Grand Bend: Series Saturday report

Litton gets back on track with first career Grand Bend victory Nichols, McPhillips pick up 'Night of Fire' wins GRAND BEND,Ontario (July 17, 2010) -- It was a night of first's Saturday at the Grand Bend Motorplex as Bruce Litton picked up his ...

Litton gets back on track with first career Grand Bend victory
Nichols, McPhillips pick up 'Night of Fire' wins

GRAND BEND,Ontario (July 17, 2010) -- It was a night of first's Saturday at the Grand Bend Motorplex as Bruce Litton picked up his first career Top Fuel victory at the "The Bend" and a first time winner was crowned in Pro Fuel as well during the MOPAR Nitro Jam Nationals presented by E3 Spark Plugs Saturday in Grand Bend, Ontario.

Litton snapped Bobby Lagana's three-race win streak during Saturday's "Night of Fire," edging the New York native by mere inches at the line to pick up his fifth win of the season. Rich McPhillips also picked up his first career Nitro Jam win over Jeff Hamelink in Pro Fuel and Steve Nichols claimed his second win of the season over Peter Gallen in Prostalgia Nitro Funny Car.

And all three drivers had to endure a day of unique conditions of interesting weather to walk away winners.

A few passing thunderstorms during the early afternoon hours delayed the start of the Nitro Jam professional rounds by nearly an hour, but the drivers were able to adapt and turned the potentially threatening weather into a collection of great runs. The fans were also rewarded as they poured into the facility throughout the afternoon and stayed into the night to see the debut of Nitro Jam's new format in Ontario.

All three finals had great side-by-side passes, but it was Top Fuel that produced the most excitement with quarter-mile burns and a close finish to close out the nitro portion of the evening. Litton also added a bit of a scare during the run, coming inches from the outside retaining wall at the finish, but it mattered little as Litton came out on top and made up some ground in the championship chase.

"What a run for the Lucas Oil Top Fuel Dragster. It was a great pass and it was really nice to walk away from Grand Bend with a victory," Litton said. "I have won at a lot of tracks over my career, but this is one that has eluded me. Now I can check another off my list.

"I also can't say enough about these fans. We love coming up here to Canada and representing Lucas Oil and to see all these great fans stick it out was really neat to see."

Litton (Indianapolis, Ind.) ran a weekend best 4.748 elapsed time at 298.93 miles-per-hour in the final round, edging Lagana's 4.824, 254.47 pass. Litton also picked up his 21st career Ironman Saturday night and gained some momentum in the chase for the 2010 Top Fuel championship.

"We are certainly happy with the way the car ran tonight. We haven't been having the runs we are capable of as of late so it is nice to finally get back on track with a win tonight," Litton said.

In the consolation matchup Spencer Massey picked up a victory over team owner Mitch King who was filling in for defending Grand Bend winner and defending world champion Del Cox Jr. Cox missed his flight to Canada the day prior.

The championship showdown was set up when Litton and Lagana easily slipped past their first round opponents. Litton defeated Todd Paton in the opening round with a 4.953, while Lagana posted a solid 4.921 to lead the opening session. Massey won the other first round pairing over team owner King.

Litton and Lagana, who have combined to win 10 of the 11 races so far in 2010, will try to continue their amazing runs on Sunday.

In Pro Fuel McPhillips (Valley Forge, Pa.) broke through with his first Ironman, beating Hamelink in the final. In McPhillips' only other start this season he went to the final both nights in Rockingham, but finished runner-up in both outings.

Saturday night McPhillips was finally able to turn that luck around.

"Three finals in three races, not too bad. We are happy with this win and look forward to going for another one tomorrow," McPhillips said. "And to win it the way we did, beating Jeff in a great race, only adds to the excitement."

McPhillips ran a solid 5.587, 250.74 in the final to edge Hamelink's 5.819, 222.69. Hamelink, coming off his first career victory at Edmonton last month, did all he could to hold on to the lead, but McPhillips was able to chase him down and come away victorious for the first time this season.

In the consolation matchup Robin Samsel had the best pass of the night with a 5.441, 251.77 to get around a smoking Bill Evans.

Hamelink reached his second final in a row with a first round victory over Samsel, while McPhillips pulled off an opening round upset of Evans.

While the dragster classes had some very close racing, the closest matchup of the night came in Prostalgia Nitro Funny Car as Nichols claimed his second career Nitro Jam win by a mere 18 inches at the line.

Nichols picked up the holeshot win by nailing the tree and running a 5.998, 239.02 in the final. Gallen crossed the line with a weekend best 5.936, 247.29 in the runner-up effort.

"What a tremendous race. These Canadian race fans stuck it out through rain and delays and just about everything you could throw at them and still, at almost midnight, the stands were full of people cheering us on," Nichols said. "It was great to see and it just makes these races so much fun to be a part of. I want to thank IHRA, my crew, Peter and all the people that help make this car run the way it does."

With the win Nichols, the only Prostalgia driver to have completed every lap so far this season, picks up his second victory in his fourth career final. Gallen, a three time winner in 2010, finished runner-up for the first time this year.

In the consolation rounds John Dunn defeated John Lawson, Greg Jacobsmeyer defeated Aaron "Army" Armstrong and Mike McIntire got around Rick Krafft.

Gallen, after missing the last two Nitro Jam events on the west coast, returned in big way on Saturday with a blistering 5.946, 240.17 pass in the first round over Armstrong to earn his spot in the final round. Nichols filled the other first round spot with a 5.924, 240.17 in a victory over Krafft.

In other action Rob Atchison, of London, took both rounds of the Alcohol Funny Car Challenge from fellow Ontario native Larry Dobbs, running a weekend best 5.811, 243.28 in the opening round and another great lap in the second meeting.

The Pro Modified Association continued to impress with another solid evening of qualifying, but Mike Stawicki's blistering 5.881, 252.05 from Friday night remained the numbers to beat as Stawicki takes the top spot into Sunday's final eliminations.

Stawicki (Medina, N.Y.), who recently reset both ends of the PMRA quarter-mile record, continued to dominate the class with another lap over 250 mph. Trailing Stawicki, the only non-Canadian in the field, was Gary Irving who improved on his Friday numbers with a 6.169, 227.08 Saturday evening.

Sunday's action will get underway at 9 a.m. with sportsman eliminations followed by Nitro Jam at noon.

-source: irha

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Series Drag
Drivers Bruce Litton , Todd Paton , Mitch King , Mike Stawicki , Spencer Massey