Epping: Series Sunday event report

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Massey returns to victory lane at record-breaking North American Nitro Jam Krafft sweeps Prostalgia; Evans caps wild weekend with win in Pro Fuel EPPING, N.H. (September 12, 2010) - It has been two years since then-rookie Spencer Massey's ...

Massey returns to victory lane at record-breaking North American Nitro Jam
Krafft sweeps Prostalgia; Evans caps wild weekend with win in Pro Fuel

EPPING, N.H. (September 12, 2010) - It has been two years since then-rookie Spencer Massey's dominating championship season of 2008.

Since then Massey has been on a wild ride that has seen him bounce between sanctioning bodies and hop in and out of multiple cars, but on Sunday night Massey finally returned home. After a two year gap between Nitro Jam wins, Massey finally returned to victory lane to cap a wild weekend that saw multiple records fall and some of the largest crowds in New England Dragway history during the conclusion of the North American Nitro Jam Sunday in New Hampshire.

"It has been a while since I have been in the winners circle holding that Ironman and it is definitely a pleasure to be back," Massey said. "What an incredible weekend for Mitch King Motorsports and what a big race to be a part of. The stands were absolutely packed and the fans were nuts. It was exciting."

In addition to Massey's return, Prostalgia Nitro Funny Car ace Rick Krafft, behind the wheel of the infamous "Chicago Fire" Corvette, broke out of a slump with a pair of wins over two of the biggest names in the sport to pull the weekend sweep and Bill Evans capped his record-setting weekend with a win in Pro Fuel.

In additional professional action Jim Blake grabbed the win in East Coast Pro Comp and Kristin Stanley continued her incredible weekend with a win in Pro Stock Sleds, while Harland Sharp Elite 8 winners were new Top Sportsman world record holder Joe Dunne and Nick Meloni in Top Dragster.

Sportsman winner's from Sunday's North American Nitro Jam finale included David Sottila (Simsbury, Conn.) in Top Sportsman, Gary Koebbe (Fairfield, Conn.) in Top Dragster, Marc LaBrecque (West Springfield, Mass.) in Super Stock, Anthony Platania (Rochester, N.Y.) in Stock, Tom Couture (Enfield, Conn.) in Quick Rod, John MacLean (O'Leary, Canada) in Super Rod and Ray Knight (Fall River, Mass.) in Hot Rod.

All seven winners clinched a spot in the Tournament of Champions run-off to be held at the Nitro Jam World Finals at Virginia Motorsports Park in October.

In addition to Massey's win on Sunday, team owner Mitch King claimed his first career Top Fuel win on Saturday to give the Mitch King Motorsports bunch a weekend sweep of Nitro Jam's most exciting class.

And both times it was Bruce Litton falling at the hands of the MKM team. After King eliminated Litton on Saturday, Massey did the same on Sunday with a solid 4.966 to easily dispatch of Litton who went up in smoke in the final for the second consecutive night.

"Sitting over here with Mitch King and these guys we should have won earlier in the year, but we keep having little bugs bothering us. Regardless, it all came together this weekend," Massey said. "We hurt the motor on that last run, but sometimes that is what it takes to get these trophies."

Just one day before his 28th birthday, Massey relished his return to victory lane and admits that once again holding an Ironman trophy brought back a flood of memories.

"It brings back awesome memories from a couple of years ago. On top of that my birthday is tomorrow and holding that Ironman and celebrating tonight is my present," Massey said. "It was an all Mitch King Motorsports weekend and that is a first for this team. Honestly that is awesome for these guys because they all work their butts off. Having two race cars is tough and for us to get two wins is a testament to the hard work these guys put in.

"If it wasn't for them we wouldn't be here right now."

While Litton didn't manage to bring home a win this weekend, his two final round appearances helped him close the gap on point leader Bobby Lagana Jr. as the two head to Virginia next month to settle the Top Fuel championship. Lagana didn't reach a final, but he did have a consistent weekend behind the wheel of the Five Guys Burgers and Fries Top Fuel machine.

Lagana concluded the Top Fuel final with yet another consistent pass, running a 4.784, 317.05 in a win over King.

Litton and Lagana opened the second day of competition with the best side-by-side Top Fuel pass of the year as the two rivals produced a pair of incredible runs in the first round. Litton ran a 4.757, 317.64 in the winning effort, overcoming Lagana's 4.809, 315.49 to advance to his second final in a row. Massey filled the other final round spot with an opening round win over teammate King.

