MARTIN, Mich. -- For the past seven years, Kevin Bealko has played second fiddle on his own race team.
After nearly a decade of success in the world of Pro Stock, just not in his own car, Bealko finally broke through with his first career Mountain Motor Pro Stock victory Saturday night in front of a jam-packed crowd at the IHRA Nitro Jam Northern Nationals at US 131 Motorsports Park.
"This means a heck of a lot to me. I have never been able to win a Pro Stock race in all these years of trying and to do it here today in this division, with these great racers, on the quarter-mile and right here in Michigan where John (DeFlorian) got his first win a few years back, is just tremendous," Bealko said. "The whole gang has done a wonderful job for us, we are fortunate to have them. I just strap in and drive this thing; they deserve all the credit here."
The Black Diamond Motorsports team, headed by Bealko, has enjoyed a great deal of success since it was founded in 2007. The team has won multiple races, set a number of world records and has been a force in the world of Pro Stock for the past several seasons. But a lot of that success has resided with Bealko's teammate, Missouri native John DeFlorian, and not with Bealko himself.
"There are just so many people to thank. My wife, she has put up with a lot these past few years, AMSOIL has been great to us and we think the world of their product and IHRA has just been magnificent. This has been the best drag racing experience I have ever had running with a great organization like IHRA," Bealko said.
Bealko added wins over Pete Berner and Cary Goforth on his way to the victory.
"The car has been great lately. We had to tweak it a bit on day one when it was brand new, but slowly we have been getting the balance right on it," Bealko said. "We have strived to win one of these with our second car for a while and now that we have done it, it is a pretty good feeling. The Lord has blessed us in a big way."
Ron Maroney was Saturday's other big winner as the driver of the "Blind Faith" Nitro Altered collected his third win of the year and, more importantly, locked up his second career Nitro Altered championship.
With the win, Maroney locked up his second IHRA Nitro Altered championship, winning his first back in 2010 running in the very same car Hough drove in Martin.
"It is exciting to get our second championship. They both mean a lot to me, but they are also very different," Maroney said. "I love the Hough family to death and they gave me that opportunity to drive the 'Nanook' car, a car I grew up idolizing, to win a championship. Now, to win it in my own car, a car that my wife and I own 100 percent, is really special."
Maroney's victory capped a wild weekend in the nostalgia class as three different teams had run-ins with the wall while others took out timing blocks and traded lanes, a trademark of the class.
"It was a great weekend, but it was a weekend that really showed what these Altereds are all about. We went out and ran 6.20s on one pass, then the next pass we are taking out cones while other guys are hitting the wall. Then we come back and run 6.30s right down the center," Maroney said. "You just never know what these things are going to do. Sometimes they go straight as an arrow and sometimes you are just along for the ride."
IHRA's other major eliminator, Nitro Harley, was won by Louisiana native Randal Andras as the championship battle in the nitro-powered motorcycle class reaches new heights. Any one of four drivers will have an opportunity to clinch the title in Memphis in two months.
Andras made his case for the Nitro Harley championship with his second win of the season, besting Mike Pelrine in the final. Andras had little trouble powering down the US 131 quarter-mile with a 6.857 at 220.15 pass in the final, while Pelrine ran into trouble and had to shut it off early.
Andras added wins over Jim Fagan and Alvin Kobernusz on his way to the win.
Dom Lagana ceremoniously welcomed Top Fuel Dragster back to the IHRA Nitro Jam lineup over the weekend as the younger of the two Lagana brothers swept the weekend, taking all four round wins over his brother Bobby.
Finally in Jet Dragster, Marisha Falk placed the Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University jet-powered dragster in the winner's circle as the Florida native dominated the class from start to finish. Falk was the top qualifier on Friday and used that momentum to eliminate Allison West and Elaine Larsen for her third Ironman of the season. Falk had a 5.744 at 278.17 in the final, just edging Larsen's 5.799 at 275.38.
SATURDAY FINAL ELIMINATIONS
Top Fuel Dragster - Dom Lagana, Scarsdale, N.Y., dragster, 4.835, 243.71 def. Bobby Lagana Jr., Scarsdale, N.Y., dragster, 5.266, 206.26
Pro Stock - Kevin Bealko, Bridgeport, W.Va., '14 Camaro, 6.2899, 222.13 def. Scott Hintz, Odessa, Texas, '13 Mustang, 6.280, 223.60
Nitro Harley - Randal Andras, Amelia, La., motorcycle, 6.857, 220.15 def. Mike Pelrine, Bruderheim, Alb., motorcycle, 9.075, 102.89
Nitro Altered - Ron Maroney, Chandler, Ariz., '32 Bantam, 6.382, 217.95 def. Kyle Hough, Las Vegas, Nev., '23 Ford T, 6.899, 162.48
Jet Dragster - Marisha Falk, Port Orange, Fla., 5.744, 278.17 def. Elaine Larsen, Port Orange, Fla., 5.799, 275.38
SATURDAY ROUND-BY-ROUND RESULTS
Top Fuel Dragster
Round 1 - Dom Lagana, 4.664, 306.27 def. Bobby Lagana Jr., 4.881, 322.53
Final - Dom Lagana, 4.835, 243.71 def. Bobby Lagana, 5.266, 206.26
Round 1 - Scott Hintz, 6.301, 223.53 def. Dean Goforth, 6.295, 222.29; Todd Hoerner, 6.356, 221.44 def. John DeFlorian, 6.396, 220.15; Cary Goforth, 6.354, 220.37 def. Matt Bertsch, 6.402, 218.96; Kevin Bealko, 6.355, 219.19 def. Pete Berner, 6.378, 219.07
Semis - Bealko, 6.365, 212.88 def. Goforth, broke; Hintz, 6.297, 221.45 def. Hoerner, 6.346, 221.13
Final - Bealko, 6.289, 221.21 def. Scott Hintz, 6.280, 223.60
Round 1 - Mike Pelrine, 6.897, 159.65 def. Jay Turner, 8.202, 107.53; Mark Cox, 6.476, 215.11 def. Lyle Newton 7.740, 131.42; Randal Andras, 6.418, 217.91 def. Jim Fagan 7.273, 186.71; Alvin Kobernusz, 7.389, 153.69 def. Mike Scott, 10.613, 85.06
Semis - Pelrine, 6.380, 206.17 def. Cox, foul; Andras, 6.368, 228.97 def. Kobernusz, 7.230, 163.11
Final - Andras, 6.857, 220.15 def. Pelrine, 9.075, 102.89
Round 1 - Ron Maroney, 6.205, 221.28 def. Troy Ray, no time; Kyle Hough, 6.250, 227.00 def. Shane Harter 6.408, 207.02; Don Blackshear, 6.600, 216.16 def. Troy Martin, DQ
Consolation - Martin, 6.284, 204.16 def. Ray, 8.990, 148.57; Harter, 6.382, 220.14 def. Blackshear, 7.154, 141.14
Final - Maroney, 6.382, 217.95 def. Hough, 6.899, 162.48
Round 1 - Marisha Falk, 5.780, 274.96 def. Allison West, 6.044, 195.54; Elaine Larsen, 5.851, 271.41 def. Kat Moller, 6.026, 264.22
Consolation - West, 6.009, 199.75 def. Moller, foul
Final - Falk, 5.744, 278.17 def. Larsen, 5.799, 275.38