CORDOVA, Ill. -- Any question as to why the IHRA Summer Nationals at Cordova Dragway Park was the most anticipated IHRA national event of the season was answered Saturday night.
With a massive crowd looking on and thousands around the world watching live via IHRA's streaming webcast, Shawn Bowen and Dean Goforth collected big wins to highlight the return of IHRA national event drag racing to Cordova. Bowen won a thriller over Jason Rupert in Nitro Funny Car, his first with the IHRA Nitro Jam Drag Racing Series, while Goforth won for the first time since 2009 in Pro Stock to lead the way at the IHRA Summer Nationals at Cordova Dragway Park.
Bowen's victory over Rupert in the finals of Nitro Funny Car proved one of the most exciting six seconds in the history of IHRA's brand new Nitro Jam Drag Racing Series. Bowen, the 2013 champion with the DragRacingOnline.com AA/FC Challenge, and Rupert, a four-time national event winner this season and one of the most dominant cars in the sport, were heavy favorites entering the weekend and emerged as the final two contestants following a brutal weekend that saw more than a dozen drivers battling for one Ironman trophy.
With the world watching, Bowen and Rupert put on a show in the finals of the nitro-burning nostalgia class with Bowen grabbing a narrow starting line advantage in the "Violator" 1977 Pontiac Firebird and turning that into a holeshot victory. Bowen crossed the finish line first with a 5.846-second pass at 244.74 miles per hour, besting Rupert's quicker and faster 5.824 at 245.32.
Bowen's victory was far from an upset as the Grand Blanc, Michigan driver placed the "Violator" Pontiac squarely at the top of the charts after two rounds of qualifying on Friday. On Saturday, however, Rupert fired back during the second round of eliminations with a head-turning 5.700-second pass. With both cars showing their hand early, it was truly anyone's game when the green light lit for the final time.
"In the semifinals Rupert ran that 5.70 and I thought, wow, this is going to be tough. To make matters worse, we slowed down from our first round and didn't really know why. So we hopped it up for the final and went to work," Bowen said.
"I have been preparing myself for this race for the past few weeks. I came here just wanting to qualify and go a couple of rounds, those were my expectations," Bowen said. "We qualified No. 1 and I really didn't expect that. Then we ran really good during first round and I thought, hey, we might have a chance.
"We don't race a lot, so this was a great opportunity to come here with all of these guys and see where we stand. It is awesome to actually come away with the win."
Dean Goforth collected Saturday's other big win as the veteran racer out of Holdenville, Oklahoma drove the Dean's Casing Service 2014 Chevrolet Camaro to a surprising win in Pro Stock. Just a few months removed from surgery to repair damage to his ankle, Goforth bested one of the most dominant teams in Pro Stock to collect his first Ironman since 2009 in only his third race of the season.
"It feels pretty good to win here today. It has been a struggle watching from the sidelines these past few months. It was great just to get behind the wheel again, but to win, that just makes it all the more special," Goforth said. "When I had this surgery they told me I would be out 12 to 15 months, but the last time I went in my doctor said that I may just be the first person to get well in 10 months' time. Now, here I am holding one of these."
Mark Cox, from Wilkesboro, N.C., claimed his second win of the season in another exciting final in Nitro Harley over Larry Brancaccio.
With a number of the bike teams struggling during the weekend, Cox found enough to put down three consistent laps and take the win. In the final Cox had a 6.476 at 208.81 to Brancaccio's 7.332 at 134.55. Cox also had wins over Lyle Newton and Mike Scott, turning laps of 6.556 and 6.476.
Finally, in Jet Dragster Kat Moller collected her first career victory over Elaine Larsen, running a 5.836 at 274.72 in the final to Larsen's 5.746 at 276.07. Top qualifier Marisha Falk turned on the red light during both of her passes on Saturday after a solid effort on Friday.
Next up for the IHRA Nitro Jam Drag Racing Series is a trip to Pittsburgh Raceway Park for the IHRA Nitro Jam Pittsburgh Nationals the weekend of August 1-2.
