Palm Beach International hosts sold out Nitro Jam; Lagana (Top Fuel) and Evans (Pro Fuel) repeat, Nichols (Prostalgia) picks up first win WEST PALM BEACH,Fla. (January 30, 2010) -- All eyes were on Palm Beach International Raceway Friday and ...
Palm Beach International hosts sold out Nitro Jam; Lagana (Top Fuel) and Evans (Pro Fuel) repeat, Nichols (Prostalgia) picks up first win
WEST PALM BEACH,Fla. (January 30, 2010) -- All eyes were on Palm Beach International Raceway Friday and Saturday night as the Nitro Jam series opened its season with the first major motorsports event of 2010.
With Friday in the books as the largest opening night crowd in decades, Saturday produced even bigger results with a sold out event resulting in the largest crowd in Palm Beach International Raceway history and one of the biggest debut weekends for the IHRA at Palm Beach Nitro Jam.
"We are obviously pleased with the results this weekend. We came in here with a plan to put on an incredible show for the fans and we feel we did just that," said IHRA President Aaron Polburn. "This being a first time event we expected to have a big weekend, but this event exceeded our expectations in every way."
Traffic backed up for miles on the Beeline Highway and shuttles were brought in to transport the thousands of fans that packed PBIR Saturday night to see the nitro thrill show.
"It was a thrill to see the stands packed with thousands of excited fans enjoying this wonderful sport," said Polburn. "With results like these we could have run into problems, but Jason Rittenberry and his staff did a tremendous job making sure there were no issues and that everything flowed smoothly.
"What a tremendous way to open the year for IHRA Nitro Jam and Palm Beach International Raceway."
On the track a pair of repeat winners were crowned in Top Fuel and Pro Fuel while a new driver graced victory lane in Prostalgia Nitro Funny Car.
Longtime IHRA veteran Bobby Lagana Jr. (Scarsdale, N.Y.) swept Top Fuel with his second victory of the weekend, joining newcomer Bill Evans (Hialeah, Fla.) who doubled the feat in Pro Fuel. Steve Nichols (Newark, Del.) joined the club of first time Nitro Jam winners with the win in Prostalgia Nitro Funny Car.
Other winners from Saturday's Nitro Jam included Elite 8 champions John Benoit (Montpelier, Vt.) in Top Sportsman and Sheldon Bissessar (Marabella, Trinidad) in Top Dragster.
Sportsman winners from Saturday's IHRA Tournament of Champions qualifier included Mark Brown (Lake Worth, Fla.) in Top Dragster, Keith Russell (Jupiter, Fla.) in Top Sportsman, Scott Richardson (Barbousville, Ky.) in Super Stock, Michael Beard (Seagrove, N.C.) in Stock, David Bledsoe (Pembroke Pines, Fla.) in Quick Rod, Steve Furr (Harrisburg, N.C.) in Super Rod and R.L. Koontz (Sarasota, Fla.) in Hot Rod.
Saturday's race was a hit with the fans who had a chance to see racing throughout the day followed by an incredible show put on by the new stars of the IHRA.
And topping that list is Lagana.
Lagana, aptly dubbed the People's Champion, faced one of the toughest Top Fuel fields in years this weekend with the past three champions on hand battling it out for Top Fuel gold. Going against a trio of past champions Lagana defied all odds with back-to-back wins giving Lagana one of his most memorable moments in his decade long Top Fuel career.
"The number one reason why we race is that we love that race car and we love what gravitates to that car including the fans," said Lagana. "While we love this sport with or without a crowd, to see the stands packed like that was unbelievable. I can't explain how nervous I was. I haven't felt like that in years."
Lagana defeated 2009 champion Del Cox in the final despite having some trouble on his run. Lagana, who fired off three straight 300 mph passes and consistent elapsed times over the weekend, crossed the line with a 6.339, 136.52. Cox also had problems on his run.
While Lagana was clearly disappointed that he couldn't close the weekend with another solid run, he did enjoy the opportunity to put on a show under the new format.
"IHRA took a big chance on doing this and I am glad that they did. Kenneth Feld is an awesome man and I really appreciate the respect he has shown to the IHRA, to the racers and the fans," said Lagana. "He wanted to see something that works for everyone and it worked. I have to thank Mr. Feld for this opportunity."
Lagana reached the final with a first round win over Spencer Massey. Lagana ran a 4.635, 312.78 to Massey's 5.170, 216.27. Cox reached the final with a bye over Bruce Litton who broke on the starting line.
In the consolation round Litton got things worked out and took down Massey who finished without a round win on the weekend.
"We could not ask for a better weekend. I hope the fans are satisfied with the show they saw. We want them back twice fold next year," said Lagana. "This is incredible. If we don't win another thing the rest of the year, to win these first two races is unbelievable."
In the Prostalgia Nitro Funny Car IHRA debut Nichols became the first repeat winner with a victory over Friday winner Greg Jacobsmeyer.
"It feels great. It is this team, they get all the credit," said Nichols. "We knew to be successful we needed a great team and we have that. Hopefully we can keep this going."
Nichols ran a 6.217, 226.70 in the final to defeat Jacobsmeyer who ran a 6.235, 228.73.
"I was absolutely blown away at the crowd both nights. We have never been to an event like this," said Nichols. "I was amazed at the first timers. I sat there and signed autographs for a lot of children and a lot of them it was there first time.
"I have to thank IHRA for taking a chance with this and giving us a shot."
Nichols reached the final with a first round win over Peter Gallen with the second lowest E.T. of the round at 6.425, 218.05. Jacobsmeyer produced the lowest time at 6.217, 229.82 in a win over Mike McIntire.
In the consolation rounds John Dunn defeated McIntire and Gallen defeated Army Armstrong. First round winners included Jacobsmeyer, Dunn, Armstrong and Nichols.
In Pro Fuel Evans continued his undefeated streak at Palm Beach International with a win over Michael Manners to win the first two Pro Fuel races in IHRA history.
"It is great. One thing about it we will always be the ones that won the very first Pro Fuel race -- and we won two of them," said Evans. "My guys are ecstatic. This is actually the first race I have had this crew so it is like taking four rookies and going and winning the Super Bowl."
Evans ran a solid 5.498, 263.26 to defeat Manners who struggled off the line.
In the consolation round Robin Samsel defeated Jeff Hamelink with a super 5.454, 257.04.
In the first ever Elite 8 showdown Benoit and Bissessar walked away winners.
Benoit won the Top Sportsman edition of the Quick 8 shootout with a victory over Matthew Buck, while Bissessar, the IHRA's fastest sportsman, won the Top Dragster shootout over Edward Careccia.
Benoit defeated Buck with a 6.512, 212.49. He reached the final with a victory over Gary Bingham and a bye run.
Top Dragster champion Bissessar defeated Careccia with a blistering 5.820, 233.56. He also claimed wins over Dean Brazell and Daniel Seidel.
With the first Nitro Jam of the season in the books the series moves to Baton Rouge for the Mardi Gras Nitro Jam March 6-7.