Rockingham: Series Sunday report

Litton, Manners and Gallen sweep at 'The Rock' Bissessar, Davis win Harland Sharp Elite 8 ROCKINGHAM,N.C. (May 2, 2010) -- It was a great day for three individuals on Sunday as the stars of Nitro Jam's three professional classes swept the...

Litton, Manners and Gallen sweep at 'The Rock'
Bissessar, Davis win Harland Sharp Elite 8

ROCKINGHAM,N.C. (May 2, 2010) -- It was a great day for three individuals on Sunday as the stars of Nitro Jam's three professional classes swept the weekend at Rockingham Dragway.

Despite vastly different track conditions from one day to the next Bruce Litton in Top Fuel, Peter Gallen in Prostalgia Nitro Funny car and Michael Manners in Pro Fuel were able to overcome the odds and put together a winning package as the trio swept the pro categories Saturday and Sunday at the Spring Nitro Jam at "The Rock."

In the 39th edition of the Spring Nitro Jam event hot, sticky weather greeted fans and plagued drivers on both days as the extreme heat added an extra dimension to figuring out the tricky track surface. On Saturday the cooler evening temperatures helped calm the storm, but Sunday's heat left teams scrambling.

Still, many of the teams were able to find a happy medium and get down the track with little trouble.

In addition to the three pros that mastered the high temperatures, Sunday produced another batch of winners during the professional rounds as Sheldon Bissessar (Top Dragster) and Ronnie Davis (Top Sportsman) claimed victories in the Harland Sharp Elite 8 Top Sportsman and Top Dragster Shootout.

For Bissessar (Marabella, Trinidad) it was this third consecutive victory in the quick eight program as he defeated Rob McKinley while Davis (Suwanee, Ga.) claimed his first Elite 8 win over Gilmer Hinshaw

Sportsman winners from Sunday's sportsman national event were John Hochstedler (Top Sportsman) from Niles, Mich., Russell Leach (Top Dragster) from Reading, Pa., Gil Carty Jr. (Super Stock) from Wytheville, Va., Michael Beard (Stock) from Seagrove, N.C., Matt Weston (Quick Rod) from Hendersonville, N.C., Cameron Manuel (Super Rod) from Winston Salem, N.C. and Kenny Underwood (Hot Rod) from Tampa, Fla.

All seven drivers punched their ticket to the 2010 Sportsman Tournament of Champions at the World Finals at Virginia Motorsports Park in the fall. Beard was the only driver of the weekend to double-up, winning the rescheduled '09 Tournament of Champions on Friday before winning the national event on Sunday.

During the pro rounds it was clear that the three winners had the perfect combination for Rockingham's tricky surface lead by five-time Rockingham winner Litton.

Litton (Indianapolis, Ind.) claimed his third win of the season and 18th career victory Sunday, edging Bobby Lagana Jr. in the final. Litton ran a 5.561/181.96 after losing the blower belt just before the finish line, staying just ahead of Lagana who had his own issues.

"We have been blessed. Every win was with a different track temperature and different track conditions so I have to give the credit to Mike Wolfarth who is doing an awesome job in his first year as crew chief," Litton said. "The whole crew, from Mike Sipple our assistant crew chief to Phil Stewart who is in charge of the car, all of the guys work so hard and it is because of them I am lucky enough to be here today."

With the win Litton has now won three straight Nitro Jam events as he closes in on point leader Lagana.

"What can I say about Lucas Oil and United Trailers. United is now the official trailer of IHRA and that is a win for them and of course Lucas supports me over here in everything I do with the IHRA," Litton said. "It has just been a lot of fun. Last night there were a lot of people in the stands and we were able to put on a great show which is what we are really here to do.

"I was also able to get a win for the Sean Watts Memorial Scholarship Fund which I am happy to help out here this weekend."

In the consolation round Spencer Massey, who ran alongside Litton in Saturday's final, defeated teammate Del Cox Jr.

