If there is one race and one race only that you can attend in 2014, this is it.
More than 15 of the world’s best Nitro Funny Car teams are currently scheduled to attend the two-day event trying to make a narrow eight-car field in a joint effort between the Nitro Jam Drag Racing Series and the Hedman Husler Hedders DragRacingOnline.com AA/FC Challenge set for July 18-19 at Cordova Dragway Park.
Among the stars making up this incredible field of nostalgia Nitro Funny Cars are five former world champions across the IHRA, NHRA and DRO nostalgia series and winners of some of the biggest races in the world. With so many championship and big race winners all in one place, the IHRA Summer Nationals is already being heralded as one of the most exciting nostalgia Nitro Funny Car races of the season.
“This is it, this is the event we want to win. Honestly, it is going to take a run in the low 5.90s, maybe even 5.80s, just to get in. That is going to lead to a lot of great runs and maybe a new record or two,” said Mike McIntire Jr., driver of the “McAttack” ’69 Camaro. “I am really looking forward to this race and I feel like we are up to the task. We are working hard to get more performance out of the car, trying to get a little more speed out of her, and if we can do that I think we can get in there and mix it up with the rest of them.”
McIntire is one of IHRA’s regulars, having claimed his first win as a rookie at the IHRA Southern Nationals at Bradenton Motorsports Park earlier this year. He will be joined by fellow 2014 IHRA national event winner and three-time DRO series champion John Hale in the “Mike Burkhart” tribute ’69 Camaro and current points leader and four-time winner this season Jason Rupert in the “Bays and Rupert” ’69 Camaro.
Rupert will lead the field heading into IHRA’s only completely open Nitro Funny Car race this season, having won four of the six points-paying races held with IHRA this season. Rupert has been No. 1 qualifier in five of six races and reset the IHRA elapsed time world record at Rockingham Dragway in May with 5.684-second pass. Overall he is 14-1 in competition, with his only blemish being a disastrous weekend where he failed to qualify at Maryland International Raceway in June.
Rupert will be considered one of the favorites when the nostalgia teams take to the Cordova quarter-mile later this week.
“This is going to be a really exciting event and I can’t wait. There are so many great drivers that are going to be in Cordova and really any one of them can come away with the win,” Rupert said. “I have said before, racing is full of peaks and valleys and right now we are riding a real wave of success, but at any time that can change. We are just thankful to be in this position and look forward to seeing what we can do against this great group of competitors.”
Joining Rupert in the ones-to-watch column is defending DRO series champion Shawn Bowen in the “Violator” ’77 Pontiac Firebird. The Michigan-based AA/FC team has already won twice this season and leads the DRO series championship standings as he looks to keep the momentum going in Cordova.
The field of International Hot Rod Association drivers will also include two-time runner-up in 2014 and current championship second place driver “Mr. Explosive” Mark Sanders and his beautiful ’70 Mustang, former IHRA Top Fuel world champion Bruce Litton in the “U.S. Male” ’79 Vega, Tim Boychuk in the “Forever Forward” ’77 Pontiac, Ronnie Young in the legendary “Blue Max” and Wayne Mellinger in the “Candies Family Racing” ’70 Challenger.
With the DRO series, Bowen will be joined by current elapsed time record-holder Marc White in the “Flashback” ’77 Pontiac and Paul Romine, a two-time DRO champion who made his return to drag racing earlier this year when he reacquired his Mike Spitzer-built “Man-O-War” Mustang. Australian Bazz Young and the “Down Under Thunder” ’69 Camaro will wrap up the top competitors from the DRO series, having finished runner-up at the series’ most recent event.
Rounding out the current lineup of nostalgia Nitro Funny Car stars are former IHRA Funny Car champion Steve Nichols in the “Mill Road Boys” ’70 Camaro, Brian Stewart in the “Bear Town Shaker” ’76 Mustang and local favorite Jim Young in the “Crop Duster.”
With so many great drivers on the property, it is truly anyone’s race when the drivers take to the track for qualifying on Friday, July 18 and eliminations on Saturday, July 19.
The IHRA Summer Nationals will be held July 18-19 at Cordova Dragway Park. For more information visit www.nitrojam.com or call the track at (309) 654-2110.