MARTIN, Mich. --
If at first you don't succeed, well, let Cherissa Smallwood tell the rest.
"You just can't give up. Whenever you think you have reached your breaking point or things just won't go your way you just have to keep working at it. We are living proof of that tonight," Smallwood said.
Smallwood, who has struggled through a tough year with zero round wins and nothing to show for her team's effort entering this weekend's event, stunned the Pro Fuel field Friday night with her first career IHRA Nitro Jam victory on opening night at the Northern Nitro Jam at U.S. 131 Motorsports Park.
"I think it is a brand new chapter for these guys. What we have tried to accomplish all year long was to be consistent and even though we had some hiccups down the road, we knew we were capable of winning races and I think that really showed tonight," Smallwood said. "After beating Bill (Evans) in round one I just had this feeling in the bottom of my stomach that I have never had before and it just felt like an incredible weight was lifted when we crossed that finish line. It was an incredible feeling."
Smallwood, who also threw a wrench in the Pro Fuel championship battle in round one with a win over Evans, put down two consistent laps Friday night culminating with a big victory over Robin Samsel who broke on the line and sputtered down the track in the final. Still, even with the win in hand, Smallwood never really lifted just to be sure.
"The whole way I knew I had won because I never saw him," Smallwood said. "Even before the run I told the crew that no matter what happens I am driving this thing to the finish line and that is exactly what I did. In fact, I drove it so. hard I actually got a little squirrely at the top end and that really scared me back to reality.
"I just kept thinking 'I've got this. It is mine.' It is hard to describe how excited we all are."
Smallwood, who ventured from her home in Florida to Michigan a week earlier to do some testing, ran a 5.874, 244.65 in her victorious run.
Smallwood had an even better lap in round one to advance to the final, but it mattered little as opponent Evans, who entered the night as the points leader, put the "Black Pearl" dragster up on two wheels and nearly brushed the wall before regaining control and limping down the track. That round loss, combined with a consolation round loss to Mike Manners and "The Shredder" team later in the evening, placed Manners narrowly ahead in the standings going into the final night of the season. Dave Hill picked up the other consolation round win over Kristen Dennis.
Gallen recorded the lap in Friday's final, blasting down the track in his 1974 "Poverty Stricken" Vega with little challenge from Jacobsmeyer who recorded a 6.548, 213.77 in the runner-up effort. In the consolation pairing Funny Car veteran Laurie Cannister recorded a round win over John Dunn.
Now all Gallen has to do is back up his 5.709-second time on Saturday and he will own a new world record to go along with his championship Ironman which he will receive during Saturday's prerace ceremonies.
The win, Maroney's fifth of the season, essentially sealed the championship for the "Nanook" team entering Saturday's season finale.
In the $51,000 Moser Axle-Mania Sportsman Showdown the field of 32 was narrowed to the Elite 8 on Friday, with the best from all seven IHRA classes and one wild card group remaining to duke it out for the grand prize of $22,500 Saturday night.
The drivers remaining in competition include Davy Dins (Top Sportsman), Dave Elrod (Top Dragster), Nick Karas (Hot Rod), Gil Carty Jr. (Super Stock), Jeff Gardiner (Wild Card), Cameron Manuel (Super Rod), Tony Elrod (Quick Rod) and Lisa Bolton (Stock). The final three rounds of the Moser Axle-Mania Sportsman Showdown will be contested during Saturday's "Night of Fire" at U.S. 131 Motorsports Park.
In regular Nitro Jam competition top qualifiers from Friday's action included Don Klooster (Kalamazoo, Mich.) in Top Sportsman, Chris Smith (Bangor, Mich.) in Top Dragster, Mark Nowicki (Gaylord, Mich.) in Super Stock, Andrew Hill (Louisville, Ky.) in Stock, Leo Zynda (Clinton Township, Mich.) in Quick Rod, Rich Pica (Coshocton, Ohio) in Super Rod and Chrissy Bayus (Warren, Ohio) in Hot Rod.
The evening was brought to a close with a thrilling show by Grave Digger, the Shockwave jet semi, two jet dragsters, two jet funny cars, the jet Smart Car, a wheelstander and Megasaurus.
Racing will resume on Saturday with the Nitro Jam season finale and crowning of world champions in the four professional classes, along with the finals of the Moser Axle-Mania Sportsman Showdown, the Northern Nitro Jam sportsman race and another thrilling show. Gates open at 9 a.m. with FanFest getting underway at 5:30 p.m. and two rounds of Nitro Jam beginning at 7 p.m.
MARTIN, Mich. -- Friday's final results from the IHRA Northern Nitro Jam at US 131 Motorsports Park. The race is the ninth of 10 in the 2011 Nitro Jam Series:
PROSTALGIA FUNNY CAR DAY ONE Peter Gallen, Broomall, Pa., '74 Vega, 5.709, 244.60 def. Greg Jacobsmeyer, Florissant, Mo., '70 Challenger, 6.548, 213.77.
PRO FUEL DRAGSTER DAY ONE Cherissa Smallwood, Gainesville, Fla., dragster, 5.874, 244.65 def. Robin Samsel, Marion, Ind., dragster, 21.262, 60.76.
FUEL ALTERED DAY ONE Ron W. Maroney, Chandler, Ariz., '23 roadster, 6.389, 227.54 def. Jason Richey, Pleasonton, Calif., '32 Bantam, 6.557, 224.66.
NITRO HARLEY DAY ONE Jay Turner, Julian, N.C., 6.410, 216.13 def. Jake Stordeur, Loveland, Ohio, 10.100, 89.39.