Martin: Series Saturday report

New Nitro Jam a hit at Michigan's fastest track Lagana sweeps for third time this season; 'Madman' Manners, Gallen cap wild weekend MARTIN,Mich. (August 14, 2010) -- Unpredictable racing, 300 mile-per-hour dragsters and jets, daredevil ...

New Nitro Jam a hit at Michigan's fastest track
Lagana sweeps for third time this season; 'Madman' Manners, Gallen cap wild weekend

MARTIN,Mich. (August 14, 2010) -- Unpredictable racing, 300 mile-per-hour dragsters and jets, daredevil wheelstanders, the world's best drivers and the single biggest payout of the year.

Just another weekend on the Nitro Jam tour.

Fans at Michigan's U.S. 131 Motorsports Park were brought into the new world of Nitro Jam over the weekend and the debut certainly did not disappoint as drivers pushed their machines to the limits and produced arguably the single most exciting weekend of racing yet this year.

From the breakout weekend by the new Pro Fuel class to the weekend sweep by Top Fuel veteran Bobby Lagana Jr. and everything in between, the Northern Nitro Jam at U.S. 131 Motorsports Park certainly lived up to its reputation as one of the biggest and brightest stars in the Nitro Jam sky as more than 15 different drivers took home IHRA hardware from Saturday's grand finale.

"What a great crowd and what a great weekend for everyone. Jason and Stephanie do such a good job with the help of IHRA and Jim and his crew do an awesome job with the track. It was just a great effort on behalf of everyone this weekend," said Saturday Top Fuel winner Bobby Lagana Jr. "We always look forward to our time spent in Michigan."

After a slow start the Pro Fuel class finally came into its own over the weekend as Michael Manners became the latest winner in the class that is slowly becoming a fan favorite, while Bobby Lagana Jr. swept the weekend in Top Fuel and Peter Gallen rallied for a huge win in Prostalgia Nitro Funny car all during Saturday's "Night of Fire" at U.S. 131 Motorsports Park.

In addition to a great weekend of pro racing the Northern Nitro Jam also hosted the single largest payout of the year with the Moser Engineering Axle-Mania Sportsman Showdown. With 32 cars vying for their share of the $51,000 purse up for grabs, only one could come away a winner and on Saturday night that person was Bo Upton.

Having already won the largest IHRA tournament of the year and a championship back in the spring, Upton added the richest tournament to his already impressive resume over the weekend in a year that has seen the South Carolina native win just about every big race drag racing has to offer.

"This means the world to me. To have the opportunity to come out and get to run for $22,500 in a five round race is incredible. These guys at Moser are a quality act," Upton said. "We towed 14 hours to get here and to have it pay off like this is a dream come true. What an amazing weekend and what an amazing season. We truly feel blessed to get to do what we do and be a part of such an amazing program."

In other sportsman action Sheldon Bissessar returned to his dominating ways in the Harland Sharp Elite 8, winning the Top Dragster category for the fourth time this season, while Curt Fredrich won in Top Sportman over Matt Sam.

Not to be outdone sportsman national event winners from Saturday's Northern Nitro Jam included Gilmer Hinshaw (Burlington, N.C.) in Top Sportsman, Rob Moser (Portland, Ind.) in Top Dragster, Joe Bauman (Chesaning, Mich.) in Super Rod, Dave Elrod (Harrod, Ohio) in Quick Rod, Kenny Underwood (Tampa, Fla.) in Hot Rod, Brian Clayton (Port Perry, Ontario) in Super Stock and Nick Folk (Durand, Ill.) in Stock.

Each of the seven drivers also punched their ticket to the end of year Tournament of Champions to be held at Virginia Motorsports Park in October.

While the entire weekend was certainly filled with good old-fashioned drag racing action, nowhere was the desperation to win more evident then in Top Fuel.

With a remarkable seven of the last eight Top Fuel World Champions having won at the Michigan facility the same year as their title, the annual summer tradition has become a must-win for drivers seeking a championship. And on Saturday night Lagana hopes that he added his name to that list as well.

Coming into the weekend just three points behind Bruce Litton in the Top Fuel title chase Lagana swept both nights of the Northern Nitro Jam for his sixth and seventh wins of the season and put himself in a prime position to potentially capture his first career title with only three races remaining.

"We made a huge leap in the right direction this weekend and look forward to building on this momentum in two weeks," Lagana said. "This is what we needed to get steered back in the right direction."

