ROCKINGHAM, N.C. -- For a few brief hours, it looked as if Jason Rupert's stranglehold on the IHRA Nitro Funny Car field would finally come to an end.
Then Rupert reminded everyone exactly why he is one of nostalgia drag racing's most dominant drivers.
Sitting fourth after one round of qualifying and staring at an amazing lap laid down by three-time IHRA Nitro Funny Car champion Peter Gallen in his 2014 debut, Rupert responded with an absolutely stunning lap in the final pass of the night to take the top spot by one hundredth of a second. Rupert's 5.698-second elapsed time at 249.16 mph placed the driver of the Bays & Rupert "Black Plague" Nitro Funny Car first and left him on the cusp of history all at the IHRA Nitro Jam Spring Nationals at Rockingham Dragway.
Behind Rupert, John DeFlorian topped the Mountain Motor Pro Stock field for the second time this season, while Jay Turner (Nitro Harley), Don Blackshear (Nitro Altered) and Marisha Falk (Jet Dragster) all qualified first their respective classes.
In sportsman action, Saturday's winners in the Summit Racing Equipment Pro-Am Tour presented by AMSOIL were Calvin Snow (Top Sportsman), Clayton Roberts (Top Dragster), Emory Pierpont (Super Stock), Kevin Riner (Stock), Dale Harrison (Quick Rod), Chris Lewis (Super Rod), Glenn Ferguson (Hot Rod), Jordan Baker (Junior Master), Mia Schultz (Junior Advanced) and Mallory Logan (Junior Beginner).
Over 300 cars were on the property for the return of the IHRA Nitro Jam Drag Racing Series to The Rock.
After one round of Nitro Funny Car qualifying, it was Gallen that found himself on top with a 5.708, 244.03 lap. But in Rupert's final pass of the night, the Yorba Linda, California native rocketed from fourth to the top of the charts with a 5.698, 249.16 pass. Gallen qualified second.
"The run felt good, it moved around a little bit and I shifted it a little earlier than I wanted to, but it didn't seem to hurt it," Rupert said. "I got a little nervous and thought I might get out of the groove and start shaking, so I pushed the button and ran with it. It made good power, felt like it pulled all the way to the end and we were very happy with the numbers. We can't wait until tomorrow."
Tim Boychuk, in the Roland Leong-tuned "Forever Forward" Pontiac Firebird, qualified third with a 5.797, followed by Mark Sanders in the "Mr. Explosive" Mustang with a 5.839 and Mike McIntire Jr. in "McAttack" with a 5.892 to qualify fifth. Mike Smith, Jake Crimmins and Mike Halstead rounded out the field.
For the second race in a row, Bruce Litton and John Hale failed to qualify with broken racecars.
Pro Stock saw John Deflorian on top entering Sunday eliminations In Mountain Motor Pro Stock, John DeFlorian paced the field in his AMSOIL-sponsored 2013 Chevrolet Camaro driving for Black Diamond Motorsports with a 6.232, 223.21, narrowly holding off Cary Goforth's 6.252, 222.73. Goforth's teammate Todd Hoerner qualified third, followed by Kevin Bealko, Pete Berner and Brad Waddle.
North Carolina native Jay Turner topped the popular Nitro Harley division with a 6.351, 213.16 lap as the Jay Turner Racing team took three of the top four sports on the charts. Mike Scott qualified second with a 6.398, 216.41, followed by Mark Cox, Randal Andras, Larry Brancaccio, Jake Stordeur, Alvin Kubernusz and Tii Tharpe.
Don Blackshear led the way in Nitro Altered for the third race in a row with a 6.279, 198.38, followed by Ron Maroney, Shane Harter, Mike Hilsabeck, Ron Hope and Kyle Hough.
Finally in Jet Dragster, Marisha Falk bumped team owner Elaine Larsen off of the top spot with a 5.685, 277.09 lap to Larsen's 5.715, 271.24 in Saturday's final run. Dawn Perdue qualified third, while Kat Moller sits fourth.
Racing will continue on Sunday with eliminations in all of the professional classes plus day two of the IHRA Summit Racing Equipment Pro-Am Tour presented by AMSOIL at the IHRA Nitro Jam Spring Nationals at Rockingham Dragway.
