Martin Magic: Success at U.S. 131 paves way for future champions MARTIN, Mich. (August 6, 2010) -- When it comes to IHRA championships and Michigan's beautiful U.S. 131 Motorsports Park, there is just something magical about the place. With...
Martin Magic: Success at U.S. 131 paves way for future champions
MARTIN, Mich. (August 6, 2010) -- When it comes to IHRA championships and Michigan's beautiful U.S. 131 Motorsports Park, there is just something magical about the place.
With the exception of a single season in 2006 when T.J. Zizzo won the event and Clay Millican the championship, every single Top Fuel driver that has won the Nitro Jam at U.S. 131 Motorsports Park has gone on to win the championship that same year. From Millican's incredible title run during the early part of the decade to the rookie winners over the past two seasons, there has been a unique correlation between championship success and a good outing at the Michigan track.
And with that omen hanging over the facility you can be certain that the Top Fuel title fight will reach a fevered pitch when the Nitro Jam series returns to Martin for the annual Northern Nitro Jam August 13-14 at the recently repaved U.S. 131 Motorsports Park.
"U.S. 131 is, to me, one of the crown jewels of the IHRA. It is one of the nicest tracks we go to with awesome crowds and great racing," said '07 winner Bruce Litton. "And of course it is a pivotal race for points because of where if falls on the schedule. Over the years the championship history has shown that people who have done well there have done well in points and, while that all may be a coincidence, it sure wouldn't hurt to add another win or two that weekend."
Litton is one of four Top Fuel drivers vying for the crown at this year's Northern Nitro Jam, joining '09 winner and defending world champion Del Cox Jr., Cox's team owner Mitch King and the surprise of the season Bobby Lagana Jr.
Of the group only Cox and Litton have won at the Michigan facility, but Lagana has been to the finals twice, most recently in 2009. Lagana, also the only driver of the trio to have never won a championship, hopes that this year, his most successful to date, will finally be his year to add a victory at U.S. 131 to his resume and hopefully a championship as he trails points leader Litton by only three points entering the event.
"We have been close before, including finishing runner-up here last year, and we really hope we can turn the corner and finally get a win at this track," Lagana said. "We are right in the thick of the championship and we really need a good weekend in Michigan to get back the ground we lost in Canada. We are really looking forward to this event."
While the current contingent of Top Fuel drivers are no strangers to the Martin facility, for some this year's race will feel almost like a brand new event. This past year owner Jason Peterson extended the concrete on the track from the 660 foot mark to the 1,000 foot mark leaving drivers like Litton anxious to hit the track and see what they can do with the new surface.
"We ran our second fastest lap ever there and now that they have extended the concrete we are even more excited," said Litton, the track speed record holder at over 328 mph. "We are really looking forward to it. It is almost like going to a new track all over again. Plus this is our closest track so I really can't wait. It should be as good as any track we have raced on all year."
Another driver exited about this weekend's event is defending race winner Del Cox Jr. Cox used a victory at Martin last year to help spur his efforts to claim the '09 Top Fuel championship as he climbed back from a nearly triple-digit deficit to put himself within striking distance following the Martin event.
"Last year there were so many highs and lows, but this race really stood out to me. It is a really nice facility with a lot to see and do. It is also a very nice track and we put down some good numbers last year," Cox said. "The whole team is looking forward to this race and hopefully turning things around."
Cox hasn't had the kind of season he had hoped for following his championship year, but he hopes that this will be the turning point he and the team are looking for.
"It has been a few races since we last won so hopefully we can change that at Martin," Cox said. "We found a few problems on the car that were bugging us earlier and hopefully that will fix some of what has been plaguing us."
Cox also hopes to repeat the luck experienced at Martin the past two seasons. At the 2009 version of the Northern Nitro Jam Cox's team parked in the same spot that friend and teammate Spencer Massey parked the year before when he won the race and eventually the championship. While Cox doesn't put too much thought into the coincidence, he does believe that any luck can only help.
"Hopefully we can get there early this year and get the same spot again. I am not too superstitious, but we haven't had that good of a year so anything that can turn our luck around we will take," Cox said.
Massey, who will miss the upcoming race at Martin due to prior commitments, knows that if his teammate is going to get things turned around, this is the race to get it done.
"The last two years we have won with that same car. Obviously in '08 I started to wrap up the championship and the same thing with Del last year, it just seems like there is something with this place," Massey said. "Martin seems to always be a turning point for us and hopefully that will continue."
While Cox and team owner Mitch King, filling in for Massey this coming weekend, will be looking for a turnaround to their year, Litton and Lagana will look to continue their dominance of the class. Through six events the duo have combined to win 10 of 12 races and are running away from the field.
For both Martin could prove a turning point as Litton battles for his second career championship and Lagana his first.
"We are coming down to the wire and we are in the hunt," Lagana said. "If there was ever a time to really make a move, this is it. Martin is a big race and we want to continue that streak of Martin championship winners."