SATURDAY FINAL ELIMINATIONS
AMSOIL Nitro Funny Car - Shawn Bowen, Grand Blanc, Mich., '77 Firebird, 5.846, 244.74 def. Jason Rupert, Yorba Linda, Calif., '69 Camaro, 5.824, 245.32
Pro Stock - Dean Goforth, Holdenville, Okla., '14 Camaro, 6.351, 221.23 def. John DeFlorian, Arnold, Mo., '12 Camaro, 6.424, 217.67
Nitro Harley - Mark Cox, Wilkesboro, N.C., nitro bike, 6.476, 208.81 def. Larry Brancaccio, Nutley, N.J., nitro bike, 7.332, 134.55
Nitro Altered - Troy Martin, Pierceton, Ind., '34 Ford, 6.811, 167.45 def. Kyle Hough, Las Vegas, Nev., '23 Ford, DQ
Jet Dragster - Kat Moller, Sarasota, Fla., dragster, 5.836, 274.72 def. Elaine Larsen, Daytona, Fla., dragster, 5.746, 276.07
Good Vibrations Top Sportsman - Curt Fredrich, Burlington, Wis., '68 Camaro, 6.822, 205.54 def. Lou Rausch, Traer, Iowa, '95 Beretta, foul
Good Vibrations Top Dragster - Anthony Layne, Coal Valley, Ill., dragster, 7.580, 170.82 def. Charlie Hamma, Davenport, Iowa, dragster, 7.458, 167.78
Super Stock - Dean Mesenbring, Rochester, Minn., '92 Camaro, 10.967, 120.63 def. Jeff Bryson, Morton, Ill., '02 Olds Alero, 10.915, 118.18
Stock - Aaron Allison, East Palestine, Ohio, '76 Vega, 10.489, 122.07 def. Jim Petersen, Davenport, Iowa, '80 Dodge Pickup, 13.156, 97.81
Quick Rod - Mike Eggleston, Highland, Ill., dragster, 8.906, 173.23 def. Patrick Fitzpatrick, Peoria, Ill., dragster, 8.930, 145.30
Super Rod - Brian Folk, Durand, Ill., 9.911, 149.10 def. Dave Johnson, Edwards, Ill., 9.877, 144.69
Hot Rod - Marc Erickson, Rockford, Ill., '01 S10, 10.912, 145.77 def. Russ Gibbel, Indianola, Iowa, '78 Mustang, 10.898, 135.97
SATURDAY ROUND-BY-ROUND RESULTS
AMSOIL Nitro Funny Car
Semis - Bowen, 5.852, 248.20 def. Romine, 9.779, 88.64; Rupert, 5.700, 250.09 def. Sanders, 5.883, 245.58
Final - Bowen, 5.846, 244.74 def. Rupert, 5.824, 245.32
Semis - DeFlorian, 6.332, 221.31 def. Bealko, 6.357, 221.74; Goforth, 6.343, 219.12 def. Waddle, 6.843, 167.26
Final - Goforth, 6.351, 221.23 def. DeFlorian, 6.424, 217.67
Semis - Cox, 6.476, 209.56 def. Scott, 14.247, 66.73; Brancaccio, 8.149, 178.83 def. Andras, 12.855, 99.51
Final - Cox, 6.476, 208.81 def. Brancaccio, 7.332, 134.55
Consolation - Mike Hilsabeck, 6.730, 178.02 def. Bye; Ron Maroney, 6.719, 197.54 def. Don Blackshear, 15.082, 85.74
Final - Martin, 6.811, 167.45 def. Hough, DQ
Jet Dragster Round 1 - Elaine Larsen, 5.761, 276.86 def. Allison West, 5.962, 228.61; Kat Moller, 5.762, 280.43 def. Marisha Falk, foul
Consolation - West, 5.973, 222.22 def. Falk, foul
Final - Moller, 5.836, 274.72 def. Larsen, 5.746, 276.07