 241.32.
"I can't even say how exciting this is," Hartman said. "My dad and I have been racing nitro cars for 22 years and this is our first win together in a nitro car. To have this opportunity given to us by Bob and Cathie is just awesome."
The final was made even more dramatic as both teams were forced to wait nearly an hour to make the run following an extensive cleanup for oil. During that time both Gallen and Hartman had time to get out of their cars and think through their runs before strapping back in and settling things on the track.
"I got out of the car once which I normally don't like to do, but we were waiting a long time. It gives you a lot to think about and it puts a lot in your head, but once the car starts that all leaves you mind," Hartman said. "We weren't concerned at all. We knew the IHRA would do a great job to get it all cleaned up and of course they did just that.
"We followed that mess with two great runs. We both ran good numbers and we simply beat him to the line which is a great accomplishment against a team like Gallen."
While Hartman and Gallen certainly put on a show, there was great racing throughout the evening in Nitro Jam's newest hit class. In the consolation rounds of Prostalgia Nitro Funny Car Mike McIntire got around John Dunn, Rick Krafft defeated Aaron Armstrong and Steve Nichols got the best of Greg Jacobsmeyer.
Despite the great evening of racing, Hartman's emotional win certainly stole the show.
In his first race of the season legendary tuner and racer Hartman reached the final in the "Bullet Bob" machine with an opening round win over McIntire, while Gallen moved on with a round one win over Jacobsmeyer. Gallen had low E.T. of the first round at 6.032.
Another thrilling moment during the opening night of the Maryland Nitro Jam came when Pro Fuel ace Bill Evans reset both ends of the world record in the new nitro-powered dragster class and also overtook the championship lead with only two races remaining.
In addition to beating friend and rival Mike Manners in the final, Evans ran a 5.309, 270.43 to back up his even better 5.302, 272.45 he ran in round one. The two quick laps gave Evans two shiny new records and his fifth win of the season.
"So far we have done nearly everything we talked about doing all on the first night. We wanted to come here and win at least once, make it to both finals, set a national record and take over the points lead," Evans said. "We have already taken care of most of that list, now we just need to come back out tomorrow and do this all over again."
Evans also got to debut his brand new finals pirate flag adorning the back of his "Black Pearl" Pro Fuel machine. With one flag for regular competition and another for final rounds only, Evans broke out the American flag tribute with the skull and crossbones as Manners, originally from England, flew the colors of his home country.
"We had a little thing going with Manners that was a lot of fun. We just bought this flag and he comes over and shows us his new flag so I said that if we ever meet in the finals we need to do our burnouts together and make it a battle of the Brits against the Americans," Evans said. "It worked out pretty cool."
In the battle Evans ran a 5.309, 270.43 to best Manners' 5.435, 268.01 as both drivers came into the final with a completely different approach.
"Honestly we had that car tuned way back when we went to the line because everyone else was smoking the tires. When we finally got to the line I decided we are going to end it right here one way or the other," Evans said. "They pooched their car up and we decided to do just the opposite and it was over in 60 feet. They were playing it safe and we were being on the edge and this time it paid off."
In the consolation rounds Rich McPhillips drove around newcomer Karen Stalba, Dave Hill beat Robin Samsel and John Finke beat former points leader Jeff Hamelink.
Manners and Evans set up their epic final with a pair of record-shattering opening round passes. Manners had the best pass of the evening with a 5.293, 273.61, temporarily shattering the world record for the class in a win over Stalba, while Evans equaled his opponent with another pass under the previous record in a win over Hamelink. Evans ran a 5.302, 272.45 in the win, the new national record for the class.
Finally in Top Fuel Cox returned to victory lane for the first time since March in a win over Lagana, ending Lagana and Litton's reign of terror of 10 wins over the past 11 races.
Cox ran into trouble on his run as the front end began to lift off the ground near halftrack, but after a quick correction he was able to get back in the throttle and drive around a smoking Lagana for his second victory of the season and the seventh win of his career.
Cox ran a 5.386 in the final.
"It has been one tough year. I have to give it to the guys, especially Paul Smith and everyone on the team who has been working their butt off this year," Cox said. "I think we have our old combination back in there. We still have a few troubles, but the car is running good. I did my job today and now we just need to keep this going."
In the consolation round Bruce Litton got an easy win over Mitch King, but lost a little more ground to Lagana who is slowly edging away from the former champ in the Top Fuel title chase.
Lagana reached his seventh final in his last eight tries with a round one victory over King, while Cox powered his way into his fourth final of the year with an opening round victory over Litton. Lagana had low elapsed time of the round running a 4.805, 300.20 in his first pass of the night.
Racing will continue beginning at 10 a.m. on Sunday with sportsman eliminations followed by a second afternoon of FanFest beginning at noon and two more rounds of Nitro Jam beginning at 1:30 p.m.