Perhaps the only other driver happier than Massey to take home an Ironman trophy Sunday evening was funny car pilot Krafft.

After struggling through the first half of the season, Krafft and the "Chicago Fire" team hit a stride this weekend with championship victories over Peter Gallen and Steven Nichols - who have a combined 14 wins this season - to claim his first two career wins.

"It hasn't even sunk in yet. Mike (Faser) and all the guys back home in Chicago worked so hard to keep this thing together and to be here now, we just can't believe it," Krafft said. "That is the thing about the IHRA program is that we have a lot of fun out here and the fans get their moneys worth and then some. It is a great program and we are proud to be a part of it."

Krafft improved on his career best times with each successive pass and capped his weekend with a win over Gallen that wasn't decided until the final few feet. Krafft ran a 5.908, 236.88 in the win while Gallen ran a 5.947, 249.30 in the final.

"I knew Pete was going to give it his all and we knew we had to give even more to beat him. We had a little edge on him E.T. wise in the first round to take us to the finals, but I knew I had to leave on him and I knew it had to be the best run we could muster," Krafft said. "Halfway down the track I backed off because the car went into tire shake, but I gave it a quick snap and kept going. I kept waiting for him to pass us because I could hear him over there, but I never saw him.

"Suddenly we were approaching the finish line and I was like 'no way' because we never saw him. It was just a miracle the way that one turned out, but we will take it."

In Sunday's consolation rounds Steve Nichols continued to struggle with the crisp New Hampshire air as Aaron "Army" Armstrong powered past him with a career best run, while John Dunn claimed a win over Paul Noakes and Greg Jacobsmeyer won on a bye.

Krafft surprised the field once again in the opening round with another career best pass and low E.T. of the first round to advance to his second final in a row. Krafft ran a 5.848, 233.08 in a win over Dunn, while Gallen returned to the championship round for the ninth time this season.

While surprise winners were abundant in Top Fuel and Prostalgia NFC, in Pro Fuel it was business as usual for Bill Evans as he built on his record-setting weekend with a win and closes the gap on point leader Mike Manners to just a single weekend's worth of points win one race remaining.

After resetting the Pro Fuel world record on Saturday, Evans entered Sunday seeking an Ironman and did just that with a win over Saturday winner Jeff Hamelink to pick up his sixth career victory.

Evans ran a 5.497, 218.02 in the final to cap a tremendous weekend for the "Black Pearl" crew. Hamelink ran a 5.514, 252.76 in the runner-up spot.

"We had a great weekend, but I will admit that we couldn't have done it without the help of that 'Shredder' crew. We really hurt the car on our first run and they came over and pitched in and helped put this thing back together," Evans said. "That says a lot about the caliber of people we have out here competing. We only have three people helping us out and putting this back together in a little over an hour wasn't going to happen.

"They simply came over and asked what they could help with. Here we are battling each other in the points and they help get us a win. That was pretty cool."

With only one race remaining the battle couldn't be tighter between Evans, Hamelink and Mike Manners in the Pro Fuel standings entering next month's Nitro Jam World Finals in Virginia. And with records breaking each weekend, it could all come down to a single pass in October.

"We have the record for now, but who knows how long that will hold up. We were talking with Mike yesterday before the run and he says they have a better shot at setting the record in Virginia. That is scary when you think about it," Evans said. "Who knows? It might come down to another record or sweeping both races. All I know is it is about to get interesting."

After a red light on Saturday prevented him from the finals, Evans reversed his fortunes on Sunday with an opening round shot of 5.341, 253.80 to place himself in his sixth final of the year. Hamelink filled the other spot with another upset of Manners and his best pass of the weekend at 5.438, 268.38.

In addition to the nitro classes, several local professional classes were also on hand during the thrilling two-day weekend as Kristin Stanley claimed a win over Paul Austin to claim the Pro Stock Sleds title and Jim Blake defeated James Gifford in the East Coast Pro Comp class.

Only one Nitro Jam event remains on the 2010 schedule as the cars and stars of America's fastest growing motorsports show pack up and travel to Virginia Motorsports Park October 15-16 for the Nitro Jam World Finals in Richmond.

-source: ihra

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