Salt Lake City: Series Saturday report

Largest crowd ever at RMR witnesses history during Salt Lake Nitro Jam finale Lagana, Sanders, Ahten among pro winners Saturday night WEST VALLEY CITY, Utah (June 19, 2010) - When the Nitro Jam series traveled to Rocky Mountain Raceways for the...

Largest crowd ever at RMR witnesses history during Salt Lake Nitro Jam finale
Lagana, Sanders, Ahten among pro winners Saturday night

WEST VALLEY CITY, Utah (June 19, 2010) - When the Nitro Jam series traveled to Rocky Mountain Raceways for the first time in the spring of 2009 to test a brand new format little did the IHRA, or RMR, know it would turn into one of the largest motorsports events in Utah history.

Fans poured into the beautiful Rocky Mountain Raceways facility Saturday night during the annual "Night of Fire," some walking more than a mile to reach the track as cars lined both sides of the highway for miles and multiple lots surrounding the track reached capacity by mid-afternoon.

"This is one of the most exciting nights of racing I have ever been a part of here at RMR. I have never seen so many wonderful fans having so much fun enjoying the sport of drag racing," said Ron Craft, Rocky Mountain Raceways Drag Strip Manager. "The fans were on their feet all night long cheering on these incredible competitors. I couldn't be happier to be a part of the Salt Lake Nitro Jam here in Utah."

The incredible turnout resulted in the largest crowd ever at Rocky Mountain Raceways as thousands of Utah fans witnessed Nitro Jam history as the series, traveling the farthest west it has ever been, broke track records and put on an incredible show on an absolutely perfect night for racing.

Highlighting the incredible show were the three professional winners crowned under the lights at Rocky Mountain Raceways Saturday night. Bobby Lagana Jr. (Top Fuel), Mark Sanders (Prostalgia Nitro Funny Car) and Johnny Ahten (Pro Fuel) were all winners during Saturday's "Night of Fire," producing a few record runs in addition to taking home Nitro Jam's highest honor - an Ironman trophy.

In addition to the pro winners Justin Linares (Top Sportsman) and Gary Groves (Top Dragster) walked away winners during the Harland Sharp Elite 8 Shootout and sportsman winners from Saturday's Salt Lake Nitro Jam finale included Mark Tyacke in Top Sportsman, Brandon Lynch in Top Dragster, Tom Albritton in Super Stock, Brian Sanderson in Stock, Rick Hall in Quick Rod and Terry Keddington in Super Rod.

But, as always, it was the nitro machines that stole the show.

And the most exciting pro matchup of the evening came during the Top Fuel final as Bobby Lagana Jr. (Scarsdale, N.Y.) snapped Bruce Litton's streak of four consecutive wins in the best side-by-side race of 2010.

Lagana and Litton were never separated by more than a few inches the length of the track as Lagana crossed the finish line first with a 5.24 second pass, barely edging Litton's 5.25 elapsed time.

"It was an awesome, crazy weekend for us. We had some smoking runs and we had some decent runs, but for the greater good of trying to get a win right now we are just throwing everything at it and seeing what happens," Lagana said. "Like Del (Cox) said, the word for the weekend is WHOOO!"

For Lagana Saturday was his third win of the season and his first since winning it all at Palm Beach International Raceway back in January. Overall Saturday was the seventh career victory for the "People's Champion" who is known for allowing fans to sign his dragster moments before a run.

And immediately following his win Saturday Lagana invited all the fans watching in the winners circle to join him in the team photo, a unique opportunity for the fans that cheered on the New York native.

"We love all our fans and we had a lot of them out here tonight cheering us on. We really feel blessed," Lagana said. "Thank goodness for my dad, my brother, Wes, Bob, my girlfriend, Matt and everyone who helped us out. And especially to big Jim - happy Fathers Day."

Lagana's win over Litton also narrowed the points lead as he regained a few points over the current leader. Litton, Friday's winner, was in his fifth consecutive final as the two drivers battled the track and the high altitude.

"Believe it not we didn't fight the air that much. We have a couple of new secrets on our blower and it actually taught us a whole lot," Lagana said. "Now we will see how many we can string together."

In the consolation matchup Massey defeated friend and teammate Del Cox Jr.

