Epping: Series round 9 preview

Manners riding wave of momentum into New England Lagana, Nichols hoping to keep championship leads EPPING, N.H. (September 2, 2010) -- With only two races remaining in the 2010 season the championship picture couldn't be any more unclear...

Manners riding wave of momentum into New England
Lagana, Nichols hoping to keep championship leads

EPPING, N.H. (September 2, 2010) -- With only two races remaining in the 2010 season the championship picture couldn't be any more unclear for two of the three premier classes on the Nitro Jam tour.

Heading into the North American Nitro Jam at New England Dragway September 11-12 only seven points separates the top two drivers in Nitro Jam's quickest and fastest class of Top Fuel, while a narrow 27-point margin is all that stands between the top three drivers in Nitro Jam's other dragster class, Pro Fuel. The only class that seemingly has its championship locked up is Prostalgia Nitro Funny Car as ace Steve Nichols holds a 67-point lead over class win leader Peter Gallen with two races remaining.

But, as recent history will attest, in the world of drag racing anything can happen.

Manners enters the race at New Hampshire with the most momentum of any driver on the tour with two wins over the past two races and a new class record to go with it. Thanks to that success Manners has leapfrogged competitors Bill Evans and Jeff Hamelink to take the top spot with two races remaining.

Manners has four total wins this season in six final rounds and recently reclaimed the national record for the class at 5.276 seconds at 275.11 miles-per-hour on a slippery Maryland track last month. Just behind Manners is former point leader Hamelink who now sits 19 points behind.

In third is Manners' toughest competitor, Bill Evans. Evans leads the class with five wins, including a big win on Saturday at the Maryland Nitro Jam, but an issue on Sunday allowed Manners to pull away even further. Evans and the "Black Pearl" crew currently sit 27 points behind Manners.

Easily the two most dominant cars in the class, Evans and Manners have produced a thrilling season and will be looking to take advantage of their recent success to possibly claim the inaugural Pro Fuel title. Head-to-head Evans has a 3-2 record against the "Shredder" team.

Another driver eager to get to New Hampshire is Top Fuel veteran Bobby Lagana Jr. Lagana, the only driver in the Top Fuel category without a championship, will be looking for his first title as he takes an extremely narrow seven-point lead into one of his favorite tracks.

As the winner at New England Dragway in 2006 and 2007, Lagana has had a remarkable run at the track and looks to continue that momentum entering next weekend's race. Lagana leads the class with seven wins in 11 finals, three times sweeping the race weekend, and another sweep this weekend would provide a big push for Lagana's championship hopes.

Not far behind Lagana is 2007 champion Bruce Litton. Litton made up considerable ground at Maryland last month with a big win Saturday night and has now closed the gap to just seven points. Litton has six wins in 10 finals and is the 2004 winner of the North American Nitro Jam. With a strong push this weekend it could be Litton playing the spoiler in picking up his second title for the Lucas Oil crew.

While close races have become commonplace in Nitro Jam's dragster classes, in its lone funny car class the championship chase been all but sealed up by Delaware native Steve Nichols. Nichols, in the "Mill Road Boys" Camaro, holds a 67-point lead over Gallen thanks to six finals and the added bonus of being the only team to make the trip out west in July, giving Nichols valuable bonus points.

Despite the considerable gap, Gallen hasn't given up on championship hopes as he continues to make waves in the class as evident by a pair of finals at Maryland International. Thanks to a win on Sunday, Gallen now has a class leading six victories and a 19-4 round win-loss record in six events.

While the professional championship battles have become a major focus on the Nitro Jam tour, the sportsman classes will also be looking seal up their season and potentially earn a spot in the season-ending Tournament of Champions. The North American Nitro Jam at New England Dragway will also act as one of the final qualifiers for the Tournament of Champions making the two-day weekend one of the biggest races of the season for all pro and sportsman classes.

In addition to championship drag racing, the North American Nitro Jam will also include side-by-side jet trucks, wheelstanders, high-speed sled racing, heads-up doorslammers and dragsters, fireworks and more September 11-12 at New England Dragway.

-source: ihra

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