IHRA NITRO JAM DRAG RACING SERIES QUALIFYING
Rockingham, N.C. - Qualifying from the 2014 IHRA Nitro Jam Spring Nationals at Rockingham Dragway
Nitro Funny Car - 1. Jason Rupert 5.698, 249.16; 2. Peter Gallen 5.708, 244.03; 3. Tim Boychuk 5.797, 241.54; 4. Mark Sanders 5.839, 245.72; 5. Mike McIntire Jr. 5.892, 231.24; 6. Mike Smith 6.047, 228.50; 7. Jake Crimmins 6.290, 229.94; 8. Mike Halstead 6.380, 178.92; 9. Bruce Litton 11.276, 65.04; 10. John Hale (broke)
Pro Stock - 1. John DeFlorian 6.232, 223.21; 2. Cary Goforth 6.252, 222.73; 3. Todd Hoerner 6.262, 221.56; 4. Kevin Bealko 6.309, 221.49; 5. Pete Berner 6.311, 220.19; 6. Brad Waddle 17.463, 48.87
Nitro Harley - 1. Jay Turner 6.351, 213.16; 2. Mike Scott 6.398, 216.41; 3. Mark Cox 6.499, 218.44; 4. Randal Andras 6.523; 5. Larry Brancaccio 7.108, 197.16; 6. Jake Stordeur 7.219, 158.46; 7. Alvin Kubernusz 7.351, 162.55; 8. Tii Tharpe (no time)
Nitro Altered - 1. Don Blackshear 6.279, 198.38; 2. Ron Maroney 6.410, 182.80; 3. Shane Harter 6.826, 184.37; 4. Mike Hilsabeck 6.944, 163.24; 5. Ron Hope 7.303, 210.70; 6. Kyle Hough 7.831, 135.85
Jet Dragster - 1. Marisha Falk 5.685, 277.09; 2. Elaine Larsen 5.715, 271.24; 3. Dawn Perdue 5.765, 268.22; 4. Kat Moller 6.093, 259.56
SUMMIT PRO-AM TOUR PRESENTED BY AMSOIL RESULTS
Rockingham, N.C. - Saturday's final results from the IHRA Summit Racing Equipment Pro-Am Tour presented by AMSOIL Day 1 at Rockingham Dragway.
Top Sportsman - Calvin Snow, Reidville, S.C., '70 Nova, 4.889, 145.81 def. Steve Corker, Clayton, N.C., '02 Cavalier, 5.218, 133.03
Top Dragster - Clayton Roberts, Willow Spring, N.C., '10 Race Tech, 4.598, 149.65 def. Jimmy Berley, Pomaria, S.C., '08 American, foul
Super Stock - Emory Pierpont, Cartersville, Ga., '95 Achieva, 6.742, 102.00 def. Jeff Longhany, Wade, N.C., '00 Firebird, 6.597, 100.17
Stock - Kevin Riner, Autryville, N.C., '98 Camaro, 6.617, 91.45 def. Missy Phillips, Lumberton, N.C., '71 Nova, 6.457, 106.71
Quick Rod - Dale Harrison, Sanford, N.C., '02 Horton, 5.710, 128.35 def. Donald McDaniel, Forest City, N.C., '00 Race Tech, 5.707, 135.27
Super Rod - Chris Lewis, Bloomingdale, Ga., '34 Chevy Roadster, 6.416, 116.93 def. Nathan Page, Fayetteville, N.C., '78 Luv, 6.335, 120.87
Hot Rod - Glenn Ferguson, Greensboro, N.C., '66 Fairlane, 7.000, 103.32 def. Russel Penny, Clayton, N.C., '68 Camaro, 6.973, 107.70
Junior Dragster Masters - Jordan Baker, Sumter, S.C., dragster, 7.910, 82.53 def. Roger Thornton, North Chesterfield, Va., dragster, 7.917, 81.90
Junior Dragster Advanced - Mia Schultz, Woodbridge, Va., dragster, 8.934, 73.91 def. Nick Weaver, Sanford, N.C., dragster, 9.005, 73.46
Junior Dragster Beginner - Mallory Logan, North Chesterfield, Va., dragster, 12.048, 52.06 def. Hunter Moss, Clayton, N.C., dragster, 11.919, 53.01