Martin: Series Friday report

Hirata makes memorable debut with win at Northern Nitro Jam Lagana, Nichols add to win totals MARTIN,Mich. (August 13, 2010) -- Talk about making a good first impression. Having never made a pass in Nitro Jam competition before Friday...

Hirata makes memorable debut with win at Northern Nitro Jam
Lagana, Nichols add to win totals

MARTIN,Mich. (August 13, 2010) -- Talk about making a good first impression.

Having never made a pass in Nitro Jam competition before Friday night Dave Hirata entered this weekend's event hoping for a solid showing in the brand new Pro Fuel class and instead walked away with his first career victory on opening night at the Northern Nitro Jam at U.S. 131 Motorsports Park

Hirata swept both of his opponents Friday night in front of the rambunctious Martin crowd, joining fellow professional winners Bobby Lagana Jr. (Top Fuel) and Steve Nichols (Prostalgia Nitro Funny Car) in taking home Nitro Jam's top prize -- an Ironman trophy -- while gaining the immediate respect of his fellow competitors in the new Pro Fuel category.

Hirata also claimed a win in his first try at the brand new format which was also making its debut at the Michigan track Friday night.

"It is cool. We got invited here tonight and we know the track and the personnel is awesome so we thought why not, lets go give it a try," Hirata said. "It is a whole different style of racing, but we still race hard. We race as hard as if it were traditional racing so it is still all of the fun, but without a lot of the hassles."

Hirata defeated fellow first-timer Tony Myers in the final, making for an all freshman finale in a class that has seen its share of different winners this season. With the win Hirata becomes the 13th different winner this season in 25 finals.

"This is very cool. It is a whole different thing over here with IHRA, but a win is still a win," Hirata said. "We had fun and look forward to doing this all over again tomorrow."

In the final Hirata ran a solid 5.623 elapsed time at 251.11 miles-per-hour to edge Myers' 6.009 E.T. Now, with a win already in his pocket, Hirata will return Saturday with a rare opportunity only present in Nitro Jam to win twice in the same weekend.

"If we do it again tomorrow that is just cool. It is great to have an opportunity win twice in one weekend and doing something not many people can say they have done. I am looking forward to it," Hirata added.

While Hirata will be credited with the win, Myers will go down with the distinction of literally leaving it all on the track. Myers gave all he had in trying to chase down his opponent, but came up short -- and a little long at the same time. Unable to slow down Myers ran off the end of the track deep into the sandpit. He was alright, but Myers will have plenty of work to do if he hopes to come back and try for his first career win Saturday night.

In the consolation rounds Bill Evans finished up a tumultuous night for the Pro Fuel class with a win after nearly flipping his dragster in the opening round, joining consolation winners Jared Dreher and Michael Manners.

Hirata reached the final with a first round win over point leader Jeff Hamelink, while Myers defeated Dave Hill. Hirata, in his first career Nitro Jam event, had low elapsed time of the round at 5.638/251.95, while Myers was just behind with a 7.696.

The first round produced plenty of excitement as two newbies reached the final in their first Nitro Jam events, Bill Evans came inches from putting his Pro Fuel machine on its top and Jared Dreher, also in his first career Nitro Jam event, erased a potential championship qualifying pass when he left before the tree.

But the most excitement of the night was produced by Evans.

Evans' near disaster came in the opening round against Michael Manners as Evans' car tipped onto two wheels when he overcorrected during the run, taking out the 60 foot cone in the process. Once Evans got the car back on four wheels he hit the throttle and came back across the track, coming inches from the wall. When Evans finally crossed the line he had somehow avoided any significant damage and still managed to return to make the second round.

In Top Fuel Bobby Lagana got back on track with his first career victory at U.S. 131 Motorsports Park and sixth total this season Friday night, taking over the Top Fuel points lead in the process.

"We were really anxious about this particular race. There is a lot of history at this track and it is known for being kind to champions so for us to come out here and not only get the win, but take over the points lead, is just incredible," Lagana said. "We had a lot of fans that signed this dragster and were with us this evening as a part of this crew. This win is for them.

"Now we gotta get this car ready for another go-round tomorrow and hopefully we can do this all over again."

Lagana defeated multi-car team owner Mitch King in the final, preventing King from claiming his first career Top Fuel victory with a blistering 4.732 elapsed time at 313.95 miles-per-hour. King still ran a respectable 5.067/278.75.

In the consolation matchup Bruce Litton, who was upset by King in the first round, finally found the track and nearly produced low E.T. of the night on a 4.764/313.22 in a win over defending race winner Del Cox Jr.

Friday was an important night in the battle for the Top Fuel championship as Lagana once again pulls ahead of his friend and opponent in the championship standings and in win totals, posting his sixth of the season.

Lagana reached his ninth final of the year with a first round victory over Cox while King drove around a smoking Litton to place himself in his second career final. Lagana had low E.T. of the first round with a 4.859/284.99 just ahead of King's 5.105/286.44.

With Lagana's opening round win and King's victory over Litton Lagana was able to overtake the '07 champion for the Top Fuel point lead following Friday's event. But with another race to go on Saturday anything can happen.

In Prostalgia Nitro Funny Car Steve Nichols joined Lagana in making a bold statement in the hunt for a championship with this second win in the last three races. With rival Peter Gallen beginning to close the championship gap Nichols produced low E.T. of the opening round and went on to win Friday's event over John Lawson to further his points lead.

To make matters worse for Gallen Lawson filled the final round spot after Gallen severely hurt his motor in the opening round and was unable to make the call. While the motor problems were certainly costly for Gallen financially, it was even more costly in his efforts to close the sizable gap Nichols has now opened up in the category.

Nichols ran a 6.015 elapsed time at 229.70 miles-per-hour in the final to Lawson's 6.547.

"We certainly don't like to take advantage of a situation like this, but we will take what we can at this point," Nichols said. "We came into this weekend hoping to have some fun and find some consistency and we certainly did that this evening. We had two great laps and were fortunate to win both rounds. Now we just have to keep this going and hopefully string together a few more of these things."

Nichols' victory was his third of the season, one behind Gallen's series leading four.

In the consolation rounds Mike McIntire defeated Rick Krafft and Greg Jacobsmeyer drove around Aaron "Army" Armstrong.

Nichols had low elapsed time of the opening round, running a 6.040/232.11 in a first round pairing with McIntire while Gallen was just behind with a 6.177, but a hurt motor prevented him from making the call.

Instead Lawson's 6.227 bumped him up to the final round.

Wrapping up Friday's big opening night at U.S. 131 Motorsports Park were the first two rounds of the Moser Engineering Axle-Mania Sportsman Showdown. With this weekend's winner taking home a share of the $51,000 up for grabs courtesy of Moser Engineering, the Axle-Mania competition is always a highlight of the event as the best 32 sportsman drivers in the world come together to decide one true champion regardless of class.

After two rounds the final eight competitors in the Moser Axle-Mania competition are Brian Folk in two separate classes, David Elrod, Myron Piatek, Brandon Peterson, Bo Upton, Chip Johnson and Gilmer Hinshaw.

Action will continue at the Northern Nitro Jam Saturday beginning at 9 a.m. with sportsman eliminations. Fan Fest will get underway at 5:30 p.m. and the second night of Nitro Jam, along with the finals of the Moser Axle-Mania, will get underway at 7 p.m.

-source: ihra

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Series Drag
Drivers Bruce Litton , Mitch King , Brandon Peterson