Despite the loss Litton continued his dominance of the Top Fuel class, placing himself in his fifth final in row with an easy win over a smoking Massey. Litton ran a 5.289/248.93 in the opening round. Lagana clinched the other final round spot with the low E.T. of the round at 5.526 in a victory over defending Top Fuel champion Cox.

In Prostalgia Nitro Funny Car the eccentric Sanders (Maple Valley, Wash.) made it two straight with a huge victory over hometown favorite Jack Harris in the PNFC final during the "Night of Fire" finals.

Sanders, jumping and screaming in celebration of his win, took home his second Ironman of the weekend with a solid 6.12 elapsed time at 236.34 miles-per-hour in the victory. Harris, in his first career Nitro Jam final, ran a 6.25/232.23 in the runner-up spot.

"Two in a row, it doesn't get any better than that. You guys reading this can't see these trophies, but I can sure feel them," Sanders said. "It was a stellar weekend. We never hurt a piston, we used the same plugs all weekend, same bearings, it was like a nitro bracket car out there. It was unbelievable."

In addition to taking home two wins in one weekend, Sanders also reset the track speed record in the nostalgia category Friday night. The track E.T. record was also erased over the weekend when Steve Nichols toppled the old numbers also on Friday.

"We had a great weekend and saw a good sellout crowd here tonight. It was a nice show and everything went well. The car ran well, right to another winners circle," Sanders said.

In the consolation rounds Tim Boychuk, Friday's runner-up, drove past Dale Pulde and Nichols defeated Roger Garten in one of the toughest fields of nostalgia cars assembled this season. Boychuk had a solid weekend tuning up for his return trip to Edmonton, Alberta next weekend. Nichols was the other big gainer this weekend, overtaking the points lead heading into Nitro Jam's Canadian swing.

The final was set up when Utah's own Harris ran a solid 6.164/230.72 in the first round in a win over Pulde to advance to his first career final, while Sanders advanced to his second consecutive final with the low E.T. of the round at 6.104/236.75 in a win over Friday runner-up Boychuk. Garten won the other first round matchup over Nichols, just missing the cut.

In the Pro Fuel final round Ahten avenged a mistake on opening night to take home his first career Nitro Jam victory, towing all the way from Santa Clara, California to take part in the huge weekend of racing.

Athten erased every track record in the books in claiming the win in the brand new Pro Fuel class, laying down a blistering 5.56 elapsed time at 248.75 miles-per-hour in the all-new, all-nitro class. He had an equally impressive lap on Friday night in finishing in the runner-up spot to put together an impressive showing in his debut.

"It kicked butt. That thing was trucking," Ahten said. "We felt we came in with a little bit of an advantage. We tested last weekend in Nevada because we knew it would be a similar elevation and we wanted to come here prepared. Obviously that worked out for us."

Ahten drove around fellow newcomer Larry Miersch in Saturday's Pro Fuel final. Miersch ran a 5.91/219.15 in the runner-up spot.

Ahten proved he was the class of the field all weekend long, making it to the final on Friday night as well before falling victim to a red light and giving the win to Brandon Johnson.

On Saturday, however, Ahten finally got his win.

"Getting the trophy really made up for last night," Ahten said. "We dig this new format. We love racing and out here we are just racing with nitro cars. The fans are awesome here as well. We just need more IHRA races out west.

"We have wanted to do this for a while and we are really glad we came out."

In the consolation rounds Johnson turned on the win light with a solo pass to give him a near perfect weekend and Michael Manners drove around Jeff Hamelink in the other matchup.

Ahten, who had the quickest and fastest pass on Friday night, returned to form in a hurry on Saturday with a very quick 5.823/236.51 in the first round in a win over points leader Manners, while Miersch filled the other final round spot with a 6.092 in a win over Hamelink.

In the Harland Sharp Elite 8 finals Gary Groves (Provo, Utah) proved the class of the field in Top Dragster with a final round win over Steve Cook and Justin Linares (Grantsville, Utah) won the Top Sportsman portion of the show over Todd Young.

Next up for the stars of Nitro Jam is a trip to Castrol Raceway in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada this coming Friday, Saturday and Sunday for the River Cree Resort and Casino Rocky Mountain Nitro Jam Nationals presented by MOPAR and E3 Spark Plugs.

-source: ihra

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Series Drag
Drivers Bruce Litton , Bobby Lagana Jr. , Steve Cook , Larry Miersch , Dale Pulde , Michael Mann