Combustion Chamber-2003 Pepsi NightFire Nationals


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Boise, ID-August 8-10  If you ever find yourself looking for a race to attend during the long summer break between nostalgia reunions or Goodguys events, look no further than Firebird Raceway’s annual Pepsi Nightfire Nationals.  The four-day event not only showcases some of the area’s toughest bracket racers, but also features three consecutive nights of spectacular nitro racing!  A variety of fuel altereds, front-engine dragsters, Pro Mods, and of course several exhibition classes, are the catalysts for packing this neat-as-a-pin facility to capacity each August.

The 32nd edition of this action-packed event produced many event records, some of which are worth noting here.  In AA/FD action, Jack Harris ran an off-the-trailer 5.88 @ 250 during Friday’s qualifying, and just as memorable was the 6.07 turned in by Bill Dunlap during Saturday afternoon’s session.  What makes Dunlap’s run so impressive were the conditions in which he did so. The track temperatures hovered around 140 degrees and the adjusted altitude pushed 5,500′!  Given the fact that the top qualifying time in 2002 was a 6.12 for the class, makes these times really stand out above the rest.  The Pro Mod contingent assembled the quickest field in event history as just a tenth of second separated the eight car field, with Glen Kerunsky leading the way with a 6.504 and Lee Smith clinging to the bump with a 6.607!  Incredible!

The 33rd Nightfire Nationals is already slated for August 12-15, 2004, and you can best believe that plans are shaping up to make this the best yet.  For event additional event info check outFirebird Raceway Online. The following photos will take you on a journey of just some of the highlights from the event.  Enjoy!  Dawn & Mark

