It's a Hit: New Nitro Jam format draws largest Friday crowd in IHRA history; Lagana, Jacobsmeyer and Evans claim first Nitro Jam victories WEST PALM BEACH,Fla. (January 29, 2010) -- Welcome to the new age in professional drag racing. Despite...
It's a Hit: New Nitro Jam format draws largest Friday crowd in IHRA history; Lagana, Jacobsmeyer and Evans claim first Nitro Jam victories
WEST PALM BEACH,Fla. (January 29, 2010) -- Welcome to the new age in professional drag racing.
Despite the doubts of some, the voices of many echoed loud and clear Friday night as the debut of the new IHRA Nitro Jam series packed the house at Palm Beach International Raceway resulting in the largest opening night turnout in IHRA history.
"I think we made one heck of a statement here tonight. What we proved tonight is that if you believe in what you are doing and put the fans and drivers first you will succeed in a big way," said IHRA President Aaron Polburn. "We knew what we are doing was going to work, we just didn't know how quickly it would take off.
b^0x001cI think we can officially say mission accomplished."
While Saturday events have typically been the biggest draw at IHRA events, Nitro Jam's new format gave way to a new look that drew thousands to the West Palm Beach track.
Spectators lined the Beeline Highway Friday night for a chance to see the debut of the new Nitro Jam series and nearly two dozen nitro-burning vehicles race two rounds and plenty of extras including jet vehicles, the Cool Bus wheelstanding school bus, Top Dragster and Top Sportsman action and plenty of pyrotechnics.
When the smoke finally settled on the biggest night in IHRA drag racing history three drivers stood at the summit as the first three winners under the new format were crowned in Top Fuel, Pro Fuel and Prostalgia Nitro Funny Car.
Those winners were Bobby Lagana Jr. (Top Fuel), Bill Evans (Pro Fuel) and Greg Jacobsmeyer (Prostalgia NFC).
"We are absolutely thrilled to have a packed house on the first night of Nitro Jam at Palm Beach International Raceway," said Jason Rittenberry, president and CEO of Palm Beach International Raceway. "Not only did we have a great turn out, but the fans were treated to a tremendous show put on by the IHRA racers. I'm really excited to see what Saturday brings."
Along with the new classes fans also saw only the second ever side-by-side jet truck drag race and the debut of Fan Fest.
With sportsman racers running throughout the day, racing was stopped in the early evening hours for a two-hour fan spectacular that included autograph sessions, family activities and the most exciting few minutes in motorsports -- Thunder in the Pits.
As Fan Fest came to a close spectators were invited to stand in the pits and experience the sights, sounds and smells as every nitro-burning vehicle on the property warmed up at the same time.
"From Fan Fest to the on-track action we are very pleased with our first outing and things are looking even better for Saturday," said Polburn. "I do realize that this is just one night at one event and you can't forecast the future based on just one event, but what a start this has been."
On the track fans were treated to some immediate excitement with a pair of first-round upsets in Top Fuel that set up an unlikely matchup in the finals.
In the final Bobby Lagana Jr. defeated Bruce Litton after the pair defeated the last two IHRA Top Fuel champions. Lagana ran a 4.700, 305.63 as Litton had some trouble just after hitting the throttle.
"What a win. We came out here with the goal of coming away with a win and we accomplished that goal," said Lagana. "It has been a while for us, but we will take it however we can get it."
Even more interesting, Litton's victory comes on the same night he debuted a new writable body used in Fan Fest. Hundreds of fans signed Lagana's car moments before he made back-to-back 300 mile-per-hour passes on his way to picking up the win.
"It was great to be a part of Fan Fest and to have all those people sign the car and then to go out and win it is just great," said Lagana. "I don't know that we will take this wrap off for a while after tonight."
With the last two IHRA world champions back together for the first time in two years many thought that the tandem of Spencer Massey and Del Cox would make up the final Friday night at PBIR, but two others had something to say about that.
Bruce Litton, who finished runner-up in the championship standings the past two seasons behind Massey and Cox, finally got the better of the two Friday as he defeated Cox with a blistering 4.615 pass at 321.73 miles per hour under the pristine Florida conditions.
Litton's opponent in the final, fan favorite Bobby Lagana, pulled off the other upset with a victory over 2009 NHRA Rookie of the Year Massey. Lagana ran a 4.744 at 302.75 while Massey lit the tires.
In the consolation round Cox defeated teammate Massey.
In the highly anticipated Prostalgia Nitro Funny Car debut Greg Jacobsmeyer claimed the first ever win in the class over Jeff Diehl with a 6.209 elapsed time at 227.57 mph. Diehl took the place of Mike McIntire who broke prior to the final.
"What a way to start the year. With a new format and us being new out here it is great to walk away from here with the first ever win," said Jacobsmeyer.
Diehl reached the final with a victory over Army Armstrong while Jacobsmeyer eliminated Steve Nichols. McIntire originally held the spot in the final with the low E.T. of the round in a victory over John Dunn, but he could not make the call.
Other first round winners in Prostalgia NFC included Jeff Diehl and Rick Kraft. In the consolation rounds Dunn defeated Armstrong and Peter Gallen, running one of the fastest Nostalgia passes ever, defeated Nichols with a 5.82, 247.
In Pro Fuel Bill Evans kept his win streak at Palm Beach International alive with a victory over Jeff Hammelink. Evans, who has won several exhibition races at the track, ran a 5.469, 267.43 to Hammelink's 5.538, 238.64 to claim the first ever victory in the new IHRA class.
"We are thrilled to be out here and to pick up the win is just great. Now we have a chance to do it all again tomorrow," Evans said.
Evans defeated Mike Manners in the opening round while Hammelink got by Robin Samsel. In the consolation round Samsel defeated Manners.
All three professional classes and all of the exhibitions will be back in action on Saturday at Palm Beach International Raceway.