Mopar Canadian Nitro Jam Round-up!
The IHRA rolled into Grand Bend Motorplex for the 15th consecutive year last weekend as proud primary sponsor Mopar Canada presented the 2014 version of the Mopar Canadian Nitro Jam Nationals…..
The event was a very well attended and spirited affair under near perfect weather conditions and saw a number of Canadian racers rise to prominence with convincing and in some cases somewhat unexpected results.
That included a dominating Top Fuel match race performance by Ontario’s Ike Maier, a first ever win in Pro Mod by Alcohol Funny Car standout Rob Atchison, an all Canadian Nitro Harley final round and a upset win in the Mountain Motor Pro Stock eliminator demonstration.
All that complimented action from the IHRA’s touring circuit cars which was highlighted by yet another dominating win in (Nostalgia) Nitro Funny Car by California’s Jason Rupert.
Ike Maier, driving for team owner John LaPorte lit the win light every time down the track in Top Fuel, finishing the weekend with a 3-0 record in his TF match race versus Indiana’s Kyle Wurtzel.
That effort allowed Ike to successfully defend his first ever Top Fuel wins — which came at this event last year.
“Our times were not as fast as last year here – but we pretty much made it down the track ever time,” said Ike. “That makes 7 straight times we have gone down the track here with win lights.”
The effort was also inspiring for John LaPorte (Bowmanville ON) who continues his quest within the unforgiving Top Fuel dragster category.
“Top Fuel is a tough and expensive gig,” John added. “But days like this help to keep you to be inspired and move forward. We didn’t break anything and that’s a testament to all the hard work from my guys.”
Atchison, a longtime racer in IHRA’s Alcohol Funny Car ranks with three world championships and more than two dozen national event victories, claimed his first career win in a Pro Modified with the event guest PMRA series, besting Jeff Roth in an all-Ontario final.
Jumping into the Pro Mod ranks three years ago, Atchison claimed his first career win at the same facility where he won his first Alcohol Funny Car race, making the win all the more exciting for the London, Ontario native.
“I love PMRA, but to win back at the Bend at an IHRA race and get an Ironman, it is super special. It is very reminiscent of my first win in Funny Car. It took four or five years to win that first race and we did it at home in Grand Bend. What an opportunity to do that again,” Atchison said.
With his first Ironman since 2007 on the line, Atchison drove his beautiful ’63 Corvette to a 6.070, 236.28 lap right down the center of the track while Roth ran into trouble and had to click it off early. Atchison added wins over Paolo Giust and Mike Yedgarian on his way to the win.
Nate Gagnon, the defending CMDRA champion and who has excelled in motorcycle drag racing, including internationally (2012 UEM Superbike Twin Champion), continues to carry forward that momentum.
Sunday’s Nitro Harley final was all Canada — featured Gagnon, from Qualicum Beach, British Columbia, versus beat Mike Pelrine (Broderheim AB).
After taking out the top two drivers from qualifying, Gagnon and Pelrine met in a final for the ages as Pelrine got the jump on the line and opened up a considerable margin over his opponent by halftrack, but both bikes went up in smoke allowing Gagnon to make up considerable ground on the top end and take the win with a 8.265, 210.77 to a 8.690, 133.23.
Sunday’s win was Gagnon’s second with the IHRA Nitro Jam Drag Racing Series, winning IHRA’s other Canadian stop at Castrol Raceway one year ago.
“What a wild weekend. We had a hard time getting a handle on the bike and that put us off our regular pace,” Gagnon said. “In the second round today we popped a motor and we thrashed to get back for the final. We had some luck with us and then a pedal fest for the win, what a way to make it happen.
“I went out, smoked the tires hard and thought, ‘well, it’s all over’ and then I saw him drop a hole and I was like ‘wait a minute’ and I hammered it again and it stayed lit all the way through and got me to the stripe first. What an amazing win for us, we couldn’t be happier.”
In a preview of much more to come in 2015 — racing at Grand Bend also included a special edition Mountain Motor Pro Stock showdown that featured 4 Canadian cars, John Kongishofer, Larry O’Brien, Tony Pontieri and Anthony Paone.