Brendan Murry collected the “Tater Baker” Top Fuel title (for the #9-12 qualifiers) stopping Fred Farndon in the final.  Murry sashayed all over the track and just missed the center stripe by mere inches before tripping a 6.84 win light against a tire-smoking Farndon. image
image Joe Delehay brought his ’72 Chevy pick-up down from Canada in hopes of breaking into the ultra-tough Pro Mod program.  Delehay wheeled his blown, BBC-powered beast to a best of 7.06, which placed him in the first alternate spot of show.
Mark Malde drove the Birky Bunch  AA/FD to a best of 6.42 during Saturday evening’s qualifying, which placed him in the 14th spot of the program. image
image Defending AA/FA event champ Jeff Diehl came out of the 2003 event with the AA/FA “Tater Baker” title, when he defeated Mitch King’s 6.80 with a 6.53.
Jim Murphy qualified his OSH-backed “WWII” AA/FD entry in the fourth spot with a great 6.06.  Murphy did run a slightly better 6.04 during his Saturday evening dance with Lee Jennings (for the Ignitor title), but that run was disqualified due to Murphy’s tagging of the wall just before the finish line.  Murphy met Bill Dunlap in round one, but his normally consistent entry fell to a 6.399 in losing to Dunlap’s 6.002. image
image Mitch King attempted to rotate Firebird Raceway off the map on several occasions, much like this pass on Saturday evening.  King was able to complete a 6.652/212.71 shot, but that left him in the first alternate spot of the AA/FA show.  King earned runner-up honors to Jeff Diehl in the consolation field running a tire-smoking 6.80 to Diehl’s better 6.53.
Mack McCord, who has been a staple at Firebird Raceway for many years, qualified on the bump spot of the AA/FA field in his “Gorilla” ’23 T with a solid 6.33.  McCord lost his first round bid to eventual winner Greg Daebelliehn, but came out a winner for life when the New family honored him with the inaugural “Jaker All-Star” award (a namesake tribute within the New family)  for his years of providing true professional All-Star qualities at Firebird Raceway.  Congratulations, Mack! image
image Rick Rogers brought his “Hammerhead Racing” AA/FD  team up from Pismo Beach, California, but just missed making the consolation program with his 6.41 best.
Mike Lockman, who had recently recovered from a broken back early this year, returned to AA/FD competition at Boise in his “Superstitious” entry.  Lockman kicked off Friday’s Family Night show in spectacular fashion, as the Donovan powered entry fire-balled at 800′ sending Lockman on a hair-raising trip through the shut-down area.  Lockman walked away unscathed, but the same could not be said for his wounded ride as the team was forced to sit out the remainder of the event. image
image Former AA/FD competitor Kirk Kuhns, who has recently been out testing his own new Pro Mod ride, stepped in to shoe the blown “Poison Viper” team car.  Kuhns qualified in the sixth spot with a 6.599, but went out in round one to teammate Dennis Radford.
Fred Farndon just made the AA/FD consolation field staking claim of the 12th spot with a 6.385.  Farndon defeated “Wild Bill” Alexander in round one with a better 6.28, but came up short against Brendan Murry in the the final when his entry went up in smoke. image
image Gary Read attempted to qualify Mike Sullivan’s ’23 T AA/FA, but came up short of that goal.  During Friday evening’s first attempt Read was unable to get the altered into reverse following the burnout, and then this erratic flame-throwing pass on Saturday night netted a 7.11…not quite enough to punch him into the four-car field.
Jack Harris literally shocked the crowd and Firebird Raceway staff Friday evening when he drove the “Nitro-Thunder” AA/FD to an unbelievable 5.882/250.97, which now stands as a new track record.  Harris defeated Bob Muravez in round one, but lost an ever-so-close second round duel with Bill Dunlap.  Harris grabbed the advantage at the start .537 to .638, but it was Dunlap using a come-from-behind 5.988 to reel in Harris’ game 6.093.  M.O.V…four-thousandths of a second!  WOW!!! image
image Dennis Radford qualified the nitrous-powered “Poison Viper” in the third slot of the Pro Mod show with a 6.525.  Radford lasted until the second round, where he was defeated by eventual runner-up John Scialpi.
Lee Jennings enjoyed his weekend at Firebird Raceway, as he won one of his two final round appearances.  Actually, Jennings defeated Jim Murphy during the make-up final from the April’s rained-out “Ignitor” during Saturday’s final qualifying session, and proceeded to advance to the Nightfire final against Bill Dunlap.  Jennings ran a fine 6.071 but it wasn’t enough to hold back the stout 5.95 turned in by Dunlap. image
image Bill Dunlap emerged victorious in the main Top Fuel show, as he used an in-the-heat-of-day 6.07 to qualify in the fifth spot of the show, and then step up to winning 6.00, 5.988, and 5.950 times to claim the event title.
Ricky Ruiz was right on the money in his AA/FA when he qualified in the third spot with a great 6.01.  Ruiz came back on Sunday with a great 6.06 in round one, but that was several car-lengths behind the stunning & winning 5.70 turned in by Ron Fassl. image
image Danny Rowe qualified his beautiful ’38 Chevy in the seventh spot of the Pro Mod show with a 6.600.  Rowe bettered that performance mark during his round one meeting with John Scialpi to a 6.571, but Scialpi stepped up too with a winning 6.484.
Jeff Diehl, near lane, and Glen Hutchison met in round one of Top Fuel.  Hutchison had the starting line advantage in the “Foothill Flyer” entry but smoked the tires shortly thereafter,  allowing Diehl to streak away with the round win with a 6.535. image
image Randy Eakins attempted several licensing runs in the “Cheap Thrill” Fiat AA/FA.  Eakins showed much promise as he ran an 8.16 171.72 on a very soft tune-up.
Scott Mason ran a best of 6.35 in his “Sudden Impact” entry, which held for the second spot of the AA/FD consolation field.  Mason lost his first round match to eventual “Tater Baker” winner Brendan Murry. image
image Lee Smith qualified his ’58 Corvette in the eighth spot of the record setting Pro Mod field with a great 6.607.  Unfortunately, Smith met low qualifier and eventual winner Glen Kerunsky in round one.
Header flames bellowing from the Pepsi Thunder/Blo-Me Racing-backed AA/FA of Ron Fassl tickle the night air during this final round meeting against Greg Daebelliehn.  Fassl, who had run a low e.t. of the event 5.703 during his first round defeat of Ricky Ruiz, slipped to a losing 5.82 against Daebelliehn’s 5.80 but came away with top speed of the event with a 253.16 shot. image
image In what would become his final event behind the wheel of the “Ground Zero” AA/FD entry, “Wild Bill” Alexander just missed qualifying for the eight-car “A” program running a 6.30, which placed him ninth out of the 15 cars entered.  Alexander met Fred Farndon in round one action of the “Tater-Baker” consolation field, but lost that close battle 6.28 to 6.30.
Kip Dupuis, near lane, and Wayne Torkelson locked horns during the first round of Pro Mod eliminations.  Dupuis used a holeshot-aided 6.603 in his ultra-clean ’57 Buick to hold back the quicker but losing 6.599 turned in by Torkelson’s ’55 T-Bird. image
image Greg Daebelliehn may have come out the winner of the AA/FA show, but it wasn’t an easy task for the “Fast & Forty” driver.  After banging the blower during his burnout on Friday night, Daebelliehn came back and posted Saturday night’s best numbers at 5.81-244.63 on this stout pass.  Daebelliehn soloed to an up-in-smoke 7.14 in round one, but came back with a winning and AA/FA career-best 5.805 over Ron Fassl’s 5.82 in the final.
Howard Haight dangles the “Fugowie” front-end in the air during Saturday evening’s AA/FD qualifying session.  Haight qualified third with an excellent 6.03, but lost his round one match to eventual runner-up Lee Jennings. image
image Glen Kerunsky, who had qualified in the number one spot of the Pro Mod field with a 6.50, launches his ’57 Chevy to a final round victory over opponent John Scialpi.  Kerunsky used a low e.t. of the event (and track record setting) 6.42 over Scialpi’s 6.85.
The “Winged Express” is an absolute Firebird Raceway fan-favorite.  Mike Boyd wheeled the famed AA/FA to several mid-seven second runs throughout the weekend. image
© M & H Photography -All text, photos, graphics, artwork and other contributed material within the Combustion Chamber  are copyrighted and may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without express written consent. 

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