Litton reached his third final in a row with a first round victory over Cox. After a tremendous race between the two on Day 1 the pair repeated that feat on Sunday with Litton edging Cox at the finish line by just three feet.

Litton ran a solid 4.847/303.50 to Cox's 4.881/292.65. In the other first round pairing Lagana moved on with a win over Massey.

Michael Manners (Willis, Texas) swept the Pro Fuel category behind the wheel of the highly popular "Shredder" machine, winning four straight rounds over the weekend after winning just one round in his past eight tries.

Manners defeated Rich McPhillips in the final, a repeat of Saturday's final with the same results. Manners ran a 5.393/264.18 behind the wheel of the ever-improving Pro Fuel Dragster while McPhillips, in his first Nitro Jam appearance, ran a 5.598/236.22.

"We are really pleased the way we have been running. To get it going like we have been and to give the fans a show as well is what we are trying to do," Manners said. "We certainly did not start the year like we had hoped, but we have certainly hit on a few things that are really working for us right now. It has been a lot of fun."

In addition to posting his first career wins Manners also produced his best numbers of the year as well as the team continues to find its groove.

"It certainly adds to the win winning both nights. The race today was totally different than last night which makes the win even more special. It shows I didn't just get lucky, we really did earn these wins," Manners said.

In the consolation round Robin Samsel drove around Bill Evans and Cherissa Smallwood defeated Jeff Hamelink. It was a frustrating weekend for point leader Evans who won three of the first four Nitro Jam events, but failed to make a final at Rockingham.

Manners had his toughest matchup of the weekend in the opening round of Sunday's action as he faced current point leader Evans for the right to move on to the final, but just like Saturday Manners showed that he is ready to make some noise.

Manners put together his third consecutive round win with a 5.654/262.85 against Evans who ran a 5.717/244.03. After reaching the finals in each of the first two Nitro Jam events Evans failed to post a final at "The Rock."

In the other deciding match McPhillips ran a 5.431/252.00 in a win over Samsel. In the other first round pairing Smallwood defeated Hamelink.

Wrapping up the Prostalgia Nitro Funny Car win was Gallen (Broomall, Pa.) who claimed his third consecutive Nitro Jam victory.

Gallen met up with Steve Nichols in the final in one of the most anticipated matchups of the year. Both cars have been among the quickest of the class and in the final it was Gallen who came out on top with a 5.897/236.26 to Nichols' 6.221/214.38.

"What a unique opportunity IHRA has provided us. To win two events in one weekend is just incredible. To be honest with you we were talking about it and you know we are just a bunch of guys who have regular jobs who love the sport of drag racing," Gallen said. "To come out and do what we did this weekend is special. It makes what we do worthwhile."

In the consolation rounds Mike McIntire defeated Army Armstrong and John Dunn got around Greg Jacobsmeyer.

The tremendous final was set up when Gallen and Nichols simply blew away the competition in the first round. Both cars, consistently two of the fastest on the tour, finally met in a final thanks to two tremendous passes.

Gallen ran a 5.905/232.47 in one matchup against Rick Krafft who failed to make the call while Nichols took down McIntire with a 6.167/209.82.

"I respect Steve tremendously. He has an experienced team and a wonderful crew and his program is first class," Gallen said. "He does make me think a little more just because we are friendly with each other, but when we put the helmets on we want to rip each other apart."

In the other first round matchups Jacobsmeyer defeated Lawson and Dunn beat Armstrong.

In the Harland Sharp Elite 8 finals Bissessar ran a 5.971/227.15 in his win over McKinley in Top Dragster while Davis claimed the Top Sportsman crown with a 6.471/206.54 in his win over Hinshaw.

Up next for the Nitro Jam tour is a trip to Salt Lake City, Utah for the Salt Lake Nitro Jam June 18-19 at Rocky Mountain Raceways.

-source: ihra

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Series Drag
Drivers Bobby Lagana Jr. , Spencer Massey , Michael Mann