Paone was driving a brand new Jerry Bickel built 2014 Camaro which the team just finished one day prior to the event. As luck and fate would have it, the Woodbridge ON racer emerged victorious in what has to be categorized as an upset. He guided the new machine to a 6.632 secs at 200.89 mph to beat John Konigshofer’s 2013 Ford Mustang in the final round.
“We just came here to test and we were glad to participate in the Pro Stock exhibition,” said Paone, who drove a Pro Stock car for the first time in 6 1/2 years. “I found out after the fact that the win came with an Ironman. That was an unexpected surprise and it’s my first one. I’d like to thank the IHRA for that.”
John Konigshofer (Otterville ON) had been the odds on favorite entering the PS final based on consecutive 6.3 runs in qualifying and round one. But the ultra powerful Ford shook it’s tires in the championship round.
The IHRA touring classes featured wins by Jason Rupert (NFC) Ron Maroney (Fuel Altered) and Elaine Larson (Jet Dragster).
Just one week ago at the IHRA Nitro Jam national event in Budds Creek, Maryland, Nitro Funny Car competitor Jason Rupert found himself packing his bags and heading home early, having just failed to qualify for the event.
But at Grand Bend, Rupert put that poor performance behind him and returned to form in a major way, dominating the class he has led all season long in claiming his fourth Ironman of 2014.
Rupert qualified first for the sixth time this season and claimed his fourth win all in dominating fashion, besting longtime rival Mark Sanders in an all-Pacific Coast final. Rupert culminated his weekend with a 5.895-second elapsed time at 242.06 mph to take the win.
“Racing is all about peaks and valleys and you can go from hero to zero in less than a second. Last week we had something happen. We couldn’t get ahold of the track and we tried some other things and nothing seemed to work,” Rupert said. “We got here this weekend and we decided to start over. Everything seemed to work and respond how it should and it resulted in us getting back on track with the win.”
Rupert, piloting the Bays and Rupert “Black Plague” ’69 Camaro, paced the field by a solid margin on Saturday to claim his sixth pole position of the season, with only his DNQ in Maryland standing in the way of a perfect year. From the top spot, Rupert eliminated Mike Halstead, Tim Boychuk and Sanders, with all three of his opponents running into trouble during their runs. Rupert had laps of 6.147, 5.771 and 5.895 on his way to the Ironman in Grand Bend.
Ron Maroney claimed the weekend’s other nitro victory, besting Troy Martin in the finals of Nitro Altered. Maroney got the jump at the line in the “Blind Faith” nostalgia machine and put down a 6.215, 222.33 in taking the win over Martin, who had a 6.398, 224.88 in the runner-up effort.
Elaine Larsen led the way in Jet Dragster for the third time this season, besting Dawn Perdue in the Miller Welding jet-powered ride with a 5.808, 272.56 to a 5.901, 267.14 mph.
The event featured two rounds of racing within the IHRA’s Summit Racing Equipment Pro-Am Tour (Presented by AMSOIL) for Divison 3.
In the finals of the Summit Racing Equipment Pro-Am Tour presented by AMSOIL, Sunday’s winners were Dan Aitken (Top Sportsman), Jeremy McCormick (Top Dragster), Gianni Cantusci (Super Stock), Doug Box (Stock), Leo Zynda (Quick Rod), Andrew Stirk (Super Rod) and James Unum (Hot Rod).
Saturday’s Sportsman eliminator program saw wins go to Mark Sanders (Top Sportsman), Bruce Gaier (Top Dragster), Pete D’Agnolo (Super Stock), Steve Dziorny (Stock), Ken Hebert Jr (Quick Rod), Leo Zynda (Super Rod) and Joe Passero (Hot Rod).
The event’s ET Bracket winners were Ken Langlois (Top ET) Jim Moore (Mod ET) and Chad Szram (Junior Dragster) on Sunday.
The IHRA Nitro Jam Drag Racing Series will remain in Canada for its next stop as the nitro-powered drag racing series returns to Castrol Raceway July 4-6 for the IHRA Mopar Rocky Mountain Nitro Jam Nationals presented by Good Vibrations Motorsports and Parts Canada.
To view DragRaceCanada’s extensive Mopar Canadian Nitro Jam Nationals event photo gallery – click: HERE