After a Friday night win over Mitch King, Lagana kept his streak alive with a dominating victory over Del Cox in the opening round before taking down Litton in the championship bout. Despite expiring an engine on the run, Lagana still ran a 4.652 elapsed time at 317.19 miles-per-hour to drive around Litton and his 4.826-second pass.

"The puke tank came off the valve cover so it burned up a piston and put oil on the track instead of the tank," Lagana said. "It wasn't pretty, but I guess we still got the win."

With seven wins in an astonishing 10 final rounds, Lagana leaves Martin with all the momentum entering one of his favorite tracks in Budds Creek, Md. later this month.

In Saturday's consolation matchup Mitch King, Friday's runner-up, defeated Cox.

After being shut out of the finals on Friday Litton returned with a vengeance on Saturday with low E.T. of the opening round at 4.770/309.27 in a first round victory over Cox. Lagana was second with a 5.106, his second final of the weekend. Both Cox and King ran into big problems on their runs and were forced to shut it off early.

After a wild and wacky opening night for the Pro Fuel class things calmed down a bit on Saturday, but the racing remained some of the best seen all year.

Newcomer Dave Hirata made his second final of the weekend on Saturday, but he could not overcome a near record pass by Manner as the Texan put down a 5.360/267.48 lap to Hirata's 5.607/251.95 in Saturday's Pro Fuel final.

"We had a really good day today. We had the car worked on in the six weeks we took off and when you have an old chassis and you go to a brand new chassis it changes the tuneup," Manners said. "Yesterday we were fighting all sorts of gremlins, but today we were able to adjust to those things and get down the track. We will only get better from here."

Manners won for the third time this season and his first time since sweeping the Spring Nitro Jam back in May. The win also gives him a momentum boost as he attempts to chase down series leader Jeff Hamelink.

In the consolation rounds Bill Evans and Jared Dreher came away victourious.

Hirata punched his second ticket to the finals in two nights with a first round win over Jeff Hamelink, running a 5.647/248.84 during the round.. Despite that effort low E.T. of the first round actually went to fan-favorite Manners in "The Shredder" machine as he absolutely attacked the track with a 5.340/267.32.

Gallen wrapped up the pro sessions with a big win Saturday night over Mike McIntire in Prostalgia Nitro Funny Car.

While most of the year has been centered on the Gallen-Nichols rivalry, the matchup didn't get to play out in the finals Saturday because the two were instead paired up in the opening round. In that round Gallen got the best of his opponent, opening the door to get back some ground after a disastrous Friday night.

Gallen severely hurt his motor Friday night in a winning run and was unable to make the call, knocking him out of the championship and giving Nichols a chance to extend his championship lead.

"There was nothing enjoyable about last night, but I guess we made up for a little bit of it tonight," Gallen said. "We certainly had hoped for another big weekend and it didn't go exactly as planned, but we still came away with a win and we will take it. Now we just have to keep pounding away and catch that yellow car before its too late."

In the final Gallen ran a 6.011/234.61, although he didn't need much as McIntire went red.

In the consolation matchups Nichols beat Greg Jacobsmeyer, John Dunn beat Aaron Armstrong and John Lawson won on a bye.

After thrashing away on his motor throughout the morning and afternoon Gallen returned in a big way Saturday night in punching his second straight ticket to the finals.

Gallen ran a blistering 5.977/236.05 in an opening round win over the points leader while McIntire filled the other final spot with a 6.163/230.53 in a win over Jacobsmeyer. Saturday's opening round win placed McIntire in his first final in over five months.

Wrapping up the Saturday evening show was the Moser Engineering Axle-Mania Sportsman Showdown in which South Carolina native Bo Upton took home a cool $22,500 for just five rounds of work. The win is Upton's second big money IHRA victory of the season as he continues his run of wins at Nitro Jam's crown jewels of sportsman racing.

Upton defeated Myron Piatek in the eighth-mile final, running a 4.662 on a 4.64 dial. Piatek was just off his mark with a 7.296 on a 7.30 dial.

Upton defeated Piatek, David Elrod, Gilmer Hinshaw, Allen Constantine and Stuart Smith on his way to picking up the richest payout in Nitro Jam competition. Upton did it all from the Quick Rod category.

Next up for the Nitro Jam series is a trip to Maryland for the Maryland Nitro Jam at the beautiful Maryland International Raceway in Budds Creek August 28-29. Don't miss another exciting addition to the Nitro Jam schedule as the season winds down.

-source: ihra

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Series Drag
Drivers Bruce Litton , Bobby Lagana Jr. , Mitch King , Port Perry , Michael Mann